ULI Atlanta's Young Leaders Group cleans Up, gets history lesson on one of Atlanta's most significant areas


It was a rainy, humid, late summer morning in downtown Atlanta, but that didn't stop twenty young professionals from coming out to learn more about Atlanta's history and give back to one of the area's most historically significant, yet overlooked, communities, the Old Fourth Ward.

The volunteers were members of the Young Leaders Group (YLG), a committee of the Atlanta district council of the Urban Land Institute, an organization that provides leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities. The group cleaned up a mile-long corridor along Auburn and Edgewood Avenues last Saturday, September 19, collecting litter while learning from Kwanza Hall, City Councilman Representing District 2, and Jay Tribby, his chief of staff, about the Old Fourth Ward, an area rich in history, heritage and achievements of Atlanta's African Americans.

Located on the east side of downtown Atlanta, the Old Fourth Ward is experiencing a period of renaissance and is famous as the birth place of Dr. Martin Luther King as well as the location of Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Sweet Auburn District, a National Historic Landmark. The Sweet Auburn District encompasses several churches, such as Big Bethel AME and First Congregational, The Royal Peacock Club, which hosted local and national talent including B.B. King, the Four Tops and Gladys Knight and commercial buildings such as the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, the second largest black insurance company in the United States and The Atlanta Daily World, the first black-owned daily newspaper.

Following street clean up, the group performed general cleaning for the Sweet Auburn Curb Market, washing windows, cleaning countertops and floors for the market, which has been in existence since 1918 and is rich in it's own history, once a tent market and “the place to shop” for all Atlantans, though Atlanta was then segregated and blacks were only permitted to shop from stalls lining the curb (as reflected in it's current name).

YLG creates a unique setting for the leaders of tomorrow's real estate industry to interact, both professionally and socially, with the leaders of today. Occurring nearly every month, YLG events include panel discussions, presentations, tours, and socials to help ULI members under the age of 35 expand their networks, learn about developments throughout Atlanta, and hear how industry leaders have found success.

“Our YLG programs are generally panel discussions, lectures or presentations; but there are so many areas in Atlanta that are ripe for development, like the Old Fourth Ward,” says event organizer and YLG committee member Megan Holder, of the HOK Planning Group. “Our job is to be a part of the solution that makes rebirth happen by becoming a part of those communities. Many participants in the clean up event had never participated in a YLG event and many had never even visited the Old Fourth Ward or knew of its significant history, so the clean up was a really unique experience for the participants and a success in more ways than one. Not all of our YLG members are from Atlanta, and it's so important to learn the history of where you live and work, before you can think about development.”

Next month's YLG event will be a spotlight on the Old Fourth Ward, and a more traditional program, with expert speakers and industry leaders providing a discussion on the development opportunities there. “This is a great example of ULI Atlanta's mission in action,” says Jeff DuFresne, executive director of ULI Atlanta. “Part of our mission is to provide leadership in creating and sustaining thriving communities. Our young leaders are doing this, literally implanting themselves in this community, learning about it and using that knowledge to explore realizable, impactful, development solutions for it.”

As a district council of the Urban Land Institute, ULI Atlanta advances responsible land use policy and real estate development practice throughout the state of Georgia. The nonprofit group is supported by its members. They examine land use issues, impartially report their findings and convene forums to find solutions to complex land use problems. For more information on ULI Atlanta, call 770-951-8500 or visit www.ULIatlanta.org.