Can I live? [in Atlanta]
May 13, 2015 8:17 AM   Subscribe

Tell me if or how I could like living in Atlanta.

I have the potential to work at a very large, very prestigious government agency in Atlanta. I want to figure out where I might move and if I might find "my people" there.

I am currently living in NYC (eh, it's okay), and lived in (and adored) DC for a long time. I'm originally from the suburbs of Chicago.

I am 27, female, white, very progressive and outspoken, politically engaged. I balance the worst of the Midwest (self-effacing, overly polite, far too friendly) and the worst of the Northeast (brash, outspoken, self-righteous). That is to say - while I can manage small talk with anyone with a smile on my face, my brain goes and goes and goes and I have Very Strong Feelings about politics.

I like my local public library and farmers' markets, drinking beer outside and swimming. I would love to own a dog. I don't currently have a car, but I grew up in the suburbs and can own a car. I would hate to have a long commute. I would be open to biking. My preferred NYC neighborhoods are in Brooklyn. I am not a hipster, but could probably play one on TV (basic cable only, though).

I am most concerned with finding friends, and living in a neighborhood that is close to friends and work. (I know, big ask.) I would most likely be on the main campus of said government agency.

Where do you live in Atlanta? Do you like it? How do you get around? Are there young people? Is everyone a Republican? Please and thank you.
posted by quadrilaterals to Grab Bag (17 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Atlanta is one of those places that young progressives move to if they're not moving out of the South. I don't live their currently, but I think you could be very happy living in Decatur if you were working at the CDC, for instance, or living in Midtown if you were working at the local FDA branch.

It's not a bike friendly town (although a handful of crazy people who can stand their own against bike aggressive drivers do bike commute), and the public transit is limited, so you're on the right track thinking about living close. My happiest year in Atlanta was when I moved to an apartment in Midtown, and then three weeks later got a job that made it a 2-block commute. At least in 2010, doing that was affordable in Atlanta in a way that it never would have been in NYC.
posted by deludingmyself at 8:29 AM on May 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

Ha, I loved Atlanta. It'll always feel like home.

There are lots of young people, lots of art, lots of progessives, lots of beers and beers on patios, but I was never a recreational swimmer as an adult until I moved to Denver and I need heated pools to not despair over winter. I am sure there are lots of pools.

I used a car mostly in Atlanta, until I moved to Cabbagetown, there I was able to ride my bike or walk to (Things to google, all within 2 miles or so of Cabbagetown)

Little Five Points: Elmyr (burritos and beer!), Variety Playhouse, The Vortex, (burgers and beer), The Yacht Club,etc.
Atlanta Beltline: Exercise and more burritos, plus public art
Edgewood Shopping Center: not cool, but where the Target and Kroger is so you can do your shit without driving to the suburbs
East Atlanta: Bars and fun!

Anyways, lots more, but I gotta work.
posted by stormygrey at 8:31 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

(Also if the govt agency is really large, can you tell us which or maybe an idea of where it is? Atlanta offers very different experiences depending on where you live and work, both because of demographics, housing stock, local politics & commute implications.)
posted by deludingmyself at 8:32 AM on May 13, 2015

As a 30 year old male (working at a large media company...) who doesn't love huge northern cities (I'm from NJ, so I'm accustomed to NYC and Philly) I love Atlanta. It's very progressive (as much if not more so than Philadelphia) and all of those interests you listed are absolutely here in abundance.

You will have to be ok driving to get around but that said, there are so many great neighborhoods and hangouts all over the city that you'd love. Google Decatur, Little Five Points, Cabbagetown, Virginia Highlands, Inman Park.

I feel very confident you'll be happy here! Feel free to message me if you want to talk more, have additional questions, etc.

(I may be a bit biased as I met my fiancee here)
posted by rbf1138 at 8:34 AM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I moved to Decatur, just east of Atlanta, last year and love it. There's a dog park within walking distance, I've made friends my age (early 30s), there's amazing beer, and I don't think I've encountered any Republicans in my neighborhood. Last week my girlfriend and I (also visibly a woman) went for a walk in the park and old straight couples smiled at us. I'm very happy I moved here.

