In Southwest Atlanta, only three miles from the Georgia Dome, the Atlanta BeltLine is covered in weeds. Set to begin construction this year, the Westside Trail runs through an area that’s seen better days. Chain-link fences abound, broken-down cars are everywhere, and failed food marts are boarded up and covered in graffiti. An abandoned warehouse used in The Hunger Games reads, “The odds are never in our favor.” There are few places to eat or even buy groceries—Nicky’s Seafood, Jamrock Caribbean, and the Citgo Quik Mart among them.
Contrast this with the booming Eastside Trail, bordered by Piedmont Park, Park Tavern, and Trader Joe’s on one end, and Krog Street Market and Irwin Street Market on the other. Restaurants like TWO Urban Licks and Kevin Rathbun Steak line the way, and new places like Ladybird and Ponce City Market continue to bring offerings and attractions the area.
Randy Gibbs, a real estate agent and vice president of Adair Park Today neighborhood association, sees this stark reality and—together with representatives from nearby neighborhoods Capital View, Capital View Manor, and Pittsburgh—is working to change it.
“The goal is to attract food businesses to our corner of Atlanta,” he says. “The closest legitimate grocery story is two miles away. If I’m home and don’t have food, I have to leave the area to eat.
On September 20 from 9 a.m. to noon, these neighborhoods will host iSWAT Development Day, a collection of speeches and bus tours through the area that highlight redevelopment initiatives in an effort to attract chefs, restaurateurs, and grocers. Participants will meet at 884 Murphy Avenue.
“We need someone who will take the risk and say, ‘I can build a business here and be successful,’” says Gibbs, who buys his groceries at Publix in Midtown.
He stresses that the area doesn’t necessarily need high-end restaurants or celebrity chefs—just healthy food options. He points to the empty State Farmers Market building alongside the BeltLine. Could that be the next Ponce City Market or Krog Street Market-style development? Then there’s the Atlanta BeltLine Farm, 3-plus acres of land near the intersection of Allene Avenue and Catherine Street in Adair Park. Designed as an urban farm, it needs a farmer to take the lead.
“We’re hopeful because the BeltLine is coming through. We saw what Old Fourth Ward was like before the BeltLine. That was once a transitioning neighborhood,” Gibbs says.
For more information or to participate in Development Day, contact Randy Gibbs at firstname.lastname@example.org.