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Wish List For the East Atlanta Village

If you were the neighborhood planner, what services and offerings would you want to see in the heart of the Village?

During a Facebook exchange with East Atlanta Patch editor Péralte Paul, I both welcomed the new burrito restaurant that was moving into the former Wachovia building across from the Graveyard Tavern on Glenwood Avenue, and bemoaned yet another restaurant coming into the Village.

East Atlanta Village has carved a funky, eclectic and charming niche over the years, certainly in the five years I’ve been near and in the neighborhood. But in the exchange, both Péralte and I realized there’s a healthy discussion to be had about what would be ideal and perhaps what should be prioritized, when it comes to the EAV’s needs.

So Péralte asked me to write a column about what I would love to see in the Village and I agreed, but only if it could serve as a jumping-off point for everyone to write what they would love to see added to a neighborhood that already is considered one of Atlanta’s rising areas.

That said, here’s a top 10 of things I wish we had, with a concerted effort to avoid more bars and restaurants. (I said concerted, not perfect.)

  • Reopening the historic Madison Theatre. For years, reports vary on the possibility of bringing the humble but historic theater back to code, and therefore to life. You could argue that with the Earl and the rising Club 529, EAV’s already a great hub for live music. True. But, restoring and reopening the theater could provide the neighborhood with a multidisciplinary performance space along the lines of 7 Stages in Little Five Points (which already is crammed with programming). Imagine an Out of Hand or Blast-off Burlesque performance there, along with classic and avant-garde film programming to along with more live music that could take EAV to the next level.
  • Gourmet deli/bakery. I’m trying hard to avoid a bar/restaurant choice, but it’s possible that a gourmet deli with a strong selection of wines, artisanal cheeses and deli/pre-prepared food to go could add a modest dash of bougie sophistication to the neighborhood. That, and/or a bakery, would create incredible foot traffic during the day, before the nightlife scene takes over. Think the downstairs at Parish. I’d slap that right in the former space that housed the consignment vintage, thrift and furniture store.
  • Yoga/pilates studio. OK, now that the deli/bakery opened up the bougie floodgates, we might as well talk yoga. How is it not available around here? You could argue that Dance 411’s move up Moreland Avenue satisfies that need; I’m not so sure. But for those practitioners who have to truck over to places like Yoga Samadhi over in Inman Park would love an authentic yoga class in EAV.
  • Friday night acoustic music. Not that I’m a hippie or another, but I’ll never forget the charm of the Friday night drum circle in downtown Asheville, N.C., which attracted more non-hippies than you might think. But considering the nature of EAV, it would be fitting to get the weekend off on a musical note with some kind of acoustic music played outdoors.
  • East Atlanta Music Festival. Failing a return from Corndograma, East Atlanta deserves a music festival to celebrate its burgeoning scene and focus totally on music, with stages in Brownwood Park, up and down the streets, and in the music venues as well. It would be a music celebration to rival the culinary fun of Taste of East Atlanta, but would be more focused than East Atlanta Strut.
  • A salon, with the happy ending and everything. EAV has its share of hair and nail salons, but what one with the full monty, complete with massage. My kingdom for Key Lime Pie Salon and Wellness Spa over in Virginia Highland to discover our neck of the woods.
  • A real bicycle shop. For the record, the Sopo Bicycle Co-op is one of the coolest things about EAV, and reflective of the D.I.Y. sense of community. Regardless, considering the bikability of the neighborhood, it only makes sense to actually a bicycle shop in the neighborhood that actually sells bicycles. (I dream of a scooter shop, too, but let’s do baby steps first, OK?)
  • Art gallery. Sometimes it boggles the mind that we don’t have a street-level, feisty art gallery along the lines of a Young Blood or Get This! Gallery. Well, we almost did, if you count the fact that Young Blood was housed over in Grant Park before it’s move. But considering the artistic vibe of the neighborhood, an art gallery could help diversify the creative spectrum of the EAV scene.
  • Improve on the restaurants already there. We can all appreciate the scrappiness of the pizza offered at Grand Central Café, the sushi at Thai & Sushi, the fried chicken at Chazz, and the burgers at the Earl. But when you consider how much Atlanta has stepped up its gourmet game with all of these food items, and you wish the neighborhood’s restaurants stepped up their game. I frankly hesitate to include the Earl on this list, because its burgers remain my favorite in town even after the gourmet renaissance, but people do seem to crave the fancier burger these days. I just wish Grant Central were more consistent, and Thai & Sushi more inventive, and Chazz more open to a wider selection We deserve it.
