Developing Strong Mixed-Income Communities in Atlanta’s East Lake

Reinventing redevelopment: Giving residents a reason to stay in Atlanta’s East Lake

The transformation of Atlanta’s East Lake neighborhood made national headlines for its groundbreaking approach to redevelopment. Once the site of a dilapidated 650-unit public housing complex, a crime rate 18 times higher than the national average, and widespread poverty, East Lake is now home to a thriving community built on an innovative model of investment and engagement.

Built with purpose

The revival of East Lake started with the founding of the East Lake Foundation in 1995 to work with local families to develop a comprehensive model of community development centering on:

  • High-quality mixed-income housing
  • Cradle-to-college education
  • Community wellness programming
  • Management by a single-purpose nonprofit

Today, East Lake is a stable and increasingly prosperous neighborhood that includes mixed-income housing, high-performing schools, playgrounds, a farmers’ market, an urban garden, and other community spaces. Kids of all ages attend school within the community — including pre-K programs and Atlanta’s first charter school. And residents get access to new opportunities through job training and other community support programs.

The community has been so successful that a nonprofit organization — Purpose Built Communities — was established to replicate the model in other cities across the country.

New successes, new challenges

As East Lake has become a more attractive place to live for its residents, it’s also drawn the attention of new ones. As higher-income families move to the neighborhood, East Lake must now wrangle with how to avoid the downsides of gentrification and prevent the displacement of lower-income residents.

For example, East Lake’s success has drawn a new wave of private development in and around the neighborhood. How can the East Lake Foundation maintain its mission of serving low-income families as the area becomes a more attractive investment for developers who don’t share that mission?

In another example: the neighborhood’s Drew Charter School recently announced that 100% of its 2017 graduating class has been accepted to college. As higher-income families in the neighborhood choose to send their kids to Drew, it’s seen a decline in enrollment from low-income residents. How can the school serve all residents while encouraging more low-income families to attend and take advantage of the high-quality education it offers?

We’ll explore these and other questions facing East Lake and learn more about its innovative model at one of nine interactive studio sessions at EcoDistricts Summit 2017, October 10-11 in Atlanta. Studio session attendees will take a bus tour for a firsthand look at the neighborhood and then work together to develop solutions to its next generation of challenges.

To join us, register for the EcoDistricts Summit 2017 event and sign up for the studio session Wrap-Around Neighborhood: Developing Strong Mixed-Income Communities in Atlanta’s East Lake.

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