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Atlanta has been selected to join the Strong, Prosperous, And Resilient Communities Challenge (SPARCC), a three-year, $90-million initiative to bolster local groups and leaders in their efforts to ensure that, as major new investments in transportation are made, they improve equity, health and environmental outcomes for all residents.

“Our transit and community investments are at a truly transformational point, potentially increasing by billions of dollars,” TransFormation Alliance said in a press release. “The award from SPARCC will enable Atlanta to create a new model of an equitable, healthy and climate-wise development in Atlanta and ensure benefits for all residents.”

TransFormation Alliance, whose executive team consists of a host of Atlanta’s community advocates, policy experts, transit providers and government agencies, was created to advocate for equitable transit-oriented development. TransFormation Alliance was awarded $1 million in direct grant and technical assistance funds.

Atlanta is one of six cities selected to receive initial funding and technical assistance from SPARCC, the other selected cities being Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Memphis and the San Francisco Bay Area. Collectively, the SPARCC sites will have access to an estimated pool of $70 million in financing capital, as well as $14 million of programmatic support. In addition to funding support, each SPARCC site has access to an extensive learning network, and advisory services from a range of experts, to help advance local efforts.

“We are honored to be selected as a SPARCC recipient,” said Meaghan Shannon-Vlkovic, vice president and Southeast market leader, Enterprise Community Partners. “As we look to improve and expand our city’s public transportation, equity must be part of the conversation. This investment will ensure that Atlanta remains an economically and culturally diverse city and that residents from all of our communities are connected to good jobs, schools, healthcare and transportation.”  

Artists, such as Fahamu Pecou, will work to engage conversation with the public about the changes within the community through their artwork.

Artists, such as Fahamu Pecou, will work to engage conversation with the public about the changes within the community through their artwork.

With the grant money, TransFormation Alliance will turn their attention to the Lee Street corridor in Southwest Atlanta — from the West End MARTA station to the Oakland City MARTA station. As both MARTA and the Atlanta BeltLine expand, they plan to advocate for racial equity, health and environmental consciousness. They also plan to incorporate current residents and organizations into the decision-making process by deepening capacity building opportunities for established and emerging community leaders and civic institutions, and by incorporating arts and culture-based community engagement to provide a platform to engage and discuss issues.

This is a heartening message and sign for change, given Atlanta’s history. Just last year, Ryan Gravel and Nathaniel Smith stepped down from the board of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership due to issues of racial disparity and displacement as a result of the development of the project.

Additionally, in their press release, TransFormation Alliance cited the disparity between the growth of communities North of Interstate 20 while neighborhoods South of the interstate suffered poverty and disinvestment. “Historically low-wealth communities of color have played a key role in subsidizing metro Atlanta’s transit,” said Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer of the Partnership for Southern Equity. “It will be important that these communities are positioned to benefit from investments in new transit and infrastructure improvement.”

SPARCC is an initiative of Enterprise Community Partners, the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, the Low Income Investment Fund and the Natural Resources Defense Council, with funding support from the Ford Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The California Endowment. Long term, SPARCC’s intention is for other cities, communities and regions to adopt similar approaches to achieving more just economic, health and environmental outcomes, using the success of SPARCC sites as a model.

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