  • Bring back what we lost! Péralte disagrees with me on this one, but I’m still bummed the Wachovia bank location closed, and essentially moved down Glenwood to sit out near the East Lake Publix. That’s fine for East Lake, but I want my Wach- … I mean, Wells Fargo back! Or more to the point, more banking options in the neighborhood than SunTrust. I’d also beg and plead for the return of Thread Zeppelin (vintage/thrift) and the Ace Hardware store. (With all due respect to the fitness center opening up in the old Ace building.) And I could SWEAR we did have an Urban Gardener, but I blinked my eye and it was gone. Bring all these back! And finally, I’m not sure where the drama currently stands, but it would be beneficial for the neighborhood for everyone to mend fences and bring Corndogorama back to its rightful home.
Mark Cohen April 04, 2011 at 01:09 PM
I live in Grant Park, so forgive my ignorance if I've missed some closings, but: - Bakery: you have the Australian Bakery. They have breads, rolls, cakes, desserts...what's missing for you? - Deli: you have Urban Cannibals with food to go; maybe not a traditional deli or huge selection, but great food nonetheless - Banks: you left off BOA. 2 major bank chains in such a small retail center isn't bad.
emily April 04, 2011 at 03:02 PM
i like the wine idea, but yeah, we have UC, how about just a straight up wine shop? as for Yoga, Nirvana is very close in Grant Park and Ctown, and FitWit provides Saturday 9am classes in the Brownwood park rec hall.
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 04, 2011 at 03:02 PM
All good points, Marc. The Australian Bakery is open and I frequent it often. But I do think there's room for another...maybe one that specializes in desserts like the Highland Bakery but that also sells wine. I like Urban Cannibals, too, but it's more of a bodega than a deli, and it doesn't sell wine. You're right about BoA; they're here, too.
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 04, 2011 at 03:41 PM
I agree with you, Emily. I always thought a wine shop would do well in the EAV. Thanks for pointing out Nirvana. I didn't know about it. It's much closer than the place I sometimes go to in Buckhead.
Marc Takacs April 05, 2011 at 02:18 AM
I know the Business Association was searching for a business to act as an anchor for the Village a couple of years ago. Most residents really wanted some sort of market similar to the Candler Park market on McLendon. We actually have the East Atlanta Supermarket and the owner would certainly get products in as long as people bought them. Their current shoppers don't exactly come in for nice bottles of wine a whole lot, though. The Madison would certainly be that anchor but the hurdles and investment required are pretty significant. We had several art galleries that couldn't make it. The live music venues and bars are the primary draw. For some acoustic music check out Earthshaking Music. As the weather gets warmer you'll hear the Brazillian Drum line practicing in their parking lot throughout the Village. One idea I've floated is a small retail center that focuses on medical practices. There is land available and a center with a dentist, Medicine Shoppe franchise, chiropractor, general practice or even eastern medicine as a few of the practices could service an ever growing population while providing some decent paying jobs. Shops and restaurants are great but I think something that can provide a real economic infusion while serving the needs of the neighborhood is the leap we need to make.
David Lee Simmons April 05, 2011 at 02:17 PM
All great points, Marc.
Mark Tinker April 05, 2011 at 03:32 PM
An art gallery, Yoga/Pilates, A gourmet deli? Sounds a little sterile to me; I think a lot of folks enjoy the "bar experience" and bohemian feel of EAV. Sans the frilly stuff. If I wanted that, I'd drive to VaHi. Just my opinion...
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 05, 2011 at 03:54 PM
You raise a good point. EAV is a little raw, which appealed to me when I was looking for a place to live. But there are an awful lot of empty building storefronts in the Village center and I'd like something viable to go into those spots to generate more tax revenue. Balancing the uniqueness of the Village with filling up the vacancies is the tricky part.
David Lee Simmons April 06, 2011 at 01:10 AM
Funny thing, Mark, I was thinking the same thing even as I was writing it! After every three additions, I said to myself, "Congrats, you're creating bougie heaven/hell." While you'd think by the list I'm trying to suggest another VaHi, a fair criticism, I'm also trying to suggestion a more diverse neighborhood experience. If it's any consolation, my major dream would be to reopen the Madison as stated above, the return of Corndogorama, an art gallery, and the return of all that was lost. Frankly, the rest is for fun. But I'd love to see your own Top 10. (Same goes for the rest of y'all! Peralte, I hope they're rolling in.)
