In 2011, I decided to visit some of my friends in Atlanta for Halloween.
At the time, I wasn’t living in Atlanta — I was living in Los Angeles. But I had some friends who lived in Atlanta, and I always had a strange fondness and connection to Atlanta, and I had no Halloween plans in L.A., so I bought my ticket to Atlanta for Halloween.
We ended up doing a lot on that trip, including the usual tourist destinations — Centennial Olympic Park, the Atlanta History Center, Margaret Mitchell House. Centennial because it’s the ultimate tourist destination – World of Coke, Aquarium, the fountains. Atlanta History Center because I have always been interested in the Civil War. The Margaret Mitchell House because Gone With The Wind is my favorite movie/book of all time.
All these things are still in Atlanta today, five years later.
But there are a few things that have vastly changed since my first visit to Atlanta. Here are just a few…
2011: Back then, I loved England (I still love England). The idea of a secret bar with a red British telephone booth entrance was one of the most exciting things I had ever seen. This bar was located in the East Andrews Entertainment district of Buckhead, an area that, I came to realize upon moving to Atlanta, is an incredibly pretentious area of town. But at the time, I didn’t care where I was because it was the coolest thing ever. We sat at the bar and the bartender made me a custom drink based on the flavors I liked; I remember having a pink raspberry lemonade concoction with burned lemon skin, and my 23-year-old self thought that was so. awesome. We sat on one of the couches afterwards and just chilled out.
2016: The East Andrews Entertainment District closed down after New Year’s Eve, closing Prohibition down with it, and a significant area of nightlife in Buckhead. But there’s a new similar replacement: Red Phone Booth in Downtown. I have yet to check it out, but it’s on my list.
North Druid Hills / Brookhaven Area
2011: I didn’t know much about the various neighborhoods of Atlanta, but pop culture told me that Buckhead was the nice part of town. So I figured that I should be staying in Buckhead during my stay. I made the mistake of letting another friend book the hotel for us all, but I thought the hotel chosen was going to be fine because it was in Buckhead, according to the Internet. It ended up being the really dingy Red Roof Inn off of North Druid Hills Road and Buford Highway. I’m pretty sure drug deals were going on at this hotel. It was dark, not heavily lit, and looked like a hotel where murderers go to hide. I only came to find out upon actually getting to the area that this is not actually Buckhead… Buckhead was down the road.
2016: I now live in Brookhaven. Brookhaven was formerly unincorporated DeKalb County and became a city in 2012, a year after I visited (and the year I moved to Atlanta). My specific neighborhood in Brookhaven is nestled between Dresden Drive and North Druid Hills Road, anchored by Peachtree Road to one side and Buford Highway/Clairmont Road on the other. I’ve only lived in Brookhaven for a year, but it’s kind of crazy that I could probably run to the Red Roof Inn now if I wanted to in only a couple of miles, passing beautiful and expensive homes along the way that have only sprouted up these past few years. The area is almost unrecognizable from that part of town I saw back in 2011. To be fair, Buford Highway itself hasn’t looked like it has changed all too much, but all in all, I no longer think it’s as sketchy as it used to be. (Also, it looks like the Red Roof Inn got a renovation since 2011).
Murder Kroger / The Masquerade / The Beltline
Saving the most extreme renovations for last!
2011: One of my friends recommended that we go to an event called the Brouhaha at The Masquerade, a music venue in Atlanta. I said “sure” and went along with this idea, because it sounded fun. I remember it was a long drive from the Red Roof Inn, and once we got there, it seemed like another dark, not heavily lit part of town – I was starting to sense a theme here. We parked at a Kroger nearby because parking at The Masquerade was apparently scarce. Of course, living in L.A. at the time, I was freaking out that we could get towed. I was reassured by my friends that we would not get towed, and that people park in this Kroger all the time to go to the Masquerade. We walked into the Kroger for some reason that I can’t remember, and then we headed back outside and go underneath an incredibly frightening bridge and head over to a building that looked like a dingy shack, filled with edgy punk-rock looking people. My Pooh Bear outfit did not look like it belonged here. The Masquerade ended up being pretty fun. There were three rooms/stages called Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory, and there were different types of music being played in each room. There was a costume contest. When the night ended, we walked back under the frightening bridge and to my relief, our car was still there and perfectly intact.
2016: Where… to… begin.
Let’s start with the Kroger. It wasn’t until after I moved to Atlanta that I found out that that particular Kroger had a fond nickname: Murder Kroger.
Why Murder Kroger? Because two people were killed in the parking lot in 1991 and 2015; because a body was found in the parking lot in 2002, and because a student was shot in a neighboring apartment complex that shares the same parking lot in 2012. And in general, because that Kroger has been privy to a lot of sketchy things, like robberies, homeless people, condom wrappers, spoiled milk, etc.
Just this past Thursday, I attended a “vigil” for Murder Kroger. The vigil was held in part to protest giant gentrification efforts: the Kroger, which is considered a local landmark, is going to be shut down this weekend and that space will be used to create a new mixed-use development (still with a Kroger as an anchor – just much fancier) in 2018.
Some photos of Murder Kroger on its last days:
So, why the reason for this change? Because this Kroger happens to be adjacent to a new project called the Atlanta BeltLine.
It wasn’t until I was walking on the BeltLine just this Thursday as I attended a #COLORATL adult coloring party that I realized that the exact terrifying bridge we once crossed underneath back in 2011 to get to the Masquerade was the bridge I frequently crossed over on my many walks on the Beltline, overlooking a beautiful view of the Atlanta skyline. I never put two and two together until this week.
And while the Masquerade is still there physically, the location of the venue moved to another part of town. It was shut down in this particular area to make way for more gentrification efforts along the BeltLine. So, alas, the Masquerade and the Kroger are no longer there as I write this.
So, what is the Beltline? In quickest terms: the BeltLine is a pedestrian trail filled with local artwork from the Atlanta community, adjacent to parks, neighborhoods, restaurants, and living spaces. The New York Times even wrote an article about it, here. I’ve used the BeltLine for strolls during the day, stopping by Ponce City Market to get an overpriced Korean taco dumpling lunch, then walking around the BeltLine and taking pictures of the surrounding artwork, trying to find Tiny Doors, then exiting to the historic Inman Park neighborhood to get an popsicle from King of Pops, and then continuing my stroll all the way to Krog Street Market, where I may get Jeni’s ice cream and an Urban Pl8 paleo dinner. Sometimes I’ll go the other direction and end up at Piedmont Park.
Definitely a lifestyle that was not around back in 2011 at all.
Atlanta has changed a lot in just five years. While this is just my first post in this blog, I hope to use this as a way to keep up with the changes as they come, the good and the bad, and document my experiences around the Atlanta area and beyond.