“the City Too Busy to Hate”

Sometimes remembering hurts but it’s always good to know how far we’ve come. I found the history of Cascade Heights to be bitter-sweet, as what occurred was not very long ago. As per Wikipedia:

Cascade Heights is an affluent predominantly African-American neighborhood in southwest Atlanta. Along with Sandtown and other portions of unincorporated South Fulton County, the area has a reputation as having a high concentration of the African-American elite in the city.

Cascade Heights, or simply Cascade, can refer to a large area that is bound by I-20, on the north, I-285 on the west, South Utoy Creek on the south, and the Adams Park and Beecher Hills neighborhoods to the east. By this definition, this area also includes neighborhoods such as Peyton Forest, West Manor, and Mangum Manor to name a few. This situation can be paralleled to Midtown’s role in Northeast Atlanta; each neighborhood is separate and distinct but the area is still known by one generic name.

Here’s the interesting part:

In the early 1960s the area was a predominantly white neighborhood. After an African-American physician bought a home in Peyton Forest, white residents in the area feared that their neighborhood would become a victim of blockbusting,a business practice in which real estate agents would profit from the racial fears of white residents while changing the racial makeup of a white residential area.

Stop here.

Now, let’s not go on a Real Estate Agent bashing session, these were ignorant greedy people who happen to be agents and making their fortune from playing on the fears of their people (as they were also White). Every culture and race  have a few evil, greedy self-serving people. I remember reading how some Blacks sold other Blacks into slavery (another crazy history lesson for another day…)

Continue:

“When African-Americans moved in to a neighborhood, their presence resulted in lower residential property values because many whites considered an integrated neighborhood to be undesirable. Real estate agents stirred up racial tension and benefited from the commissions they earned when fearful homeowners sold their properties, often at a loss, in order to escape the area.”

But are you kidding me? I understand greedy sales people, but et tu brute– Mayor? —- Read on! 

“In a 1962–1963 episode that came to be called “the Peyton Road affair”, Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen responded to residents’ fears of blockbusting by directing city staff to erect barricades on Peyton Road and Harlan Road to restrict access to Cascade Heights, thus preventing African-American home seekers from getting to the neighborhood from Gordon Road. He took the action at the urging of white residents of southwest Atlanta(in particular, one of his high-level employees who lived a short distance from Peyton Road). After the barricades went up, December 18, 1962,the incident quickly drew national attention. The barrier was compared to the Berlin Wall and nicknamed the “Atlanta wall”. Some newspapers in other parts of the country questioned Atlanta’s motto “the City Too Busy to Hate.” The walls were torn down when, on March 1, 1963, a court ruled them to be unconstitutional.

This event is considered to have helped spur the growth and prominence of Collier Heights, the first affluent community in the nation built by and for African-Americans.”

Whoa! DRAMA- can you imagine living through that?  I can’t, – just thinking,  my mother was alive during this time. Thank God for growth and progress. I  must constantly  remind myself-this was a different time, a different world and that maybe the Mayor did what he thought was best for the overall good??? (I was not there so….)

Notable residents of Cascade Heights include: former Atlanta mayor Shirley Franklin, baseball legend Hank Aaron, former UN Ambassador and mayor of Atlanta Andrew Young, and past national president of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and founding member of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Ozell Sutton, Dr. Howard W. Grant, current Executive Director/Administrator of the Atlanta Board of Education, and Kandi Burruss, singer/songwriter, record producer, and cast member of The Real Housewives of Atlanta ( Kandi recently bought a new house in a Cascade gated community-Go Kandi!!)

Today, what’s sad are the home values. Cascade Heights was hit  hard in the bust. The wonderful Veltre Estates still has a sign at the corner of Cascade  and  Veltre Circle.  During their development, I knew these would be a treat in Cascade Heights, with only 24home sites!  I found the quality of this builders to be like none other, in a time when everyone under the sun was building out Cascade and Camp Creek.  Throwing up homes in a month, on lots too close for anyone. Jones & Minear Homebuilders left no stone unturned when it came to the details.

Unfortunately home sales went from $599K down to $355K  last in 2011; what an amazing deal on these estates of 5 Bedrooms, 3sides brick and 3 car garage  homes.  This may be a great area to keep an eye on for a future short sale.