Mark Tinker April 06, 2011 at 02:47 AM
Now that's funny! Okay, will give it some thought and report back. Corndogorama- hell to the yeah!! How about a second location for Boners BBQ! Used to be a food truck by Turner Field; I heard they are opening a permanent home in Summerhill!
Morieka V. Johnson April 07, 2011 at 01:24 PM
Good points. Some of those ideas came and went. We need to support EAV business owners. I'd like a resale shop or boutique that can stay open longer than a few months. Thread Zeppelin was a great store. I, too, wish that theater space could be converted, but gave up on theidea. We had a nice gallery, and I bought a couple of great pieces from a local artist there. But business was too slow for it to remain open. I'd like a great meat-and-three spot like Homegrown.
glen satell April 10, 2011 at 04:53 PM
enjoyed reading everybody's ideas but I believe that the first priority needs to be making EAV more of a destination so that our retail community can thrive. It seems to me that new retailers come to the village excited about the vibe of East Atlanta but soon are disappointed with the consumer traffic. It also seems to me that the restaurant and bars do not feel that their success is tied to the success of retail in the village and they may be right (at least in the short term). I believe that opening the Madison would be a good start but here are my top 10 suggestions:
glen satell April 10, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Town Square- Close Flat Shoals from Glenwood to Metropolitan and make it a public square. You would also have to create an entrance from Metropolitan to the parking lot behind the retail shops on the west side of Flat Shoals (probably behind the old fire station). I believe having this type of public space has helped Little 5 Points and Decatur immeasurably The Square would enable to Village to more easily host more events designed to strengthen the community such as outdoor movies and concerts and draw more people to the community such as festivals like Beef Festival, BATL and the Strut. The square would also allow for more entertainment on an everyday basis such as acoustic music, etc. More outdoor seating would be available at the restaurants. It would also allow for pop up retail which would bring some excitement. If the square was owned by EACA and/or EABA, the retail and events could generate money more promotion and improvements to the community. Rooftop Decks-Another big change that I would like to see particularly of west side of Flat Shoals would be a series of roof top decks (ie. 6 Feet Under, New Orleans) I believe that they would bring an added dimension to the village that I don't think can be matched in the Atlanta area.
glen satell April 10, 2011 at 04:54 PM
Finish the street-scape- In particular, taking out the median at McPherson and Moreland with an island on the south side filled with greenery and a more noticeable sign that is oriented to face Moreland . The plan also calls for the road name to be changed to Flat Shoals. Replace Buddy's- In addition, to the street-scape replace the Buddy's complex with something more inviting. Since the building is so narrow I would suggest a Sushi Bar with outdoor seating. This change would alter the entrance to the village from an eyesore that people drive past on Moreland to tantalizing vision beckoning people to see what else lies within. Small Amphitheater in Brownwood Park- I am not asking for a big amphitheater, just an area that could serve as a stage. I think this could be fun for the kids in the park to act on stage, allow for local groups to do low cost productions and enable music events to be held in the park.
glen satell April 10, 2011 at 04:55 PM
A commercial/residential complex (ie like the ones in Decatur, Memorial Drive, etc) that is at least 4 stories. There is plenty of room for this between the Antique Mart and the library. It would bring more density to the neighborhood that our retailers desperately need. I am always amazed how Caroll St. which is about 5 ft. wide and tucked into a corner can support the amount of businesses and restaurants that it does. A parking deck- This probably is an example of overindulgence but if all the above changes make EAV the magnet it could be we would need more parking. The deck could be a part of the commercial/residential complex. A shuttle- if we have the parking deck it might make sense to have a shuttle that takes people such as those coming off of I 20 and takes them from the Village to Edgewood shopping center, train station, Little 5 Points, and maybe even Virginia Highlands. This could ease congestion on Moreland and make the area a bigger draw for people in the metro Atlanta area as a shopping and entertainment destination. This initiative could be funded by the pop up retail in the Village Square and by businesses/business associations in each of the areas.
glen satell April 10, 2011 at 04:56 PM
