Underground Atlanta is one of the great failures in modern mixed-use commercial real estate development. Located in the heart of black Atlanta, suburban residents have long stayed away from this economically untenable part of downtown Atlanta because of the perception of it being a "high-crime" hangout for black people.
|20 percent surcharge for customers eating at the Underground Atlanta location -- to pay for security to keep the establishment safe from high rates of black crime|
Mayor Andrew Young invested more than $100 million in the 1980s to try and refurbish Underground Atlanta - what he dubbed "public-purpose" capitalism - in the process creating a much needed entertainment in the heart of the city. More importantly, it was an attempt to create some form of tax-revenue; with the city being 66 percent black (and most of these citizens subsisting on public handouts), the tax-base was eroding quickly.
Tamar Jacoby "Someone Else's House" spent an entire chapter devoted to the scheme; Jacoby notes that Mayor Young pumped the money into Underground Atlanta as a way to enact massive affirmative action-backed capitalism and help black laborers and black small business owners get a foothold into the complex. Twenty-seven of the original tenants were minority-owned business, all receiving low-interest loans. Most didn't pay them back, and before the new Underground Atlanta was five years old (it reopened in 1989) 21 of those 27 original minority own business had gone out of business.
Some of the great quotes from that chapter that outline the hilarity of the racial push to make Underground Atlanta an artificial experiment in beating back the Visible Black Hand of Economics include these:
Flash-forward to today. Underground Atlanta is still dead, though the black-controlled city of Atlanta still hopes to infuse white tax-payer money into the complex, electrifying back to life -- the Frankenstein monster of inner-city consumerism [City to tackle the Underground dilemma again, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12-31-12]:
"We needed an entertainment complex," said business leader Lawrence Gellerstedt, Jr. "But why would you built in in the black-controlled heart of the city, where all the crime was?" (p. 467)
"All the citizens of Atlanta," said one Constitution editorial, "which need we say again is 66 percent black, stand to gain from a completion of a refurbished Underground Atlanta. Those who stand to benefit most directly include a host of marginally employed and unemployed menial laborers who live in the shadow of downtown. Many of those laborers are black." (p. 470)
the more white Atlantans feared to come to the complex, the blacker its clientele grew-- and the more this frightened those whites who did come. Word got out that Underground was... "too black" -- and this perception began to take a toll on leasing.
Meanwhile, the crime grew worse. Nuisance harassment blurred into the genuinely frightening, not just in the neighborhood but down beneath the ground in the complex itself. According to insiders, management began to cover up unpleasant incidents. "The worse it got," said one journalist, "the less it was reported. They didn't want to frighten white suburbanites, though of course people were frightened anyway." (p. 489)
As thousands of revelers descend on Underground Atlanta tonight to celebrate the new year, city officials are vowing a new focus in 2013 on how to make the 12-acre attraction more appealing when there’s no plummeting peach to cheer.
It’s a daunting challenge. How to invigorate Underground has long flummoxed City Hall and frustrated many who wander the site’s subterranean halls.
The annual New Year’s Eve celebration - arguably the only time when Underground lives up to its promise as a community gathering place - provides a televised showcase of the venue’s potential.
Why not just ban black people from the complex and perform merit-based lending to potential merchants instead of government mandated loans to minority tenants that are never repaid? Overnight, outside investors would flock to Underground Atlanta, as would white people.
But most other days, Underground remains faint shadow of the vision for a regional entertainment mecca promised in the 1980s when millions in public funding was devoted to redeveloping the complex.
Underground Atlanta -- Too Black To Fail
Instead, the city of Atlanta (controlled by government officials and public servants who are almost entirely black) watches as Underground Atlanta continues a slow death and remains a hangout that is is exclusively black.
And it is that black clientele that is responsible for the Waffle House Fiasco of 2013 -- because black patrons of Underground Atlanta engage in crime at such high rates, a surcharge is being added to Waffle House patrons to pay for private security. The cost of doing business in a black entertainment complex [Waffle House smothers customers with security surcharge at Underground location, 2-15-13, AJC]:
Underground Atlanta has been smothered, covered, and chunked by both the black-controlled city of Atlanta and the black patrons of the entertainment complex who make it unsafe to potential white customers and drive away businesses because the cost of doing business in a majority-black dominated are too great to making a profit.
Is Jim Crow starting to make sense? Circle Centre Mall in Indianapolis can be saved, as can Underground Atlanta -- just ban black people.