A Holistic Approach

The seeds for success were planted in Atlanta, Georgia in 1995 when local real estate developer and philanthropist Tom Cousins learned that East Lake Meadows was a place without hope, and committed to changing the conditions and destinies of the people living there. Mr. Cousins partnered with Atlanta Housing Authority President and CEO Renée Glover, resident leader Eva Davis, and local business leaders to undertake the monumental task of revitalizing the neighborhood. This devastated neighborhood was home to some of the worst crime rates in the country, rampant drug use, a substandard school, and extreme poverty.

Building A Better Community

Mr. Cousins and his partners developed a holistic approach for revitalizing the East Lake area that included new mixed-income housing, opening a charter school with rigorous academic standards and high expectations, constructing a YMCA, and bringing in an array of services and resources, including:
  • A Before and After School Program at the Charles R. Drew Charter School, that provides academic, cultural and recreational opportunities to support strong intellectual, physical, social and emotional growth.
  • The CREW (Creating Responsible, Educated and Working) Teens program, which helps East Lake teenagers complete high school and develop a plan for post-secondary education and careers. Participants receive tutoring, homework assistance, standardized test preparation, community service and leadership training, career advisement and assistance with navigating the college admissions and financial aid process.
  • The Resident and Community Support Program (RCSP), which helps build a sense of community and provides resources and programs focused on economic stability, career development, financial literacy, and community partnerships that enhance employment readiness and help residents thrive.
  • The First Tee® of East Lake, a year-round golf instruction and life skills program that provides young people of all backgrounds an opportunity to develop life-enhancing values such as honesty, integrity and sportsmanship through golf and character education.

Purpose Built Communities Works to Replicate the East Lake Model

As word of East Lake’s success spread, other philanthropic civic leaders expressed interest. Purpose Built Communities was established in 2009 to replicate the East Lake model in other urban areas of concentrated poverty around the nation. Billionaire investor Warren Buffett and former hedge fund manager Julian Robertson joined Mr. Cousins in backing the organization. Purpose Built Communities is now involved with numerous similar initiatives across the country, providing a blueprint for breaking the cycle of intergenerational poverty and building brighter futures.

Former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin joined the team in 2010 and serves as Executive Board Chair. Today, Purpose Built Communities is helping to make a positive impact in some of this country’s most challenging neighborhoods. We are working with our Network Members to lead comprehensive redevelopment initiatives in more than a dozen communities across the country, and exploring initiatives in more than 20 additional communities.

Our Model

Our model is a three-pronged approach to change with high quality mixed-income housing; a cradle-to-college education pipeline; and community wellness programs, all guided by a Community Quarterback leadership group. Together, they create our holistic approach to community revitalization. Learn more about our model and approach.