Talking Vine City And English Avenue

May 6, 2016

A little bit of country in the city: that's how Vine City resident Alicia Anderson describes her neighborhood on Atlanta's west side. 

Vine City, like English Avenue just to the north, has its fair share of green space, though it's not all intentional: empty lots dot the landscape and give parts of the neighborhood's interior a provincial feel.

Then, the sight of the Atlanta skyline or the the whine of a MARTA train rolling by breaks that image. You look down the street and see abandoned homes, boarded-up storefronts, trash gathering in piles on the curb. You look up and see cranes piecing together nearby Mercedes-Benz stadium.

Vine City and English Avenue are complicated, contradictory places.

The neighborhoods are full of challenges and opportunities, hope and resignation, and residents, like Alicia Anderson, with no shortage of opinions about their home and its future.

(Note: interviews have been edited and condensed.)

Alicia Anderson, 49

Alicia Anderson tends the grills at a family barbecue at her Vine City home.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB

"I’m scared somebody may want to just come in and try to just take it over, but I like the hometown feel right now. I don’t want to get too big time over here. I like the country living. I just like country living, and that’s basically--we’re in between city and country living over here, and I like it. I really like it."

Robin Carmichael, Sr., 61

Robin Carmichael, Sr. stops on the way out of a meeting of the Vine City Civic Association.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB

"A lot of people here are of meager means as far as finances are concerned, but it has made us stronger as people. Nowadays, it’s very diversified. It’s people of all races, all ages. We’re coming together as one. As far as I’m concerned, in my meager opinion, there are only two types of people: good ones and bad. And this community is chock full of good people."

James Doyle, 36

James Doyle on the porch of his Vine City home.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB

"I want to see people be a little less complacent and really prize what they have here. I think a lot of people, even in this neighborhood, listen to the perception of the area and don’t realize this is an absolute gem, and they need to treat it as such."

Learn about a program trying to bring new homeowners into the neighborhoods.

Mary Beckham, 54

Mary Beckham sits and watches children play in Vine City Park.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB

"When I moved over here, a lot of stuff was offered to me. I was a first time homeowner, and they promised a lot of stuff, but it came so slow. It’s like nothing was gonna' be done. The opportunities they said that were gonna' be here for us was not here. It seems like it’s heading in a new direction. It’s just the process is so slow."

J.R. Murphy, 63

J.R. Murphy and his bike on Jett Street in English Avenue.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB

"I’m a person that handles people’s problems. So, I love that. I like the community ‘cause they got a lot of problems. How was I part of the problem? At one time, I did drugs. I did what it took to survive, and what people do to survive may be seen wrong by other people. But, isn’t it strange how when you have an exception of policy for some folks and then you don’t have it for the other folks?"

    

Roger Patterson, 21

Roger Patterson stops to chat on James P. Brawley Drive in the heart of Vine City.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB

"We don’t have peace of mind here. So, we’re moving. We’ll have to pay twice as much, but we have the peace of mind, and that’s what counts most. I do know that this neighborhood is going to get a lot better. It’s probably going to be one of the prized neighborhoods, but we just don’t have 20 years to wait."

Hear what a former resident and current neighborhood planner has to say about the future of English Avenue and Vine City.

Rosario Hernandez, 63

Rosario Hernandez takes a break after a community trash pickup.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB

    

"Maybe they’ll decide to put something that looks like Ponce City Market in the middle near Mims Park. I just see it that we’re gonna’ lose what the history of this community was. I mean, that’s what I think is going to happen. It makes me feel unhappy. You know, cute and bougie is not us. That’s not us."

Tony Torrence, 44

Tony Torrence takes a break from a meeting of the Vine City Civic Association to chat.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB

"The community always should take the leadership position. They themselves need to come up with their own plan to deal with all the challenges they have in the neighborhood. If you don’t, outsiders will come in, provide a plan for you, and they will implement that plan. And next thing you know, they have your neighborhood."

The view up Magnolia Street in Vine City towards the Georgia Dome and downtown Atlanta.
Credit Sam Whitehead / GPB