Like a visit to any other neighborhood in the city of Atlanta, you have to drive before you can walk through the overlapping intersections of East Point and College Park. Jacinta Howard has called "the Point" and "CP" home off and on for about nine years. The entertainment editor for Upscale Magazine lives in East Point with her fiancé Mike Jordan (journalist and former Thrillist Atlanta founding editor) and their 2-year-old daughter, Sienna. The early mornings bring them to Sumner Park off Headland Drive and Lumpkin Street, right next to the famous Dick Lane Velodrome, which was developed by residents and city officials who came back inspired after visiting the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
At the time of its construction in 1974, the Velodrome was one of only two tracks of its kind in the United States, and served as a training facility for cyclists at the 1996 Games. Currently, the track is the second steepest concrete race track in the country and hosts women's training sessions every Tuesday from 5-8:30 p.m. Howard's family frequents the Velodrome for the competition, but stays for the crashes.
On this particular morning, with Sienna strapped into her car seat, we head to downtown East Point. Howard tells me that Jordan has been working with city council members and the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau to get residents — past, present, and future — more involved in the neighborhood.
We park and hit up downtown East Point on foot. New businesses such as Thumbs Up Diner and Corner Tavern mix with historic buildings that came with the city's inception some 127 years ago, giving the neighborhood considerable character.
The local businesses tend to have the residents in mind. There's Lov'n It Live, a raw, vegan restaurant. A quote just below its sign reads, "Let food be your medicine. Let medicine be your food." Speaking of food, Oz Pizza, where cyclists and local professionals crowd the patio in the summer, looked enticing, but alas, it was closed during our visit.
Several streets connect East Point and College Park, and your chances of being confused about which neighborhood you're in depends on how much you're paying attention to the historic markers atop the road signs.
We hop back in the car and pick an easy route southwest on Main Street to College Park's business district. As we pass old haunts (David's Cleaners and Laundry) and stop to check out newer establishments (Tony Morrow's BBQ), Howard takes a moment to think about what makes East Point and College Park stand out.
"The biggest misconception is that it's hood," Howard says. "The thing that makes East Point and College Park unique is it reminds me of Decatur before the big redevelopments. It's close to the city and it seems like it should be part of 'Atlanta' but it has its own vibe — it has a strong sense of community and its all kind of hidden in plain sight."
At Main Street and Rugby Avenue in College Park, the growth Howard mentions is evident on a block of new establishments, again, installed in old spaces; on the patio of Brake Pad; and in the hip charm of Poor Little Rich Girl vintage shop.
"There is a community here, and once the folks see that, they'll get more behind it," she says.
Dick Lane Velodrome
Competition and bike crashes for the whole family to enjoy. "Granted, we had never actually even heard the word 'velodrome' before moving to East Point, but whatever. Random visits with our 2-year-old daughter get all kinds of exciting when there are races going on, or even when bike enthusiasts are just practicing. Especially when they fall," Jordan says. 1889 Lexington Ave. 404-769-0012. www.dicklanevelodrome.com.
Downtown East Point
Downtown East Point is good for walking, eating, and plain ol' relaxation. "Nothin' like Saturday morning breakfast at Thumbs Up — plus, the lines aren't nearly as bad as the one on Edgewood Avenue. Well, depending on the time of day. It's still worth the wait. Also, Oz Pizza and Corner Tavern, local craft beer, karaoke, slices — all right around the corner," Jordan says. Main Street and White Way. www.downtowneastpoint.com.
Tony Morrow's BBQ
A cigar bar, a cool fire-pitted patio, and a Main Street location make this one of the coolest joints in College Park. "Good wings, good bourbon, good atmosphere. If we have more disposable income we may hit up his other resto, the Pecan, a couple of blocks away," Jordan says. 3807 Main St. 404-996-2974.
Sweet Selma Farms
Jake Rothschild of Irwin Street Market and Jake's Ice Cream has an urban farm in College Park that offers cooking classes. "It's super cool because you can pick your own herbs, fruits, and veggies, cook, and create meals on site in the outdoor kitchen and enjoy them in al fresco seating overlooking the garden," Jordan says. "Who would think that a Rothschild would have an urban farm in College Park?" 3270 Connally St. 678-705-7945. www.irwinstreetmarket.com.
Headland and Delowe
The City of East Point is currently trying to figure out what to do with this historic street crossing. "It could end up getting a new sports bar; it'd be great if it got a Trader Joe's or Whole Foods, but either way it's cool to see the street corner sign that OutKast mentioned in 'Elevators' and know that this was the start of somethin' good," Jordan says.