East Atlanta: Atlanta's Funkiest Neighborhood


East Atlanta is a vibrant, eclectic neighborhood located about three miles southeast of downtown Atlanta. The community is about one half-mile south of Interstate 20. East Atlanta is only minutes away from all the attractions of downtown, including Turner Field, the Georgia Dome, CNN Center, Centennial Olympic Park, and Philips Arena. It is also convenient to the city of Decatur. The neighborhood is served by several bus lines.

In the years before the Civil War, the area that would become East Atlanta was quiet farmland. During the War, however, Atlanta's defenses were set up just to the west of the area; the Union Army camped there, and, during the Battle of Atlanta in July of 1864, 12,000 men were killed on the ground where East Atlanta Village now sits. After the war, a commercial village grew up to capture the farm trade outside of Atlanta. As Atlanta spread out, the area was developed into a true suburb. In the first two decades of the twentieth century, East Atlanta grew into a thriving town with new houses, businesses and public transportation. It followed the same pattern of decline that many of Atlanta's intown neighborhoods did, and by the 1960s, the area was crime- and drug-ridden. Only in the mid-1990s did East Atlanta become "hot'' again, with young families moving back, restoring the housing stock and opening and reviving businesses.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution calls East Atlanta "arguably, Atlanta's hippest neighborhood, a rough-around-the-edges alternative to Virginia Highland or Midtown with a slew of new restaurants and bars.'' The neighborhood has established itself as one of Atlanta's best places to hear live music from new or alternative bands. Atlanta chefs often try out their newest concepts in East Atlanta, and bars, coffeehouses and galleries draw both residents and visitors to the community. Restaurants, bars and other businesses retain a laidback, unpretentious feel that is often missing in more "gentrified'' neighborhoods.

But, as the AJC points out, there's still the "crime issue.'' Violent crime is rare in the area, but property crimes and other non-violent crimes are more common. "`You don't live out here without being cautious,''' says an East Atlanta resident quoted in the newspaper. But Caryn Liss, president of the East Atlanta Business Association, says "the village is no different from other intown city neighborhoods.'' She goes on to say that the residents of the area are "`are all really invested in this urban oasis of culture and community ... our crime is way down.'''

Part of keeping the village thriving and safe is to involve the residents in community activities. Among the many regular happenings in East Atlanta are:

The East Atlanta Village Farmer's Market, held weekly May through November, brings fresh, locally grown food, as well as gourmet products to the neighborhood. The market was chosen to participate in a pilot program that provides incentives for the area's low-income families to eat healthier food.

The East Atlanta Strut, an annual street festival, features a parade, artist's market, live music and food, all for the benefit of local charities.

A Taste of East Atlanta, an annual festival offering residents a chance to try food from the 20 or so area restaurants, including a wide variety of international cuisines.

B*ATL, a celebration of the Battle of Atlanta, featuring tours, a 5K run/walk, a dinner and dance and Civil War history and reenactments.

As East Atlanta continues to grow and change, this never-dull, constantly evolving neighborhood will certainly be worth keeping an eye on.

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