Cathy, Chick-Fil-A Move To Help ATL’s Westside

Last Thursday I attended the Council for Quality Growth’s annual dinner. They were honoring Chick-Fil-A’s Dan Cathy with their Four Pillars Award. Cathy accepted the award on the condition that he and others be allowed to talk about his latest effort, helping to revitalize Atlanta’s westside. Here is a video shown at the event:

As Maria Saporta reported yesterday Chick-Fil-A will be opening a restaurant in 2017 at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive and Joseph E. Lowery Boulevard.

At the Council for Quality Growth’s Four Pillar Award dinner on Oct. 1, Cathy also was to tell to attendees that the Chick-fil-A Foundation would be donating a total of $300,000 to the Westside Future Fund, an entity that has been established to serve as a focal point for corporate and philanthropic donors wanting to invest in the Vine City, English Avenue and surrounding communities.

“Individuals and businesses are going to have to be willing to prime the pump and get the fly wheels to start spinning again,” Cathy said in an interview a few days before the dinner. “We are going to try to stop this socio-economic divide that’s seen in so many urban markets. We are going to take a stand with others including the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation.”

Among the groups spotlighted at the Four Pillars Tribute was City of Refuge, which Cathy has supported for several years now.

As someone who started working with homeless organizations 15 years ago, Cathy has always gravitated to practicing his Christian beliefs. In the past several years, he has teamed up with the nonprofit organization City of Refuge, which is trying to transform the 30314 ZIP code, an area that includes Vine City, English Avenue, Washington Park and several other distressed communities.

Bruce Deel, the founder of City of Refuge, easily cites the challenges. The 30314 ZIP code has some of the highest incidents of crime, foreclosures, poverty levels, incarceration rates and teen pregnancies in the Atlanta region.

The effort to help received a big boost last month as Atlanta was awarded a $30 million HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant which will be directed toward the westside communities.

Other, including Falcon’s owner Arthur Blank, have made additional substantial financial commitments to the area:

The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation has committed $15 million in help improve communities on the westside as part of an initiative that will parallel the construction of the stadium. Falcons owner Arthur Blank has even said that the community legacy will be more important to his overall success than the stadium project.

In addition, the city of Atlanta’s economic development arm, Invest Atlanta, has committed another $15 million in Westside Tax Allocation District dollars to the area.

Cathy and the others getting behind this effort have big plans, but see this as crucial to our city and state:

“The great divide in the state of Georgia is Northside Drive,” Cathy said. “I have a very deep conviction about what it says about our society; about what it says about our own backyard. This is happening on our watch. We have got to fix it.”

Cathy said it is critical that all the initiatives currently underway to improve the west side of town join forces and coordinate their efforts. That way real progress can be made in the lives of the people who call Vine City and English Avenue home.

“I just want to put out a plea for all of us to set aside the politics and any self interests and do what we can in the best interest of our city — especially in this time of crisis,” Cathy said.

This is a very noble undertaking and one I hope succeeds.

5 comments

  1. Trey A. says:

    There’s already a McDonalds and KFC at that very same intersection, and at least five quite tasty local restaurants down that block (If you haven’t eaten at Mr. Everything’s, you’re missing out), as well as a Wal-Mart. It’s a pretty vibrant little commercial district and it’s almost adjacent to the Atlanta University Center. On the other side of the A.U. is the West End, which is also a bright spot on my side of town.

    It’s certainly not like Chick-fil-a is blazing a trail with their restaurant there… Now, I’d be impressed if they were opening a half mile or so to the north at Lowery and Simpson.

    I drive through the Lowery/MLK intersection every Sunday to got to church… when the new Chick-fil-a will be closed.

    The charitable gift, however, is certainly nice and should be lauded.

    • benevolus says:

      “Now, I’d be impressed if they were opening a half mile or so to the north at Lowery and Simpson. ”

      I think it’s Boone now, and I second that!

    • Charlie says:

      The model for a Chick Fil A store is often different than most (not all, back off Pezold) franchises.

      The store managers ensure that the employees are involved in the community. Chick Fil A has plenty of places they could put a store that would have less challenges. (They expand not based on capital limits but based on their ability to train Chick Fil A managers and employees). The decision to put a store there is to anchor an investment in the community, not to optimize their sale of chicken parts.

      • Trey A. says:

        Charlie, while I too admire Chick-fil-a as a company and I have witnessed how their employees are treated differently (better) and held more accountable than many of their quick service peers, this new store opening is absolutely about selling chicken.

        It’s a business, not a charity.

        That specific intersection has had all the manager/employee requirements met for many, many years–after all, it’s right next to a group of vibrant colleges and successful restaurants. Pascal’s had one of the best run restaurants in the city just down the block from there for decades. In addition to the McDonalds and KFC, there’s a successful sports bar on that corner and about five other restaurants on that block before you even get to the Wal Mart. Chick-fil-a is also opening a new restaurant a couple miles to the north along Northside drive–across the street from Tech. Living in the area, I’d say that those two new sites are comparable.

        Looking at that site (MLK/Lowery), I’d guess the Chick-fil-a is either going to replace a convenience store or the KFC. It is NOT a blighted or underserved area by any stretch of the imagination–although there are some rough neighborhoods nearby (same could be said for the new Northside Dr. location). I think Chick-fil-a is just getting more comfortable opening restaurants in the city. There’s opportunity there.

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