After more than ten years of work, Vine City Park is officially complete. Community members, city officials, and Atlanta non-profits gathered Thursday for a ribbon-cutting for final phase of the park, which includes an expanded playground and flood-mitigating features.
Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said the park, which sits on two flood-prone acres in the heart of Vine City once occupied by abandoned lots and vacant buildings, was a meaningful part of the city’s effort to address blight and infrastructure issues.
He also said it was a sign of things to come.
“The message is simple: if you care about the Westside, you should stick around, because we’re just getting started,” he said.
There are no shortage of revitalization plans for the area: from the highly-visible construction of Mercedes-Benz Stadium to plans to turn Bellwood Quarry into the city’s largest park.
That has experts and area residents worried. They fear such development will make the area more attractive, which could lead to higher property values and the displacement of current residents, many of whom live below the poverty line.
Councilman Ivory Lee Young, Jr., whose district includes some of Atlanta’s west side neighborhoods, said that’s something the city is thinking about.
“We’re not naive: economic development can’t be done purely on the backs of folks who are fighting poverty,” he said. “So, we absolutely need to improve and better our demographic in terms of household income, but not at the expense of the indigenous residents of this community.”
It’s yet to be seen whether the city will actually be able to spur that development without displacement.
In the meantime, nearby resident Ricky Williams said he’s just happy the park has been finished. To him, it’s a sign the area’s getting the attention it’s long deserved.
“This is refreshing to me,” Williams said. “Maybe it’s like somebody finally heard, somebody finally listened.”