Atlanta existence
July 6, 2005 7:35 AM   Subscribe

My friend is moving to Atlanta and wants advice on different neighborhoods.

Her questions:
'Is atlanta a real city? With areas that are communities with some trees and not apartment cells like a dead wasp nest? And social growth of some sort that comes out of prior poverty and non-Man places to gather foodstuffs. And from which I can ride a bicycle to Emory University and live to tell of it?
Is it possible to exist carlessly?'
posted by driveler to Society & Culture (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, we have one the best places on earth to buy groceries:

Your DeKalb Farmers Market must be seen to be believed.

When the missus and I first moved to Atlanta we lived off of Rock Springs Road in a charming little four flat in the Druid Hills area (close to Emory). Atlanta still has loads of trees ("The City in the Forest") in most places. I don't know what the rents are like there now, it's a really nice place though.
posted by Scoo at 7:50 AM on July 6, 2005

I lived in Midtown and just off Moreland and Ponce and I loved both places. The traffic was pretty unbearable, and the summers are too hot for me, but the city is lovely.

I'd recommend sticking to the neighborhoods in the city since the outlying suburbs (especially outside the perimeter) are wretched, at least in my opinion.
posted by bshort at 8:19 AM on July 6, 2005

Good advice: Stay "inside the Perimeter" (I-285)...

Sprawly-SUV-driving-neocon-bushie-loving-gay-bashing-black-fearing-consumerist havens abound outside the perimeter; the real city is made up of those distinct, quirky neighborhoods and those diverse populations that dwell within.

IMHO. (What do I know... maybe you like that other stuff...)

Some neighborhoods to check out: Morningside, Virginia Highland, Druid Hills, Decatur, Inman Park, East Lake, Candler Park...

I've lived here for over 20 years, and love it...
posted by jpburns at 8:57 AM on July 6, 2005

"Moving to Atlanta" is such an amorphous thing to say. This place is mammoth, and the traffic can be horrendous. There are a lot of places to live around Emory, probably everything from the sublime to the ridiculous. If she wants to live in (or doesn't mind living in) a "corporate" apartment place (Post, or some such), Apartment Finder or a similar service will probably be good for her. Alternately, she will have to find someplace to rent that is not "corporate" and that can be slightly difficult if you don't have some feet on the ground in the city for you.

As for Atlanta being a "real" city: MARTA (what passes for mass transit here) is a miserable failure. However, we do have excellent nightlife, music, etc. Some of the nightlife will require cars or depending on MARTA. Some other nightlife, like Eddie's Attic, will be quite close to Emory.

I am not sure what "social growth of some sort that comes out of prior poverty" is supposed to actually mean, but Inman Park and the surrounding environs have been coming up recently, and it seems as if a lot of hipsters live there now. Not sure if this fits the bill, but it's not near Emory. I don't know what biking is like around Emory, but I would think it's not too bad considering it's a campus. However, I do not think that Atlanta is a very "bike friendly" city in general. We didn't make the "bike friendly" list I found here, and that pretty much fits my perception. Probably someone who does actively bike in the city can tell you better, but I do not see a ton of bike lanes and we all drive like bats out of hell.

There will be a WholeFoods or Fresh Market or something in the area, and there is always the aforementioned Farmer's Market. I also ran across this page which seems to have a lot of good information.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:58 AM on July 6, 2005

Another note: Plenty of normal, reasonable people live outside the Perimeter. Don't get caught up in the OTP/ITP business. Your friend needs to live near enough to Emory to bike, apparently, and that pretty much mandates living inside the Perimeter, within a reasonable distance of Emory. My husband used to live at the corner of North and North Highland -- if you need someone to email let me know (profile . . . ) we would be happy to provide additional information on particular places if we can.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:03 AM on July 6, 2005

If price is also a consideration, I suggest OTP. Depending on where you want to live in the city, prices can be absurd. Granted the same can be true OTP, but you can easily find a helluva lot more living space there than ITP.
posted by jmd82 at 10:03 AM on July 6, 2005

I grew up in Atlanta. It is very much a real city, although it has nightmarish suburbs that go on for days. In my (totally snobbish) opinion, the people who live way outside the perimeter who say they are from Atlanta really ruin the rep of Atlanta. I grew up in Morningside. It's expensive now, although it wasn't when I got there. Decatur is another city on its own (like Cambridge to Boston) which is a very cool, affordable place to live. In Atlanta Proper, there are lots of great neighborhoods with real apartments. Look down the left side of this site. These are what I would agree are the real Atlanta neighborhoods. Look here, too. If you're on a budget, stay away from Northwest Atlanta. It's where all the rich people live!

Although Atlanta has a lot of great things to offer - beautiful green spaces, great climate, AMAZING restaurants, all that sports stuff, lots and lots of local music, varied and interesting culture (except all those yuppies!) - it sadly remains very much of a car town. MARTA is adequate, not great. The subway system still only goes NS and EW. While I'd love to see it expand, the truth is that Atlanta is a place where people love their cars. It's the sad truth. Plus, it's a very hilly place (North Georgia is hilly - an hour north and you're in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains), and the roads are windy and usually confusing to newcomers.

And I'd like to repeat and add to the chorus of STAY INSIDE THE PERIMETER! Outside (and even getting close to) the perimeter (I-285) is a concrete/suburban/chain store-ridden wasteland, completely bereft of culture. Plus, if you commute in, you're going to REALLY hate living here. There are 16 lanes at some points, and you don't want to be going with the traffic. If I moved back, I'd probably shoot for Decatur or Inman Park. Parts of Virginia-Highland are still great. But especially the section nearer to Ponce is a little too transitory, a little too yuppie, a little too hip. Yawn! I'd skip it. If you're going for near Ponce, you want to be on the other side of Highland, PAST Plaza Drugs. It's a little quieter, a little cheaper.

