National Main Street Center and National Trust partner for Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Historic District

December 6, 2021 by Leslie Canaan

The National Trust received a grant from the Thalia and Michael C. Carlos Foundation to develop an Urban Main Street pilot program in collaboration with the National Main Street Center and Sweet Auburn Works, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia. Once established, this community-led revitalization project in Sweet Auburn will serve as a model for other historic business districts identified by the City of Atlanta’s Urban Main Initiative.

The National Trust’s partner Sweet Auburn Works, Inc. is a local nonprofit organization charged to “Preserve, Revitalize, and Promote the commercial and cultural legacy of the Sweet Auburn Historic District.” The Sweet Auburn Historic District was established in 1976 and retains cultural resources of international significance including the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park, Dr. King’s childhood home, and King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church.

From August 2020 to August 2021, staff from the National Main Street Center and the National Trust collaborated on innovative approaches to virtual community outreach and engagement. Our virtual outreach included the following:

  • Shifted work to be responsive to the COVID–19 global pandemic and civil unrest.
  • Research to understand impacts on small businesses and consumers.
  • Engaged Atlanta residents and small business owners through online surveys and interviews via Zoom.
  • Hosted virtual workshops to build awareness of the Main Street Approach to neighborhood commercial corridor revitalization for local businesses, organizations, property owners, civic and residential stakeholders for the Sweet Auburn Historic District and other small historic commercial corridors in the City of Atlanta.
  • UrbanMain hosted an in-person workshop for Sweet Auburn Works that focused on the following:
        • Understanding the rationale for the “Whole Assets Approach” in corridor district development & Main Street programming
        • Identifying key social, economic, and physical assets near or in Sweet Auburn’s historic commercial district
        • Leveraging local partnerships to fill gaps and identify opportunities to be included in Main Street programming
        • Creating excitement and commitment to become more involved with Sweet Auburn Works, Inc. committee work

We see our work in Sweet Auburn as part of the National Trust’s commitment to Leading the Change Together, the National Impact Agenda, especially: “Equitable Communities. Intentionally harness the power of preservation to respond to historic and current inequities and meet present-day needs of people and business.”

What is Next?

Through a second generous grant from the Carlos Foundation, the National Trust and Sweet Auburn Works, Inc. will create a walking tour app, engaging local artists and the community in the process. The planned walking tour will celebrate a section of the historic neighborhood shown in the map below.

photo by: Sweet Auburn Works

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