I live in what’s called a “transitional” neighborhood. There are a lot of nice spins for the phrase, but ultimately, for most people, it translates to “bad neighborhood that we’re crossing our fingers for.”
In the two years I’ve lived in the Old Fourth Ward, I’ve heard people be as blunt to tell me, to my face, that I live in a rough neighborhood, and to watch out. I’ve also heard them pepper it with a kinder bent, suggesting gently that I not leave the house after dark or park my car on the street.
Brandon and I knew what we were doing when we selected our home; we didn’t “end up” in our neighborhood by an unfortunate train of circumstances. We sought an investment opportunity inside the perimeter – a place with lots of potential that was close to everything we loved.
We didn’t move in blind. We recognized that for the first few years we were here, we’d have to be extra cognizant of anything we left in our cars. We’d need a solid alarm system. It played a large role in our decision to get a more intimidating-looking dog (Bear). We bought hard-core locks for the doors and, despite its ugly appearance, kept the steel door in the basement. I am the proud owner of pepper spray.
All of these preparatory behaviors are things people must do when living in an urban, transitional environment – including anywhere in New York City. They aren’t all necessarily things we’d do if we lived in Roswell, but that’s not where we wanted to live. We chose this place.
I could go into detail for days about the frustrations I’ve had with home ownership. The seemingly insurmountable and constant fixes, the yardwork, the traffic from Buckhead. But I wouldn’t count my neighborhood even in the top 10 challenges.
Brandon and I carefully weighed our options when buying our first home. We didn’t buy a house several times the price of this one, even though we could have afforded it, because we wanted to be able to still live comfortably even if one of us was out of work.
We didn’t purchase a home in Buckhead, even though it’s closer to my office, because we don’t like the scene there.
We didn’t purchase a house that was even close to our top price limit because there were better opportunities to as much as double our money in a neighborhood that wasn’t already established.
And we chose to live in a neighborhood full of diverse colors and cultures because we don’t like living in a homogenous community. Shocking!
We’ve faced our share of challenges in the Old Fourth Ward. I don’t hide the fact that I was mugged on Edgewood, or that we’ve had things stolen off our porch. I can’t justify the opportunistic crime that happens when people leave their doors or cars unlocked.
But Brandon and I expected some of these things to happen, and rather than hate the neighborhood we chose, I hate the perpetrators who continue to give our ‘hood a bad name. I can already see changes starting to happen, but we fully anticipated a 5+ year turnaround time, and I’m tired of people implying that because crime hasn’t stalled overnight that we made a bad decision.
In no other in-town neighborhood could I find a beautiful 1920s house with so much history, hardwood floors, and fenced yard space.
In no other in-town neighborhood could I find such an affordable property that’s still in walking distance from Little 5, Downtown, Edgewood, and Poncey Highlands. On a weekend, my drive to Buckhead could be 15 minutes and Atlantic Station is consistently less than a 10-minute drive in almost any traffic.
The Beltline is one of Alice’s favorite spots to run, with a close second being the Freedom Park trail. And half a block away on the Freedom Parkway bridge, we get one of the most incredible skyline views available in Atlanta – as verified by countless Atlanta-based shows that film from that bridge.
I am so proud to live in the Old Fourth Ward and be one of the pioneers that will revitalize this community, despite some of its challenges. To me, “transitional” means the neighborhood is evolving in a positive way, and I’d much rather be in that position than in a house consuming a third of our net income in Buckhead or East Cobb. Maybe one day, when we have kids, we’ll move to the ‘burbs, but I hope and anticipate that when we’ll do, we’ll move there with pockets lined with the fruits of our investment, and many more positive memories of O4W than negative.
So don’t do me any favors and offer a pitying look when I tell you where I live. I chose this community, warts and all, and I love living here. Enjoy your homogenous Ivory Tower and the stretched budget that comes with it. I’ll be here in the ghetto, counting my blessings.