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Could New Apartments Be Catalyst For Boulevard Change?

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As development hums mere blocks to the east, a grassy corner lot at Boulevard and Angier has sat vacant for nearly a decade, since a fire ravaged two apartment buildings there in 2005. But that will soon change, if Wingate Companies — the owner and manager of Bedford Pine, the Southeast's largest Section 8 housing project — gains approval to redevelop the lot, Atlanta magazine reports. Wingate, a Boston-based company some blame for oppressing Boulevard's progress, has cooked up plans for a new Section 8 building catering to seniors called "City Lights" — a project the company feels will set a new precedent for the beleaguered thoroughfare.

The magazine reports all 80 of the City Lights apartments will be one-bedrooms and classified as Section 8 — that is, designated for low-income residents who qualify for federal rent subsidies. But don't expect the sheer number of Section 8 units to increase in Old Fourth Ward. Plans call for Wingate to remodel or redevelop at least five of its existing buildings as non-Section 8 projects after building City Lights, as an agreement in the 1970s prohibits Wingate from operating more than its current 733 Section-8 units. Ideally speaking, the apartment development and rehab projects could the dilute the concentration of poverty on Boulevard and infuse the area with more working- and middle-class residents. Opines the magazine: "That could mean more stability in the neighborhood, more customers for businesses and restaurants, more kids enrolled in local schools, and more people out on the streets and sidewalks."

Other options could be limited. Wingate has a contract with HUD for the next 20 years, which means the 700 families who call Bedford Pine home — more than a quarter of O4W's population — can rest easy they won't be displaced. "And unlike gentrification in other sections of Atlanta," notes the magazine, "an influx of new, presumably more affluent, residents will not drive out longtime, poorer ones" with the City Lights initiative.

Pending approval, the project could break ground in the fourth quarter of this year or in early 2014, East Atlanta Patch reports. Could this spur noticeable positive change on Boulevard, or is it window-dressing for a more deep-rooted problem?

· Is redevelopment finally starting in Bedford Pine? [Atlanta magazine]
· Wingate Presents Redevelopment Plan for Vacant Boulevard Lot [Patch]