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Read A Success Story

Highlighting on the transformation of Atlanta's East Lake neighborhood as living proof of the power of holistic community development.

01 July 2023

Written by Public Spirit

Nestled in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia, the East Lake neighborhood once stood as a testament to the challenges that underserved communities face. In the 1970s and 1980s, East Lake grappled with high crime rates, poverty, and crumbling infrastructure. However, amidst this adversity, a beacon of hope emerged in the form of the East Lake Foundation—a catalyst for an extraordinary transformation.

At the helm of this transformation was Tom Cousins, a visionary philanthropist and real estate developer who recognized the potential for change.

Cousins believed that tackling the root causes of poverty required a multifaceted approach that integrated housing, education, and community support.

Thus, armed with a mission to revitalize the entire neighborhood, Cousins embarked on a journey that would rewrite East Lake's story.

Central to this transformation was the East Lake Golf Club, a once-distinguished venue that had lost its luster. Cousins saw an opportunity to reinvent the club, not just as a place for leisure, but as a catalyst for change. By renovating the golf course and club facilities, he generated revenue that would fuel the community's revitalization efforts. This innovative approach demonstrated that community transformation could be achieved through a sustainable and self-supporting model.

At the heart of East Lake's renewal was the Purpose-Built Communities model—a comprehensive strategy championed by Cousins, Warren Buffett, and Julian Robertson.

The model's core principles of mixed-income housing, quality education, and community wellness formed the foundation of East Lake's journey.

The Charles R. Drew Charter School became a cornerstone, offering top-tier education to students from early childhood to high school graduation. This educational institution not only elevated academic outcomes but ignited a sense of aspiration and possibility among East Lake's youth.

As mixed-income housing emerged, economic diversity breathed new life into East Lake. Crime rates plummeted, and a vibrant sense of community blossomed. Access to healthcare, social services, and recreational facilities brought holistic well-being to residents—a testament to the model's commitment to nurturing every aspect of a thriving community.

But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of East Lake's transformation was its collaborative spirit.

Nonprofits, businesses, local government, and residents joined forces, channeling their energy into a common vision. This synergy ensured that change would be enduring.

Through dedication, collaboration, and an unwavering belief in the power of holistic transformation, East Lake underwent a metamorphosis that captured the attention of the nation. What was once a neighborhood marred by challenges became a shining example of the remarkable change that can be achieved when visionary leaders and communities unite to rewrite their destiny. The East Lake Foundation's legacy stands as a beacon of hope, proving that even the most formidable odds can be overcome with a comprehensive vision, tenacity, and a belief in the inherent potential of every community.

Watch their story here.


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