The Aug. 2 Transform Westside Summit featured Jesse Wiles, principal/CEO of APD Urban Planning and Management, who shared news on the Westside Land Use Framework Plan, zoning updates and why each is important. Following Wiles’s presentation, members of the Westside Future Fund (WFF) staff – including John Ahmann, president & CEO; Jaren Abedania, vice president of real estate; and Joan Vernon, director of neighborhood engagement – led a fire-side chat to discuss programs and resources available to Atlanta’s Historic Westside residents. The fire-side chat centered on quality, affordable housing opportunities available on the Westside, home repair services available to longtime residents and financial assistance available to legacy residents* to help cover increasing property taxes.
*WFF defines “legacy residents” as individuals who have lived in the WFF target neighborhoods of English Avenue, Vine City, Ashview Heights and Atlanta University Center since March 15, 2017.
Land Use Framework Plan Update
Wiles was commissioned by WFF and the City of Atlanta to oversee the zoning updates and Land Use Framework Plan on the Westside and was eager to share the progress made over the last three to four years with Summit attendees.
“If you go into a neighborhood you really like, and you can’t put your finger on why, I guarantee you that behind that ‘why’ are development controls, permitted uses, things that make you feel good about living in that neighborhood,” Wiles said. “This is what we want to bring to the Vine City, English Avenue and Ashview Heights neighborhoods.”
After giving an overview of the projects, Wiles made sure to point out the importance of community engagement in the process. “I think that [community engagement] is really the key element of both the Land Use Planning work that we have been able to do, as well as the zoning update work,” he said.
Community meetings are a consensus-oriented process to get residents involved in the planning of complex projects like Land Use and zoning. According to Wiles, APD Urban has talked to more than 1,000 residents, attended 28 community meetings and obtained approval from all six neighborhood associations and two neighborhood planning units (NPUs).
Wiles told Summit attendees he is most proud of the consensus that was achieved across all six neighborhoods and securing a unanimous vote in council. “To achieve that level of support around anything is almost unbelievable, but that is exactly what happened,” he said.
In establishing the zoning recommendations, each neighborhood had an opportunity to contribute their thoughts on how they would want to see the neighborhood develop. Wiles also explained the design guidelines that accompany the zoning recommendations to set a common understanding for the vision of future development in each of the communities and neighborhoods.
Wiles concluded his update by laying out a tentative timeline for the plan:
- Early August 2019 – Introduce to Atlanta City Council
- Late August 2019 – Present to neighborhood planning units for review
- September 2019 – Present to neighborhood planning units for a vote
- October 2019 – Present to zoning review board
- Late October/November 2019 – Atlanta City Council vote
Westside Future Fund Fire-Side Chat/Panel
Following Wiles’s update, Ahmann joined Abedania and Vernon to address WFF’s goal of restoring a mixed-income community on the Westside by:
- Promoting resident retention
- Developing high-quality, affordable housing
- Ensuring high-quality, affordable workforce housing
- Supporting a renter-to-homeowner pathway
- Attracting new residents with the development of workforce and market-rate housing
- Ensuring that current residents are at the front of the line for housing opportunities
In light of increasing rent and real estate prices and the ever-growing threat of displacement on Atlanta’s Westside, the Westside Future Fund team has set out to achieve a bold goal: By 2023, establish 800 housing units that are affordable for families earning 60 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI), which is approximately $48,000 as of 2019.
Abedania acknowledged meeting this goal will require true partnership. “We can’t do this alone, and we’re part of a collective of partners who are already engaged on the Westside,” he said. “This slice of the pie is the part that we feel we can positively and directly impact.”
WFF currently owns, operates, and is developing a growing number of rental units on the Westside in an effort to preserve affordability and combat displacement. Abedania gave Summit attendees an inside look at these properties, including 603 James P. Brawley Drive, Villas at the Dome (515 Rhodes St.), Corridor Garden (687 Dalvigney St.) and 641 Jones Ave.
Ahmann emphasized the community retention guidelines that will ensure longtime residents of the Westside will benefit from the program. “The community retention guidelines are in place to ensure that folks from the community, who work in the community or who were displaced and want to come back to the community can stay on the Westside.”
Before turning the presentation over to Vernon, Abedania shared a goal for these efforts that contributes beautifully to WFF’s overall mission of helping the neighborhoods of the Historic Westside revitalize and develop into a community that Dr. King would be proud to call home. “Our goal is not only to provide affordable housing but to restore the positive memory that these buildings bore witness to – getting back to that sense of community.”
