Neighborhoods > Midtown, Atlanta

I have been living in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood for nearly two months now. With a single speed bicycle serving as my only means of getting around this driving city, most of my explorations and discoveries have been focused around Midtown and its immediately surrounding environs like Poncey Highlands, Little Five Points, and East Atlanta.

As a byproduct of being Atlanta’s unofficial gay neighborhood, Midtown contains many of the city’s best art museums, theaters, bars and restarants, along with a host of other cultural diversions. There are a number of thriving commercial districts centered mainly along Peachtree and 10th streets, while the neighborhood’s residential fabric is a diverse mixture of sleek high rise condos and older single family homes that border on the neighborhood’s crown jewel, Piedmont Park. The photo below is from a recent walk around that park, looking towards a portion of Midtown’s impressively evolving skyline. Alternatively known as Lake Clara Meer, this is the largest body of water within the 189-acre park and is particularly stagnant and algae-covered at the peak of the summer. There are several signs posted to discourage swimming, but they hardly seem necessary given the smell and soupy consistency of the water.

Looking west from along Piedmont Road you can see the contrast between Midtown’s varied residential districts. Whereas eastern Midtown is characterized by leafy streets lined with wood frame Victorians and mid-century brick apartment blocks, the western portion that borders on I-75 is a spectacle of glassy offices, condos and hotels that have only gone up in the past twenty years. Looking northward from the rooftop of the Georgian Terrace Hotel, the photo below shows the contrast between ‘new’ and ‘old’ Midtown.

Also seen from atop the Georgian Terrace is our apartment building at the corner of 3rd and Juniper streets. The yellow brick structure contains roughly twelve units and occupies a transitional zone between the leafy low rise blocks of old Midtown and the spacious condo towers of new Midtown.

The aerial shot above was taken from Google Earth and is looking vaguely southeast, with Piedmont Park highlighted to the left and Interstate 75 (a vital North-South throughway) highlighted in fuchsia at right. The Nook on Piedmont Park is a cozy neighborhood bar and restaurant where Megan and I have both been working since our second week here. The proximity between work and home is ideal, with the blue line tracing my <5 minute commute by bicycle. The orange and pink lines trace varied return routes along Myrtle and Juniper streets, respectively.

The yellow line in the upper right follows Ponce de Leon Avenue, the unofficial border between Midtown and Downtown and a historical division line between the mostly caucasian districts to the north and their black counterparts to the south. Today Ponce de Leon’s reputation as a border seems increasingly irrelevant, as both sides of it are characterized by newly developed residential buildings, rising land values, and sporadic pockets of street life.

A westward looking view over Ponce shows a number of condo and apartment blocks in the foreground, with the comparatively suburban Midtown and Poncey Highland districts in the distance. With close access to major business districts, an idyllic city park, and substantial swaths of street life befitting of a city with higher population densities, it’s obvious why Midtown has become  a desirably urbane neighborhood for Atlanta’s upwardly mobile classes. Though I am perfectly comfortable around the condo dwellers of the world, my search for the city’s bohemian and hipster enclaves has lead me to nearby Poncey Highlands and Little Five Points, the latter of which has an old high school converted into trendy lofts, but that’s a whole different post. Stay tuned!

-MJC

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