More than two years since the idea was first announced, a development that’s been described as Atlanta’s “premiere equity project” is moving forward in hopes it can boost a historic district that’s struggled with disinvestment and blight.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the mixed-use Front Porch project is scheduled Wednesday in the 300 block of Auburn Avenue in Sweet Auburn. The corridor between downtown and the BeltLine includes The King Center complex but hasn’t seen a comparable resurgence to nearby Edgewood Avenue.  

The Front Porch project is being led by the Historic District Development Corporation, which was cofounded four decades ago by Coretta Scott King with a goal of revitalizing and rehabbing Sweet Auburn and its historic neighbor, Old Fourth Ward.

Frontage along Old Wheat Street. Historic District Development Corporation

HDDC hopes Front Porch, with its mix of housing and commercial space, will inject life and job opportunities into Sweet Auburn and catalyze positive change. It’s being called a transit-oriented development, in that the Atlanta Streetcar loop passes directly in front of the site, and MARTA’s King Memorial Station is a few blocks directly south.

Specifically, the 100,000-square-foot Front Porch is expected to include 45 rental units and 16 for-sale properties. (Invest Atlanta has indicated the $23-million project will see affordable units capped at 60 percent of the area median income, and the for-sale condos at 120 percent of AMI. That means base rents would range between $900 and $1,640 monthly, and condos from studios to three-bedroom units would sell for an average of $294,000, according to a project fact sheet from last fall.)

Overview of planned uses on the block, with Auburn Avenue at right. Historic District Development Corporation; via Invest Atlanta

Front Porch also calls for 25,000 square feet of commercial space described as “community-serving,” with 80 percent of tenants expected to be minority-owned businesses. HDDC officials say it will generate 107 full-time time jobs in Sweet Auburn and include six pop-up slots for local entrepreneurs.

Above much of the development will be 20,000 square feet of rooftop gardens used for growing fresh produce, for both tenants and the community, according to HDDC.

Plans also entail the repurposing of two buildings—Haugabrooks Funeral Home, now Haugabrooks Art Gallery and Event Space, and a one-story retail building—on the street now.

Expected to attend Wednesday morning’s Front Porch groundbreaking are Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, Invest Atlanta CEO and president Dr. Eloisa Klementich, Partnership for Southern Equity founder and chief equity office Nathaniel Smith, and HDDC's CEO Chenee’ Joseph, among other officials.

According to Invest Atlanta, Front Porch is expected to finish construction in March 2024 and be occupied to the point of stability within about six months. Have a closer look at what’s to come in the gallery above.

Sweet Auburn news, discussion (Urbanize Atlanta)