Talk of the Town - West End March 28 2001

Wave of investment leads to area's revival

The West End neighborhood of Atlanta has seen its share of ups and downs in its long history, but with home prices on the rise and countless renovations under way, the historic district may be experiencing its greatest resurgence yet.

The area was settled in 1835, and was a key part of the Confederate Army's defense of Atlanta in 1864. The city of Atlanta annexed the West End in 1894, and by the early 1900s, the neighborhood already was showing its age. The area gained historic district status 10 years ago.

Author Joel Chandler Harris of "Uncle Remus" fame lived in the West End in the Wren's Nest. While the well-preserved 19th-century home seems a bit out of place on busy Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard, dozens of smaller Victorian homes can be found on the narrow residential streets to the north and south.

District 4 City Councilwoman Cleta Winslow moved to the West End as a graduate student in the late 1970s. She stayed because of the convenient location and the sense of community.

"I moved in back in 1977 with the original urban pioneers," Winslow said. "Now we have a resurgence of people coming in and buying the historic homes and restoring them."

Candy-colored homes line most streets in the West End. It's not unusual to find old-fashioned street lamps and house numbers hung on poles out front. Many homes have decorative stained-glass windows, high ceilings and hardwood floors — the kind of detail that's difficult to find in modern homes.

The historic homes are in varying states of repair, but a wave of investment in the neighborhood has brought higher home prices. Newly renovated homes in the area are listed at $215,000 and $299,000.

"Two years ago, you could have gotten something for $40,000 or $50,000," said Gwen Porter, president of West End Neighborhood Development Inc. "Now you can't find anything under $100,000, and that's with work left to do on it."

Porter bought a dilapidated home 20 years ago in the West End, and has seen her investment pay off. Crime in the area has decreased since the early '90s, and the Atlanta Regional Commission is developing plans to make the area more pedestrian-friendly.??

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