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New initiatives bring green space, jobs to westside neighborhoods


Atlanta’s Westside will soon have more parks and money to spruce up an existing one, Mayor Kasim Reed said Monday.

His announcement came at the annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting, where government officials, business leaders, philanthropists and nonprofits leaders come together to discuss ideas that promote economic growth, long-term competitiveness and social mobility.

Several abandoned urban lots within the Proctor Creek Watershed will be converted into Boone Park West to provide much-needed greenspace to the area, as well as house a structure meant to capture and clean the storm water runoff that has historically flooded the surrounding neighborhoods.

“This project will engage and educate the community in green infrastructure solutions,” Reed said. “It will increase public access to recreational opportunities, provide jobs and workforce training for residents, improve the environment, restore natural habitats and act as a catalyst for economic revitalization and job creation.”

The idea is to build a park with purpose.

“In order for public parks to be relevant in blighted neighborhoods like Vine City and English Avenue they need to be about more than just parks,” said Michael Halicki, Executive Director of Park Pride. “They need to engage the community and involve new partners. Boone Park West takes what we’ve learned at Vine City Park and Lindsey Park and takes it to the next level.”

In addition, Mims Park will see improvements. A new pond also could be going there to help stem flooding in Westside neighborhoods. The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation pledged $2.5 million in major improvements to the 16-acre park, which it hopes will usher in a new era for the “last frontier of downtown,” said Penny McPhee, President of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.

“Mims Park will be the Westside equivalent to Old Fourth Ward Park,” said McPhee. “You have seen how that park transformed the neighborhood where it was. We believe the same thing will happen on the Westside.”

Reed also announced that Ebenezer Baptist Church in the Old Fourth Ward will be going energy efficient.

“Given our platform, the moral platform of Martin Luther King Jr., we felt that it was important for us to practice what we preach,” Reverend Raphael Warnock said of the environmental inequality that plagues the poor and people of color.

Beyond environmental pledges, other CGI initiatives focused on creating jobs and economic independence. The Construction Education Foundation of Georgia announced Westside Works, a construction job training program focused on communities south of I-20. Equifax, in partnership with National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions, will be launching the Westside Economic Capabilities Center to help provide financial services in the area.

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