A welcome to Adair Park – an Atlanta neighborhood that’s a historic gem

By Maria Saporta

Adair Park – a historic community southwest of downtown – has now become an integral part of my family.

Adair Park logo

Adair Park logo

My son, David Luse, just bought a house (closing was on July 25) in Adair Park – another marker in his path to adulthood and self-sufficiency. The move also has opened a whole new vista into a corner of Atlanta that is becoming one of the hottest up-and-coming communities in the city.

Adair Park – a neighborhood that is tucked away between Metropolitan Parkway to the east, University Avenue to the south and the Norfolk Southern tracks to the west (beyond which lies the historic community of West End) – has become our own little gem.

It’s hard for me not to be in awe and overcome with pride by how far David has come.

A map of Adair Park

A map of Adair Park

At the young age of 24, David zeroed in on Adair Park a few months ago, fell in love with a house that was about to go on the market, became instantly convinced that he would buy it, figured out how to get financing with a first-time homeowner incentive from Invest Atlanta and patiently experienced the ups and downs that come with any home-buying adventure.

So on Saturday evening, before fully having moved in, David decided to hold a house-warming party – inviting friends to see his new neighborhood and meet his new neighbors.

Map of the Atlanta BeltLine southwest corridor

Map of the Atlanta BeltLine southwest corridor

As we sat on the expansive front porch overlooking one of the neighborhood’s historic streets, we were overcome with a feeling of community – one that comes with inviting porches, welcoming homes lined with real sidewalks and attractive front yards.

Neighbors out on their evening stroll dropped by to say hello. Everyone seemed to know each other, happily catching up on the latest goings on in Adair Park and its new yellow-brick road – the Atlanta BeltLine – which is just two blocks from David’s new house.

So why is it that a neighborhood that can trace back its origins to the 1890s now be in the new discovery mode? Long-time Adair residents (eight years) Teague Buchanan and his wife, Crystal, had a theory. The soon-to-be-built southwest segment of the BeltLine has been described as a three-mile corridor from Washington Park to Adair Park. That has put Adair Park on Atlanta’s modern-day map.

David's new house

David’s new house

Adair Park crossed my radar two years ago when citizen activist and natural born leader Angel Poventud bought a shell of a house on the ridge between the actual Adair Park and the BeltLine adjacent to the new urban farm and made its renovation a civic cause.

Soon after, several of Angel’s friends began buying up and restoring homes in Adair Park. Angel certainly played a role in David’s decision to buy in the neighborhood.

So on Saturday, Angel took my daughter, Carmen, to see his now beautifully renovated home – complete with before-and-after photos. As she and I were walking back to David’s house, she started talking about how maybe she should buy a house in Adair Park. And then we both started playing the developer/preservationist dream game. Why don’t we buy and renovate the beautiful George W. Adair Middle School into condos and neighborhood stores and really anchor the neighborhood.

David on his porch swing

David on his porch swing

As we shared our ideas back at David’s house, someone laughed and said that Angel’s enthusiasm had infected Carmen as well.

Adair Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on Aug. 9, 1994, exactly 20 years ago.

It is considered a “bungalow suburb” that was developed from the 1890s to the 1940s as Atlanta went from being a “railroad town” to a “true city.”

After the Civil War, land speculators, including George Washington Adair, began purchasing property in the area. In 1870, Adair teamed up with Richard Peters (who later developed Midtown) to form the Atlanta Street Railway Company to provide trolley access to the area.

George Adair also established the Atlanta Real Estate Company, which became the largest developer of property in Atlanta before he died in 1889.

Sign in front of Adair Park

Sign in front of Adair Park

So it was left to his two sons — George and Forrest — to lead the company, and they were the ones who designed, developed and sold off lots in the Adair Park neighborhood in the early 1900s. The school was constructed in 1912.

The nearby West End community was annexed into the City of Atlanta in 1894, and Adair Park was annexed in 1910. The first auction took place in early 1910, and it included a six-block area. By 1912, the Adair Park subdivision had been named and subdivided.

As Atlanta’s population trended northward, Adair Park became one of those lesser-known communities the metro area. The neighborhood changed from being a white middle class community to one that was primarily African-American.

That problem is exacerbated because many of the black families in Adair Park do not own their own homes, and they could end up getting kicked out as property owners cater to the almighty dollar.

It is an ongoing dilemma in Atlanta.

