Is your neighborhood cool? Is there a there, there?
I stumbled upon a website called The Culture Trip. It’s kind of a travel site with an Anthony Bourdain-ish tint to it. You type in a city and it tells you what is cool there. The article I was reading was titled “The Coolest Neighborhoods in Atlanta.”
Brenda and I lived in Atlanta 20 years ago in a neighborhood called Candler Park. There was not a lot to do in Atlanta back then, other than the big attractions. You had a small handful of restaurants on Crescent Avenue in Midtown, the Virginia Highlands and the eclectic Little Five Points. Our very small duplex was within walking distance to Little Five Points, and we would go there for music, dinner or a coffee. In terms of defined entertainment districts back then, Little Five Points was the coolest thing we had. With roots going back to being the local headquarters for the Hippie hang-out, it carried that creative and fun vibe through the years. We still never knew exactly what we were going to run into in the way of street entertainment back then.
It was right around that time though that people started flooding back into Atlanta and energizing neighborhoods that had before been considered run-down.
The Old Fourth Ward was a neighborhood that you only ended up in after you took a wrong turn somewhere. And now it has Ponce City Market, the Beltline running through it and was considered the second coolest spot in Atlanta in the article. East Atlanta was trying to become something and at the time seemed to be centered around a dive-bar that always had really, really strange movies playing in an upstairs loft area. According to the article, it was on the top of the cool list.
After a couple years there, we decided to get married and set up camp back in my hometown of Roswell. Our intown friends feigned excitement for us. But every time we tried to get back together, we were usually the ones making the trek, back into Atlanta. Canton Street hadn’t taken off yet and when friends did come up, we entertained in our home.
Since then though, Roswell, like many suburban cities, has grown to develop several different areas that have what Gertrude Stein called a there, there. Canton Street is, well, Canton Street. The neighborhoods are developing their own character. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to hang out in the Brookfield County Club Clubhouse on a Saturday during college football season, bring the children, you are in for a real treat.
There is a real vibe swelling just east of Ga. 400. Martin’s Landing, where I grew up, sprawls along the Chattahoochee River. There are protected woods with trails, a lake, all three pools are popping during the summer, and there is going to be an all-day music festival this October. Big Creek Park is a mile away and is one of the most visited mountain biking destinations in the area, and an awesome farm-to-table restaurant and brewery called From the Earth Brewing Company hosts quality live music, serves great food and beer. It has helped turn the Connexion shopping center into a sort of town center for the immediate area. From the Earth boasts beers named after songs by Widespread Panic, the Grateful Dead and the Allman Brothers, to name a few, and has inspired the Roswell Food & Beverage Festival this coming October 27.
Stories like this are happening all over the metro area. A lot of communities that were developed back in a time when our planning and development policies were nowhere near as sophisticated as they are today. They weren’t looking hard to create a “sense of place.” It was more like a refugee camp of white-collar workers moving by the thousands to Atlanta, and they were just trying to figure out where to put them all.
Residents today want more. They want a town center. They are developing their own style and sense of place. To my intown friends, many of whom are still in Atlanta, while you and The Culture Trip may not see beyond the 12-laned I-285, we’ve got cool out here now. Feel free to make the trip.
Geoff Smith is a mortgage banker with Assurance Financial focusing on residential home loans for refinances and home purchases.
*The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of Assurance Financial Group