Are commercial condos the answer to keeping local businesses on Georgia Ave?
You can’t tell the story of Lower Georgia Avenue without acknowledging gentrification pressures leading to economic and demographic changes in the neighborhoods. Although much of the concern that accompanies these changes focuses on residential displacement, Lower Georgia Ave Main Street (LGAMS) also focuses on impacts of rising property costs on local businesses.
In response to these challenges, LGAMS and District Bridges’ partner Main Streets initiated the Business Preservation Assistance Program (BPAP). BPAP focuses on keeping existing businesses in place so that those that helped to create Georgia Avenue’s attractive neighborhoods are able to also benefit from economic revitalization.
One of BPAP’s activity areas is working with small business tenants that are vulnerable to being priced out of their units, either by large rent increases, escalating property taxes (that are typically passed from the property owner to the tenant), or speculative development that fails to include accommodations for businesses to return to new construction.
BPAP’s model works with the existing business owner, their landlord, and developers to find a solution that works for everyone.
In one project, we are working to preserve four businesses—including black-owned legacy businesses that have been in the neighborhood for over 20 years—aggregate their properties into a single mixed-use development. If we are able to find mission-driven development partners, the new construction would include ground floor commercial condos, built out to meet design specifications of the existing owners who would then take over the mortgage with down payments subsidized through project financing. Residential would be on the upper floors with a priority to address affordability needs of Georgia Avenue neighbors. If LGAMS and its small business partners succeed in this initiative, we hope to enable these owners to have the stability and predictability that comes with property ownership.
Just one way LGAMS is working to preserve small businesses so they can continue to serve the community for generations to come.
Written By: Jennifer Kuiper, Former LGAMS Director
Often when people hear the term ‘Main Street’, they think about business corridors. But many people do not think about the stress and loneliness that many business owners experience while navigating the hurdles of entrepreneurship and running a business—especially during an unprecedented pandemic. Main Street programs all over the country work to make sure that business owners have an advocate and support system so that your favorite local coffee shop or tailor can keep their doors open. Help us continue doing our work by chipping in $10, $100, $1,000 by visiting districtbridges.org/donate.