060221_MNS_BofA_Sweet_Auburn_001 Sweet Auburn John Lewis

Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn community includes a mural of the late District 5 U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta.

Bank of America announced it is partnering with Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn Works Retail Accelerator Fund to give grants of up to $25,000 per business to local entrepreneurs of color.

According to a news release, Bank of America is donating $500,000 to the fund as part of a $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, which includes support to minority entrepreneurs.

The fund is a nonprofit dedicated to the revitalization of the Sweet Auburn Historic District, a two-mile corridor of Auburn Avenue known as “the cradle of civil rights.” The district was the commercial, cultural and spiritual center for Black communities in Atlanta prior to the Civil Rights Movement, housing the city’s first Black-owned office and first Black-owned daily newspaper, and is most commonly known as the birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr.

The fund’s new Walking with Heroes campaign speeds up the community’s vision for investments in real estate, infrastructure and business development in the Sweet Auburn area, paving the way for a renewed spirit of economic vitality. The plans include the Hero Walk, which will create a lasting impact for residents and visitors and strengthen the district’s revitalization.

The one-mile Hero Walk connects the Atlanta BeltLine’s Eastside Trail and John Lewis Freedom Parkway with Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park and Historic Oakland Cemetery.

“With over 100 years of history in Atlanta, our community-centered approach remains the same,” Wendy Stewart, president of Bank of America Atlanta, said in the release. “Our partnership and support of revitalization in Sweet Auburn began in the 1990s with single-family homes, and we continue to address critical issues to ensure that opportunities for our community are within reach.”

Specifically, the fund will provide:

♦ critical business improvements, including architectural and design build-outs

♦ access to consulting and design professionals to implement forward-thinking retail concepts

♦ Sweet Auburn Works staff to assist with selecting real estate, leveraging city resources and providing programmatic support

♦ networking, mentorships, technical assistance and education to ensure their businesses remain sustainable throughout their entrepreneurship journey

♦ diversification of retail offerings

♦ the creation of a more vibrant ecosystem throughout the district

Bank of America recently announced it is investing $150 million in 40 private funds centering on minority entrepreneurs as part of its efforts to address the persistent gap in access to growth capital for minority-led businesses, which included the Atlanta-based Fearless Fund.

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