T.I. may complain about a lot of things, such as his recent call for boycotting the NFL over the organization’s new anthem policy. But he tends to put his money where his mouth his. The latest proof of this is his effort to rebuild his childhood community in Atlanta.
The hip-hop mogul is committed to rebuilding his old neighborhood in the Center Hill and in 2017 he launched a real estate company called Buy Back the Block.
Tip said in an interview that he’s partnered with fellow Atlanta rapper Killer Mike and they purchased the Bankhead Seafood building. Bankhead Seafood has been a favorite community eatery but closed earlier this year after 50 years in business. T.I. has also bought various lots in his old neighborhood as well as six buildings. And it hasn’t been cheap for T.I. He’s already invested more than $2 million of his own money.
“I grew up in the 1980s and ’90s in the Center Hill section of Atlanta, just off Bankhead Highway,” he told Inc. “Back then that part of town was considered the lower end of the middle class. After the crack era the community stalled, and from 1994 to 2012 it became an extremely desolate area for business. There’s no major grocery store chain, there’s no fresh produce, there’s no CVS, there are liquor stores.”
T.I. says he has no plans on gentrify the neighborhood. He wants to make it affordable for all.
“Now, with the BeltLine and Mercedes-Benz Stadium a stone’s throw away, there’s an incentive to redevelop,” T.I. explained. “But I didn’t want it to be one of those situations where luxury condos go up, and people who are native are pushed out to the fringes because they can’t afford to live there. I wanted to provide development that would allow people from the area who love the community to be able to afford to stay.”
According to T.I., he plans to turn some of the building into “mixed-use” housing by the end of 2019.
“Green spaces and gardens are incredibly important,” said T.I. “We want a movie theater, bowling, laser tag, stuff I didn’t have. I’m trying to build a community where the people within it can be proud. If they’re proud they’ll have more of a sense of wanting to maintain it.”
“I’d love to see children walk and play and live in green spaces,” he added. “I want to see senior citizens excited about the next generation. The only way to do that is to invest. Why wait for someone else to come into a community where I went to elementary school, where I rode my bike and played?”
T.I. says he wants to be a role model for other Black people with dreams of wealth building. “The cornerstone of wealth is home ownership. It does something for the psyche of a person to know that all of the work they do comes back to this. A lot of the buildings I’ve bought, we’re turning into mixed-use housing. One of the smaller residential projects will hopefully be ready by the end of 2019. We’re aiming to complete a larger development–more than 100 units–around the same time,” he told said. “I’m working with a seasoned real estate agent, Krystal Peterson, to ensure prices are within the range of what people who live in the neighborhood can pay. I’m constantly out there, on the ground, talking to people. They are very pleased to see that I’m involved, that I’m taking steps to have ownership within the community–they know I’m a product of it. But they also wonder what’s going to happen.”