How can we encourage the revitalization of a neighborhood without displacing the residents who have helped make it a culturally rich and diverse community.

Meanwhile we in the Luse and Saporta family are delighted to have found a home in such a special corner of Atlanta.

A view of Adair Park's playground

A view of Adair Park’s playground

Another view of Adair Park

Another view of Adair Park

George W. Adair Middle School

George W. Adair Middle School

The front room of David's new house

The front room of David’s new house

David stands next to the fireplace in the front room

David stands next to the fireplace in the front room

One of the most beautifully landscaped homes in Adair Park

One of the most beautifully landscaped homes in Adair Park

Another really charming home in Adair Park

Another really charming home in Adair Park

This entry was posted in Maria's Metro. Bookmark the permalink.
23 comments
ChrisWoolfe
ChrisWoolfe

Good to meet you Ms. Saporta! I hope to meet your son sometime soon; perhaps at a neighborhood meet & greet. I totally agree with you that Adair Park is a gem.  

You said "As Atlanta’s population trended northward, Adair Park became one of those lesser-known communities the metro area. The neighborhood changed from being a white middle class community to one that was primarily African-American.That problem is exacerbated because many of the black families in Adair Park do not own their own homes, and they could end up getting kicked out as property owners cater to the almighty dollar."

Surely you didn't mean to imply that African-Americans moving into an area is a problem?  I hope I mis-read that. I heard about your article while speaking with one of our residents. She thought that was what you meant, and was hurt by the implication of white superiority. It wouldn't be the first time I've heard something like that. I remember when we told someone we lived here, she said "Oh! I didn't know anybody lived there anymore."  The implication being that our neighbors aren't "anybody."  But that's not what you meant, right?

I've lived here just under two years but I've spoken with a lot of people who live here.  You may be surprised to find that many black families in this neighborhood do own their homes. The yellow one in the photo above is one such example. I can think of six others on my block alone. Living here challenges many pre-suppositions I have about race and class. I think that's a very good thing about living here.  The thing I love most about this neighborhood is our diversity. I believe that it is important to maintain this diversity because economic mobility and location go hand in hand. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/business/in-climbing-income-ladder-location-matters.html

You asked: "How can we encourage the revitalization of a neighborhood without displacing the residents who have helped make it a culturally rich and diverse community?" 

That is a very good question! What are your thoughts on it?  

ChrisWoolfe
ChrisWoolfe

Good to meet you Ms. Saporta! I hope to meet your son sometime soon; perhaps at a neighborhood meet & greet. I totally agree with you that Adair Park is a gem.   You said "As Atlanta’s population trended northward, Adair Park became one of those lesser-known communities the metro area. The neighborhood changed from being a white middle class community to one that was primarily African-American.That problem is exacerbated because many of the black families in Adair Park do not own their own homes, and they could end up getting kicked out as property owners cater to the almighty dollar." Surely you didn't mean to imply that African-Americans moving into an area is a problem?  I hope I mis-read that. I heard about your article while speaking with one of our residents. She thought that was what you meant, and was hurt by the implication of white superiority. It wouldn't be the first time I've heard something like that. I remember when we told someone we lived here, she said "Oh! I didn't know anybody lived there anymore."  The implication being that our neighbors aren't "anybody."  But that's not what you meant, right? I've lived here just under two years but I've spoken with a lot of people who live here.  You may be surprised to find that many black families in this neighborhood do own their homes. The yellow one in the photo above is one such example. I can think of six others on my block alone. Living here challenges many pre-suppositions I have about race and class. I think that's a very good thing about living here.  The thing I love most about this neighborhood is our diversity. I believe that it is important to maintain this diversity because economic mobility and location go hand in hand. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/business/in-climbing-income-ladder-location-matters.html You asked: "How can we encourage the revitalization of a neighborhood without displacing the residents who have helped make it a culturally rich and diverse community?"  That is a very good question! What are your thoughts on it?

TimOgletree
TimOgletree

Congrats your son David. I bought my first home and there are 11 years ago in my late 20's. It's a neighborhood with a sense of community and Pride. Many diverse residents. And homes being transformed into the historic gems they once were. I'm sure David will be very happy in the neighborhood. I've made my home here and have many friends that I've met over the years of being in Adair Park.

