June 2011

My first neighborhood in Atlanta wasn’t really a neighborhood at all. It was a gated apartment complex in Buckhead, with a gurgling fountain in the courtyard outside our window and walls so thin you could hold a conversation through them. This was in 2000, before the cheesy bars that defined Buckhead in the late twentieth century were replaced by a massive hole in the ground that is the stalled Streets of Buckhead. Back then the apartment complexes in that part of town were filled with people in their twenties, sunning themselves by their figure-eight pools in the day and pickling their livers at night. I remember my wife and I were once awoken by a drunk woman in the courtyard, trying to break up a fight between two would-be suitors. “I love you both!” she sobbed. I wish I were kidding. Not much later, we broke our lease.
For the next seven years, we lived in Inman Park, a place that hewed a bit closer to my idea of what a neighborhood should be—gorgeous old houses, walkable, close to Downtown. Of course it was also expensive, which is why we rented.
There are many arguments for homeowning—you can save on taxes, you can tear down a wall, you have something that’s yours—but the one I’ve found most compelling since my wife and I bought our house two years ago is that homeowning is a constant reminder that your fortunes are tied to your neighbors’. When we were renting, we didn’t have to bother with going to neighborhood association meetings or monitoring the message boards or planting flowers in the median. We were customers, basically. Short-timers.
We carried that same attitude to our new neighborhood when we bought our house. We didn’t make the rounds to our new neighbors, and we didn’t invite them over for burgers on the back deck. We always said we intended to, but we just never got around to it. But then one night, a few months after we moved in, an electrical fire in the ceiling above our kitchen brought two fire trucks screaming down our street to our front yard. While we waited anxiously outside, the neighbors started gathering. Did we need a place to stay? The number of an electrician? A carpenter? Is there anything we can do? When your house is close to going up in flames, it’s incredibly reassuring to know that people are so eager to help. And even if it was a weird way to meet the neighbors, I’m glad we finally did.
For this month’s cover package, we chose five neighborhoods that we feel embody the best of what a true neighborhood is. We wanted to incorporate both intown and suburban places, but we also wanted to capture the vast range of settings you find across Atlanta. So you have the industrial chic of Westside and the Mayberry feel of Acworth. One of the knocks against the metro Atlanta area is that it’s so sprawling, with no real focus. When it comes to neighborhoods, though, that variety is one of our true strengths. There’s something for everyone, and we’re here to help you find it.
Steve Fennessy is our editor.
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