Here’s an old sales website– see how drastically they were reduced…

No worries, Cascade Heights will rebound. It’s a perfect location- perfect for those wanting to live close to the city, but maybe a bit tired of living in a really urban area.  The land is cheap enough for investors to purchase and rebuild new construction-although, to really have an impact on value the builder will need to do more than a few homes. I love the look of the older homes on Boulevard Granada and Boulevard Lorraine, but I can picture many new single family homes on these streets similar to what was done in Washington Park, since there are a few without character. – Don’t sleep on Cascade Heights- a good investment area!

“The Bluff”

….We’re not in Kansas anymore….

At least, that’s what you would think after reading Wiki:

“The Bluff is a district within the area that is infamous throughout metro Atlanta for the availability of drugs, heroin in particular.

The borders of The Bluff are defined differently by different sources. For example the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Creative Loafing both defined The Bluff as including all of English Avenue and Vine City. However, a more recent and in-depth December 2011 series of reports by 11 Alive TV news, referred to The Bluff as a “section of English Avenue”. The English Avenue/Vine City area has some of the highest poverty and crime rates in the city, with the Carter St. area surrounding the Vine City MARTA station ranking in 2010 as the #1 most dangerous neighborhood in Atlanta and #5 in the United States.”

Who would want to LIVE here?

… Apparently, MANY. Not only the long time residence fighting for the redevelopment of this area, but also the many investors who dropped a boat load of money in the area trying to flip houses across from the Georgia Dome and Georgia World Congress Center…..There HAD to be some special plans for this area at once-something special.  Who would spend this amount of money developing such a beautiful building knowing it’s patrons would have to tip-toe from Marta across the street, past the drug house, robbers and pan handlers?

I’m not saying its not lacking their share of revitalization, nor is it crimeless- and yes, it could be dangerous if you are walking down the street at 1am texting on an IPhone, carrying a laptop bag and sporting an “I LOVE NY” T-Shirt- yes, you could be calling for some trouble. HOWEVER, as a person 5’1 (barely) and 110lbs- I have never feared kicking in a vacant house to take a home tour.

But why the bad rap? Where did it come from? What’s the history of this community?

“What is now the English Avenue neighborhood was purchased in 1891 by James W. English, Jr., son of Atlanta mayor James W. English. It was developed as a white working-class neighborhood. Simpson Road was long a residential race barrier with whites to the north and blacks to the south.Today’s English Avenue was known at different times as Bellwoodand as Western Heights (I like this name!) . In 1910 the Western Heights school (later renamed Kingbery after a principal of the school, then renamed English Avenue Elementary School) was built at the northeast corner of English Ave. and Pelham St

The area south of Simpson Road — today’s Vine City — was settled at the end of the 1800s by large land owners, and a predominantly African-American residential area was established, though there were also white subdivisions, schools, and churches. A mix of social classes were present. In 1910 Alonzo F. Herndon, founder of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, built his home at 587 University Place, now listed on the National Register and open to visitors

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.

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.”

Will Wal-Mart aid in the revitalization of this community? I don’t think Wal-Mart had a clue about the possibilities and  impact their opening could make. They may have only viewed their bottom line and were offered  benefits to open here. But if they cared, Wal-Mart can be the a major player in the redevelopment of this area now dubbed a “food desert” .

Here’s a history of the revitalization efforts:

“In 1999, the Atlanta Housing Authority first announced plans for the “Historic Westside Village”, a $130 million commercial, residential and retail project at the area’s southern end near Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. at Ashby St. A Publix supermarket opened in May 2002but the overall project stalled by 2003 as further anchor tenants did not materialize. This, along with disappointing sales, caused the Publix – the only full-sized supermarket for miles around – to close in December 2009.Creative Loafing called the project the most notorious “municipal boondoggle…to have tarred Atlanta” during mayor Bill Campbell‘s era; the project “fell victim to…cronyism, bureaucratic incompetence and a flagrant disregard for federal lending guidelines”.In December 2010 things looked up as the Atlanta Development Authority announced plans for Wal-Mart to open a store on the site.”