That said, I lucked out. Decatur is expensive. The suburbs can be pretty conservative. Driving in Atlanta is actually hell, and summer is not very pleasant. But it's not the red wasteland some people seem to imagine. There are definitely areas that are full of young liberals, and there's tons of activism happening. Let me know if you want more info!
posted by a hat out of hell at 8:35 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I work for a very large, very prestigious government agency in Atlanta at its main campus. And I've lived here for about 9 years, having moved here from Philadelphia (which I loved because it's a big NE city at a personable scale). I'm also progressive and like many of the things you do.

And I love living in Atlanta.

I live in the Midtown area of Atlanta, near Piedmont Park, which is Atlanta's version of Central Park (same designer even). Piedmont Park is fantastic. It has vast swaths of greenery, a lake, farmers markets on Saturdays, festivals, and two dog parks. Midtown is a lot of fun to live in. It's vibrant and walkable, with lots of little restaurants, markets, and bars. People live in a mix of luxury highrise condos and cute old houses. It's a 17 minute drive to my agency.

There are other cool quirky areas to live in (Inman Park, East Atlanta Village, Decatur, Little 5 Points, Old 4th Ward, etc) that are community and walking centric and within 20-30 minutes of the agency. The Beltline project is a beltline of green walking/running/biking space that connects a lot of interesting neighborhoods in Atlanta. It'd be fantastic to live near there. Unfortunately, the area within walking distance of the agency is a bit more of an old suburb, so that might not work for you. Which leads me to my next point.

Despite these revived walkable neighborhoods, Atlanta is still fundamentally a car town. I drive. A car or scooter will expand your horizons (and neighborhood choices) vastly. Public transit can be hit or miss but seems to be improving.

Finally, I found people here to be very friendly. There are tons of young, progressive people in the core of Atlanta. As others have mentioned, those who are weird, artsy, gay, or progressive have escaped the more conservative non-urban Southeast to cluster here in Atlanta.

You'll like it.
posted by Mercaptan at 8:42 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Said government agency is the CDC.
posted by quadrilaterals at 8:46 AM on May 13, 2015

You sound like a great potential Atlantan!

Yes, you'll need a car, but there are also fun bike clubs. It's less for transportation (overall) and more for recreation.

Craft beer is a'go. ATL is the home of Sweetwater for pete's sake.

Yes, there are tons of young people. The places they congregate are fairly spread out, but in my day (seven years ago) the more interesting activity was clustered in East Atlanta (pubs, shows, burger joints), Cabbage Town (at least one cafe and one bar), Decatur (chill patio sitting, some art, at least one dancey club), North Ave by the Murder Kroger (the triad of The Local, MJQ, and Clermont Lounge - no idea if people still go there), Little 5 Points (record store, punk shops, vintage, pizza, burgers), and West Midtown (coffee shops, a few bars, lots of boutiques, upscale groceries/restaurants).

Decatur has Your Dekalb Farmers' Market, which is the end-all-be-all of farmers markets. I live in NYC now, but there is sincerely nothing like this place.

You want to own a dog? Holy crap - you could have a backyard, potentially. Also, dog parks abound.

I think I know what government agency you're talking about. If it's the one that has a main campus in Decatur, I think you'll like living there.

I was quite young when I lived there (20 - 27), so was free to make friends with other very young people, unencumbered by children/responsibilities. I defer to others with more experience in making friends in your late 20s/early 30s, in ATL.

Good luck!
posted by functionequalsform at 8:57 AM on May 13, 2015

I've lived in Decatur for almost exactly 4 years. It is hella expensive for Atlanta, but meets my desired combination of walkable, transitable, and interesting (which makes up for my reverse commute to the suburbs). The drinking here is excessive, and very fun. Patios are almost always involved. There are three great microbrews in Decatur/Avondale (Three Taverns, Blue Tarp, and Wild Heaven) and dozens more around the metro area. I am also a swimmer, and the city pools are great. The recent write-up in the New York Times has been heavily mocked here, but it might be helpful to you.

