H.J. Russell & Co.

By on Jul 10, 2020 in People

Imagine that you’ve enjoyed your home for decades: your kids’ growth charts are on a doorframe in the kitchen, you know your neighbors, and your favorite restaurants all know you by name and order. The neighborhood isn’t what it used to be, but it’s your home.

Michael B. Russell

Within a matter of years, a wave of new investments transforms your neighborhood. The cost of living increases and property taxes soar. You can no longer afford the home that you’ve nearly paid off, and you face eviction.

That is the reality for many long-term residents of metro Atlanta neighborhoods. Neighborhood ascent, or gentrification, is the process of renovating communities that have experienced disinvestment. Through the process, crime rates drop, property values increase, infrastructure and services often improve. Gentrification, however, comes with grave disadvantages for existing residents including higher rents, higher property taxes, exclusion and discrimination.

Yardi client H.J. Russell & Co. is an Atlanta-based firm that conducts construction, program management, and property management. It is aligned with sister real estate development firm Russell New Urban Development L.L.C. Together, they fight gentrification and nurture diverse neighborhoods through strategic projects and partnerships.

Atlanta gentrification: an ongoing battle for “home”

Atlanta is one of the nation’s largest cities for African Americans with 51.85% of the population identifying as Black or African American. It is also among the top 5 fastest gentrifying cities in the U.S.

Several benefits come when investors support a brighter vision for a community. Unfortunately, that vision rarely implements practices that reduce out-migration and encourage long-term affordability. Longstanding residents are often excluded from the vision and priced-out of their homes.

Neighborhood ascent does not necessitate segregation or displacement. With strategic planning and real estate firms such as H.J. Russell, neighborhoods can benefit from investment without ousting existing residents. It begins with affordable housing.

Affordable housing in Old Fourth Ward and Reynoldstown

H.J. Russell & Co undertook two projects that will boost the affordable housing stock within Atlanta city limits. Both are a part of One Atlanta Housing Affordability Action Plan. The initiative of mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms addresses the systematic displacement of Atlanta’s longstanding residents while promoting the value of mixed-income neighborhoods.

“Preserving affordable housing remains a clear and present priority for us as we stay true to our roots and the community,” CEO Michael B. Russell said in a press release.

The projects include extensive renovations to 210 affordable housing units in Maggie Russell Towers in Old Fourth Ward and Capitol Vanira Apartments in Reynoldstown. Both cater to low-income families, seniors and people in need of greater accessibility.

Neither site had received notable improvements in nearly 30 years. After a $22.3 million investment, the sites emanate a new sense of dignity and pride. They are positioned to maintain diversity in their respective neighborhoods.

It’s a project that is special for the H.J. Russell & Co, as Maggie Russell Towers was erected in 1982 in honor of the founder’s mother.

In addition to the Russell Towers and Vanira Apartment rehabilitation, the One Atlanta Housing Affordability Action Plan allots $1 billion to preserve and create affordable housing throughout the city. H.J. Russell & Co is a proud supporter of the initiative.

“Preserving these 210 affordable housing units is representative of our commitment to not only creating and managing quality living environments for all, but also ensuring the communities in which we operate include all,” says Russell.

In addition to housing, the black-owned real estate firm pursues projects that create a more holistic approach to diverse housing and community wellness. Its upcoming transit project promotes greater mobility through Atlanta and access to major job hubs.

Transportation, access, opportunity

Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) estimates that the city will quickly become the 6th-largest metropolitan area in the nation by 2040. The Commission is bracing itself for an influx of 2.5 million new people. In preparation for growth, the More MARTA transit expansion project is underway.

The More MARTA project upgrades light-rail service, rail stations and adds new multimodal transit centers along the corridor. In doing so, More MARTA will enhance services to historically underserved communities by 61%. It will be a lifeline to employment hubs as well as additional options for housing, commerce and education including 125 neighborhoods, 77 medical facilities, 83 grocery stores and 115 schools.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) chose H. J. Russell & Co and Jacobs Project Management Co to oversee construction of the first five years of the More MARTA project. The Jacobs/Russell joint venture team will fulfill project management, quality assurance, planning, monitoring and performance measurements. It is a way to ensure that the residents who built Atlanta can participate in its growth and benefit from its prosperity.

Per the American Public Transportation Association, every $1 invested in public transportation generates a $4 economic return to a community. For a project estimated at $3 billion, MARTA and the Commission have high hopes for economic returns for some of the city’s most desperate neighborhoods.

“Diversity is a strength” begins Russell, “and it will continue to be a positive differentiator. My commitment to being a central part of the solution is unwavering. I pray that we all stay focused, and each day we look in the mirror, we renew our commitment to contributing to true change.”