Proctor Creek Greenway Opening Stokes Fears Of Gentrification

City officials gather Monday to mark the opening of a new trail in northwest Atlanta.

Ross Terrell / WABE

Atlanta city officials gathered Monday to open a new walking and bike trail in the northwest part of the city. The first three miles of the Proctor Creek Greenway are now open to the public.

This was just phase one of the project, but it’s already leading to fears of gentrification.

When the full trail is complete, it’ll be seven miles and connect to the west side portion of Atlanta’s BeltLine.

“I’ve always heard my family talk about how wonderful the west side used to be,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said.  “I’m excited that in my lifetime and even in my mother’s lifetime that the beauty of the west side is really coming full circle.”

Residents like Bob Johnson, who lives on in the northwest part of the city, worry it could lead to longtime residents being displaced.

“You have to involve those people in the conversation, not just in bits and pieces of it but from the beginning to the end,” Johnson said. “You have to take them seriously and not just have them as the token. No one is really against progress, we just want to be a part of it.”

Some residents expressed concerns that the trail could lead to longtime residents being displaced. (Ross Terrell/WABE)

T.J. Austin, president of the Grove Park Neighborhood Association, said he’s glad residents get to enjoy the trail. He also wants to make sure those residents aren’t forced out as a result.

“We all know what’s transpired on the East side,” Austin said.  “It’s beautiful near Ponce City Market. But those native Atlantans remember what Kirkwood used to be. We all remember what Inman Park used to be and Old Fourth Ward.”

He said this was residents’ final opportunity to let the city of Atlanta know they wouldn’t let the gentrification on the East side of the city happen to them.

That’s something Bottoms said she hoped to prevent.

“I hope people that have been a part of this community for decades really recognize that gem that is in their midst and that we are able to keep people in their homes and that we are able to rebuild this community,” Bottoms said.

The trail will come off the BeltLine and run to the Chattahoochee River. City and trail officials say it’ll include 50 acres of linear park and 400 acres of greenspace.

The project was funded by a $3.6 million special purpose sales tax and $160,000 from Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management.