There is even an Emory campus bus that would take you to and from work for free every day.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:08 AM on May 13, 2015

Oh, you'll be fine in East Atlanta or Decatur. Very very fine. I love the ATL. I live in a marginally hoody area of Decatur and commute downtown every day. Alone, by the way, and I'm unconcerned in the main about my safety which is to say, I feel safe. I will move again next year probably and will only move from my cute house for a more walkable location. It's good on the East Side.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:10 AM on May 13, 2015

My best friend used to work for the CDC years ago (she has since moved to DC to still work within the government); I myself am a former Atlantan. If you want to stay near your job, then definitely Decatur or maybe Lake Claire (depending). If you don't mind living a scootch farther afield, I will always plump for my old neighbourhood of Cabbagetown, which I love and miss.

Atlanta is a pretty bad-ass place to live. It's a friendly city and there is always lots to do.
posted by Kitteh at 9:11 AM on May 13, 2015

Progressive, dog-owning, young person of your demographic here!

I moved to Atlanta about 5 years ago from Denver. I never expected to move to the South, and had some pre-concieved notions about what it might be like, but I've really enjoyed being here. Def find a place ITP (inside the perimeter), but expect to drive a lot of places, and be prepared for traffic, because it's real here. Previous posters are giving you good advice about neighborhoods; Decatur is absolutely awesome, and I've considered moving there many a time, but it is a little separated from other Atlanta neighborhoods. Not by a lot, but it makes a difference for me personally. I currently live in Poncey-Highland which is going through it's own renaissance due to the Beltline Project; I like that I have access to basically everything I want by bike/walking trails, but also more easily accessible to Westside and Decatur by car. You might look closer at Candler Park, which has a lot of houses for rent. Avoid places where your work commute offers no alternatives around Moreland Ave or Ponce de Leon Ave. I know someone mentioned Dekalb Farmer's Market, but really, go there. I will say that rents have gone up A LOT over the last two years as these neighborhoods are changing, but coming from NYC it probably won't be a huge deal.

To keep myself from lingering here, my top 3 favorite things about Atlanta:
1. Tons of young, interesting, socially engaged people who are doing cool things with themselves and for others.
2. Food/ will never be at a loss for a good place to hang out. Each neighborhood has it's own flavor, so if you need something different, you only have to walk on over and get it!
3. The city is pretty dynamic in terms of experience and life backgrounds. Coming from a place that was very white-washed, I really appreciate that I feel I can meet people are completely different from me in every way, and that we can have a dialogue that teaches me new ways of thinking.

Have we convinced you yet?
posted by gollie at 10:44 AM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Huh, I'm definitely not going to go with the consensus here: I'm not a huge fan of ATL, though it may be an ok match for you.

I live in Atlanta and work for the best federal agency around (though not your federal agency). I'm lucky enough to live in Midtown and have an easy, pleasant walk to work every day which is awesome.

I'm on the main campus of your federal agency on a pretty regular basis and it is a good bit away from the funner areas of Atlanta (like mine!) that are a match for your needs. What does a big commute mean to you? If you think a 20-40 minute OW commute would be fine, then you'd likely be fine.

Things you'll like:
-Piedmont park dog park. I love this place. They have beer in the dog park some nights during the summer. It is nowhere close to CDC.
-Atlanta is safe, as long as you're not a biker or a pedestrian. Be a defensive walker/driver!
-Lots of awesome local beer.
-A bunch of interesting things that are close by within a few hours drive.
-Great zoo and botanical garden.