Vernon spoke about programs already in place to assist homeowners on the Westside. “One of the biggest challenges about homeowner programs is getting people to remember what they are and where to find them,” she said.
One of the programs WFF has established to help protect legacy homeowners from rising property taxes is the Anti-Displacement Tax Fund program. The Anti-Displacement Tax Fund provides grant assistance to cover the cost of rising property taxes for qualified homeowners for up to 20 years.
“A big part of the work at Westside Future Fund is resident retention and disrupting the cycle of poverty by supporting homeownership,” Vernon said.
She went on to share details about other programs available to Westside residents through collaborations with WFF partner organizations, including:
- Brush With Kindness: WFF partners with Habitat for Humanity to support minor home repairs and exterior paint work so residents can show their homes a little extra love. So far, the program has benefited 36 households, with the capacity to help five to 10 more this year.
- Repair With Kindness: Also in partnership with Habitat for Humanity, this program offers residents much-needed safety and accessibility repairs, including carpentry, roof repair and window storm prevention. The program is meant to complement the Brush With Kindness program by taking care of larger issues before addressing minor or cosmetic ones.
- Heritage Owner-Occupied Rehab: Administered through Invest Atlanta and Meals on Wheels, this program provides support for homes needing critical repair.
Those interested in more information about any of these programs were invited to talk with a member of the Westside Future Fund team following the Summit or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opening Devotion with Dr. Edward Wimberly
Dr. Edward Wimberly, president emeritus for the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), delivered an inspirational devotion that challenged attendees to consider the role hope plays in doing God’s work. He also reiterated the importance of kindness, compassion, love, humility, wisdom, courage and integrity in our day-to-day actions. He contended that these virtues foster meaning in a fragmented world, lead to a life well lived and can be developed by answering the call of God on one’s life.
Additional Summit Highlights
- Free Shuttle to the Summit: The Cute Shuttle offers free, scheduled pickups on the Westside to help residents get to and from the Summit events on the first and third Fridays of the month. The shuttle makes scheduled stops at two locations: the At-Promise Center (740 Cameron Madison Alexander Blvd. NW) and Hollis Innovation Academy (225 James Brawley Drive, NW). Passenger pickups at these locations occur every 10 minutes between 6:50 and 7:30 a.m. Passenger drop-offs from the Gathering Spot occur every 10 minutes between 9 and 9:30 a.m. No registration is required to ride the shuttle. Simply show up at one of the two pickup locations to ride. Learn more.
- Next Summit Date: Friday, Aug. 16. Register here.
- The Home Depot Gift Card Raffle: Summit attendees who are current Westside residents or who work for a nonprofit serving Westside neighborhoods have a chance to win a $50 gift card from The Home Depot at each Summit event. Congratulations to Anissa Ferrell, the Aug. 2 winner, pictured below.
Transform Westside Summit – Friday, August 2, 2019
Transform Westside Summit – Friday, August 2, 2019 About the Transform Westside Summit: Westside Future Fund’s Transform Westside Summit is held on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month and is free and open to the public. Our audience includes a diverse group of stakeholders. Longtime neighborhood residents, community and faith leaders, heads of non-profits and corporate executives come together to share success stories and discuss challenges that currently affect our Westside neighborhoods. Doors open at 7:00 a.m. and meetings begin promptly at 7:15 a.m. with morning devotion,* presented by a member of the historic Westside community, and complimentary breakfast, provided by Summit sponsor Chick-fil-A. Special Event: Atlanta Technical College Enrollment Atlanta Technical College (ATC) is bringing its Wednesday Works recruiting and enrollment event to the Summit. Typically hosted on Wednesdays on the ATC campus, representatives will be on site during the Friday morning Summit sharing about how prospective students can get started at Atlanta Tech. Those who apply at the Summit will have their ATC application fee waived. Take a Free Shuttle to the Summit A free shuttle will do scheduled pickups on the Westside to help you get to the Summit. Summit Shuttle Pickup Locations: At-Promise Center (740 Cameron Madison Alexander Boulevard, NW); Hollis Innovation Academy (225 James P. Brawley Drive, NW). Pickup Times: 6:50 AM – 7AM. Many in our community are driven by their spiritual faith to participate in the Westside revitalization effort. The time at the beginning of our meetings is an opportunity to share various inspirational reflections. While the speakers may articulate their personal faith, it is meant to be inclusive, inspiring and meaningful. All are welcome.
Posted by Westside Future Fund on Friday, August 2, 2019