An Op-Ed by Debra Edelson
Published by the AJC on December 30, 2015
As Atlanta experiences a wave of redevelopment, our neighborhoods will benefit most when community development happens from the inside out. That means embracing existing organizations, systems and networks. Too often, even well-intentioned efforts displace existing social infrastructure as growth and development comes to economically challenged areas.
As we seek to bring healthy and sustainable revitalization to Proctor Creek and its surrounding neighborhoods in Northwest Atlanta, we are focused on working with those communities — and building resources within them.
Proctor Creek emerges behind Maddox Park near the Bankhead MARTA station — 1 ½ miles from Georgia Tech, 2 ½ miles from Atlanta University Center. It is one of the few areas so close to the center of our city where one can find an affordable home surrounded by remarkable natural beauty. Yet there is currently about 40 percent vacancy among single-family homes in the area. The surrounding neighborhoods lack the parks, trails and other green space that people need for active, safe public spaces. They have experienced rapid depopulation over the past decade and related declines in housing stock, school attendance and diminished access to basic retail, health care, recreation and healthy food choices.
The Emerald Corridor Foundation aims to preserve affordability while attracting needed investment and jobs to the area. We are doing so by leveraging one of the area’s greatest assets: Proctor Creek itself.
This is challenging and complicated work. It requires engaging myriad stakeholders and significant public and private resources. We’re fortunate that we are facing these challenges with the benefit of decades of planning, with input from the community. Today, government, community and philanthropic interests are converging to take action.
And taking action we are.
The Emerald Corridor Foundation is partnering with the city of Atlanta, leveraging federal dollars to match our own investments to create Proctor Park.
This first major project will transform a nine-acre fallow tract with a trail and bridge, recreation areas, four acres of wetland marshes, interpretive viewing areas along a system of boardwalks and a nature center.
We’re also teaming with organizations in the community such as the Greening Youth Foundation to recruit local youth, teach green job skills and employ them in environmental restoration work that will benefit the community, the city and the downstream users of the Chattahoochee River. This type of collaboration and leverage creates opportunity for our neighborhoods in northwest Atlanta.
At the heart of the shared vision for revitalization drawn from decades of community input is the Proctor Creek Greenway, a seven-mile trail that will run the full length of Proctor Creek. It will link the Atlanta BeltLine to the Chatthoochee River and could be extended into Cobb County to link with the Silver Comet Trail. Completion of the system would allow Atlantans to jog, walk or ride their bikes from Stone Mountain to Annis-ton, Alabama.
The Emerald Corridor Foundation is partnering with the Georgia-Alabama Land Trust, Groundworks Atlanta, Georgia Power and the city of Atlanta to realize a vision that includes connecting local schools, churches, neighborhoods and parks, while restoring and protecting the natural ecosystem that supports the creek.
The Greenway and park projects will create safe and clean public spaces and community connectivity to MAR-TA, the Atlanta BeltLine and more. We are committed to working with the surrounding communities to design and implement these projects. Our commitment is to connect new investment and projects to existing organizations and institutions that focus on health, education, job creation and community building.
We look forward to catalyzing neighborhood revitalization that will restore quality of life and help the local communities blossom again.
Read the original here.