One of two settlements established after the Civil War by William Jennings in 1865, Summerhill’s early inhabitants were freed slaves and Jewish immigrants. Wood’s Chapel and Clarke’s Chapel began offering worship services in 1866 within close proximity of each other. Wood’s Chapel subsequently became Allen Temple AME. Clarke’s Chapel’s congregation was mixed and sought to also promote education which it
accomplished by holding the first classes of Clark College and Gammon Theological Seminary in its basement. Clarke’s Chapel was ultimately
renamed the Lloyd Street Church. In 1867 Frederick Ayer founded his school at Richardson and Martin Streets. The Atlanta Board of
Education bought it three years later, making it the only public school for Black children in the City. The school was eventually renamed the E. P. Johnson Elementary School.
Summerhill was once considered the most prosperous African American neighborhood in Atlanta and was a relatively stable residential
neighborhood for almost a complete decade and was home to several of Atlanta’s influential civic and business leaders, Sam Massell, Herman
Russell S. W. Walker and Leon Eplan are a few whose life began in Summerhill. But, like neighboring Mechanicsville and Peoplestown, Summerhill fell victim to economic and political pressures beyond its control. As Atlanta grew to the north and west during the early part of the twentieth century, the more affluent moved to larger lots with bigger houses. The politics of Urban Renewal left Summerhill with a
prevalence of dilapidated, sub-standard housing, vacant lots, and abandoned commercial buildings. By the 1960s Summerhill was inhabited
by African Americans who were in the lower economic bracket and its housing stock the victim of absentee landlords’ lack of maintenance.
In the mid-1960s, however, a riot occurred in Summerhill over the shooting of a black male by the police. This incident gave Summerhill national attention but, more importantly, served to galvanize the residents into civic action which resulted in the formation of a neighborhood organization, Summerhill Neighborhood Inc.
By 1990, through the efforts of the neighborhood organization a CDC, Summerhill Neighborhood Development, Inc., was founded to take charge
of the physical redevelopment of the neighborhood which the awarding of the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta gave Summerhill its first opportunity for revitalization. In 2004, a new neighborhood organization was formed, the Organized Neighbors of Summerhill, who in conjunction with the CDC work to ensure that Summerhill is able to regain its former stature in the community.
History (As published in the 90s)
Summerhill, located immediately southeast of downtown, is one of three original African American settlements established in Atlanta after the Civil War. Before an interstate highway bisected this sixty-block community in the mid-fifties, it was home to 20,000 residents, comprised mostly of African Americans and a large Jewish Community. The construction of the I-20 spurred a massive exodus of people. With the construction of the Fulton County Stadium, a number of housing units were demolished and the stadium events and parking problems further disturbed the tranquillity of the neighborhood. By the early 1990’s, the neighborhood had shrunk to 3,500 residents, nearly all of them poor and black.
The neighborhood had been home to some illustrious people: the families of Sam Massell, former mayor, and Herman Russell, head of the country’s fourth largest minority-owned construction company. Also living here, were S.W. Walker, founder of Pilgrim Life Insurance Company and Leon Eplan, former head of the City’s Department of Planning and Development.
When plans for the Olympic Games were launched, the community decided that if the Olympic were to be in their back yard, they would demand to share its dividends. Douglas Dean heads the non-profit organization, Summerhill Neighborhood Development Corporation (SNDC) that rehabilitates rundown houses, sets up minority businesses and is aiming to bring Summerhill back to the vibrant community it once was. Dean wants to return Summerhill to a place of mixed races and income groups, a district with buying power to attract commercial interests.
The Summerhill neighborhood, home to the Olympic Stadium, has experienced the most comprehensive redevelopment effort amongst all the neighborhoods within the Olympic Ring.
The Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) has spent approximately $210 million for the construction of the Olympic Stadium. After the Games, the stadium will be retrofitted from 85,000 seats to 45,000 seats for professional baseball. Serving as the warm-up facilities during the Games, ACOG has spent $2 million to develop the Cheney Stadium on Atlanta Public School property located on Connally Street.
In 1995 the Urban Residential Finance Authority (URFA) issued $17 million in bonds backed by a letter of credit from First Union National Bank. These bonds financed the development of Greenlea Commons North, the construction of 117 townhomes. The Metropolitan Atlanta Olympic Games Authority (MAOGA), with its powers of eminent domain, has acquired 75 parcels at a cost of $884,000 for this project. Built by John Wieland Homes, the 76 townhomes for Phase I have been completed. The units are being sold at a price ranging from $115,000 to $137,000.
The NationsBank Community Development Corporation has begun construction of 36 single family homes in a two-block area named Terry Place. Bordered by Reed, Crumley, Martin and Glenn Streets, the total development cost for this project is $3.2 million. These houses will be sold for $75,000 to $90,000. Since this project is located in an enterprise zone, property tax abatements for 10 years are included.
Construction has begun on the renovation of 60 townhouses in Martin Street Plaza, an Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) public housing project. The $3.5 million in development costs are funded by AHA, AMOCO, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Home Depot. Martin Street Plaza is the first privately managed public housing in Atlanta. The townhouses will be sold AHA to a cooperative of residents.
