Renaissance West Community Initiative became a member of the Purpose Built Communities network in March 2013, joining a growing national movement to break the intergenerational cycle of urban poverty through holistic community revitalization. One of Purpose Built Communities’ greatest success stories is East Lake in Atlanta. Recognized by the Urban Land Institute as a national model for community redevelopment, the East Lake Foundation was created in 1995 to help transform one of Atlanta’s most troubled neighborhoods. Working from the belief that everyone deserves a chance to succeed, the foundation offers tools that enable residents to build brighter futures. Hundreds of visitors a year visit East Lake to learn about their guiding principles and how they can transform their own communities.
The Purpose Built Communities model for holistic community revitalization evolved from the successful revitalization in the late 1990’s of East Lake Meadows, a poverty-stricken, crime-ridden, failed public housing project in Atlanta, Georgia.
East Lake – once so dangerous it was widely known as “Little Vietnam” – housed 1,400 extremely low-income residents, with high unemployment, substandard housing, a crime rate 18 times the national average with 90% of families victims of a felony each year, and a school in which only 5% of 5th graders met state standards in mathematics.
The East Lake community built The Villages of East Lake, a mixed-income apartment community; Charles R. Drew Charter School, Atlanta’s first charter school, serving students in Pre-K through grade 8; East Lake Family YMCA; East Lake Community Learning Garden; East Lake Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Center; the East Lake Early Learning Academy; and the 18-hole, public Charlie Yates Golf Course, home to The First Tee® of East Lake, a year-round golf instruction and life skills program targeted to East Lake youth.
Today, the East Lake Community is thriving with 2,100 mixed-income residents in high-quality housing, increased employment, violent crime cut by 95%, and a school that has gone from the worst in Atlanta to one of the best in the city and the state. Students in the Charles R. Drew Charter School outperform city and state averages, and in 2012, 99% of students in grades 3–8 met or exceeded state standards in reading and language arts, and 98% in math.
The dynamic growth of East Lake has also attracted more than $175 million in new residential and commercial investment in the surrounding area, and boosted home values 3.8 times relative to those elsewhere in the City of Atlanta.