One of the great admissions – well, many actually – of racial reality (and the type of communities black people exclusively create in the absence of whites) is contained in this piece from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. [Atlanta’s gentrification wave washes over historic Old Fourth Ward, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, May 9, 2019]:
When Sandra Gordon purchased her first home in 1998 in the Old Fourth Ward, her monthly mortgage and property tax bill was $250.
That was about the going rate when crime had taken over the intown neighborhood where Martin Luther King Jr. was born.
“I was scared when I first moved over here, because there were so many drug dealers around,” said Gordon, who is 61. “But it has changed. A lot of good people have moved in. It reminds me of the old days, when I was a little girl.”
Her monthly bill is now $604, mostly because of rising house prices, which push up property taxes. Gordon is relying on an $870 monthly disability check “and God. I pray a lot.”
“If things keep going the way they are going, I am going to have to sell and move somewhere else,” said Gordon, who also takes care of an adult nephew and a 5-year-old niece she calls Love Bug. “I was born here, and I want to stay, but I might not have any other choice.”
In 2018, the average sale price of an Old Fourth Ward home was $660,000. That’s up from $280,000 in 2013, according to Adams Realtors.
Because tax assessors are still playing catch-up, Gordon and her neighbors face even higher property taxes in the coming years.
Home prices also are surging in neighboring communities like Inman Park, Poncey-Highland and Midtown, part of a gentrification wave sweeping across intown Atlanta after many wealthy residents abandoned the city in earlier decades for the suburbs.
One reason for the sea change is the Atlanta Beltline, the former railway corridor converted into a walking and biking trail in 2012. In addition to boutiques, restaurants and craft breweries, city officials promised affordable housing. The former happened. The latter hasn’t.
In Atlanta, and elsewhere in the United States, gentrification is often about wealthy whites displacing poor blacks. Nowhere is that dynamic playing out more than in the city’s Old Fourth Ward.
Money pours into once-neglected neighborhood
To understand the Old Fourth Ward is to understand Atlanta. One of the city’s most historic black enclaves, it is now one of its most diverse neighborhoods.
“It is the cultural and spiritual heart of Atlanta. King was born and preached here,” said Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi, who moved to the neighborhood in 2015. “The neighborhood has gotten whiter, younger and arguably more affluent.”
As many as 23,000 people — mostly working-class blacks — lived here in 1960. By the 1970s, more than half of the population had abandoned the area as drugs, gang violence and a migration to the suburbs took hold.
As late as 2000, 76% of the 12,244 residents were black and 16% were white in the Old Fourth Ward/Sweet Auburn Neighborhood Statistical Area, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission.
By 2015, the population rose to 14,321 people, but the black population dropped to 49.5% as the white population rose to 39%. Over the same period, median household income soared from $19,614 to $42,627.
Allesen Cann, a real-estate agent, moved to the neighborhood a few years ago and has watched the change up close.
“I am always torn. I hate that people feel like they can’t stay,” said Cann, who is white. “But this is also great for the neighborhood when you see new restaurants and amenities come in. And these same people are getting a much higher price than they would otherwise.”
On the section of Auburn Avenue where King was born in 1929, large two- and three-story homes still stand across from rows of shotgun houses. Today new lofts, townhomes and condos share space with aged buildings and century-old bungalows.
Homeless people beg for money on streets where diners eat at some of the city’s best restaurants. In another sign of change, according to older black residents, white women jog and walk their dogs on streets that drug dealers once ruled.
Historic Fourth Ward Park, formerly contaminated land at the lowest point of an 800-acre drainage basin, is a popular destination after a $25 million rehabilitation.
So many glorious nuggets of racial truth are hidden within this story, published to lament how whites are helping turn this formerly all-black area of Atlanta (the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr.!) into a veritable paradise. Where once misery and blackness dominated, the arrival of whiteness means culture, rising property values, the finest shopping experience, and the opening of Atlanta’s best restaurants. And, it means “white women jog and walk their dogs on streets that [black] drug dealers once ruled.”
As America becomes more diverse, the most desirable cities in the USA (Washington D.C., San Francicso, Chicago, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and New York City) will become virtually uninhabited by blacks. Even Atlanta, the city too busy to hate…