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Program launches to cultivate Atlanta minority youth as real estate stakeholders

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Sixty students picked to brainstorm how elements of The Battery Atlanta might work in underserved Beltline areas

An offshoot path marks the Westside Trail’s beginnings at University Avenue. Built in 1948, the Capitol View Apartments community, seen at left, is in line to be renovated as affordable housing.
The Atlanta Beltline Westside Trail’s beginnings at University Avenue in Adair Park, where Capitol View Apartments is in line to be renovated as affordable housing.
Jonathan Phillips, Curbed Atlanta

At first glance, glistening mixed-use showplace The Battery Atlanta would seem to have little in common with an organic, historic, but economically troubled community like Pittsburgh, which has struggled to find its footing despite the promise of the neighboring Atlanta Beltline.

Ditto for second, third, and fourth glances.

But a program that’s found success from Miami and Detroit to the Bronx is setting sites on Atlanta in hopes of shrinking that gulf—and cultivating minority youth as informed real estate stakeholders in the process.

Leaders with Project Destined, which aims to expose select “scholars” to all aspects of real estate investment, have picked 60 students from area high schools (Banneker, Tri-Cities, Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass, and Grady) and three colleges (Morehouse, Spelman, and Georgia Tech) to launch what’s called the Atlanta Ideas Challenge.

First stop: Cobb County.

For the initiative, Project Destined has partnered with Atlanta-based multifamily real estate investment firm Cortland, which recently added The Battery’s 531-unit apartment hubs to its metro-wide portfolio.

One of three Cortland-owned apartment communities near SunTrust Park.
Cortland at The Battery

On Saturday, Project Destined will lead scholars on a tour of the $700 million Battery complex, challenging them to image how similar concepts could work in underserved Beltline areas.

Student teams will then present ideas—by way of a Shark Tank-style panel—to Cortland real estate executives and Project Destined mentors.

The education will continue as Cortland officials, alongside mentors from Harvard Business School, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, and the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia lead monthly sessions. Topics will include deep dives “into architecture and construction, finance and deal structuring, and operations and property management,” officials announced this week.

The overarching goal is to get Atlanta students thinking about what type of projects would eventually make for viable investments—and considerations appropriate for each case. For example: Would it be better to invest in an Adair Park home’s roof or flashier, cosmetic upgrades that might lure more buyer interest?

With the help of Project Destined’s team, students will eventually invest in a property and tackle the process of upgrading it on a budget. Determining exactly what that investment will be locally is the next step, a rep tells Curbed Atlanta.

Recent initiatives include rental units turned into an investment property in South Florida and a possible hotel revamp in Detroit.

More than 150 students have completed the programs, scoring more than $75,000 in scholarships.

“Whether you want to be a doctor or nurse or engineer, you can still learn how to invest,” said Project Destined Cofounder Cedric Bobo in a press release. “Because if your neighborhood changes, you become an investor in it.”