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Vine City Residents are Working Toward Renaissance

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Despite neighborhood problems, and given recent successes, residents are optimistic

For all of the negative press that follows Vine City, whether it be stories of economic stagnation or dead bodies popping up in abandoned homes, residents of the neighborhood and many others believe the area is on the cusp of a renaissance.

For those unfamiliar, Vine City sits immediately west of downtown Atlanta. Along its eastern border are most of Atlanta’s major tourist attractions, including the Georgia Dome (and under-construction Mercedes-Benz Stadium), Philips Arena, The Georgia World Congress Center, Georgia Aquarium, and The World of Coke.

It’s a neighborhood that, for the last 10 years, has been on the fringe of some of the biggest development in the city, but hasn’t seen much positive impact as a result. According to Georgia Public Broadcasting, the unemployment rate is still at a massive 25 percent, and more than 40 percent of residents live in poverty.

More alarming stats: Forty percent of homes in the area are still vacant, and 85 percent of those that are occupied house renters, not homeowners.

Despite the problems, residents are adamant that the area still has a lot of positives. One being its proximity to downtown. Another, according to Maurice White, who chairs the Land Use and Zoning Committee, is the area’s longterm residents.

In an interview with GPB, White said, "Vine City and English Avenue have a very long history. It is very common for me to come across property owners, neighborhood residents, who have been there 30 plus years. It has a high level of community pride. I think that the history over the last 20 or 30 year period… those people have been severely marginalized. But they're still there."

Others, like longterm resident Alicia Anderson, appreciate the small scale feeling of the neighborhood, despite how close it is to the center of the city. "I like the hometown feel right now. I don’t want to get too big time over here. I like the country living. I just like country living, and that’s basically — we’re in between city and country living over here, and I like it. I really like it," she told GPB.

One of the biggest turnarounds for the area has been an Invest Atlanta program called the Vine City Renaissance Initiative. The program incentivizes home-buying in the area in an effort raise the level of homeownership and bring new investment. The hope is that with new residents and investment the neighborhood will see a quality of life improvement, lower crime rates, and better schools.

The program is a part of a larger effort on the part of the city to reduce the number of vacant or blighted homes by 20 percent in the next four years.

The housing program isn’t the only physical sign of change in the neighborhood, however.

Efforts to provide more usable green space have come to fruition in the neighborhood, as with Vine City Park. Community members came forward to propose the space back in 2005, and after an arduous three-year process, opened the space to the public. The space was so successful that it took over a nearby, abandoned apartment building (see above), which was torn down for expansion.

The ribbon-cutting for the second phase of the park is this Thursday.

Residents know there's still a lot of work to be done, but it seems like they the motivation to push through. And this might be the perfect time to capitalize on what in past years have been missed opportunities.