Things I particularly don't like about Atlanta:
-Atlanta drivers are slow and aggressive. Turning on your turn signal is absolutely a sign of weakness. Mr. Arnicae and I, both very confident, safe drivers have been in more near misses in Atlanta than in years of driving in L.A., New York, and abroad. However, people say the traffic is the worst in Atlanta - that's not true. It isn't as bad as several other congested areas I've lived. The drivers, however, definitely are the worst. Level up your car insurance.
Don't bike. Walking is perilous enough (I rarely go through a week without almost getting hit by someone. This isn't personal, they're not really going after bikers - they just don't have any awareness that there might be non-motorized things traveling on the road. I work in emergency management and regularly comment that if someone hears I've died, that it will have been because I was hit by a car walking to work. You might want to google the number of fatalities we have, there are a lot.
-Humidity sucks. If you already lived in and loved DC and NYC this may not be a factor for you. I will mention I will happily move to D.C., it is my favorite city in the known universe.
-Farmers markets are lame. Yes yes yes the Dekalb Farmers Market is amazing but it is not a farmers market, it is a gigantic international grocery store. In fact, YDFM is the best thing about Atlanta (no joke). But the actual farmer's markets are paltry excuses for craft bazaars. The Piedmont Park Green Market (ha) typically has two stalls with veggies and other fresh stuff in and amongst the teeming throngs of people selling fancy lunchboxes and hand screen printed whatevers. The farmers markets in the NE and the West (and even DC!) are something I really, really, really miss.
-Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. Busiest airport in the world in terms of passengers passing through! And incredibly run down. They're cleaning up bits and pieces of it here and there, but it is really filthy and gross for the most part. And, bonus, LOTS of delays for flights into Atlanta.
-Public transit stinks unless you live in the urban core. MARTA is awesome for me, I go straight from my office to the airport (and there is a station right in the terminal!). It is safe, entertainingly weird and decently priced. It won't take you to CDC. Or much of anywhere else.
-Can't get a good pizza to save your life. The ONLY good pizza is Pizza Antico, which is snooty pizza in Midtown. You can tell it is bad when we're getting frozen pizza shipped in from Chicago and NYC. Currently the best local pizza is the take and bake from Costco, which should be a measure of how badly Atlanta pizza stinks.
-I've been waiting for a place where I could pick peaches or u-pick other stuff. I've struck out though I have found pumpkins at farms. Also, I get better peaches without any question in California, the PNW and basically anywhere else. I have been here several years and I'm still waiting for awesome local produce.

Ok, gotta get back to work. If you're considering a job
posted by arnicae at 11:21 AM on May 13, 2015

The CDC would be an easy 20 minute drive from Midtown or any of the east-side neighborhoods. You could probably also take a bus and/or bike if you pick a place exactly right but I would not be concerned about that commute at all. Many of the east-side neighborhoods are really wonderful and you would just need to find the one whose flavor you like the best. There are lots of people like you here. I think you would really like it.

My neighborhood opinions:

Midtown - really really annoying to drive around here, amazing park (Piedmont), tons of bars and restaurants, more upscale than the east-side.

Ansley Park - like Midtown, but bigger houses and very quiet, older and wealthy. Not as walkable.

Virginia-Highland - 2nd most upscale after Midtown, tends to attract a lot of younger people coming to party. Restaurants and bars galore. Despite that it still feels really beautiful and quiet and charming to me. This is probably the closest neighborhood to the CDC that is still young-ish and vibrant.

Grant Park - beautiful victorians, lots of hipsters and tattoos, one of the more expensive neighborhoods, also near Oakland Cemetery which is really cool.

Ormewood Park - cute residential sliver between Grant Park and East Atlanta. Bungalows.

East Atlanta - still feels a little rough around the edges to me, more of an alternative/grungy/urban feeling than Grant Park. Lots of restaurants, some dance clubs, so on. Pretty affordable.

Candler Park/Lake Claire - where hippies moved when they decided to raise children. Fairly expensive. A bit yuppie now, very nice, a decent park (Candler), some little shops and a few restaurants. Lake Claire has a kind of eccentric/crunchy undercurrent to it. (For example neighborhood drum circles.)

Inman Park - outrageously expensive now, very nice historic houses and a few shops and restaurants. I feel like it's gorgeous but doesn't have as much character. Traffic is getting terrible due in part to the Krog Street Market which is by all accounts awesome.

Little Five Points - a mostly retail district by Inman Park and Candler Park. Feels grungy in a purposeful and self-conscious way. (There's a stereotype that rich kids from the suburbs come hang out there and pretend to be homeless.) But some people really like it so maybe I just don't get it.

Edgewood/Kirkwood - very similar to each other though Kirkwood feels a little nicer and safer. Near a big shopping district. Also downtown Kirkwood has some good bars, restaurants and shops. Good place for a house and a dog in my opinion.

