Three years ago, the dilapidated childhood home of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first Black mayor, seemed doomed to meet the wrecking ball. But thanks to the Westside Future Fund, the humble Vine City multiplex where the late leader spent his early childhood will come alive again as affordable housing.

The nonprofit, whose mission is revitalizing Westside neighborhoods, aims to preserve “missing middle” housing—the small- and mid-sized apartment buildings that have become increasingly rare as single-family homes and giant apartment complexes saturate the Atlanta landscape—on the Westside.

The five units at 220 Sunset Ave. will be priced as affordable for households earning 50% of the area median income or less—or just $48,200 for a family of four—Westside Future Fund’s chief real estate officer, Rachel Carey, told Atlanta Civic Circle on Thursday. That’s the income class in most dire need of stable housing as Atlanta becomes more expensive. The apartments are scheduled for occupancy by late 2023 or early 2024.

Westside Future Fund and its developer partner, APD Urban Planning and Management, intend to market the units to people in Westside communities involved in social justice activism and educational endeavors like those championed by civil rights heroes Jackson and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who lived next door with his family at 234 Sunset Ave., until he was assassinated in 1968. That home was sold to the National Park Service in 2019. 

Jackson was elected Atlanta’s mayor in 1973 at just 35 years old. His three terms as mayor were notable for expanding the Atlanta airport and increasing Black business participation in the city. He died in 2003.

“These are the things we want to celebrate in this community,” Carey said, nodding to the legacy of Black leadership in town. 

Westside Future Fund bought the Sunset Avenue apartments, built by Jackson’s father in 1948, in early 2020 for $275,000 from The King Center, which had planned to level the building

The nonprofit has already spent $1 million just to keep the decaying old building upright and intends to invest another $1 million to restore it as close as possible to its original condition, Carey said.

“As you can imagine for a property that hasn’t been maintained for a couple decades, it was in terrible condition,” she said. “It’s a very plain, simple building that has an austere look to it,” she added, but the historical significance is still there.

Westside Future Fund’s investment in the renovation is augmented by a $450,000 tax allocation district grant from the city of Atlanta, as well as donations from the Arthur M. Blank Foundation and money from WFF’s own coffers.

Carey said the 220 Sunset project is one of several the nonprofit is working on to preserve “missing middle” units on the Westside. Her organization is renovating a total of 33 apartments in five small complexes. Of those, 24 will be Section 8 units, she said, that should be available by spring 2023.

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