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Uncertain future for Atlanta's historic Auburn Ave, birthplace of Martin Luther King Jr.

David Goldman / AP

The residential portion of the Sweet Auburn Historic District, including the home where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was born at right. Today Auburn Avenue is a shell of its former self, the bustling mix of banks, night clubs, churches, meat markets and funeral homes long gone, replaced with crumbling facades and cracked sidewalks. Hundreds of thousands of people still flock to Auburn Avenue to see King's birth home, the church where he preached and the crypt where he and his wife, Coretta, are buried. But tourists have little reason to linger. While King's legacy has been preserved, Auburn Avenue's business community has never recovered from the exodus of the black community that supported it. This week, the area was placed on the National Register of Historic Places' 11 Most Endangered list for the second time since 1992 in hopes of spurring preservation-oriented development.

David Goldman / AP

Tourists visit the Ebenezer Baptist Church where Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta.

David Goldman / AP

A visitor stands before the crypt of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and his wife Coretta, along Auburn Avenue.

David Goldman / AP

A man walks under the Interstate 75/85 overpass whose construction cut the Auburn neighborhood in half.

David Goldman / AP

National Park Rangers stand outside the original Atlanta Life Insurance Company building on Auburn Avenue, dating back to 1905.

David Goldman / AP

A man walks down the street after asking club goers for spare change in the Auburn Avenue district.

David Goldman / AP

A man pushes a stroller across Auburn Avenue.

AP reports that the neighborhood is caught between preservation and development:

"If we lose any more historic fabric, Auburn Avenue will probably lose its historic designation. You can't just have a few buildings left," said Mtaminika Youngblood, chairwoman of the Historic District Development Corporation, which has shepherded the restoration of the area for more than two decades.

Generations ago, much of Auburn Avenue's prosperity was born out of necessity, a product of segregation. The downtown thoroughfare anchored a community of homes and businesses that depended on each other.

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