ATLANTA—A bulldozer began tearing down Bowen Homes this month, marking the end of the city’s large public housing projects.
Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA) officials call the demolition the completion of a historic circle. Atlanta, during the Great Depression, was the first to build public housing and will be the first major city to eliminate all of its large public housing projects, according to leaders.
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 are spread out in 101 buildings and 84 acres. Over the years, it has become plagued with crime and other problems to the point that some locals have 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 granted AHA approval to demolish the project last year. More than 500 families were relocated.
A few people protested as the first walls were knocked down.