Melanie Keane is proud to live in Glenwood Park. "I think it has set a bar for Atlanta," she says of the Green Street Properties development. Located just off Moreland Avenue on Glenwood Avenue, the small yet vibrant development shows the possibilities and positive results that can flourish when urban planning holds community and sustainability in mind. With retail, residential and office space, Glenwood Park is one of many live/work/play developments around the country and Atlanta.
What makes Glenwood Park different is the approach taken in every step of the development process. Rather than falling into the Disneyesque aesthetic of similar communities, the builder's philosophy embraces those of new urbanism with an emphasis on the public realm, walkability, mixed uses, community, diversity and quality over quantity. Houses and apartments vary in design and have interesting features – a few doors down from a half-built stucco, Southwestern-style house is one that looks more like a mountain retreat, with columns made to look like tree trunks holding up the balcony. For Melanie, her "stacked flat" townhouse with its large windows, spacious rooms and green sensibility is a perfect example of the clever way Glenwood Park makes efficient use of space – building up – without sacrificing quality. Even if it does mean she heroically climbs a hefty flight of stairs to get to her living room.
How long have you lived here?
Since November 2006.
What made you decide to live in Glenwood Park?
Well, we [Melanie and her husband, Tim] lived in an old house in East Point, which we really adored, but we outgrew it. We had been keeping up with what had been going on with Glenwood Park for years. Charles Brewer, who developed this property, was the founder of MindSpring, which became EarthLink, who I worked for for many years. So we kind of knew about it through that, and my husband was in real estate so we kept our eye on it. We came over here one day, didn't think we could afford anything, and this was the first resale in Glenwood Park. It seemed like a great move for us. A little closer in town, and we just loved the aesthetics of the neighborhood.
Did you initially like the vertical layout of the townhouse?
I do like it, actually. One thing I missed when we were in East Point, because we were just in a single-story house, was being able to have windows open at night, and it's so great to have bedroom windows open at night and nobody can crawl in, hopefully, since it's four stories up. The stairs ... everybody had trepidations about them, but we were like, "You know what, we're not going to live here forever."
Can you talk a bit about what you know about the history of Glenwood Park?
I believe this was an industrial site. Charles Brewer, obviously extremely wealthy, got out of MindSpring and wanted to do this type of mixed-use development as well as an eco-friendly development. So, without knowing anything about real estate he got together a group of people as advisers and put together Green Street Properties and developed this neighborhood.
Is it a mixed-income development?
Well, it's not in terms of Section 8 and stuff like that, but there are definitely condos that are in the low 200s and then there are houses like the Southern Living house, which was one of the first houses in the neighborhood. Southern Living did their design house here, and it sold for more than a million. Condos by the pool are in the 100s and 200s, townhouses in the 450 range. So it's not mixed income, but it definitely has a varied housing stock.
Have you always been interested in "green" living?
I wanna say, "yeah!" But, no, I haven't and here's the thing that's been the most pleasant surprise to me: Being a person who has always lived in old houses, and loving old houses, I've always had an affinity for real materials. You know, real hardwood, real solid wood doors, real brick. But in these houses they did a really good job with it. These floors are a hardwood floor product, but they are not hardwood floorboard. The doors are kind of the same way. So they were able to make it greener but not lose the aesthetics.
How do you feel the development fits in with the surrounding area?
Well, I think it's honestly kind of a flagship for the rest of the area because it's very different than the tone of Grant Park – it's hard to replicate an old neighborhood, anyway – but I think a lot of the styles of the houses kind of fit in with the style of surrounding houses. You know, I just hope more stuff like this can happen because this is a lot of density and a lot of people contributing to the tax base and creating a real vibrant scene, a little downtown area in not that big of an area. I think it's going to be a real positive development around here.
Do you feel like the neighborhood is a community?
Oh, absolutely. Oh yeah, there's stuff going on all the time. There's a bocce ball court that is quite active for people in and outside of the neighborhood, which is true for the park as well as the pool. People outside of Glenwood Park spend a lot of time here, which I wouldn't have expected. It's a nice park and people can join the pool. And I'm great friends with so many of my neighbors. There's a dog park and a community garden, which is great. It's on a little parcel of land and they've made it nice; there are probably about 25 plots there now.
Is the neighborhood mainly families or are there young people as well?
Coming from a diverse neighborhood, we wanted that again. There are singles here, couples, people with small children ... and plenty of empty nesters down from places like Roswell after their kids are gone. It's a really nice mix of people and diverse. I mean, it's gay, straight, black, white, Indian, Hispanic, everything, and that was important to us.
Does Glenwood Park feel like city living to you?
It does, yeah. I can't wait until all the retail gets in. A lot of people moved here banking on that. We had been involved in East Point in downtown revitalization stuff, so we kind of know how difficult that can be. We're about to open a Mexican restaurant, and the Shed opened a couple weeks ago. They are very, very selective, however, about who comes in ... no chains. That's a Charles Brewer thing. They're very selective, but that's just because they don't want it to become an Atlantic Station.
Are there other green features of your house or the community you think are cool?
One thing I think is really neat is that the pond down by the park is a retention pond. And that is not how you normally see retention ponds done. I mean, that is like a Japanese garden of retention ponds. There are water lilies and a fountain, and it's just gorgeous. And that is a great example of the level of detail and care that Charles and Green Street put into it.
I agree with Andrew.
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