Northwest Atlanta residents in English Avenue say they're tired of being identified with the Bluff, that section of the community filled with abandoned houses and apartments filled with blight and crime.
ATLANTA -- Northwest Atlanta residents along English Avenue say they're tired of being identified with the Bluff, that section of the community filled with abandoned houses and apartments filled with blight and crime.
Wednesday night, residents came out for a town hall meeting on the issue and to meet their newest neighbors, not one... but two police officers: a husband and wife, who earlier in the day held what had to be the safest house-warming in Atlanta, one full of police officers.
Thanks to the nonprofit Friends of English Avenue, Jamie and Kevin Wallace will be living in their new beautiful home rent-free. It's a way to bring back the mutual investment that the police and the community used to have in one another and "to start a new trend where the community and the police can all make an effort together to change things," Jamie Wallace said.
The community, especially the infamous area known as the Bluff, has struggled in recent years with profligate crime and drug use, thanks mostly to the fact that more than half the houses there are empty.
Neighbors along English Avenue hope that's about to change with the Wallaces leading the way.
"She wanted me to come out and look at it," Kevin Wallace of his wife. "I came out and looked at it. I asked her what her vision was, and through her eyes, I saw the vision that she had and I was very supportive of whatever she wanted to do."
That kind of partnership is a small but important step forward in what will be a long march toward revitalizing the area.
"It requires a commitment by this city to protect these existing residents not just from a public safety point of view but just quality of life," said local city councilman Ivory Young Jr. "This is what this neighborhood historically has stood for and what it should continue to stand for."
Many here want to see a re-branding campaign similar to the one that helped change crime-infested Stewart Avenue into the more palatable Metropolitan Parkway.
They want to see streets like James P. Brawley return to their former glory days when they were home to people like Gladys Knight and Herman Cain.
"We want people to know that it's safe to come into English Avenue," said state representative "Able" Mable Thomas, who fears the negative influence of the Bluff is spreading through other parts of English Avenue. "We're going to work in partnership to make sure that James P. Brawley is not known as the heroin capitol or known as a place where people can just sell or use drugs."
The city will need the commitment of people like Kevin and Jamie Wallace to make that happen.
"My wife... the one thing about her is when she puts her mind to something she's very strong-minded about it," Kevin Wallace said, laughing. "So I back her up 100 percent."