“It’s a significant undertaking. And we are up to the task.”
In early 2017, NAPA Chairman of the Board and Atlanta office co-founder Mark Toro celebrated the culmination of Avalon, the massive mixed-used development in Alpharetta, Georgia, that some are calling a “city-within-a-city.” Today, however, he is thinking about something a little closer to home: purpose. “We can spend our entire careers contributing to what I’ll call ‘market rate communities’ by building our projects,” he says while maneuvering between commuter trains on his way to his Midtown office, “But the opportunity to transform a community that is severely challenged has already brought us more satisfaction than anything we can do in our day jobs….and the long-term impact will far outweigh anything we will ever do in commercial real estate.”
The neighborhood Mark is currently helping transform is Atlanta’s Westside—specifically the endangered community known as “The Bluff”. Deep in the heart of Georgia’s infamous 30314 zip code, this once thriving residential area now bears the sad title of “crime capital of the Southeast.” Visit, and you’ll find an interesting juxtaposition: 30314 shares borders with Atlanta’s thriving downtown business district, and exists—literally—in the shadow of the Falcons’ new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Mark turned his gaze westward five years ago after visiting City of Refuge (COR), a unique nonprofit that functions as a one-stop-shop for people in crisis. He immediately engaged the team at NAP to provide development services for their various projects, eventually completing a handful of build outs ranging from educational facilities to safe houses, teen pregnancy centers and workplace innovation hubs, all contained on COR’s Westside campus. “We have lent our time, treasure and talent to their efforts” he remarks, but his dedication to the historic neighborhood didn’t stop there.
When he was approached by City of Refuge CEO Bruce Deel to chair the $25.6M “Shining the Light” Capital Campaign, he jumped at the chance to help expand the reach of this exceptionally impactful ministry. And, immediately upon receiving the first $3M gift from Atlanta’s largest foundation, Mark and the team at NAP began work to redevelop decrepit apartments across the street from the COR campus for supportive housing and long-term care for those in crisis.
“We have a unique skillset in planning and executing exceptional real estate projects that these places need. But where there is an opportunity to apply these same skills to literally transform a community in brick and mortar…we see that as something we should step in and take on.”