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HIGH STYLE: Wendy Darling inside downtown’s 100-year-old Healey Building.

Joeff Davis

HIGH STYLE: Wendy Darling inside downtown’s 100-year-old Healey Building.

An interview with a neighbor: Wendy Darling 

Wendy Darling says downtown's come a long way since she moved there in 1996

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Wendy Darling moved to downtown Atlanta shortly after the 1996 Olympics. Since then, the thirtysomething Emory digital communications specialist has witnessed plenty of change to the neighborhood. She loves living in the Fairlie-Poplar district for its tight-knit community. Darling is a proud resident of north downtown and says its come a long way since she moved in. But Darling explains that other parts of her neighborhood are struggling with their own issues.

I would always stay downtown as long as I'm in Atlanta. ... It is by far the best place to live if you don't have a car. ... [If] you want to go anywhere on trains or buses or walk to places, it's very centrally located. I don't even have to transfer on the train because I'm right at Five Points.

[The Fairlie-Poplar District] has a scent of being a small town or village, which is very surprising. You run into all your neighbors on the street. You get very familiar with all the storeowners, restaurant owners, security guards for the buildings, GSU police, and all the different people. ... Everyone eats [on] Broad Street ... [and] a big favorite of people is Park Bar.

The entire area around Centennial Park [has] totally transformed. That whole area has become a corridor all the way from the [Georgia] World Congress Center to Peachtree Center. Marietta Street is more active than it used to be, too, and it's improved because the whole street just went through a streetscape change.

There seems to be a tendency from politicians to come up with this idea of big mega projects. [They say], "We're going to build this giant museum, stadium ... or come up with this huge new plan for downtown." I thought, "There is a plan for downtown!" Central Atlanta Progress actually has two or three very well-done plans. ... [But Atlanta is] going to bring all this traffic and possibly some employment. But on the other hand, can we get some help with some basic services? Can we have, like, streetlights? Can we have a nice library?

Georgia State's footprint has gotten bigger and having all the students going to classes and living in downtown has had a lot of great side benefits. There are restaurants that are open, stores that are open, [and] CVS is open. Despite thousands of residents and students, [downtown] still doesn't have a grocery store. Midtown has a couple of grocery stores now. Georgia Tech has that Publix right next to them ... we should have a grocery store. ... The effect of the students has been very positive. I never thought the neighborhood was scary, but it feels a lot safer now.

It would be cool to just ride the streetcar. I think it will be used a lot by GSU students. ... It will also benefit some of the businesses along that route [that] don't get traffic. ... Edgewood has already changed a great deal over the years but I think Auburn can too because of the people.

The area south of Five Points [has] really gotten to a boiling point. There are [longtime residents] who feel like they are facing major quality-of-life issues and [a] lack of economic development. Recently, a woman just four blocks [over] was assaulted in the street. That doesn't really happen in the north part of downtown, but over there it's a different story.

South downtown has lots of government agencies and law enforcement. Despite that, people are dealing and doing drugs — standing in the street around Broad and Peachtree streets smoking crack. [It makes] you feel like, no matter how much you try to make this a nice place these people are always making trouble.

We had an event last May called Brighten Up Broad Street. The buildings and spaces are pretty much the same as the spaces in my part of downtown. There's all this potential there with buildings ... [residents] feel like downtown can't succeed until that is fixed.

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