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Atlanta ranks high on list of nation’s fastest gentrifying cities

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The study comes as local developers have caught flak for project marketing

A wide path stretching between two modern glass and brick buildings.
Locals have expressed concerns that marketing of projects such as Quarry Yards disregards an area’s cultural significance.
Urban Creek Partners

Surprise! Atlanta, the nation’s capital of income inequality, has ranked high on a recently published list of the fastest-gentrifying cities in the U.S.

Between 2000 and 2014, Atlanta clocked in at No. 4, edged out for the dubious title only by Washington D.C., Portland, and Seattle, respectively, according to a report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and the University of Chicago.

The study, titled “The Effects of Gentrification on the Well-Being and Opportunity of Original Resident Adults and Children,” brings attention to the ills of gentrification, a socioeconomic phenomenon best known for displacing families of color from their homes.

The research, however, spotlights not just the pitfalls of gentrification, but the pros, too.

While longtime residents watch rent prices and property values—and, subsequently, property taxes—spike, they also tend to witness poverty and crime rates drop, according to the report.

The report also states that boosting a city’s housing stock—with affordable housing or market-rate units—is a “promising way of maintaining and expanding housing affordability.”

Doing so, per the study, would “reduce out-migration pressure, and promote longterm affordability.”

To boost the supposed benefits of those policies, officials could impose rental subsidies and other inclusionary practices, such as implementing inclusionary zoning codes.

Also, via the report: “Targeting inclusionary policies to low-income families with children could encourage them to stay in neighborhoods improving around them, complementing existing programs...that seek to increase moves from low- to high-opportunity neighborhoods.”

In some local instances, the implications of gentrification have been overlooked or perhaps downplayed.

Developer Urban Creek Partners, for instance, caught a firestorm of flak recently, after officials had released marketing materials for the upcoming mixed-use build Quarry Yards that many complained were insensitive.

Journalists and observers alike noticed a lack of people of color in content shared about the project on social media, which advertised a “New Atlanta”—a nickname many found represented the change in racial demographics that could result from upscale new development.

City of Atlanta

Bankhead, after all, is a historically black neighborhood well-known in part due to nods from hip-hop songs by Atlanta legends such as T.I., who’s undertaken development ambitions of his own in the area.

Harris is now trying his hand as a real estate developer, aiming to revitalize his Westside hometown Center Hill, a neighborhood just southeast of Bankhead.

Bankhead is staring down the barrel of serious gentrification.

City of Atlanta research depicting “neighborhood gentrification pressure areas” determined that Bankhead was in the “dynamic stage” of gentrification, meaning it was under “high-pressure” of gentrifying forces.

The research shows the areas yet untouched by gentrification or in the “susceptible stage” are largely focused in Southwest Atlanta, whereas those in the “mature stage” are mostly found in the north and northeast parts of town.