THEN: Atlanta’s intown renaissance launched into the aughts with a frenzy as new residents eager for urban life (and suburbanites who shook their fear of tall buildings) began flocking into the city’s core at a stunning clip. With a per capita income of $25,772, your average Joe or Jane — if he or she were adventurous enough — could venture south of Ponce de Leon Avenue and nab a $75,000 home in then-budding East Atlanta. So began a wave of gentrification that continues to this day. In 2000, Atlanta was 61 percent black, but the influx of urban pioneers to such neighborhoods as Reynoldstown, Kirkwood, Oakhurst and Ormewood Park was beginning to change the face of the city — and generate valid concerns over increased home prices and property taxes. What’s more, the Atlanta Housing Authority’s controversial experiment of demolishing and redeveloping the city’s public housing complexes was in full swing, and would eventually displace (for better or worse) large concentrations of African-American residents.
NOW: Gentrification continued throughout the ’00s with a vengeance. According to the Brookings Institution, Atlanta’s white share of the population grew the fastest of any American city between 2000 and 2006 — a demographic shift that political analysts say played a major role in this year’s razor-thin mayoral election results, in which African-American candidate Kasim Reed barely edged out his white challenger, Mary Norwood. According to the Atlanta Regional Commission, the city added approximately 7,600 new residents every year, bringing the total population to an estimated 519,000 — and almost regaining the number of people it lost during the exodus to the suburbs from 1970 and 2000. Thanks to the economy’s nosedive, however, the number of new arrivals between April 2008 and the same time this year decreased by half — the smallest gain of the decade. Perhaps most startling is the changes in the ’burbs — particularly Gwinnett County, where the trend has been the direct opposite of Atlanta’s. Gwinnett’s white population shrank from 72.7 percent in 2000 to 49.9 percent in 2009.
PROGNOSIS: Diversity’s a wonderful thing — but we still have a long way to go in protecting minorities from displacement