Future Fund launching plan for stadium neighborhoods

Coming Sunday

A team of Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporters looks at the daunting task of transforming the neighborhoods around the new Falcons stadium. The Georgia Dome and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games failed to revitalize historic neighborhoods like Vine City and English Avenue. But Mayor Kasim Reed and business and civic leaders say they will succeed this time with development spurred on by the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the future Beltline trail and other public and private investments to come in the years ahead.

The Westside Future Fund, an organization created to help steer redevelopment in neighborhoods such as Vine City and English Avenue, said Friday it is working on a master plan for the area around the new Falcons stadium.

The “land use action plan” is the first major initiative of the Future Fund, created by Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and the Atlanta Committee for Progress, to be a community quarterback for renewal around Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The area’s had no shortage of studies, with some 18 master plans covering parts of a 24-square-mile area since 2002. These plans — some conducted by universities, the city and churches — have produced little action.

Future Fund officials say this time will be different.

A team including the city’s planning department and architect and planner Dhiru Thadani of Washington, D.C., will take the best and most realistic parts of those 18 plans and focus on housing, mobility, jobs, parks and other infrastructure, Thadani said.

The aim is to help foster mixed-income housing, address future zoning needs and offer guidance for connecting the area's disjointed network of streets through neighborhoods largely cut off from jobs centers, officials said Friday at a Transform Westside Summit meeting.

Though the plan will examine a broader area, its focus areas are English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights, the Atlanta University Center and parts of the Castleberry Hill community.

“This plan won’t sit on a shelf,” said John Ahmann, the new executive director of the future fund.

The Westside Future Fund was created in 2014 to marshal philanthropic, corporate and city-led efforts to improve some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.

The master plan will coincide with market analyses to determine what types of housing, retail and other amenities the neighborhoods can support. Public meetings begin in March and are scheduled through September.

A number of residents said they fear gentrification that could force out elderly homeowners on fixed-incomes and renters who might be priced out of the market.

Ahmann said the Future Fund and its partners hope to bring forward strategies to help prevent resident displacement in the next 90 days. They will include programs to provide quality low-income housing and construction of mixed-income communities.

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Home Depot Foundation and the city’s economic development arm also are working on programs to help homeowners repair homes and provide legal services to clear up issues with property titles.