Last January, city councilmember Kwanza Hall declared 2012 the “Year of Boulevard,” and outlined an ambitious plan to revitalize a blighted stretch of intown Atlanta.
Over the decades, there have been calls to clean up Boulevard—and in particular the swath of subsidized housing the thoroughfare bisects—but these sputtered and never really got anywhere.
Hall’s initiative, on the other hand, actually accomplished something. Over the past year, he and indefatigable chief of staff Jay Tribby coordinated a succession of projects like community clean ups and a block party.
Even more important than such feel-good projects, has been Hall’s ability to wrangle partnerships, ranging from the Atlanta Police Department, which opened a mini precinct on Boulevard in early summer, to the Atlanta Hawks Foundation, which underwrote basketball court renovations in Central Park, to TedX Atlanta, whose members mounted a campaign to underwrite summer programs for kids and crafted a brilliant branding effort—YoBoulevard!
Hall’s office worked with the city planning department and ARC to secure $1 million in funding for infrastructure improvements. But the most strategic move has been pulling Wingate Properties—which owns and operates 700-plus federally subsidized housing units in the Boulevard corridor’s Village of Bedford Pines—front-and-center into Year of Boulevard projects. Wingate contributed cash, donated space for an APD processing center, and continued to underwrite a considerable portion of the Operation P.E.A.C.E. after-school and summer program.
All that said, Wingate hasn’t yet publicly rolled out a comprehensive plan for revitalizing Bedford Pines. Friction still exists between residents of the complex and their neighbors. Vacant lots, violence, and poverty don’t vanish with a great slogan and no one believes you can solve problems that took decades to develop in a year.
So what’s next? 2013 will bring “Mo’ Boulevard,” says Hall. Integral to the effort will be working with Wingate and the corridor’s residents. “We’re trying to do this with the community, in partnership, with people,” he says.
Mo’ Boulevard will kick off with a community meeting tomorrow night. Hall promises he'll be announcing new partnerships in the program. One of these is the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which granted the councilmember a fellowship.