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City halts all building permits near Westside Park project to confront ‘rapid gentrification’

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Worries of displacement have spurred a pump-the-brakes approach by the mayor’s office for the next six months

A map illustrates the area impacted by the development trends of the Westside Park.
The mayor has enacted a moratorium for the permitting of projects within these borders.
City of Atlanta

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has put the kibosh on building permits for all projects neighboring the under-construction Westside Park at Bellwood Quarry, a green space project set to eventually be the city’s largest park that’s already become an economic driver.

In recent years, a Westside development boom has spurred concerns of gentrification and the effects it could have in communities that have historically been overlooked by real estate investors.

In an executive order issued Monday, the mayor mandated that the city’s planning department “refuse to accept new applications for rezonings, building permits for new construction, land disturbance permits, special use permits, special administrative permits, subdivisions, replattings, and lot consolidations for non-public projects in the neighborhoods surrounding Westside Park to address rapid gentrification occurring in the area,” according to a city press release.

The goal behind the move is to get a better grip on how development trends are impacting the area, and to find a way to ensure those trends don’t foster further displacement of longtime residents, officials said.

Neighborhoods impacted include Grove Park, Knight Park/Howell Station, and Rockdale.

“We know that every permit triggers some form of change in these communities, and it is of the utmost importance that development is carried out in a deliberate, fair, and thoughtful manner,” Bottoms said in a prepared statement.

The moratorium on permitting is expected to last 180 days and will not impact permits already granted or permits for emergency work.

The executive order, as well as a related ordinance, also asks the Department of City Planning to identify the boundaries of the land “most affected by the developments of the Westside Park,” the release says.

Officials are expected to craft an “Equitable Development Framework” for the affected area and align that blueprint with the goals of the mayor’s plans for housing affordability and transportation.

Ultimately, the 280-acre park is expected to become the city’s biggest public green space, trumping Midtown’s Piedmont Park by almost 100 acres.