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Who pays the price and who profits?

A case submitted by

Melissa Juarez

Hi! My name is Melissa, and I've been a resident of the metro Atlanta area since birth. My story revolves around the profound changes I've witnessed along I-85, which has served as the main artery connecting my home to Atlanta:

In the wake of the pandemic, conversations across Georgia have been dominated by the worsening traffic conditions and the hotter, longer summers. The influx of migration has overflowed cities, resulting in the creation of expensive housing developments. Unfortunately, affordable housing and public transportation options remain limited or non-existent.

In my town of Lawrenceville, GA, the landscape has dramatically shifted. Once-thriving forests have been cleared to make room for larger shopping areas and parking lots, exacerbating congestion on already crowded roads. What used to be a 10-minute drive now takes 30 minutes through these areas.

Near my aunt's house, numerous apartment complexes similarly encroach upon parks and green spaces and disturbed community identity. Even familiar spots like Lillian Webb Park, which used to be go-to spots for quinceañera photoshoots and birthday parties, have been ruined by brutalist backdrops of newly constructed apartment buildings. The park sees fewer visitors now, and the starting prices for these apartments are unaffordable for many families in the community. My own home's rent has skyrocketed, leaving me to wonder how long we can remain before being displaced.

This urbanization extends to my commute into Atlanta. One particularly egregious example is Cop City, which threatens the largest forests in Atlanta. This not only endangers vital ecosystems but also raises concerns about the safety of communities of color in Atlanta, who often bear the brunt of environmental degradation and displacement.

As I write this, I realize that mourning one thing is to mourn many things at once. The overwhelming pace of change and loss in our environment weighs heavily on me and many others in our community.


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