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In Shadow of Stadiums, Neighborhood Pines for Investment

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With the new roost for the Falcons rising just to the east, the Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods practically sit in the shadow of the epitome of public spending. It's hard to believe the blighted properties — some boarded-up — and vacant lots were the beneficiary of millions of government dollars doled out to nonprofits to help bring the neighborhood back from the brink. According to an in-depth report by the AJC, many nonprofits and churches attempted to resuscitate the floundering neighborhood, but little came of the efforts, despite assistance from state and federal funds. So what's the deal?

Given the location of Vine City and English Avenue — easy walking or biking distance from the Georgia Dome, Philips Arena, Georgia Tech and the cultural district surrounding Centennial Olympic Park — it's rather shocking that the neighborhood hasn't experienced the real estate investment other intown areas have in recent years. While proximity might be enviable, connectivity is another issue. Located on the opposite side of the rail gulch from downtown, the neighborhood is now more isolated than ever thanks to roads being sliced and diced to make way for the new stadium. A three-decade track record of failed investments and persistent crime have resulted in a rather unwholesome perception of the neighborhood, too.

Nonetheless, with land available and sky-high potential, a neighborhood renaissance isn't unthinkable. Not by a long shot.

Infighting, as the AJC documents, has stifled development in the past. When the neighborhood failed to attract private investment, nonprofits that were ill-prepared for the challenge of reinventing a neighborhood faltered. But that's not to say nobody in the community is working to make things better right now. Through the frustration, community members continue to rise to the occasion, taking on blight and graffiti themselves. Despite long odds, they see the potential in their neighborhood and aren't ready to throw in the towel. After many failed attempts at redevelopment, through both public and private funds, it'll be interesting to see if the Falcons Stadium can generate investor interest in the neighborhoods — and how the colossal project might actually help, as promised.

· Divine mission gives way to blighted streets [AJC; subscriber]

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