Saturday, November 6, 2010

Neighborhoods: Is East Atlanta Losing Its Soul?

By Andrea Korber

“Too many damn dogs,” Lucky Chuckie says. “More dogs than we ever had.” A lifetime resident of East Atlanta, Chuckie is describing one of the changes he has observed as his neighborhood has become Atlanta’s trendiest. “We,” in his mind, are the old-timers—mostly African-American homeowners who lived through East Atlanta’s startling transformation over the past four decades. “They” are the newcomer dog-owners—yuppies and families who are changing the neighborhood they now share with the old-timers. The “us” and “them” language he uses is a sure and subtle indicator of the state of East Atlanta: the first stages of gentrification.

Decades of Change

East Atlanta wasn’t always trendy. Since its optimistic conception as a model for “urban utopian living” at the turn of the century, it has been plagued by many of the same problems other American inner-city neighborhoods have faced: a fierce battle over integration, white flight to outlying suburbs, divisive highway construction (Interstate 20), and a crime wave that devastated the community.

But around the same time the neighborhood formed the East Atlanta Community Association (1981), things started to turn around. Many of the auto and tire shops were converted, crumbling homes were sold and rehabilitated, and local businesses began to thrive.

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