Yikes. Now putting all that aside, I know you did NOT come here for a history lesson. However, I believe it’s imperative to know the history and direction of the community you plan to invest.  Understanding this could help your decision.  When you purchase, you invest more than money- you invest a part of you.

What’s left to buy in The Bluff?

Right now, as an investor I’d buy a few to hold (of course rent them, because vacant homes do nothing for communities).

IF you can find any. Many of these homes have already been hit by the bust- and have been resold as REO’s/ Foreclosures between the years 2007-2011.. it’s pretty quiet now with new listings- but that does not mean these homes are occupied and not available.  I have found a few come up- off line – or off the MLS grid as investors trade packages or “owner finance” homes directly on Craigs List and other By Owner sites. Keep an eye out- some investors may be ready to dump since the revitalization is not happening as rapidly as they need and can no longer afford to hold. Other circumstances, such as the new vacancy registry and a code enforcement crack down (after the urging of the community) are forcing these MIA investors to pay upon registration or repair and rent their homes. I also know a few investors with portfolios that maybe ready to release.

The bottom line- there are still deals in this area.

FMLS# 5075795, 486 Paines Avenue SW  is sitting pretty at $25K

P.S. Have you seen the movie “Snow  on tha Bluff”?? I tried but my ears are sensitive LOL.. too much “realness” for me..

Barack Obama Takes Oath of Office

Barack Obama on Tuesday became the 44th president of the United States.

Following a swearing-in ceremony witnessed by hundreds of thousands of onlookers in Washington, D.C., and millions more who watched on television, the new president acknowledged there there will be challenges ahead, but that he will seek to confront those issues without partisanship or divisiveness that has recently pervaded national politics.

“Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered,” Obama said.

The full text of Obama’s speech is available here.

Simultaneous with Obama’s swearing in ceremony, the White House rolled out a new Web site at the previous address, www.whitehouse.gov, which includes details on all aspects of the president’s agenda, including his plans for the economy. The site also has a blog and a section devoted to the White House itself.

The NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS® plans to work with Congress and the Obama administration to pass an economic stimulus plan that is expected to include many components championed by NAR to improve housing.

NAR’s Housing Stimulus Plan includes both legislative and regulatory fixes. Its focus includes keeping mortgage interest rates low, boosting home buyer confidence, and reducing the current foreclosure rate. It also asks that regulators be encouraged to help financial institutions resolve problems in the short-sale process, make it easier for servicers to modify existing loans, remove unreasonable underwriting guidelines and insist that credit reporting agencies correct errors promptly.

Source: NAR, CNN.com

What a special day… we also heard a special prayer from Dr. Joseph Lowery– I couldn’t help but smile while driving on Joseph Lowery Blvd in West End today .. The West End has so much history!

Why I serve West End & Westview…

I received this email today:

My name is David Hill. My mothers name is Gwenetta Hill. I was raised in the West End at 986 Oglethorpe Ave, We’ve long since moved from that house back in the late 80s.Im bumping 30 now and can remember Andrew Youngcampaigning for mayor right on that very street back in the days, Ive had quite a few friends who also lived on that street as well who have moved on. If at all possible, can you send a picture of my old home, despite the fact that I always thought the place was haunted?lol(if available of course).I was actually “tripping” over the fact that a lot of those homes have come a long way since then. My friend Albert Duncan lived in that very home that was featured on your home tour review and I was veeery impressed with it. Hard times affected a lot of families back then, so when I see pictures of the homes now, I’m very impressed. I can remember the days when people would actually physically work on their own homes to try and maintain them the best they could despite being financially strapped. Anyways, I’d appreciate the favor. I’m actually overseas right now on a port-of-call in Sydney and for some reason that house popped back into my mind. Respectfully, -David

I was very touched by this message today. It’s not out of the ordinary though- while at the Home Show, many who now live in Virginia Highlands, Inman Park,Grant Park etc.. would come up to our booth with a sense of longing remembering a time when the West End was shining. I listened to a number of stories from Seniors, of when they visited the Wrens Nest as a child.  

We’re not far from regaining our status.

Thank you residents of West End. Thank you for holding on, working HARDER, and continuing the fight.  We are remembered, we are cherished, we are cheered for….