about sage

Sweet Auburn Green and Equitable

Named for its concentration of black wealth and political prominence during the first half of the twentieth century, Sweet Auburn was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The district is most notable as the home for many of the city’s first black-owned businesses and the bedrock of civil rights organizing decades later. However, desegregation, the construction of the Downtown Connector (I-75/85) and a lack of access to capital due to redlining ushered in an era of stark decline for Sweet Auburn through the 1970s and 80s. By 2005, it was named a “Place in Peril” by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

Thanks, however, to the tireless work of many community organizations over the years, new developments have given fresh life to the celebrated neighborhood in the form of new businesses, more affordable housing, and improved streetscapes. As redevelopment continues, it is increasingly important to ensure the anticipated investment works to rise all tides, with community wellness and economic inclusion as core outcomes. SAGE will build a bold new model for this type of neighborhood-led development.

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OUR MISSION

To improve the lives of Sweet Auburn residents through community-led advocacy and investment promoting equitable development, environmental sustainability, and the centering of Black culture.

OUR VISION

To become a recognized model for neighborhood-led development that brings about the community’s shared economic prosperity, self-sufficiency, and cultural capital.

OUR PARTNERS

WE BELIEVE...

EQUITY STARTS WITH COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT AND LEADS TO EMPOWERMENT.
Residents are the primary stakeholders in Sweet Auburn’s development and deserve a seat at the table where policies and decisions are made. It’s our shared responsibility to ensure community members are empowered to help shape the future of their neighborhood.

PROGRESS DOESN’T MEAN SACRIFICING CULTURE.

Sweet Auburn harbors an abundance of Black stories which have shaped its rich culture. Preserving and promoting the stories of yesterday, today, and tomorrow is paramount.
RESPONSIBLE DEVELOPMENT IS MULTI-PRONGED.
While affordable housing is one way to promote equity, it should be part of a holistic approach that considers other causes of systemic inequality and economic exclusion. Future growth must keep the health and wealth of the whole community top of mind.
SUSTAINABILITY AND EQUITY GO HAND-IN-HAND.
As the world looks toward a greener future, Sweet Auburn’s development should prioritize community wellness and environmental wellbeing.

SAGE Team

Chenee Joseph is a community development professional with several years of project management, and community and real estate development experience. She is the Executive Director of the Historic District Development Corporation (HDDC) Atlanta’s oldest surviving community development corporation that has spearheaded nearly four decades of pioneering urban revitalization work in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn neighborhood. 

Alena Green is Director of Economic Development at Central Atlanta Progress (CAP), a business-led nonprofit providing leadership, programs, and services to ensure Downtown Atlanta is a vibrant and inclusive city center. In her role, Alena leads CAP’s ongoing engagement with Atlanta’s real estate community, public policy and advocacy, and business retention and recruitment efforts.
April Campbell is Program Director for the Historic District Development Corporation. April brings with her six years in program development, specializing in community engagement and creating programming that is equitable and community-led. April strives to ensure that all spaces created are welcoming to any and all members of the community.
LeJuano Varnell is the Executive Director of Sweet Auburn Works, Inc., the preservation-based economic development organization created to protect and enhance the commercial and cultural legacy of the Sweet Auburn Historic District. Mr. Varnell brings more than 18 years of private sector operating and finance experience in Africa, Asia and the US to this role, and has employed those skills to create a career of using private capital to solve difficult market problems.

A special thank you to those that have lent their time, talent,
and perspective to the creation of the SAGE framework, including:

Amit Khanduri
LISC Atlanta
 

Ashani O’Mard
Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership

Ashley Rivera
Invest Atlanta

Christi Cade
NeighborWorks

Jimiyu Evans
Project Community Connections, Inc.

Liliana Baktihari
Councilmember, Council District 5

Lynn Leonard
Senior Resident

Odetta Macleish-White
Center for Community Progress

Suzanne Burnes
Partnership for Southern Equity

Tim Block
Enterprise Community Partners

Wesley Myrick
Mayor’s Office, Office of Policy

Will Sellers
Wholesome Wave Georgia

 

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