Charis Community Housing is a non-profit organization that continues to construct moderately priced houses, having completed and sold 100 houses in Summerhill since 1991. Five of these houses are part of The Orchard Project – a development of 26 new houses bordered by Reed, Crumley, Martin and Glenn Streets. The estimated development costs of $3.1 million are funded by the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership (ANDP), URFA, Summerhill Neighborhood Development Corporation (SNDC), and Foundations. The City’s Department of Public Works provided the infrastructure.
With the assistance of Fleet Atlanta Neighborhood Assistance Program (FANAP), SNDC renovated the 30-unit Reed Street Apartments during 1994 and at least 37 other single-family houses have been renovated through FANAP and other sources. The City’s Housing and Community Development Department (DHCD) has spent $190,600 in HOME funds for the rehabilitation of 9 single family houses since 1993. Christmas in April, funded by Georgia Power Company, has completed renovations on two houses located at 801 Grant Terrace and 215 Ormond Street. The International Brotherhood of Painters, at the behest of the DHCD, has painted 105 houses in the neighborhood, through its “Paint the Town” program.
The Atlanta Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), MAOGA and local property owners are involved in the largest community-based commercial development effort. Through its Business Improvement Loan Fund (BILF) Program, AEDC is providing $500,000 in financing for facade improvements along Georgia Avenue, adjacent to the Olympic Stadium. Students from the Georgia Institute of Technology Architecture Department have been working with the property owners to design the renovation of the storefronts.
The Corporation for Olympic Development in Atlanta’s (CODA) Georgia Avenue Streetscape Improvements comprises the section of Georgia Avenue running between Capitol Avenue and Grant Terrace. This corridor acts as a de facto Main Street. The streetscape improvements included replacing sidewalks, pedestrian crossing strips, plaza pavement, street lighting, public art, erosion control and canopy trees. Using City of Atlanta Bond Funding, CODA has completed $1,8 million of street improvements such as street repair, sidewalk repair, curb repair and planted 26 trees, to a number of streets in the neighborhood. In support of the new housing development projects, CODA has completed the extension of Reed Street both to the south and north, while the extension of Glenn Street is currently underway. Through a Section 108 Loan of $223,000, CODA created Heritage Park designed by Romm and Pearsall Architects.
Summerhill does not have any industrial or manufacturing facilities. The neighborhood’s future opportunities lies in its strength as a stable, affordable single family residential neighborhood. The newly developed housing units, and Summerhill’s convenient location and access to both the I-20 and I-75 interstates are attracting an influx of first-time homebuyers. Developers and homebuyers investing in Summerhill’s wealth of residential options may anticipate future economic benefits and a thriving residential environment for years to come. The attractive grants and tax benefits that can be acquired through the Federal Empowerment Zone Program, act as added incentive for developers to invest in the neighborhood.
The extent of the redevelopment efforts undertaken before the Games, as well as the proposed projects are a clear indication of the development opportunities within the neighborhood. SNDC, with funding assistance from the City’s Housing and Community Development Department and URFA, plans to construct and rehabilitate an additional 70 single-family units. The projected costs for these two projects, Connally Heights and Richmond Heights, are $3 million and $11,1 million respectively. The Atlanta/Fulton County Stadium Authority provided $835,000 to MAOGA to acquire property near the Olympic Stadium for staging events and parking during the Games. After the Olympics, it is anticipated that SNDC will develop 200 new multi-family units. With the assistance from the National Football League and Cities in Schools, SNDC proposes to develop the Youth Education Town on Hill Street and Georgia Avenue. The projected development cost is $500,000.
To complement the infrastructure and residential improvements in the neighborhood, commercial development need to be encouraged. With the absence in Summerhill of a full service grocery store, bank or pharmacy for residents, and limited neighborhood retail services, a commercial core is proposed along Georgia Avenue between Capitol Avenue and Martin Street. This core would take the form of a neighborhood shopping district in an area that has traditionally been commercial in nature. The existing commercial land uses along this corridor serves residents of Summerhill, Grant Park, Mechanicsville and Peoplestown. MAOGA has spent $617,000 in Economic Development Initiative (EDI) funds to acquire 15 parcels for the construction of a supermarket on Georgia. The total cost of acquiring the site is projected at $1.04 million. CODA is working with SNDC on the development of a supermarket. In addition, the existing small retail sites on Georgia Avenue across from the new grocery store would be retained and upgraded into a new commercial zone with new storefront standards.
AEDC and GRASP will provide direct assistance to micro-enterprises and other small businesses in the neighborhood. AEDC, through the Business Improvement Loan Funds, will make direct loans of up to $50,000 per business at reduced interest rates of 0% to 7% for leasehold improvements, inventory and working capital. In addition, the Phoenix Fund, administered by AEDC, will target businesses in the Empowerment Zone and provide direct loans to small enterprises and larger businesses for physical improvements as well as some costs. This program is capitalized at $1.3 million with funds from HUD and EDA. GRASP will provide technical assistance to businesses in the areas of marketing, accounting, cost and inventory control, business plan preparation, loan packaging and general management. In addition, GRASP will assist in the establishment of a merchant association.
Organized Neighbors of Summerhill
City of Atlanta Summerhill Redevelopment Plan
The Atlanta Beltline Partnership
Atlanta Development Authority
Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation
Grant Park Neighborhood Association
National Sex Offender Registry
National Town Watch
Story of My Home