During an event on Sept. 15 where 1,500 Westside residents, stakeholders and nonprofits were welcomed to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Mayor Kasim Reed and Arthur Blank each made investments in Atlanta’s historic Westside neighborhoods. On behalf of the city of Atlanta, Mayor Kasim Reed dedicated $15 million to the future Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry, $1 million to Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre and $1 million to Westside Works. Through his family foundation, Blank committed an additional $15 million, bringing the total of the Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund to $30 million.
The future Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry, when completed, will be the largest park in the city of Atlanta with nearly 300 acres of greenspace and will connect to the Atlanta BeltLine. The park will also include a reservoir with up to 30 days’ drinking water supply, boosting the city’s resilience to drought.
Mayor Reed also committed $1 million to establish Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre on the Westside. Leon is a Tony-award winning Broadway and film director, and serves as the Artistic Director of Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre. Finally, Mayor Reed committed an additional $1 million contribution to Westside Works, a long-term neighborhood program focused on creating employment opportunities and job training for residents of the Westside community, including Vine City, English Avenue, Castleberry Hill and other contiguous neighborhoods. Since its inception, Westside Works has trained more than 500 neighborhood residents, who earn an average wage of $13.76 per hour. Seventy-eight percent of residents in the program retain living wage jobs after one year.
Since 2014, the Blank Foundation has distributed more than $12 million of the initial $15 million Westside Neighborhood Prosperity Fund commitment in areas focused on building human capital through workforce development, housing, education, health, entrepreneurship, and youth leadership. An additional $7 million has been invested in Westside initiatives through other foundation programming.