Buford Highway, Atlanta’s immigrant corridor, faces threat of development

The pulse of this region’s immigrant community is found along an eight-mile stretch of road in DeKalb County, just east of Atlanta’s city limits. Here, you can grab a green tea roll or soboro bread for breakfast at a Korean bakery, then slip next door for a lunch of pollo asado with a side of tortilla.

Atlanta doesn’t have a Chinatown or Koreatown or Little Havana. But there is Buford Highway, the international corridor where all these cultures, and more, co-exist.

“I don’t know where else you can have a taqueria beside a Vietnamese restaurant beside a Middle Eastern restaurant,” David Schaefer, managing director of advocacy for the Latin American Association, said recently. “And those groups live in very close proximity to each other. You go to an apartment complex and hear 20 languages.”

Buford Highway has been an affordable place for immigrants and first-generation Americans to shop, work and live for decades. More than 1,000 immigrant-owned businesses line the street. But the area's growing popularity among developers is threatening to drastically change its culture and identity.

A national trend toward urban living has coincided with a population boom in metro Atlanta, putting a premium on areas inside Interstate 285. Buford Highway — which runs through Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville — is one of the few places where builders can purchase land at relatively low prices.

Clusters of apartment buildings on the road have been purchased and razed. In their place sprout townhouses or condominiums that carry price tags far out of reach of the residents who have long lived along the thoroughfare. Now many are concerned that the panaderias, hair salons and ethnic markets could be muscled out by the Starbucks, Whole Foods and mixed-use developments.

MyAJC.com has much more about the development coming on or near Buford Highway and what local government officials and community advocates are doing to preserve its cultural significance. Read the full story on myAJC.com.