A BULLDOZER TORE DOWN Bowen Homes, marking the end of Atlanta's large public housing projects.

Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) officials call the demolition the completion of a historic circle. The first city to build public housing, Atlanta will be the first big city to eliminate all of its large public housing projects.

Chicago and other big cities have also been tearing down their troubled public housing buildings to make way for new mixed-income developments. Few, however, have been as focused as Atlanta. Led by Renee Lewis Glover, the AHA has redeveloped 14 public housing projects into new mixed-income and mixed-use communities.

Glover has called the old public housing complexes “concentrations of poverty.”

Built in 1964, Bowen Homes' 650 units were spread out in 101 buildings and across 84 acres.

“Over time, poor public policies converged with failing social dynamics and a scourge of drugs and crime,” says Glover. “Bowen Homes—and every other large public housing project in Atlanta—was condemned to the same fateful nightmare. The housing projects built in the 1930s under the ”˜New Deal' were just as destined as those built in the 1960s under the ”˜Great Society.'”

Bowen Homes became plagued with crime and other problems to the point that some locals considered it the most dangerous place in Atlanta. Based on police reports between June 2007 and January 2008, there were 168 violent crimes, including five murders, at Bowen.

Federal officials approved the demolition last year, and more than 500 families were relocated. A few people protested as the first walls were knocked down.