Where did money for revitalization near Ga. Dome go?

by: Craig Lucie Updated:


ATLANTA - A Channel 2 Action News investigation looked into millions of dollars meant to revitalize the areas near the Georgia Dome.  
One Atlanta city councilman said that money is gone, for good.
The figures come from a spreadsheet by Invest Atlanta, which can be found online.  
From 1990-2011, the authority handed out more than $17 million in loans.  The money came from federal programs to be distributed by the city.   
To date, just $8 million has been paid back, $1.7 million has been listed as written off, and the outstanding balance is nearly $8 million dollars.

 Longtime Atlanta City Councilman Michael Julian Bond told Channel 2's Craig Lucie no one knows where the money went.

Bond was born and raised in Vine City, just in the shadow of the Georgia Dome.
"This is not only the community that I grew up in, it's a community that I love," Bond said.
What he sees in the neighborhood now saddens him.
"It's been devastated by crime, devastated by population loss, devastated by broken dreams. You're hard-pressed to find pieces of inspiration there," Bond added.
In the early 1990s, the Georgia Dome was supposed to be that inspiration.   
The city handed out loans and grants that came from federal monies.  More than $103 million flowed into the Vine City and English Avenue communities to build up the neighborhood.  
Still, more than 20 years later, there's not much, if any, improvement.
Linda Adams is another longtime Vine City resident.
"To see such an eyesore of vacant lots, abandoned houses -- $200,000 houses that were built and are not occupied. It's very sickening," Adams said.
She blamed the neighborhood's ailments on Community Development Corporations, CDCs.   
Those groups were created when the loans started coming in.
"They are not real community people that want to be successful and beneficial in the neighborhood," Adams believes.
Not all the accounts on the spreadsheet are in the red, but Lucie checked some that are.  
The English Avenue CDC got a $248,000 loan for apartments on North Avenue.  The building today is rundown and boarded up.  Only $1,200 of that loan has been paid back.
The Vine City Health and Housing Ministry got more than $22,000 to buy a four-unit building.  Today it's an empty lot.  A total of $14,000 on that loan is listed as "written-off.”
"When I questioned one of the folks in the upper management of the housing department, they say they simply don't pursue it, because these groups are small nonprofits and probably can't afford to pay the money back," Bond said.
Lucie tried to find where the money went, but his search for answers ended up going nowhere -- just like the stairs on another overgrown lot on Elm Street, which was another project from the Tyler Place CDC.
Lucie talked to attorneys connected to some residents upset over development money for the new stadium.  They told him some of the Georgia Dome money years ago went to outside developers.   
Another representative told Lucie community leaders are meeting to discuss what to do about Channel 2's story.  The group knew Lucie's deadline, but he never heard from them.
Bond said this issue is personal for him.
"I've spent my entire life, the better of 47 years in this surrounding area, and I want to leave it better than when I found it 47 years ago.  I'm very deeply committed to make sure that happens,” Bond said.

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