TimOgletree
TimOgletree

Congrats your son David. I bought my first home and there are 11 years ago in my late 20's. It's a neighborhood with a sense of community and Pride. Many diverse residents. And homes being transformed into the historic gems they once were. I'm sure David will be very happy in the neighborhood. I've made my home here and have many friends that I've met over the years of being in Adair Park.

mariasaporta
mariasaporta

health_impact  Yes, I'm aware of the discussion that my column sparked, and honestly I was quite surprised by the reaction by some in the community.   I do value the important and delicate balance that exists in Adair Park - the wonderful diversity of renters, homeowners, races, generations and incomes. I also know how fragile and difficult that balance is to maintain - especially when a community is being "discovered."  As much as I love David becoming a new resident and homeowner in Adair Park, it would make me really sad if the neighborhood becomes overwhelmed with new residents who eventually will end up displacing the longtime residents - be them renters or homeowners.  Gentrification can occur in several ways. Renters may find out that the house that they've lived in has been sold, is no longer affordable and that they have to move to another community. Homeowners may find that their property values have increased, causing their taxes and insurance rates to soar, making their homes less affordable. Or they may be tempted to cash in on the growing popularity of the neighborhood (which is totally understandable) and sell their homes. But the end result could be that Adair Park will become less diverse - by whatever measure you choose - race, income, age and longtime versus newer residents to Adair Park.  What Adair Park has today is really special and unique - which is what I was trying to say in my column. I hope  special attention is given to make sure that that special quality is not lost as the community experiences a welcome resurgence in new investment.  I have only seen one community in Atlanta that has successfully managed to enjoy a renaissance while making sure its longtime, poorer residents are not displaced when wealthier neighbors moved in next door. That neighborhood was the Historic District around Auburn Avenue, and the Old Fourth Ward. That area succeeded because of the vigilant eye of Mtaminika Youngblood and the Historic District Development Corp. But that story also is still being written.  So as David settles into Adair Park and as I'm able to watch the community evolve, my hope continues to be that the magic that exists in Adair Park today will live on for generations to come.  Respectfully, Maria

Alida Silverman
Alida Silverman

It is so good to see one of our City-designated neighborhood districts get such good attention!  Thank you for doing this article. Perhaps, even if you and your daughter do not actually take on the rehab of the school, you have whetted the interest of someone who can.  (An historic photo of the school is on the Districts Poster.  When the poster was created, there were 11 Districts and now there are 13.  As you well know, the protection that comes with designation of Atlanta's historic resources is very important.)

health_impact
health_impact

Maria, perhaps your son has told you about the storm of debate your article touched off in Adair Park. Everyone was thrilled to the core to have our neighborhood spoken of so warmly (or at least, everyone from whom I have heard). However, the discussion of racial identity, home ownership or rental, and gentrification was quite controversial. It felt like an extreme oversimplification, or an extrapolation from other parts of town. In truth, Adair Park prides itself on true diversity, which includes Black homeowners old and new, White renters old and new, and people from all walks of life and income brackets who still insist on being good neighbors and friends. Of course, we also realize the fragility of this balance, the persistent economic disparities associated with race, and the urgent need to ensure that the neighborhood remains accessible to families of all incomes. I hope that as you spend more time in the neighborhood, visiting your son and his new community, that you will discover the diversity and complexity that helps make this part of town special.

health_impact
health_impact

Maria, perhaps your son has told you about the storm of debate your article touched off in Adair Park. Everyone was thrilled to the core to have our neighborhood spoken of so warmly (or at least, everyone from whom I have heard). However, the discussion of racial identity, home ownership or rental, and gentrification was quite controversial. It felt like an extreme oversimplification, or an extrapolation from other parts of town. In truth, Adair Park prides itself on true diversity, which includes Black homeowners old and new, White renters old and new, and people from all walks of life and income brackets who still insist on being good neighbors and friends. Of course, we also realize the fragility of this balance, the persistent economic disparities associated with race, and the urgent need to ensure that the neighborhood remains accessible to families of all incomes. I hope that as you spend more time in the neighborhood, visiting your son and his new community, that you will discover the diversity and complexity that helps make this part of town special.

Lynn Speno
Lynn Speno

Adair Park is a National Register district, which makes contributing properties eligible for tax incentives for approved rehabilitation projects.  Some properties in Adair Park have already taken advantage of the program; see www.georgiashpo.org and look under Economic Incentives for more information.

