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An End of an Era in Lynwood Park

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Lynwood Park resident Pat Martin had lived, until recently, on the same street for more than five decades. She climbed the neighborhood's trees as a child in the 1950s and helped her own children settle down in the neighborhood in the 1980s.

For the past five years, she's also led the Lynwood Park Community Development Corporation's fight to preserve affordable housing in the community, a historically African-American enclave of modest, cinderblock houses - flanked by well-heeled Brookhaven and Buckhead, and encroached upon by developers building high-priced, Victorian-style bungalows.

But Martin, a longtime activist and the backbone of Lynwood Park, experienced a change of heart. Earlier this year - six months after telling CL that nothing could make her leave - she packed her bags after selling her family's two homes to the type of developers she'd long fought.

"I could've stayed," Martin says. "But things are changing and getting to be depressing. I just decided this is my time to go."

Lynwood Park formed in the 1930s. Back then, African-Americans paid $7 per month to stay in the neighborhood's shotgun-style homes. Today, however, Lynwood Park is quickly transitioning into blocks of posh McMansions appraising for as much as $1 million. Longtime residents say developers regularly knock on their doors, asking them to sell their homes - for up to $500,000.

As a result, residents have experienced property tax increases between 200 percent and 500 percent in a single year, according to Jeff Plowman, an attorney who has advised the Lynwood Park Community Development Corporation.

From Lynwood Park to Kirkwood, East Atlanta to West End, homebuyers are increasingly willing to pay a pretty penny for an intown location, jacking up property costs and ultimately pushing old-time residents out of the market. It was the power of those seemingly unstoppable gentrifying forces that caused Martin to rethink her situation.

In December and January, Martin sold her two properties, which had been in the family for 55 years, for a total of $660,000, according to DeKalb County court documents. She now lives in a 2,900-square-foot, $250,000 home in Gwinnett County, just outside Snellville, documents show.

Following Martin's departure, other longtime neighbors, such as 36-year resident Lucille Walker, have been left wondering what's in store for the increasingly fragmented community.

"[Martin's] move was a crucial part, because she had earned the respect of the neighborhood," Walker says. "We don't know what else is left now."

Walker says she's trying to organize a meeting of old and new Lynwood Park neighbors to discuss ways to preserve the changing neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Martin says she still hopes residents who want to stay in Lynwood Park can find a way to pay their property taxes and fend off eager developers. She says the community can be saved. But she doesn't regret her move.

"I learned a long time ago that the world is a changing world," Martin says. "My whole thing was to understand [what was going on in Lynwood Park]. Even though I may not have agreed with it, I understood. That's why I don't feel bad about things going the way they are."

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