More festivals- One of greatest strengths is our festivals. It seems as though we have one almost every month: the Beer Festival, Bike Rally, Batl, Strut, Eav-a-ween, Christmas tree lighting. Still it would be good to have more that appeal to different groups. A gay/lesbian type festival would help cement EAV as the predominant Gayborhood. I am told there was one in the 70s with a name similar to Woodstock but I can not remember its name. An African Diaspora or Caribbean festival would show that despite its gentrification, East Atlanta is proud of its diversity. Some sort of a water festival during the hot summer months would be a fun way to cool down. In addition, having the village square and amphitheater would enable more music festivals and festivals for things such as storytelling I think that if these changes are implemented than the EAV would easily attract the art galleries, wine shops, yoga studios, etc. However, until we make the Village more of draw for our retailers, we will have to be happy with whatever we get
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 11, 2011 at 10:49 AM
Wow, all great ideas, Glen, though I like the folks at Buddy's; they're friendly and hospitable. I'm not sure if a parking deck would fly and if we did the Town Square concept, not sure how it would work, unless you're talking about temporary barriers at set times like they have in the New Orleans French Quarter.
LL2 April 11, 2011 at 03:15 PM
Trader Joes!
glen satell April 13, 2011 at 03:10 PM
I'm not necessarily against the people at Buddy's, I just don't think it makes for an inviting entrance to the village. Also at night it seems to be a magnet for illegal activity. The police seem to be there a lot dealing with people. As for the town square, I would see it as permanent. It would not block any residential streets and Flat Shoals in that area is kind of redundant. The traffic from the south would just go to Moreland a block or two earlier than it would have. You would probably need to provide access to the parking lot by going behind the old firehouse. I believe that having that public space would allow for a lot more activity and events in the village which would draw more people to the village. I think that having Decatur Square blocked off has really benefited Decatur. They seem to have many events especially in the summer months such as weekly concerts. I would imagine that these events have played a major part in the success of the Decatur retail and restaurant environment.
Mark Tinker April 13, 2011 at 04:42 PM
Great ideas, guys. I am not, however, going to speculate on the name of the Gay Festival that is similar to Woodstock. Also: Street vendors/Food carts was kinda what I was thinking. Still ruminating though for specifics. I thought Boners was a great idea. I mean for the restaurant thing... From my previous post... Just to be clear.
Mark Tinker April 13, 2011 at 04:43 PM
Trader Vic's!!
betty April 13, 2011 at 08:50 PM
i would like to see a craft beer store and less pop up little clothing stores that do not cater to the average villager.
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 13, 2011 at 09:24 PM
Glen: I agree with you on the Decatur idea. The square does unify and create a center for activities and the like. While we're on the topic, what do you think should be done with the old fire station – which some rats have been calling home — and the old grammar school behind it?
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 13, 2011 at 09:25 PM
Mark: Thank you for CLEARING that up. We're trying to keep it PG at EAPatch Monday thru Friday, LOL!
Péralte Paul (Editor) April 13, 2011 at 09:27 PM
Betty: I agree 100%. I call them 15 minute stores — they're there for 15 minutes then they disappear.
Mandy Smith July 07, 2011 at 04:44 PM
i'm digging this thread. i think the old school house would make a great residence. but id like to see it have the vibe of bass lofts in L5P & maybe be geared more towards renters? the firehouse would be great as a sandwich shop. what i really want to see is a space that could accommodate local produce & meats, local art on the walls & occasional openings, some local crafts like at a youngbloods, and WINE! with a food truck parked out back :-) alternatively,- stay with me on this one- a laundromat that doubles as something of an all-around creative community center. space for bands to practice & store equipment, local art exhibitions, wifi & sammies... oh and yoga. not the bougie kind. above all, i feel like an effort needs to be made to bring life in the daytime to the village. more people need to speak up about the goods & services that would bring them to the retail zone during those hours.
Péralte Paul (Editor) July 07, 2011 at 06:00 PM
I've been wanting a wine shop for years! As for sammies, Urban Cannibals is pretty good. But I agree with you. EAV is hopping Friday through Sunday but during the week, daytime is slow retailwise, compared with Little 5 Pts. and Va-Highland. I'm not sure why.

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