The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Home of First Black Atlanta Mayor to Become Affordable Housing

The following article was originally published Jan. 23, 2020 by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) and authored by Raisa Habersham– AJC Intown Atlanta Hyperlocal Reporter

Instead of being demolished, the home of Atlanta’s first black mayor, Maynard Jackson, will be preserved and turned into affordable housing for Atlanta University Center graduate students and researchers.

The King Center sold the 220 Sunset Ave. home to the Westside Future Fund, a nonprofit committed to revitalizing Atlanta’s historic westside communities, the center announced Thursday in a news release detailing plans for the home. The sale price was not released.

“After hearing the concerns of Vine City residents and conducting research on the history of the property, we redirected our efforts to ensure the property was not demolished but preserved,” King Center CEO Bernice King said in a statement. “Vine City was not only my home, but it holds a special place in the Civil Rights Movement and we want to ensure the very people that built that community and their descendants have fair housing options as the neighborhood changes.”

Last year, the city approved the demolition of the four-unit apartment building in Vine City despite resident complaints — many of them citing the home’s importance to Atlanta’s black history. The historic street is also where civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and wife Coretta Scott King raised their four children. That home — at 234 Sunset Avenue — was sold to the U.S. National Park Service in 2019.

The 220 Sunset Ave. home was built in 1948 by family patriarch Rev. Maynard Holbrook Jackson Sr. His widow, Irene Dobbs Jackson, owned the home until 1965. In 1973, Maynard Jackson was elected as the first black mayor of a major Southern city. Atlanta’s airport, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, bears his name along with that of another former Atlanta mayor, William B. Hartsfield.

Demolition plans were eventually halted after Vine City residents, Bernice King and the U.S. National Park Service agreed to study if the home could be saved. Bernice King previously said the home contained asbestos, was structurally unsound, and had a caved-in roof, among other issues.

Plans for the property call for the Westside Future Fund to lease the property to the Atlanta University Center to house graduate students, researchers, and faculty studying Atlanta’s Civil Rights Movement and leadership. Once the property has been restored, the AUC will identify potential tenants and oversee the selection process.

The Westside Future Fund will also apply for historic status from the State Historic Preservation Office to help preserve the building.

“We understand the cultural history attached to the homes located on Atlanta’s Westside. Preservation remains a key priority,” the organization’s CEO and President John Ahmann said in a statement. “A number of our city’s African American leadership – past and present – were raised in these neighborhoods.”

The building’s restoration is expected to begin by October.