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WHAT PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT IN WESTVIEW

Themes from the Oral Histories


Many stories emerged from our oral history interviews with residents. One big theme is change. Long-time residents recall earlier changes they have seen over the many years they have lived here. Westview is changing today, with the construction of the BeltLine, the creation of new businesses, and an increase in housing prices and property taxes. Below are three key areas of Westview past and present that residents expressed thoughts about in their interviews.




URBAN LIFE


Westview’s convenient location came up among several residents. They consider the area a hidden gem that is now becoming less hidden. The area used to be one of the most affordable places to live in metropolitan Atlanta, being close to Downtown, easily accessible to MARTA, walkable and sporting less traffic.

The BeltLine has connected the neighborhood more with the rest of the city, and aimed to increase walkability, but will it benefit the current residents? Several community members interviewed mentioned that for various reasons, they never utilized the BeltLine and that older residents there could not.

The new businesses that have opened have brought about mixed feelings in residents. Are they the right businesses for this area? Are they trying to make themselves useful and a part of the community? Some people also expressed concerns that black-owned businesses would not be as well supported as white-owned ones. As one resident stated, There are some things we need in the neighborhood again, that we don’t have now, that we don’t have that are close now, that used to be here when I first moved here.” How can our community make sure it gets what it needs, and not just what the city decides it needs. One resident says she believes the changes in the neighborhood are good, “because when you get people in, get people together who want to do the work, and see that the work gets done, to me that makes for a better neighborhood.”




RACE


Westview has been a predominantly black neighborhood since the 1970s, when white residents vacated the area during white flight. Now, with new changes like the construction of the BeltLine, a more diverse population is moving in.

All the residents expressed hope for future generations of current families to move back to or stay in Westview, saying that they want to see their grandsons and great-grandsons make a home there.

What will this changing dynamic do to that dream? Historically, gentrification has led to black people being driven out of their neighborhoods, with one resident saying: 
If you’ve got money to renovate a house, I can't compete with you.” Another expressed concern over unethical real estate practices hurting older residents. Even so, some residents have high hopes for Westview becoming a model community of diversity: Westview could be a new community” where it’s not us against them, it’s all of us working together.” They believe, as do others, that if the people who move in stay and get to know the existing community and genuinely commit to making Westview a better place, then there is hope.


ACTIVISM


Residents gushed over the history of community involvement in Westview. Whether it's the legacy of Maynard Jackson living in Westview, the relationship between Westview and its neighboring AUC universities, working with the city to improve drainage systems, or building a community garden, Westview residents want to be involved.

It is this legacy of activism and community involvement that provides the energy among residents to confront the detriments of gentrification and to talk earnestly about racial and experiential differences. To most of the residents interviewed, this means being a neighborhood of long-term residents who love where they live and want to make it better. New people coming in should be able to see this and become inspired to be involved themselves.

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