Decatur’s official position on Oakhurst preservation

Preservation, historic and more.

Three weeks after I received this letter I met Menne for a chat at a Decatur coffee shop. We discussed historic preservation, the environment, and gentrification. When I raised some of the interviews I had done with elderly African American homeowners in Oakhurst being preyed upon by builders, she offered no solutions to preserving small homes (not historic preservation; housing preservation) and affordable housing in general. And then she said, “They’re just going to die.” After that happens, there’s nothing the City can do about their properties. An assistant city manager said that. I asked her to do a more formal, recorded interview and I received no response. I did, however, get this email from her:

I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt on the lack of follow-up. She did write that she’s a “ponderer” and that she requires time to contemplate issues. Since our meeting in April, Oakhurst houses have continued going into landfills weekly and elderly residents continue to be hounded by opportunistic builders.

Update (August 9, 2012): After this post went live I read the August 8, 2012 Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A letter to the editor from Jesse Clark, executive director of Atlanta’s Historic District Development Corporation, underscores why Decatur’s housing and preservation policies are a failure. Clark wrote,

There are very few subsidies available to nonprofit community development corporations in Atlanta to help us with our work of revitalizing and historically preserving communities, while preventing the displacement of low- to moderate-income residents. However, those that do exist have proven to work (as seen from the transformation of the eastern portion of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic District). The continued support of our mission of revitalization, historic preservation and affordable housing is a prudent and necessary public investment to ensure that our community is thriving and inclusive going forward.

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