New funding strategy may help restore dilapidated school

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Channel 2's John Bachman took a look inside of the old Gordon Elementary School to see why neighbors say it's dangerous and to learn about a new way for them to pool their money to help redevelop it.
ATLANTA, Ga. —

For nearly 20 years, an abandoned Atlanta public school has been an eyesore.

Channel 2's John Bachman took a look inside the old Gordon Elementary School to see why neighbors say it's dangerous and to learn about a new way for them to pool their money to help redevelop it.

Time has not been good to the southeast Atlanta school.

"We end up having to explain this lot to a lot of people," said neighbor Betsy Wallace.

Wallace runs a women's art co-op at the church next door. She loves the neighborhood, but not the school, which many say looks even worse inside.

Inside, it's dark and dangerous -- the ceilings are caving in. For Wallace, this building haunts the East Atlanta neighborhood's efforts to revive.

The process of teaming up smaller investors allows neighbors to put their money where their mouth is.

Grady Thrasher runs CrowdVested, a brand-new way developers are raising money. For this multimillion-dollar project, the developer wants neighbors and others to invest in tearing down the school and building 90 loft apartments.

"The community can invest in development. They can watch it grow (and) give some input on what they want to see, don't want to see," Thrasher said. "You may only put in $500 individually, but together you have half a million or a million dollars. That kind of leverage, you get market rates as far as investment goes."

If the project is successful, investors get a better neighborhood and a share of the profits.

Atlanta Public Schools sold the property to Inman Park Properties in 1997 for $200,000.

Georgia is one of only two states allowing this kind of community investment. Georgia got the exemption in January. Thrasher calls it a game-changer.