SWEET AUBURN — Auburn Avenue, one of the main arteries that threads through the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, through Downtown to Five Points, is getting an economic boost.
The Georgia Department of Community Affairs announced Tuesday it approved the district's November 2012 application to be given "Opportunity Zone" status.
The designation brings with it tax incentives designed to drive businesses and more importantly, job creation to the greater Sweet Auburn district and its main commercial corridors, Aurburn and Edgewood avenues.
The incentives give employers $3,500 in tax credits for every new job they create, so long as it results in a minumum of two new net jobs.
They are good for a five-year period and max out at $17,500, as long as employers continue to hire two new people per year during the period.
"Invest Atlanta is highly committed to the success of the Auburn Avenue district, both for its historical significance and its tremendous potential as a destination for innovative, forward-looking businesses," said Brian P. McGowan, president and chief executive of Invest Atlanta, the city's chief economic development arm.
The agency made the application for the Opportunity Zone designation.
"The Opportunity Zone designation will help business owners who might not have otherwise considered Auburn Avenue recognize that potential."
DCA and local leaders hope to attract more companies such as Epsten Group Inc., an architectural and engineering firm that moved into its Edgewood Ave headquarters in 2011.
The company, which conducts business in 50 countries, started in 2007 with 5 workers and has 47 today.
"We brought to this community a very diverse staff, but also, a lot of clients and visitors," Dagmar Epsten, the company's president and chief executive, said. "Those clients are from the local community, they're regional and national, but also international, so we help make the connection between this community and the international community."
Though Auburn Avenue has been the focus of economic redevelopment before, those past attempts have been met with varying degrees of success.
Last year, the National Trust for Historic Preservation listed the Sweet Auburn commercial district as one of the 11-most endangered places of cultural and historic significance in America. In 2011, the Atlanta Preservation Center in Grant Park listed Sweet Auburn as one of 19 most endangered spots in the city.
But city and state leaders pointed to a host of activity that's converging to make this latest boost more of a sure thing.
The National Trust Main Street Center, a private non-profit whose mission is to help save historic places, also is working with local preservationists to revitalize the commercial corridor.
"We've been working at this for a very long time," Mtamanika Youngblood, president of the Historic District Development Corp., told East Atlanta Patch Tuesday.
"We've had fits and starts, opportunities that we thought would have come out of the empowerment zones that didn't work out. But we have not given up on the notion that this is an integral part of Atlanta and in addition to that, it's an integral part of Atlanta's history."