There’s an old saying, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks
like a nail.” But what if the right tool for the job is a hammer and the only tool
you have is the American spirit of ingenuity and cooperation?
The East Lake Foundation (ELF) has been spearheading one of the most dramatic community
turnarounds occurring today—the revitalization of the East Lake community in Atlanta,
Georgia. The idea for the project came in 1995 when Atlanta developer and philanthropist
Tom Cousins recognized that by investing comprehensively in a geographically defined
neighborhood, you can literally build your way out of crime and transform a blighted
neighborhood into a viable, vibrant community. Working in partnership with residents
and public and private partners, ELF tackles community issues by focusing on the
three pillars of mixed-income housing, cradle-to-college education and community
The results have been remarkable. Nineteen years ago, the East Lake community was
home to one of the most notorious public housing projects in the country, East Lake
Meadows. Today, the Villages of East Lake is a mixed-income community of working
families whose children excel in the classroom. Violent crime is down 90%. Employment
levels have skyrocketed to 70%. Home values have soared and commercial businesses
and private residential development have come to East Lake as a result. And the
East Lake Community now has one of the top-performing charter schools in the state,
which boasts a cradle-to-college approach to education.
“East Lake truly is a community where possibility takes place,” said Daniel Shoy,
Jr., President of the East Lake Foundation. “Our sister organization, Purpose Built
Communities, was created in 2009 to provide a model that other communities can emulate.
Nine other cities across the country are leading comprehensive redevelopment projects
based on the success of East Lake’s blueprint. All have seen how significant investment
in communities, combined with extensive services for families, can remove the barriers
East Lake Foundation, Inc.
Revitalization of the East Lake Community
Atlanta Housing Authority
Atlanta Public Schools
Sheltering Arms Early Education and Family Center
Metro Atlanta YMCA
The First Tee
Southeastern Horticulture Society