Editor's note: Bob Eberwein, a longtime Inman Park resident, posed a question to his fellow neighbors on the neighborhood listserv regarding Little Five Points and its worn and rough-around-the-edges look. Namely, he asked if it could retain its hipster appeal while cleaning itself up aesthetically? Mr. Eberwein shared his piece with the greater East Atlanta Patch community.
I would like to open up a serious conversation about Little Five Points.
There are many things I can like about it: whimsical building colors, murals that are (sorta) meaningful or artful, a neat skull, fanciful clothing. I can appreciate funky. I don't mind weird people much (being one myself). I fill some business needs there.
But why must the place be so scruffy? I have a feeling that some of the local merchants may operate on a "we live lofty existentialist lives and disdain bourgeois values like neatness."
The streets are lined largely with busted up trees or stumps, surrounded by broken or no grates, knee-high weeds, beaten earth where the weeds aren't, trash, tattered flyers on poles that sport what must be millions of rusted staples, tape strips dangling, crumbly curbs, the ubiquitous and noisome graffiti. Some stretches are appalling. There are occasional efforts at manicure such as the row of plant urns on Gregory Davis Plaza and Junkman's Daughter's desperate effort to make a couple planters work (thank you for trying!), but generally it's a mess.
I have lived in Inman Park for 38 years, and L5P has improved in no significant way in that time, as have all the surrounding neighborhoods. I don't really consider it "my neighborhood commercial district." I have to forewarn any out-of-town guests what they will find there because, frankly, I am ashamed of it. I have long stopped being ashamed of anything else in this part of the city.
I realize any large city has at least one quarter devoted to the dis-(under)-established and rogue ragamuffins (my favorite - the sock man, who deserves kudos for persistence and consistency). I also realize I am immediately placing myself in somebody's "snob" category. (Go live in Va-Hi if you don't like the local color!). Well, piffle to that!
I understand there is a L5P Business Association (I think) that, other than sponsoring a well-received Halloween parade, does nothing serious that I know of on the matter of making L5P inviting and pleasant. I also imagine there are many L5P property owners who enjoy significant incomes from the overall mess which somehow demands and gets high rents. I'm guessing they live well elsewhere.
In truly worthwhile commercial districts there is a pride in offering pleasing surroundings (yes, VA-HI). In L5P it appears there is pride in offering grubbiness.
I AM NOT SUGGESTING that we must get rid of the counter-culture, which frankly thrives on this sort of disorder. But they live the "broken window" syndrome. "If it's trashy, it doesn't matter if I trash it some more." We might be surprised at improved behavior if they found themselves in a prideful civically respectable district. I AM SUGGESTING that the business association, the property owners, and the merchants, have failed themselves and us, who live adjacent, in being responsible neighbors and creating a squalor-free milieu in our midst. We are reasonably prosperous kempt communities 'round about L5P, yet that business district spurns our presence and our ethic in the manner of appearance.
Most locals take the attitude, "Oh, you know Little Five Points. It is what it is. It may be a carbuncle, but it's our carbuncle!" We're used to it, which is part of the problem.
We have tiptoed around this spectacle for decades, afraid to offend or of being accused of "class-consciousness." That doesn't wash any more. It's time to say, "the emperor wears no clothes." L5P needs to reorganize and upgrade its brains.
So what do you think? Am I rocking the boat? Should I just sit down and shut up?
Mr. Eberwein is a 38-year resident of Inman Park.