ATLANTA — The $17 million 1st Choice Credit Union is hoping its presence can help revitalize the historic “Sweet Auburn” district here, which, during its heyday, was where many financial institutions, educators, entertainers and politicians conducted business.

Tomorrow, 1st Choice will celebrate moving to a 3,500-square foot space at 315 Auburn Ave. housed in an 8,000 square-foot building originally built in the 1920s as a boarding house, said Sheilah Montgomery, president/CEO of 1st Choice CU. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s childhood home is located nearby as is Ebenezer Baptist Church, once presided over by the young minister and his father.

After its prime, Auburn Avenue fell victim to drug activity but signs of new life are everywhere. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference has opened a new facility here and a bakery, clothing outlet, book bank, and hair salon also line the avenue. A soul food museum is scheduled to open this month.

“This used to be a drug infested area. When it was known we were moving here along with the new SCLC facility, the police department cleaned the area up,” Montgomery said. “Tourism has picked up because it is now safe to walk the streets.”

Montgomery said in addition to being a part of the revitalization movement, the CU wanted to stay close to nearby Grady Hospital, where many of its members work.

–msamaad@cutimes.com