Atlanta is rapidly changing.
In the past few years alone, Tech students have been able to enjoy an influx of higher market vendors and newer living spaces in the areas surrounding campus, slowly developing the landscape of what was once an industrial neighborhood into a nexus of a more artsy, middle class area.
This urban alteration that students have been able to consume has not been limited to Tech’s perimeter but has also been present in several other sections of Atlanta, ranging from Inman Park to the whole of “The Beltline.”
While the increased options may be more beneficial to the average Tech student on a personal consumer level, the negative effects of this redevelopment, or gentrification, may not be immediately apparent.
Although there may be positive aspects associated with gentrification, such as improved city services and lower crime rates, it is not always easy to mitigate all the negative effects such as the fragmentation of local communities or the displacement of natives who can no longer afford the increasing taxes.
Gentrification is not a novel concept in Atlanta. It has almost been 20 years since the 1996 Olympics that spurred a significant amount of development around Atlanta. A recent study published by Governing magazine ranked Atlanta as having the fifth highest gentrification rate in America. Analyzing census data for 50 of the most populous cities, the study examined “tracts,” or small sectors of land with a population over 500 and a median income below the 40th percentile, to see if they were gentrifying. From when the Olympics were announced to present day, Atlanta has maintained almost double the national average for the number of tracts that qualified as being in the process of gentrification.
What gentrification really means for Atlanta, however, especially in a city so racially segregated by socioeconomic factors, is that economic mobility is nearly impossible for those hoping to make the jump out of the poorer neighborhoods to the wealthier, notably more Caucasian sectors.
As Tech is located in a more privileged area of Atlanta, students seldom interact with many of the neighborhoods being negatively impacted by the accelerated transitions. With a lot of the surrounding area already gentrified, this generation of Tech students has not been able to personally witness the effects redevelopment can have on a local neighborhood. In fact, the majority of students rarely think about the affected areas as many of them are very far beyond the view of our dorm windows.
We are not always aware of the genuine situation around Atlanta beyond the clean, middle class areas. When we do encounter the rest, it is usually on MARTA, which is always deemed “sketchy” or “unsafe.”
Perhaps it is time for students to step out of the security of the Tech bubble and become more conscious of the issues impacting the city we share.