Very interesting article: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/11/national/11atlanta.html?hp&ex=1142139600&en=9aa792497d0c6072&ei=5094&partner=homepage
Gentrification Changing Face of New Atlanta
By SHAILA DEWAN
Published: March 11, 2006
ATLANTA, March 8 — In-town living. Live-work-play. Mixed income. The buzzwords of soft-core urbanism are everywhere these days in this eternally optimistic city, used in real estate advertisements and mayoral boasts to lure money from the suburbs and to keep young people from leaving.
Loft apartments roll onto the market every week, the public housing authority is a nationally recognized pioneer in redevelopment and the newest shopping plaza has one Target and three Starbucks outlets.
But although gentrification has expanded the city's tax base and weeded out blight, it has had an unintended effect on Atlanta, long a lure to African-Americans and a symbol of black success. For the first time since the 1920's, the black share of the city's population is declining and the white percentage is on the rise.
The change has introduced an element of uncertainty into local politics, which has been dominated by blacks since 1973, when Atlanta became the first major Southern city to elect a black mayor.
Some, like Mayor Shirley Franklin, who is serving her second and final term, play down the significance of the change, saying that the city — now 54 percent black — will remain progressive and that voters here do not strictly adhere to racial lines. Others warn of the dilution, if not the demise, of black power.
"It's certainly affecting local politics," said Billy Linville, a political consultant who has worked for Ms. Franklin. "More white politicians are focusing on possibly becoming mayor and positioning themselves accordingly, whereas in the past they would not have. The next mayor of Atlanta, I believe, will be African-American, but after that it may get very interesting."
The changes do not mean that Atlanta has lost its magnetism for blacks. Twenty-year projections show the percentage of African-Americans continuing to inch upward in the 10-county metropolitan area. Blacks already hold the majority on the Clayton County commission, and they are gaining footholds in counties like Cobb and Gwinnett.
But the city itself, a small splotch of fewer than half a million residents in a galaxy of sprawl, is now attracting the affluent, who are mostly white, in part because they want to avoid gear-grinding commutes that are among the nation's longest.
In that sense, demographers say, the shift is driven by class rather than race. In 1990, the per capita income in the city of Atlanta was below that of the metropolitan area as a whole, but in 2004 it was 28 percent higher, the largest such shift in the country, according to a University of Virginia urban planning study.
So rapid is the explosion of wealth that Ms. Franklin recently tried to impose a moratorium on McMansions, new houses bloated far beyond the size of their older neighbors.
According to census figures, non-Hispanic blacks went from a high of 66.8 percent of Atlanta's population in 1990 to 61 percent in 2000 and to 54 percent in 2004. In the same time period, non-Hispanic whites went from 30.3 percent to 35 percent. The 2004 figures are estimates.
Even the Old Fourth Ward, the once elegant black neighborhood where Martin Luther King Jr. was born, is now less than 75 percent black, down from 94 percent in 1990, as houses have skyrocketed in value and low-rent apartments have been replaced by new developments.
"There could be a time in the not-too-distant future when the black population is below half of the city population, if this trend continues," said William Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, a Washington research group.
Atlanta's upward shift in its white population is atypical, Mr. Frey said. Although many other cities have embarked on revitalization programs, only Washington is seeing a similar, if less stark, racial trend as Atlanta. More often, blacks and whites both are losing ground to a surging Latino population. Even in Atlanta, the Latino population rose to 26,100 in 2004 from 18,700 in 2000.
Most mayors would see a physical revitalization like Atlanta's as an accomplishment. The city has led the country, rivaled only by Chicago, in the race to replace public housing projects with mixed-income developments.