74-acre site of a demolished public housing project in Atlanta, vacant for 14 years, to be redeveloped as an affordable neighborhood

On July 26, 2023 in Georgia, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that Atlanta Housing (AH) and the City of Atlanta had been awarded a $40 million Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant to revitalize the former Bowen Homes public housing complex.

Bowen Homes was built in 1964 (named after John W. E. Bowen, Sr), and demolished in 2009. It was a sprawling, 74-acre complex of red, yellow, green, and blue-colored duplexes, containing an elementary school and a library. They were located along Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway (originally Bankhead Highway), just inside I-285 (the “Perimeter”). The site is now classified as part of the neighborhood of Brookview Heights.

The A.D. Williams Elementary School is still standing.

Rapper Shawty Lo was raised in Bowen Homes (one of his mixtapes, Bowen Homes Carlos, is dedicated to the project), and the project was also featured in rapper T.I.‘s video What Up, What’s Haapnin’ (seen as a “diss” to Shawty). Other musical groups from Bowen Homes include Shop Boyz and Hood Rock. Boxer Evander Holyfield grew up in Bowen.

Like most of the badly-designed, poorly-maintained public housing projects built in the 60s, Bowen Homes was rife with crime. Police reports show 168 violent crimes, including five murders, in the half year between June 2007 and January 2008. In 2008, 913 residents had to leave the complex of 104 buildings, which contained 650 units.

In 1980, a water tube boiler explosion at the onsite Gate City Day Care Center killed four children and a teacher and injured seven others. The residents of Bowen Homes thought the deaths were related to the Atlanta child killings of the late 1970s to early 1980s but it turned out to be a faulty water tube overheating. A furnace exploded on June 4, 2007, with no fatalities and one injury. The explosion caused damage to the interior of the building.

Bowen Homes was the last large family housing project left in Atlanta, and its razing made Atlanta the first major city in America to completely do away with its large family housing projects (some senior and other minor properties remained). Bowen Homes was finally demolished on June 3, 2009

The area includes the surrounding neighborhoods of Carey Park and a portion of Almond Park, along with the neighborhood-related segments of the Donald Lee Hollowell and James Jackson parkways, collectively known as the Bowen Choice Neighborhood (BCN).

Atlanta Housing and the City of Atlanta have demonstrated that we can leverage $40 million in Choice Neighborhood funds into more than $500 million to successfully transform the Bowen Choice Neighborhood,” said Eugene E. Jones, president and CEO of Atlanta Housing.

This grant will be transformational for the Bowen Choice Neighborhood, as public and private resources are combined to create new affordable housing, improve neighborhood amenities and provide new opportunities for current and former resident,” he added.

The CN program is consistent with the Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ vision for neighborhood revitalization and is part of the West Hollowell segment of the Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway transformational corridor initiative. AH has been working with the mayor’s office to develop strategies and focus resources in three areas consistent with the grant requirements: Housing, Neighborhood and People.

The Housing strategy supports the redevelopment of the former Bowen Homes site, with more than $300 million allocated for housing. The Neighborhood strategy focuses on residential and commercial blight removal, neighborhood housing development, acquisition and clean-up of contaminated properties, and public safety.

The CN Neighborhood budget is more than $200 million. The People strategy focuses on developing programs that will improve health, education and economic outcomes for former Bowen residents and the BCN community.

The program leverages partnerships and resources with the Boys and Girls Club, Communities in Schools, Families First, Ga Tech CEISM, Goodwill of North Georgia, Grady Health System, Morehouse School of Medicine, Quality Care for Children, United Way, Urban League, Westside Works (CareerRise) and YMCA. Total funding for the People strategy is $42 million.

This is the second Choice Neighborhood Implementation Grant awarded to AH and the City of Atlanta.

The Housing Authority of the City of Atlanta, Georgia (AH), is the largest housing authority in Georgia, and one of the largest in the nation. AH provides and facilitates affordable housing resources for nearly 27,000 low-income households comprising approximately 45,000 people, including AH-owned residential communities, tenant-based vouchers, supportive housing, and homeownership opportunities. Programs are funded and regulated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Image courtesy of Atlanta Housing.

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