Little Five Points' Scruffiness: Community's Charm or Shame?

One longtime Inman Park resident asks why Atlanta's hipster 'hood can't keep its vibe and shed some of its shabbiness?

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.

Darin September 12, 2012 at 07:32 PM
This is a good topic. When I was a teen in the 1980s, L5P was the coolest place I knew of in the city and I would hang out for hours. As I got older, the scruffiness did start to bother me a little and, at this point, I rarely go to any place on Euclid Avenue. That's mostly because of the poor sidewalks (why does an otherwise pedestrian-friendly place have such narrow sidewalks?) and litter. And that sucks because I love The Porter, Criminal and Stephan's. But the cool thing now is that, for hanging out near Inman Park, there's the option of going to that Inman Village area at Elizabeth and Highland instead. That's become a regular spot for me, mostly because of Victory Sandwich Bar. It works out -- if I'm up for putting up with the grit of L5P, I can do so. But if not, there's another option nearby.
bartender September 13, 2012 at 04:42 AM
As someone who has lived and worked in Little 5 for over 20 years, I think the businesses are doing the best they can given the circumstances. We have lots of tourists who think the laws and rules don't apply there. We have many street people who prey on them in their search for drugs. We also have a number of transient railroad hoppers who trash the neighborhood. Try putting something nice outside of any business and see what happens to it. More street lights would help the area. Aggressive clearing of Finley Plaza after hours would help. It would also help if the city took some responsibility to keep up their end of the deal.
johnk September 13, 2012 at 06:56 PM
Sounds like we have the makings of a consensus to at least try to clean up the plaza from transients and panhandlers... how do we make this happen? Where do we start?
Sam September 13, 2012 at 07:56 PM
Its a shame you can't even sit outside at the porter anymore. are we really going to let these hobos rule the neighborhood. I personally am thinking about going up to Findley plaza this Sunday and telling the old guy who runs the outreach feeding program to take it elsewhere.
Deadhead September 13, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Ugh, I find most of these comments troubling. Does every block in America have to conform to the values of the middle class?


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