This Old Housing Project

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Carpio concedes that the DHA might have "some big leverage down the road," but he adds that making any move on the public housing is more complex than just signing on the dotted line. Since East Village is subsidized housing and Arrowhead is public housing, Carpio explains, funding to redevelop the projects would have to come from different sources.

Besides the Arrowhead land, Wedgeworth says the city has one more card to play if Post, or whoever, tries not to include affordable housing, and that is zoning. "The reality is, if you want your zoning approved, it would behoove you to do that," she says.

While the condemnation will affect the future of the neighborhood, the differences may not be as great as the housing authority suggests. The DHA has already shown its commitment to the mixed-income model, having completed demolition last year of 286 apartment units at Curtis Park in anticipation of redeveloping -- with a private development company from Atlanta -- the entire 12.8-acre site. The $27 million project, says Hipp, is in the "final throes of submission of documents for HUD's review." She expects the project will be finalized at the end of September.

Wedgeworth correctly points out that East Villagers -- and others in affordable housing -- look at Curtis Park and see...nothing. The apartments were completely destroyed. What remains is dirt. The people were moved, but East Villagers don't know where. "When it's redeveloped, it's a third, a third, a third, and they're losing housing," Wedgeworth says. "People have concerns."

It's true that all 500 Curtis Park residents were relocated to other DHA properties, an easier task than the potential relocation of the East Villagers. A move from one public housing project to another, whatever its negative effects, at least shields people from the private market. But with vouchers in hand, that's exactly where most of the East Villagers are headed, and private landlords can choose to accept or reject them.

Carpio says it may be difficult for tenants to use their vouchers to stay at East Village, because the apartments there would have to pass HUD housing-quality standards. Carpio's been in some of the East Village apartments and says, "They would never even come close to meeting standards."

Across the way from East Village, crews are repairing roofs on the Arrowhead buildings. Their lawns are being watered. It gives Barros confidence that if the housing authority prevails in court, it may simply authorize major repairs at East Village and leave it at that. She says she'd rather have the housing authority as a landlord than Post. "I've personally dealt with DHA. I know they have people there long-term."

But Jackson questions the timing of Carpio's Arrowhead rehab project. "Why did it take all the media attention to improve their units?" Jackson asks. "They needed roofs years ago."

Situated at the southern end of East Village across 20th Avenue, the $100 million Uptown Square project is a massive achievement, involving the construction of 914 apartments and condominiums, along with parking garages and 60,000 square feet of commercial real estate. Uptown Square is full of benches and wide, red-brick sidewalks. A big copper-shingled turret projects from the corner of Pennsylvania and 20th. A sign below reads, simply, "Post," and above that is a symbol, a rose. The apartment units will rent from $800 to $1,200 a month.

One recent evening, LeVetta Brown, along with her husband and young son, strolled over to Uptown Square. LeVetta thought the place was like Pleasantville, the movie about a perfect and insular 1950s Father Knows Best-like town. Already there are security guards patrolling the project, which is still under construction.

A few weeks earlier, East Village staged a cookout and then marched over to the City and County Building. There were at least a hundred marchers, some in wheelchairs or on bikes, waving signs and shouting through bullhorns: "The people, united, will never be defeated!" The police arrived, and after a few terse words about needing permits, escorted the marchers through intersections all the way to Civic Center Park, where they assembled on the steps of City Hall as the big clock struck six.

The march passed through Uptown Square, past brand-new townhouses already purchased and occupied. A few faces -- all of them white -- poked their heads out as the protesters headed up the street. "They're not going to let us live in luxury townhomes," Brown says. "We'll have their definition of affordable housing, but they won't have us living over here."

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T.R. Witcher