South DeKalb failing like parts of Atlanta did 20 years ago
Is South DeKalb the Atlanta of 20 years ago?
I have been in Atlanta for nearly 23 years save a six year stint in the service, when Atlanta became a destination more so than home to me. When I left the military, Atlanta metro was a natural choice for me. I was young Enthusiastic and ambitious. My new bride and I settled on Memorial Drive in the mid-90’s. The glory of Memorial had been gone for a while, but it was still an OK place. We both were on the cusp of finishing up college and planned for a better life in the future. As our careers started moving forward so did our desires for a better place to live. We moved to an apartment in the Emory area that was close to my wife’s job, and allowed me easy access to MARTA, after all we had only one vehicle at the time and we had to stay near MARTA. We enjoyed our time there, but longed for a house with a yard for kids and a dog and some privacy. We looked in the Emory area( too expensive), we looked in Douglas(too far out), Cobb(Couldn’t see it) and DeKalb. DeKalb was a nice mix. It was not too far away from the things we liked to do. It had a nice mix of social strata, and it seemed a great balance between city and suburb. We settled on South DeKalb for many reasons, but price and proximity to my mother-in-law led the Way. We wer young and Idealistic at the time. We had no kids so we didn’t even think about schools. We thought we would buy this house, do some work on it and try to sell it after 5 or so years. that was the plan. Had we known in advance that we were moving into what was going to be a massacre of foreclosures, we would have stayed in our cozy little apartment, but hindsight is always 20/20. Now some seven years later, South DeKalb, has become home. My wife has several family members in South DeKalb, and we love the proximity to Stonecrest, Downtown, and Decatur. The problem is that there is nothing for us in South Dekalb outside of family and our home. It has made us think whether or not we should hold out for an eventual resurgence or if we should cut our losses and abandon South DeKalb. For those who have been in Atlanta for a long time, you can see the resurgence that happens when capital and desire flows into an area. East Lake and Kirkwood were horrible places to be in the 80’s. Now one is a model for resurgence and the other is a go to destination for entertainment and living. East Atlanta, and even Grant Park were areas where people avoided. Now they are hot properties. Glenwood Park, Edgewood, the list goes on and on. So I have to ask myself, will the same resurgence happen here. I look at South DeKalb mall and think to myself what a great location. It is less than a ten mile drive to downtown. It is a straight shot to downtown Decatur, and even Stonecrest is an easy drive. It sits between two interstates and has quick access to the airport. It is a very walkable area because of the density of the homes and businesses in the corridor. Yet it is suffering, with little relief in sight. I cannot think of any major redevelopment in the Candler corridor in more than ten years. South Dekalb mall has had makeovers, possibly to it’s detriment, but the areas around the mall are third rate at best. No quality entertainment. No quality dining. Nothing that says this can be the next happening place in the metro. Leadership at the county and community level needs to step up. South DeKalb needs to shape an identity. Be it entertainment, specialty shopping, or even a sporting destination. Land prices there are be ripe for redevelopment when the economy turns the corner. County leadership and community leaders should be prepared to jump on the opportunity when it arrives. If we all sit back and wait, then South Dekalb will be Atlanta all over again. I Hope to see a resurgence soon, because I do not know how much longer I can hold on. And I am sure there are many who think similar to me on this issue.