This neighborhood south of Ponce de Leon Avenue is a work in progress. Redevelopment projects are creating more residential units and commercial districts that will significantly transform the landscape. Two cases in point: The landmark Manuel’s Tavern on the corner of North and Highland avenues is being blended into a new mixed-use concept; the grounds around the former Druid Hills Baptist Church, built in 1914 at 1085 Ponce de Leon, are also being reworked into a similar design.
The Kroger shopping center beside the BeltLine on North Avenue—long known among Atlantans by the sinister nickname “Murder Kroger” because of killings that occurred in its parking lot in 1991 and 2015—is slated to be revamped, providing better walkability to the housing developments nearby and a revised business model suited to an urban location. The new additions will exist alongside established centers such as the Plaza, one of the city’s first “strip malls” and home to one of the longest-operating movie theaters (that still draws crowds for its midnight showings of “Rocky Horror Picture Show”).
Poncey-Highland is also home to The Carter Center, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Freedom Park, 200 acres of passive park created on land that had been cleared in the 1970s for an expressway that was never built. “We used to have more homes, but now we have the park that’s a great asset,” says Rob Brawner, a former neighborhood association president and deputy executive director of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, which he admits is a huge draw. “Having the BeltLine and PATH trails makes this a very walkable neighborhood,” he says. “At the same time, Freedom Parkway gives easy access to the highways. And we’re in the Springdale Park Elementary district, one of the top-performing Atlanta public schools, and offer a neighborhood with a good mix of housing price points. But we’re still a small neighborhood where most people know each other.”
Where to eat and shop:
The neighborhood’s busiest thoroughfare may be its northern border along Ponce de Leon Avenue, where commercial sites range from antique stores and art galleries to a well-stocked Urban Outfitters. The outdoor store is in the same center as the Plaza Theatre. Next door to the Plaza is the landmark Majestic Diner, where glam couples wrapping up date night can perch on a counter stool next to college kids and working stiffs coming off the late shift.
The corner of North Avenue and North Highland, long the location of the iconic Manuel’s Tavern, is being refurbished with a mixed-use project that promises to bring the local hangout back to life in the future. Meanwhile, locals meet for meals at Babette’s Cafe and recharge with coffee and wine at JavaVino.