by Jeff Delp, Executive Director of FCS Community Economic Development The concept of mixed-income housing has been at the forefront of urban practitioners for the past decade and beyond. Concentrated pockets of poverty have proven to be unhealthy solutions for urban communities. Mixed-income apartment complexes and communities have sprung up across cities in the United States in an attempt to have people from all walks of life living within close proximity with one another. Our close partners of FCS and Charis Community Housing have, with good reason, embraced this model in their community development work and been at the forefront of it for over 30 years.
The concept of mixed-income retail does not have quite the same buzz to it that its housing counterpart does. In fact, I am not sure that it is a term at all. Just because people live next to one another, or around the corner, or on the same block does not mean that they will shop at the same stores or recreate together. The divisions between race, class, economics, and age take more to break down than just proximity. While living close is a good and necessary step to bridging what divides us, we need to go further to build communities that are healthy across all spectrums of the population.
This is why I love the South Atlanta Marketplace and Community Grounds. On any given day, we will see people walk through our doors that span the spectrum of demographics in our community. Yesterday we had the following people come into our stores: 1) A women using our free computers to send out resumes, 2) A self-proclaimed neighborhood drug dealer, 3) The president of a national non-profit, 4) A community organizer, 5) The Census Bureau, 6) A local pastor, 7) college students, 8 ) local high school students and a few more. We had people who have lived in the community their whole lives, people who have chosen intentionally to live here, and people who drove from outside the community to support our business. In most circumstances, the people that came through our doors yesterday would not normally meet on the street even though they live close to one another, but yet they interacted at our stores.
How does this build community? When you see someone you recognize in a public space, most people are apt to begin a conversation. During my year of working with CED I have met more neighbors at the store than I have by passing them on the streets. The stores have presented an opportunity to interact with people that I probably wouldn't talk with as much were it not for a community space. I remember as a kid dreading trips to the grocery store because my mom would always stop and talk with someone (and tell embarrassing stories about me) but now, I see the health it is bringing to our community. I am thankful to see it happening at our stores and in our neighborhood.
Thank you for being faithful supporters of our work. The South Atlanta Marketplace (The Family Store) and Community Grounds would not be here if it were not for your support through donations. Our community would not have these spaces to interact and build relationships if it were not for you. As always, we invite you to join us sometime if you are in the area. If you cannot come by, we continue to covet your prayers and your support for our ministry.