East Lake (where I live) - very residential but close to everything else. If you want to walk everywhere it might be inconvenient but otherwise I absolutely love it. Fairly affordable and lots of moms with babies, people walking dogs, etc. All that mixed in with some elderly neighbors that have lived here forever.

Oakhurst/Decatur - downtown Decatur has tons of good things to do. Otherwise, it's very nice, safe and expensive. (You can still get good deals on apartments, though.) Lots and lots of families, but very liberal. (I would consider all of the east-side liberal.)

Gosh, there's also Reynoldstown, Cabbagetown, Morningside, and probably many others that are in a loose circle around the CDC, but I'm going on too long. Basically, come here, rent somewhere, and explore all the neighborhoods until you find the one that feels like you. It's hot, traffic sucks, but it's growing and changing (for the better) and it's an affordable, vibrant city with lots of personality and close to the beach and the mountains. And it is pretty liberal overall.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 12:16 PM on May 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

The secret to loving Atlanta is having a short commute and finding a neighborhood you love. Atlanta is filled with awesome neighborhoods and cost of living is pretty low, so it's easy to have a nice lifestyle. If you're coming to CDC A) you'll fit right in and B) City of Decatur, Kirkwood, Candler Park, or Inman Park would have reasonable commutes and sound like they would be up your alley. Everyone I know who has moved to Atlanta without a car eventually caves. It's hot, hilly, humid, and the drivers can be scary when you're on a bike. I love Atlanta and I hope you will too!
posted by k96sc01 at 1:06 PM on May 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Giving you a different take, just based on geography. All of the advice upthread is great, but let me boil it down for you: all of the neighborhoods people are suggesting are bordered on the west by I-75/85, the north by Ponce de Leon, the south by Memorial (excepting Grant Park, Ormewood, and E. Atlanta Village), and the east by I-285. In all cases, the CDC is north of that slice. If you think about Atlanta as being laid out like a clock face, with I-285 (aka the perimeter) forming the outside edge of the clockface, the CDC is at 1:30 or so and everyone is suggesting you live somewhere along the wedge between 2:30 and 3:00, which is pretty reasonable advice given your likes and your politics.

Don't underestimate the commute, even for these "in town" neighborhoods. I live about a mile from the CDC, so this is something I deal with every day. The challenge with getting to the main campus is that the two roads that bracket it, Briarcliff and N. Decatur, are both mostly two lane (no, I'm not kidding). And it sits in the middle of the Emory University campus and a bunch of world class hospitals, so you are competing with that traffic, coming and going. So if you lived in, say, Virginia Highlands, you would literally only have to deal with Briarcliff for about a hundred yards; if you lived in Ormewood or E. Atlanta, you'd be looking at more like 7 miles on Briarcliff.

If your experience is NYC, DC, and Chicago, then Atlanta will be a very different experience. I love it here, but for a metro area of 6M people, it isn't like the other metros. The population density is actually really low - like 2,200 people per square mile, compared to 60K in parts of Manhattan. That is part of the reason we all have to drive so much, everything is comparatively spread out. You mentioned that you don't currently own a car - you are going to need a car to live here. People manage to not own a car, but it is like a 10 out of 10 on the technical difficulty scale and not worth attempting if you don't already know the city.

Good luck with the decision! Also, I'd be happy to answer any drill down questions on Atlanta or the Emory area if you want to memail me.
posted by kovacs at 7:08 PM on May 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I just realized that no one has mentioned Emory Point. It is a pretty new "New Urbanism" "live, work, play" development that is more or less across the street from the CDC. They have an Earth Fare (a lot like Whole Foods) and a CVS and a ton of restaurants. Living there, you would be able to walk to work and use campus and city buses to get lots of other places, including to the Decatur MARTA rail station. It does not have the organic interestingness of Little Five Points, East Atlanta, or Decatur, but it would mean you would not have to buy a car immediately and would give you time to scope things out and get used to things like our preposterous traffic and driving before you perhaps would want to move somewhere more exciting. Just another idea. This is the residential leasing site, and there are some apartments available now and more coming available throughout the summer.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:47 AM on May 14, 2015 [1 favorite]

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