Talk of the Town - Berkeley Park February 17 2001

Community flexes muscle to get recognition it deserves

BERKELEY PARK, a neighborhood of about 400 homes dating to the 1920s, '30s and '40s, is conveniently located in Northwest Atlanta. Despite its prime location just off of I-75, most Atlantans have never even heard of the neighborhood. In fact, the neighborhood was not officially recognized by the city until 1996. Before 1996 Berkeley Park was considered a part of the larger Underwood Hills neighborhood.
"Although we have a great relationship with Underwood Hills, we were always the stepchild," says Sharon Arnold. To better address the needs of the neighborhood, Arnold and a large group of residents successfully lobbied the city to officially recognize the neighborhood.
Since its incorporation, Berkeley Park has aggressively flexed its young muscles. "When you need something done in this neighborhood, everyone gets involved," says Arnold. Berkeley Park residents have recently led the fight to prevent Home Depot from constructing a large retail store in the neighborhood. Although the store will most likely be built, the early activism of the residents led the retail giant to alter its site plans to accommodate the needs of the neighborhood. The neighborhood association has also attacked the presence of what it calls "techatories" or duplex rental properties housing up to 12 Georgia Tech students. "With so many students in a single property, they tend to get loud and rowdy," says Arnold.
Rowdy students may inhabit the fringes of the neighborhood, but quiet streets of working professionals dominate the core. Freelance photographer Deborah Celecia-Wagoner loves the tranquility of her street, which is in the shadow of downtown skyscrapers. "When my clients come to my home studio, they usually say, 'Gosh, I never knew this neighborhood was here.'" Celecia-Wagner believes the number of neighborhood professionals working from home is a true perk. "We have a real community of all types of people here," she says. "Everyone knows everyone and we look out for each other, which keeps the neighborhood safe."

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