Historic Development District Corporation CEO talks history, preservation of Sweet Auburn

The Sweet Auburn Curb Market has endured for decades and weathered many ups and downs. (File photo)

On this edition of “Closer Look,” Cheneé Joseph, CEO and president of Historic Development District Corporation (HDDC), discusses the history of Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood and the continued fight to preserve and keep it thriving today.

In the 1940s and ’50s, Sweet Auburn was an economic haven for Black-owned businesses, newspapers, churches, nightclubs and some eateries.

“Sweet Auburn, I like to say, is the original beloved community,” said Joseph. “At the time, it was one of the least desirable places to live, and yet, as typically what black people do, we took a place and made it into something amazing. Black people were able to thrive and live, and most importantly, we worked together.”

However, the neighborhood, which was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976, experienced a sharp decline in business and infrastructure investment in the years that followed. Joseph’s primary mission with the HDDC is to contribute to preserving the ownership and revitalization of businesses, homes and churches within the historic area – all while pressures of gentrification build up.

“Revitalization for us is whatever it takes to make a neighborhood thriving,” said Joseph. “There has to be involvement and interest for our governmental agencies, our nonprofits, all of us have to come together and decide that the history and the legacy of this space is really important to preserve, and unfortunately, for quite some time, we just did not have that attention and that investment … we were not seen as the thriving place where we are today.”