Lynn Speno
Lynn Speno

Adair Park is a National Register district, which makes contributing properties eligible for tax incentives for approved rehabilitation projects.  Some properties in Adair Park have already taken advantage of the program; see www.georgiashpo.org and look under Economic Incentives for more information.

Carolyn Long Banks
Carolyn Long Banks

You have a wise son, Maria!  Adair Park has been a struggling neighborhood since my days of serving on the Atlanta City Council.  It is a proud, stable and integral part of the jewel we call the
southside.  Welcome, David!

Carolyn Long Banks
Carolyn Long Banks

You have a wise son, Maria!  Adair Park has been a struggling neighborhood since my days of serving on the Atlanta City Council.  It is a proud, stable and integral part of the jewel we call the southside.  Welcome, David!

rashaunlamar
rashaunlamar

Thanks for this article! Very exciting to see your son move into one of the great neighborhoods in our city! My partner and I are hoping to strike a similar trend across 20 in Mozley Park! We are renovating a 1920 bungalow after living in Decatur! (P.S. Love the swing!)

rashaunlamar
rashaunlamar

Thanks for this article! Very exciting to see your son move into one of the great neighborhoods in our city! My partner and I are hoping to strike a similar trend across 20 in Mozley Park! We are renovating a 1920 bungalow after living in Decatur! (P.S. Love the swing!)

Lea Agnew
Lea Agnew

Thanks for the article about a neighborhood close to my heart.  My grandparents were fairly early residents (early 1900s) of Adair Park, my parents were born there and I grew up on Brookline St.  Congratulations and best wishes to David.

Lea Agnew
Lea Agnew

Thanks for the article about a neighborhood close to my heart.  My grandparents were fairly early residents (early 1900s) of Adair Park, my parents were born there and I grew up on Brookline St.  Congratulations and best wishes to David.

Burke Sisco
Burke Sisco

Congratulations to your son, Maria, on his move to one of Atlanta's hottest up-and-coming neighborhoods. I have had the privilege of working with three first-time home buyers who have purchased in Adair Park within the past few months. All of them are young, energetic, community activist types. With the BeltLine Westside Trail coming, it's going to be fascinating to see how that area transforms.

Burke Sisco
Burke Sisco

Congratulations to your son, Maria, on his move to one of Atlanta's hottest up-and-coming neighborhoods. I have had the privilege of working with three first-time home buyers who have purchased in Adair Park within the past few months. All of them are young, energetic, community activist types. With the BeltLine Westside Trail coming, it's going to be fascinating to see how that area transforms.

JDR
JDR

Yes Maria, PLEASE buy the school and doing wonderful with it!  

JDR
JDR

Yes Maria, PLEASE buy the school and doing wonderful with it!

mariasaporta
mariasaporta moderator

@health_impact 

Yes, I'm aware of the discussion that my column sparked, and honestly I was quite surprised by the reaction by some in the community.  

I do value the important and delicate balance that exists in Adair Park - the wonderful diversity of renters, homeowners, races, generations and incomes. I also know how fragile and difficult that balance is to maintain - especially when a community is being "discovered." 

As much as I love David becoming a new resident and homeowner in Adair Park, it would make me really sad if the neighborhood becomes overwhelmed with new residents who eventually will end up displacing the longtime residents - be them renters or homeowners. 

Gentrification can occur in several ways. Renters may find out that the house that they've lived in has been sold, is no longer affordable and that they have to move to another community. Homeowners may find that their property values have increased, causing their taxes and insurance rates to soar, making their homes less affordable. Or they may be tempted to cash in on the growing popularity of the neighborhood (which is totally understandable) and sell their homes.

But the end result could be that Adair Park will become less diverse - by whatever measure you choose - race, income, age and longtime versus newer residents to Adair Park. 

What Adair Park has today is really special and unique - which is what I was trying to say in my column. I hope  special attention is given to make sure that that special quality is not lost as the community experiences a welcome resurgence in new investment. 

I have only seen one community in Atlanta that has successfully managed to enjoy a renaissance while making sure its longtime, poorer residents are not displaced when wealthier neighbors moved in next door. That neighborhood was the Historic District around Auburn Avenue, and the Old Fourth Ward. That area succeeded because of the vigilant eye of Mtaminika Youngblood and the Historic District Development Corp. But that story also is still being written. 

So as David settles into Adair Park and as I'm able to watch the community evolve, my hope continues to be that the magic that exists in Adair Park today will live on for generations to come. 

Respectfully, Maria