An illustration of shipping containers converted to storefronts along the Atlanta BeltLine. They would be used by locally, Black-owned businesses as part of a new program by Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and The Village Market as part of ABI’s first small-business incubator. (Atlanta BeltLine Inc.)

Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and The Village Market are teaming up to provide space along the popular multi-use trail for local, Black-owned businesses.

The “BeltLine MarketPlace” is expected to launch this summer along the Eastside and Westside Trails. Plans are to include “artistic shipping containers” for up to six businesses that could sell retail, soft goods, food-based or arts-centered ventures, according to an ABI news release. The program is made possible with help from a $750,000 grant from the Kendeda Fund.

“With new funding, ABI is developing and advancing commercial affordability strategies aimed at stabilizing, preserving, and creating affordable spaces so that Black-owned, legacy, small, and local business can grow and flourish around the 22-mile loop,” said Clyde Higgs, president and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., in a news release.

“Providing access to the well-traveled BeltLine corridor is one avenue to connect businesses with new economic opportunities,” he said.

The pilot program aims to give entrepreneurs direct access to the BeltLine’s roughly 2 million annual visitors. The commercial spaces are being implemented by Atelier 7, a Black-owned architectural design firm. The firm specializes in shipping container, modular systems, and pre-fab building systems for bespoke mixed-use, residential and adaptive reuse projects, according to the news release.

The Village Market connects Black-owned businesses to community partners, like ABI, as a way to tackle racial wealth gap issues. According to the Prosperity Now report, Atlanta’s Black businesses are valued at $58,085 compared to Latinx businesses at $457,877 and white businesses at $658,264.

Also, 92% of Black-owned companies reported experiencing financial challenges since COVID-19 and only 43% received all PPP funding requested, compared to 79% of white-owned firms, according to the Federal Reserve Bank. 

“This collaboration ensures economic mobility, accessibility, and a progressive way forward as the BeltLine begins to nurture relationships with local, independently owned, Black-owned businesses that have been displaced due to the surge in commercial rents,” said Dr. Lakeysha Hallmon, founder and CEO of The Village Market, in the release.

“It’s imperative that local, Black-owned businesses can stay in the communities where they have always been – sharing in economic prosperity,” Hallmon said.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.