Reclaiming Lost Atlanta
Creative Loafing
Reclaiming Lost Atlanta
Five undiscovered redevelopment gems
by Scott Henry
(This is only one part of the Article)

Kids on their way home from school run past a boarded-up row of storefronts near the intersection of Bankhead Highway and Hollywood Road 
Bankhead Highway: The next big thing?

Say you had a time machine that could transport you back four decades or so. If you tried it out at the corner of Donald Lee Hollowell Parkway and Hollywood Road, you'd probably think the thing was broken.

Very little has happened within living memory around the juncture of the old Bankhead Highway. There's a used appliance shop with broken stoves spilling out onto the sidewalk and signs left over from soul-food restaurants that couldn't make a go of it. Just up Hollywood Road is the sprawling, overgrown Hollywood Cemetery and the notorious Gun Club area, long known as the favored place for Westside thugs to dump the bodies.

But local real-estate agent Keith Sharp takes a more positive view. "I think that intersection is one of the up-and-coming potential areas," he says. "It could be the next big thing."

Say what?

Sharp's statement may sound like a salesman's spin until you consider how the Westside real-estate market has thrown conventional wisdom out the window. In 1997, development firm Brock Built began buying up land along the blighted Marietta Road for Adams Crossing, an upscale subdivision with homes starting around $200,000.

"People thought we were nuts because we were surrounded by the R.M. Clayton (water-treatment) plant, the Waste Management landfill and the Inman train yards," recalls company CEO Steve Brock. "It was the first new residential construction in that area in 40 years."

Since Adams Crossing opened in 2000, Brock has gone on to build four other large subdivisions on Marietta Road, Perry Boulevard and even Bolton Road, directly across the street from an active landfill. Each has been a fast-seller and, last year, West Highlands -- built on the site of the old Perry Homes public housing project -- won a Community of Excellence Award from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

Brock now plans to branch out into commercial development with Bolton Crossing, a retail center at the run-down intersection of Marietta Road and busy Bolton Road. He's looking for a restaurant for a stunning, turn-of-the-century Masonic Lodge on the southeast corner, as well as a tenant for the old hardware store next door that had once sold blasting supplies to a nearby rock quarry.
Brock Built's activities have helped touch off a housing boom throughout the area, explains Sharp, an agent with Keller Williams Realty.

"These new subdivisions were the catalyst for new development and infill housing in what I call the 'Upper West Side' of Atlanta," Sharp says. "When I moved here 13 years ago, it was pretty redneck, and some areas were rough. But over the past four years, the demographics have shifted enough so that I believe the commercial areas are about to explode."

Although the redevelopment pendulum hasn't yet swung as far south as the corner of Bankhead and Hollywood, Brock believes it's only a matter of time. Already, new houses are sprouting up on vacant lots in the surrounding neighborhoods and some long-abandoned Bankhead buildings are being transformed into lofts.

"It's still a little scary there at times, but it's a lot better than it was," Brock says. "It wouldn't take that much to kick it into high gear."
Atlanta postcard from 1907