Highway 78 (Ponce de Leon Ave.)

by Thomas Donoghue

Murder Kroger? BeltLine Kroger? Who gives a shit?

I don’t, but what I do give a shit about is the gentrification process. I remember walking around this neighborhood and hanging at the Ford Factory lofts when the homeless and gangsters loomed amongst the exterior of the ground floor, as if to form a gauntlet where a voyage from the car to the apartment resembled a remake of Homer’s Odyssey. Nevertheless, throughout this seedy misadventure was the badge of honor that a lot of us obtained through these years, the “I Made It!” button that rests on our chests as if it were proof of our social platform for barroom stories that we retell to each other over and over again. “I remember when… gunshots… or hookers… or…” whatever pulp fiction escapade you ventured through and lived to tell those who may not remember their latest tweet, let alone a drug-fueled pseudo-mafia war in the dimly lit streets around Highway 78.

Florida, Mississippi or Alabama coeds now fill the newly minted lofts in the “big city” that gives them street cred back in their homes towns of Opp, Alabama, Monroe, Louisiana, or any other dirt poor, shit hole that the national economy abandoned during the Reagan administration. On a macro level, Atlanta and the Ponce corridor need the rejuvenation. However, my qualm isn’t with the superficial neighborhood life cycle that is occurring, it’s more the prospect of gentrification than actual gentrification. Because I gotta tell ya, if you think this is truly gentrification, this racial gentrification that Atlantans like to comment on so frequently, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

This isn’t gentrification. This is capital investment that catalyzes economic development opportunities, and it should have been done a long ago in this city. Regardless of which race you care to identify as. Gentrification is the Taylor Swift song “Welcome to New York,” opening the flood gates for any bobble-head with daddy’s credit card to rent a $10,000 loft in SoHo and claim the right to call themselves a New Yorker.  Once a little gem like that makes its way to our fair city in roughly 20 years, when the young working class are commuting from the ghettos of Dunwoody or Sandy Springs, chasing the cheap rents and living in squalor to stay in a city they can’t afford to leave, then we can talk.

Perhaps we’ll have this conversation as comrades in the fight of inequality, economic refugees in the “up-and-coming” Metropolitan Jackson, Mississippi. Within that burgeoning cosmopolis we can adjust another button on our chests, lamenting about the times when… the city threw down some concrete on a railroad…. Or when Murder Kroger built a shitty, too-narrow ramp and proclaimed “bike friendly”… when dirty, bearded hipsters threw haymakers at each other over some emaciated princess rolling her eyes under the cool glow of Google Glass 3.0. All this seediness would have occurred in the dimly lit streets around Highway 78.

photo courtesy of Murder Kroger Facebook page


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