Chick-fil-A has opened a new restaurant in Vine City, as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize the Westside area of Atlanta.
The new restaurant located on MLK Drive, has provided 90 jobs, seventy percent of which went to Westside residents and also includes a conference room for people to hold community meetings.
“This restaurant serves as an investment and a commitment to the Westside, to provide options and services just like any other area in the Atlanta community,” said Quincy Springs, operator of the Vine City restaurant .
The restaurant which broke ground in July last year, opened its doors Thursday morning and is one among other projects, including the recently opened Merecedes-Benz stadium, which local leaders hope will help bring economic prosperity in the area.
Frank Fernandez, vice president for Community Development with the Arthur M. Blank foundation, which has been active in revitalization efforts in thearea for the last 15 years, said having such a big brand opening a restaurant in the area affirms that the area is great for business.
Fernandez says the new restaurant hired some high school students trained under the Westside ambassador program sponsored by the Arthur Blank Foundation, which aims at building professional skills among young people in preparation for the workforce. He said such collaborative efforts were crucial in the redevelopment efforts.
“All this recent activity is helping to connect residents in these communities to greater prosperity, and the challenge is for us to facilitate that in a way that is inclusive and respectful and in welcoming to the existing residents and at the same time working in new energy to do business with the residents,” said Fernandez.
In a written statement, Chick-fil-A said the new location served as part of its broader initiative and that of the Chick-fil-A Foundation to support the work being done on the Westside.
The opening of the Vine City location is also important to the history of the restaurant chain as the area is the childhood home for Chick-fil-A’s founder S. Truett Cathy. Besides that, the area is significant to the civil rights movement.
“This is the hotbed of where the civil rights leaders lived and worked. It was a very prosperous community and over time it lost some of that prominence and now we are just trying to help people remember how incredibly important and vivacious this community once was,” Spring said.
According to city data.com, the median household income for the Vine City area in 2016 was $25,130 which was well below the median income for the city of Atlanta.
The traditional overnight campout that accompanies all new Chick-fil-A openings was interrupted by inclement weather, but still managed to attract 60 area residents who joined local leaders, among them CEO’s of Chick-fil-A, Cox Enterprises, Georgia Power and Coca-Cola.
As per tradition, the company rewards the first 100 participants with free year-long meals.
Fernandez hopes the economic momentum in the Vine City area will ensure long-term residents stay to benefit from the efforts currently in place.
“We are optimistic that things are going to change for the positive and are very focused to ensure that as it changes the people who have been there for a long time get to stay and benefit from that prosperity,” he said.
The Vine City location is one among 6 other Chick-fil-A restaurants opened by the chain countrywide this week.
Springs hopes the location would have a lasting economic effect on the local community, which has seen deterioration over the years.
“For people to turn on MLK and see that Chick-fil-A sign shining brightly is a pretty impressive image, for people who in many cases feel that the Westside has been abandoned,” he said.