Construction crews for the west side Beltline are finishing work on three more miles of the popular trail.
The new segment near Morehouse College is supposed to open in a few weeks. It will link Washington Park to Adair Park in an historic neighborhood struggling with abandoned and blighted home.
Income and education levels are well below the east side trail, and a full third of the houses are empty. Hopes are riding along this new segment that the Beltline will improve the fortunes of the families living there.
Weeks to go before it opens, and already you can get run over by neighbors using the west side trail, just like you can on the east side. But I found a special, feisty woman whose story proves city hall may have learned some lessons from the east side success.
Meet Ida Wilson. Delta Air Lines recruited her out of Alabama State College in 1973.
Her home base? A craftsman house in Capitol View on the Beltline. She lived there for 30 years until she noticed signs of change.
She says predatory investors are stalking the streets near the Beltline, taking advantage of older residents on fixed incomes, buying houses low and selling high.
Wilson does not want investors flipping her neighborhood.
“I felt a little bit angry,” she says. “Why would you just come in our area and buy our houses? You know the answer. Investors! If you’re going to come and live, fine.”
But when her roof began to leak, her fixed income tightened. Cases like hers lit up city hall.
Council member Andre Dickens saw other west side seniors just one leaky roof away from selling. He helped create a Beltline program, sending city profits from east side real estate appreciation to help west side neighbors in their homes.
The money fixed her roof, capped her chimney and helped insulate her house.
That program helping Wilson helped 11 others within half a mile of the Beltline trail. Some of the dollars came from the sale of the Masquerade nightclub.
Resource: WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation)