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Demolition begins on high-profile Atlanta blight

7:29 PM, Sep 13, 2012   |    comments
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Nearby resident Gloria Buchanan and city councilman CT Martin watch the demolition of Essex Court Apartments.

ATLANTA, Ga. -- Bulldozers attacked the grisly, uninhabitable buildings of the Essex Court Apartments Thursday morning. 

City officials had declared it Atlanta's most high-profile eyesore, a boarded-up, graffiti-riddled hulk that fronted I-20 leading into Atlanta, alongside the exit to M.L. King Jr. Dr.

"We're just excited to see that first brick get knocked down," said Steven Lee, president of the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive Merchants Association.

Community leaders had targeted this spot for a decade, thwarted by red tape, mortgage fraud and a nearly impenetrable maze of ownership.

Meantime, the persistent blight all but killed development in the surrounding community.  "Vagrants have lived on the property. Cars have been broklen into on the corridor," said Pastor Lawrence Reeves, of the nearby Trinity Fellowship Ministries. "I personally have had two catalytic converters taken out of my cars."

"Nobody wants to invest money in an area where we have blighted units, abandoned units, and crime stricken areas that are just overgrown," said Lee.

The city says this demolition is part of an ongoing program that will attack other blighted properties. They've identified more than a hundred - some of them, just down the street from Essex Courts. The city has increased funding for demolitions, hired eight new code enforcement inspectors and quadrupled its stable of demolition contractors.

"Work is ongoing every day," said APD Maj. C.J. Davis, who oversees code enforcement.  "It's not as fast as people would like, but it's certainly faster than it was before."

All this brick and debris should be gone from Essex Court within two weeks. What happens next isn't clear; the property owner is still weighing that. But folks here agree that almost anything would be better than what its been for the last ten years.

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