I wish I could say that last week’s Brookings Institution report stating that Atlanta has the highest income disparity of any big U.S. city was a surprise. But it wasn’t. As I read through the details of the analysis—which compares the ratio of the city’s top earners to those in the lowest fifth of household incomes—I couldn’t shake a particular mental image: a drive that I have made dozens of times in recent months while reporting a story for next month’s issue of the magazine.
That route, from downtown to Vine City and English Avenue, includes a straight shot from Spring Street to Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard. The drive follows a single road that, in typical Atlanta fashion, has multiple names, all bestowed in honor of civic leaders of the past. The stretch through Downtown is dubbed Ivan Allen Jr. Boulevard for the late mayor. On the West Side, the road’s called Joseph E. Boone, in recognition of the civil rights leader known as the “picketing preacher.”
If you hit all the lights just right, this 1.7 mile drive takes four minutes. You start at an intersection clustered with high-end high-rise buildings, including the W-Atlanta Downtown, notable for its rooftop heliport, and where there’s a three-bedroom condo on the market for $1.7 million. You make your way past parking for downtown attractions and the Georgia Dome, cruise past Vine City and end up at English Avenue. In these neighborhoods, as WABE’s Jim Burress has reported, the value of many homes has plummeted to just $10,000.
But don’t take my word for it; watch the video. Forgive the shakiness; I shot this on my phone from the passenger side of the car as my husband drove. The video is in real time, with one edit where I paused recording during a traffic light stop.