You can have a great life there. I promise. Black/white, straight/gay, liberal/conservative... You'll find your people.
posted by abbyladybug at 10:22 AM on July 6, 2005

There are lots of great places to live in Atlanta and particularly around Emory if she is going there. I live in Decatur and it is fantastic - everything is walk/bikable, great stores, excellent community, etc... But, it takes 20 minutes to get to any highway so if I did not work nearby it would definitely be an issue.

Since she wants to bike to Emory then it is not option to live outside the perimeter (unless she really likes to bike). On that note, Atlanta drivers are pretty bad when it comes to bikers so she really will want to avoid main roads as much as possible - not a big deal, there are usually about 20 ways to get anywhere that all take about the same amount of time.

You can find great rooms/apts in Decatur, Virginia Highland, Little 5 Points, Inmand and Candler Park all of which are within a reasonable distance from Emory and all of which have nice communities and lots of green.
posted by GrumpyMonkey at 11:25 AM on July 6, 2005

I guess my distance perception is off, Monkey, but for whatever reason, Little Five and Inman seem a bit far from Emory to me. I tried to find a map of the in-towns to show some perspective, but no luck. Perhaps the making of a googlemap is in order. :)
posted by Medieval Maven at 11:31 AM on July 6, 2005

As for Atlanta being a "real" city: MARTA (what passes for mass transit here) is a miserable failure.

(Full disclosure: my employer is a MARTA contractor).

Aside from the fact that MARTA rail service isn't as expansive as say, Boston's, why do you consider it a "miserable failure"? I live in Tucker, and when my folks visited recently, I met them at the Airport, took MARTA to Avondale and took a 15 minute ride from there to my house. I had a very relaxing and pleasant chat with my parents, instead of dodging the myriad SUVs choking 85.
posted by Scoo at 12:49 PM on July 6, 2005

MARTA is basically good for one thing -- getting to and from the airport. The bus service, while giving more coverage than the rail service, requires long, and I do mean long, journeys to get anywhere. It's like the city is divided into a pie, and there's no getting anywhere near the middle of the four slices with any convenience. I would never, ever, tell someone to come visit Atlanta and just use MARTA to get around, whereas in NYC or Boston (or London or Paris) the mass transit options are 200% better. We're too big of a city to have this miserable situation. (Sorry for the derail.)
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:04 PM on July 6, 2005

I live in Atlanta in the Virginia Highlands area. It's quite nice, is very green (lots of trees), and I have a very walking centered lifestyle. You could bike to Emory from there, but it would be a bear in the heat. If you have any specific questions, feel free to email me.
posted by trox at 2:01 PM on July 6, 2005

If she doesn't live on campus, biking is not a realistic option. The area around Emory is pretty nice but, there is heavy rush hour traffic and aggressive driving all over the city. Unless you bike like a New York bike messenger, you don't want to ride a bike on the road in Atlanta. There is a small but growing set of trails that are near many of the more progressive neighborhoods in town. Public transportation is okay in Atlanta, and there is no rail line serving the Emory area, so you will be riding a bus. If she does not have a car, live as close as possible to Emory. If you have a car, then any of the previously mentioned intown neighborhoods are great. You can e-mail me if you want.
posted by monkeyman at 2:34 PM on July 6, 2005

Inside the perimeter, I'd second Decatur. It's a gorgeous little town, mostly over-run (at least in the downtown area) by Agnes Scott students in the school season. The downtown Decatur area might be too far from the Farmers Market, but if you can find somewhere near a MARTA station, you could always take it (with your bike) to get their, or to Emory.

As for outside the perimeter, if you must (I myself live outside the perimeter, but I also go to school outside there, so it fits me), I'd suggest near Alpharetta/Rt 400.
posted by itchie at 2:38 PM on July 7, 2005

I lived in Atlanta for a couple years until last year, worked at Emory, existed without a car. Some tasks will be difficult, but it is do-able. Virginia Highlands and Decatur have already been listed as two neighborhoods to check out.

I lived in Virginia Highlands myself and took the 6 bus to work. Emory does subsidize the monthly MARTA passes (fully for faculty/staff, partially for students) which may or may not compensate for the fact that the buses don't really run as regularly as one might like. A bike + subsidized MARTA may do you well. Some of the buses now are equipped with bike rack thingies so you can bus there and bike back or vice versa. Virginia Highlands also has a good nightlife that is also reasonably livable, i.e. not as rowdy as parts of Midtown or Buckhead.

Emory runs free shuttles out to the Decatur area. Depending on if you live close to the middle of Decatur, you may also be more convenient to the train-- which makes for easier trips to the airport and downtown/midtown Atlanta. You'll also be closer to the aforementioned DeKalb Farmers Market. If you're not near the shuttle route, you could maybe also take the 36 bus. You'd also be within biking distance. As for extracurriculars, Decatur's also got some great bars and restaurants: the previously mentioned Eddie's Attic, Watershed for (slightly pricy) fried chicken, that yummy Mexican food place I can't remember now, Crescent Moon for breakfast, etc. It's (arguably) a little quieter than the Highlands, but that might be more your friend's scene.

Decatur also holds a number of events in its town square, ones that actually don't suck, including a very well-regarded (by me) beer festival every October.

Sorry if there seems to be a bias-- but if I were still in Atlanta and still working at Emory, I probably would've moved to Decatur by now.
posted by Carol O at 7:16 AM on July 8, 2005

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