~ English Avenue & Vine City Communities ~

The Forgotten Ones

English Avenue and Vine City are two adjacent and closely linked neighborhoods of Atlanta, Georgia. Together the neighborhoods make up neighborhood planning unit L. The two neighborhoods are frequently cited together in reference to shared problems and to shared redevelopment schemes and revitalization plans.

English Avenue is bounded by the railroad line and the Marietta Street Artery neighborhood to the northeast, Northside Dr. and Downtown Atlanta to the east, Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. (formerly Ashby St.) and the Bankhead neighborhood to the west, and Joseph E. Boone Blvd. (called Simpson St. until 2008) and Vine City to the south. Its population was 3,309 in 2010.

Vine City is bounded by Joseph E. Boone Blvd. (Simpson) and the English Avenue neighborhood to the north, Northside Dr. and Downtown Atlanta to the east, Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. (formerly Hunter St.) and the Atlanta University Center to the south, and Joseph E. Lowery Blvd. (Ashby) and the Washington Park neighborhood to the west. Its population was 2,785 in 2010.

A section of the area, "The Bluff", is infamous throughout Metro Atlanta as a high crime area, but in late 2011, English Avenue and Vine City were the focus of multiple improvement plans, including a network of parks and trails,increased police presence, and "rebranding" for a more positive image.


The 2008 tornado caused major damage in areas of Vine City (photos).

The desperate state of the area was described by reporter Thomas Wheatley in Creative Loafing in September 2012 as:

"boarded-up homes built among the trees along the narrow streets,…people loitering in the middle of vacant lots, casting hollow stares at passing motorists, and…young men hanging out on street corners, hollering at passers-by and then to lookouts down the street"

Source: Wikipedia

A Brief History by Vené Franco | Creative Loafing

Located on the western edge of Downtown, Vine City was once a thriving neighborhood of subdivisions, churches, schools, and businesses fueled by the area's railroads, industrial complexes, and Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). Atlanta Life Insurance Company Founder Alonzo F. Herndon purchased land and built a home on University Place in 1910. By the 1950s, the neighborhood was home to a solid, primarily African-American middle class. Famed Southern restaurant Paschal's had already become a landmark.

In 1967, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife, Coretta, moved their family to Vine City. Despite the neighborhood's pockets of affluence and its prominent citizens, Vine City remained a mix of social and economic classes. In archival photos at the Atlanta History Center, King and the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy, among other civil rights leaders, can be seen standing alongside residents at a substandard housing unit in Vine City where they were protesting living conditions.

Nearly 50 years later, suburbanization, poverty, drugs, unemployment, and natural disasters, including a flood in 2002 and a tornado in 2008, have left Vine City "a shell of its former self," lifelong resident Byron Amos told CL in 2009. The area is largely a food desert save a Walmart Supercenter on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive that opened earlier this year. Blocks of abandoned houses with overgrown lawns and broken windows are a stark reminder that Georgia has one of the country's highest foreclosure rates.

Today, some revitalization projects are in the works, including the 16-acre Mims Park along Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, but Vine City has a long, pot-holed road ahead of it before anything resembling its heyday comes into view. And while the Arthur Blank Foundation is promising improvement to communities such as Vine City that surround the new Atlanta Falcons stadium site, some residents are skeptical after broken promises from developers following the building of the Georgia Dome nearly 25 years ago.

"Sitting here at the very gate of prosperity and nothing being done about it of any significant nature," Lindsay Street Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Anthony Motley said to CL about the Dome in 2012 as discussions of a new Falcons stadium heated up. "You have this monstrosity towering over all this blight. And that's unseemly. And ungodly, I might add."


Heyday and Civil Rights
During the mid-20th century, the area was a middle-class African-American neighborhood. Commercial areas included English Avenue; Simpson Street/Road, in its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s; and Bankhead Highway, which was part of the US Highway system, and was in its splendor in the 1960s. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. moved to the area in 1967, and his widow Coretta Scott King continued to live here until her death.

In 1960, the English Avenue elementary school was dynamited, likely in retaliation for civil rights demonstrations by blacks. Mayor William B. Hartsfield condemned the dynamiting as the work of those from outside Atlanta, "the outhouse set". The area experienced notable pro- and anti-Black Power riots in 1966 and 1967.

Source: Wikipedia

Decline and crime
Suburbanization started draining the area's vitality starting in the 1970s. Over the following decades, it attracted buyers and sellers of heroin, and deteriorated into a corner of poverty in the city, characterized by large numbers of abandoned, boarded-up houses. In 1995 the English Avenue Elementary School closed.

The 2010s foreclosure crisis hit the neighborhoods hard. In April 2012, Creative Loafing reported that "on some streets more houses are boarded up than are lived in".

Source: Wikipedia

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