“Building a Neighborhood of Economic Opportunity in Atlanta”
In 1993, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) a $35 million grant to renovate the crumbling housing stock of the East Lake Meadows public housing complex located four miles from downtown Atlanta. Renee Glover, who had recently joined AHA as President, realized that merely renovating housing would not create a safer, more prosperous community. By 1995, only four percent of East Lake Meadows residents earned incomes above the poverty line. The unemployment rate was 86.5 percent, and the crime rate was 18 times higher than the national average. Renee assembled a diverse team composed of AHA leaders, developers, and community members to implement a holistic community approach that would provide mixed income housing, cradle-to-college education, and community wellness resources through public and private partnerships. As the revitalization process evolved, partners recognized the need for an organization focused on bringing in new partners and resources and on coordinating, integrating, and overseeing the many efforts in education, housing construction, and wellness programs that were part of the collaboration’s work. Having been a key participant in the collaboration’s planning and project launch, and with the resource capacity to focus on the Villages of East Lake, the East Lake Foundation naturally took on these responsibilities, serving as the “community quarterback.” The East Lake Foundation served as the lead organization, key convener, accountability partner, and facilitator in the collaboration. It supervised implementation by providing strategic planning, keeping the group on task, raising and contributing funding, and working to partner with organizations to ensure service quality and integration.