By the 1970s, however, general migration of Atlanta’s mostly white residents away from racially mixed urban areas, as well as poor construction and a lack of support networks in the neighborhood, left depressed economic conditions in East Lake. In 1971, East Lake Meadows, a 650-unit public housing complex, opened and quickly became one of the worst ZIP codes for crime in the city, according to Emory University’s Atlanta Studies website.
For 20 years, East Lake saw little change.
Then, in the early 1990s, real estate developer Tom Cousins approached Eva Davis, the community leader of East Lake Meadows, with an idea to create the East Lake Foundation to revitalize the community, Parker said. Cousins and Davis engaged residents, the Atlanta Housing Authority, Atlanta Public Schools and other government and community agencies.
“Everyone had to come around the table and agree that this was a good thing,” Parker said. “It didn’t happen overnight.”
Eventually, they agreed. However, the process came with challenges. The redevelopment model meant that some original residents, particularly the unemployed and those with criminal histories, could not return.
To help fund the neighborhood’s revitalization effort, the for-profit East Lake Golf Club requires a $125,000 membership fee and a suggested $200,000 donation to the East Lake Foundation.
The golf club served as the home course for legend Bobby Jones, who was born in March 1902 and died in December 1971. Parker emphasized the club's motto: Golf with a purpose.
“Any proceeds the club generates is going directly to the East Lake Foundation nonprofit that’s funding the work,” he said.
East Lake also receives funding from other prominent sources like the PGA Tour Championship.
“It’s a powerful thing to be part of,” Parker said. “It’s not just golf.”
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