South DeKalb Resident:
“Bought a house in 1991 because Atlanta was too expensive. Have lived here ever since.”
The making of Canopy Atlanta’s next Community Issue is underway. In July and August, we surveyed 55 people who either reside or have ties to South DeKalb, to find out what they want to see in journalism about their neighborhood: What do you love about South DeKalb? And what are five community issues you would like to learn more about?
Our Community Engagement Team spoke to residents all around South DeKalb, including the following locations:
- Gresham Library, 2418 Gresham Road
- Walmart Supercenter, 3850 Memorial Drive
- Gresham Park, 3113 Gresham Road
- Exchange Recreation Center, 2771 Columbia Drive
- Big Bear Supermarket, 2849 Candler Road
Here’s what they had to say:
What do you love about South DeKalb?
- Its convenience
Above all else, respondents love South DeKalb’s proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, businesses, schools and hospitals.
The community said: “We are close to the airport and close to downtown. We are also not so close to the city where we have to deal with traffic, although it’s starting to become more congested.”
- Its residential areas
Respondents appreciate the peace, quiet and beauty of their neighborhoods.
The community said: “You find more people out on the street exercising than ever before because of the sidewalks they didn’t have before.”
- Its diversity
Respondents are proud of how South DeKalb is a predominantly Black neighborhood.
The community said: “People think you have to go to Fulton County or Atlanta for educated blacks. That’s not true, they are right here in South DeKalb.”
- Its history
Many respondents have called South DeKalb home for upwards of 15 years, and they appreciate being among other legacy residents.
The community said: “I’ve lived in South DeKalb my entire life. I’ve been there since I was two. A lot has changed, but I’ve known the same people from my neighborhood for 14 years.”
- Its greenspaces
Respondents appreciate South DeKalb’s parks and tree canopy.
The community said: “I love the space in my yard and that of the houses in the community. I like being close to Stone Mountain, particularly, because it’s a great place to visit with my family when they are in town.”
What are community issues you’d like to learn more about?
- Its crime
More than any other issue, South DeKalb respondents say that increased gun and gang violence must be addressed.
The community said: “It’s very depressing. You come home to sheets laying on dead bodies outside of your home.”
Will future generations be able to afford living in South DeKalb? Respondents couldn’t be too sure.
The community said: “My daughter has been trying to buy a house and cannot afford one in the areas she wants to live in. She keeps getting outbid by investors. She has also completed the DeKalb [County] First-Time Homebuyers program and still can’t afford anything. I don’t think it’s fair that she may end up having to buy a foreclosure, because that would require her having to put more money into the property to fix it up.”
- Economic development
Respondents want to see more businesses come to their neighborhood, home of South DeKalb Mall.
The community said: “Downtown Decatur is just a few miles away, and they have all of the food options in the world. Why can’t the county bring those same options into South DeKalb?”
- Lack of code enforcement
Several respondents want to see DeKalb County better respond to violations in their neighborhood.
The community said: “I have been struggling with a neighbor for six years that has not cut her grass. I’ve reached out to Code Enforcement, my commissioner, the CEO [code enforcement officer]—and nothing has been done.”
- Lack of civic improvement
Respondents also want to see DeKalb County complete road repairs and maintain landscaping in public areas.
The community said: “The streets are bad and there are a lot of potholes. There is actually a huge hole in the front of our neighborhood.”
Over the next few weeks, Canopy will convene with its South DeKalb Community Editorial Board to further guide story angles. Want to weigh in? Residents or people with ties to South DeKalb can still complete this 3-minute survey to tell us what matters to them. Your responses will inform our reporting and the stories that are selected for the issue.
Find out more about our editorial process and how you can support our work today.
Quotes from the community:
What do you love about South DeKalb?
- “I love the diversity and flavor of South DeKalb.”
- “I love everything. The convenience of South DeKalb. We are close to the airport, and we are close to downtown. We are also not so close to the city where we have to deal with traffic, although, it’s starting to be more congested.”
- “I’ve lived in South DeKalb my entire life. I’ve been there since I was two. A lot has changed, but I’ve known the same people from my neighborhood for 14 years.”
- “I’m deeply rooted in South DeKalb. I was born and raised in South DeKalb and its nothing like it in the world for blacks.”
- “People think you have to go to Fulton County or Atlanta for educated blacks. That’s not true, they are right here in South DeKalb.”
- “I love the fact that South DeKalb is historic.”
What are five community issues you would like to have more
- “It’s very depressing. You come home to sheets laying on dead bodies outside of your home.”
- “Gentrification, jobs for the community a lot of people have been laid off, economy needs improvement. Large homeless rate and their needs are not being addressed.”
- “Redlining is also an issue in DeKalb. People were underwater in their homes for some time after the financial crisis.”
- “Significant issue with crime in South DeKalb that involves young people. Until you get a handle on crime businesses won’t come, home values won’t rise, education in schools won’t get better.”
- “Areas in South DeKalb need more affordable housing. My daughter has been trying to buy a house and cannot afford one in the areas she wants to live in. She keeps getting out bid by investors.”
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GCPS Board of Education announced it would stick with a similar calendar to previous ones for the next two academic years.
“If you look at the threads of the history of Atlanta, they’re woven into that place.”