“The City of Refuge is very much a part of North American.”
As NAP Vice President of Development, Justin Long manages projects of all sizes from design through construction, but it’s that final phase of a project that really sparks his enthusiasm for building better—when a property is finished, functioning, and full of people without hard hats. That rush might come from a suburban neighborhood activated by a new immersive live-work-play experience, as in the case of Avalon, the mixed-use development in Alpharetta, Georgia where Justin recently managed a second phase. Or it might take place somewhere a little less visible—like in a disused warehouse in a forgotten part of a city where the newly renovated Good Works Employment Center exists inside City of Refuge, Atlanta, Georgia.
In an area just west of Atlanta’s Downtown, less than 3 miles from the sparkling World of Coca-Cola and multi-million dollar Mercedes-Benz Stadium, you’ll find City of Refuge (COR)—and a neighborhood better known for its statistics than its landmarks. Here, within the 30314 zip code (one of the poorest in the country), 40 percent of residents live below the federal poverty level, and 60 percent of all Atlanta murders occur. But it’s also where more than 20,000 lives have been transformed in the last 20 years, thanks to COR and its programming.
“NAP has been supporting the work of City of Refuge for years, volunteering our development services,” explains Justin, who acts as the liaison between the NAP team and COR. Their latest project, The Good Works Employment Center expansion of the COR employment center, included the addition of a computer room, a second classroom, conference rooms and storage, all dedicated to altering the future for Westside residents. Justin has also assisted with overseeing the building of housing units for homeless and victims of sex trafficking, an auto center where COR trains men and women to be mechanics, and a kitchen dedicated to culinary arts education. “If you ever get over there to eat a meal, it’s phenomenal,” he adds.
It might seem a partnership at odds—a real estate developer and a nonprofit with a mission to transform a neighborhood from within, without displacing the residents who call it home. But Justin explains how the two entities’ missions perfectly align: “It’s not really about the buildings, it’s about how they can better the lives of the people who live there.”
“It’s incredible to go out to the facility at project completion and truly see how much the project impacts the community,” Justin says. “And our involvement doesn’t stop there. We volunteer for COR’s largest annual fundraiser, host fundraisers at our properties and even pull the change out of the fountain at Avalon and donate it to COR.”
“It’s not really about the buildings, it’s about how they can better the lives of the people who live there.”