Next City, September 26, 2019: Which Past Will Be Prologue for Opportunity Zones in Atlanta
Opportunity Zones come to Atlanta in the wake of significant investment already coming into the city, from the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium to The Gulch (recently re-christened “Centennial Yards”), and of course, the continuing construction of the Atlanta BeltLine, the 22-mile rails-to-trails project encircling the center of the city. These large headline-grabbing projects are driving broader interest from developers.
“You have to look at Opportunity Zones in the context of the growth and development trajectory of the city over the past 12 years,” says Nathaniel Smith, founder and chief equity officer at the Partnership for Southern Equity, an Atlanta-based nonprofit. “We’ve had all this development occur through public incentives, and all of those are playing a major role in driving up housing markets in the city.”
Whether it’s the neighborhoods around the BeltLine or closer to downtown — including Martin Luther King Jr.’s old neighborhood — the Atlanta housing market is already hot, with some local officials fighting to freeze property taxes to protect some longtime Atlanta homeowners. In a study of U.S. census data, the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that Atlanta was among the cities experiencing highest black population loss and white population gain.