Kirkwood resident Joe Alcock said he has seen a lot of changes in the east Atlanta neighborhood since he and his wife moved there more than a decade ago.
“A lot of people are moving back into the city and buying old houses and renovating them,” Alcock said. “Houses in disrepair are being bulldozed and bigger houses are being built.
The Kirkwood neighborhood is situated entirely in DeKalb County, located near the Lake Claire, East Lake and Oakhurst areas.
Alcock, 39, is a member of the Kirkwood Business Owners’ Association. He and his wife relocated to the area from Sandy Springs in 1999, where they moved after graduating from Auburn University.
“A lot of the things we were doing were downtown. So, when we decided to buy a house, one of our friends lived in Oakhurst and we began to look in the area,” Alcock said. “We really wanted a little bungalow and we found one in Kirkwood.”
When he and his wife first moved into their home, Alcock said, their closest neighbors were a single mom, a young widower “who loved to garden” and a grandmother with several children.
“Each house has its own life cycle to it and that makes each street unique,” Alcock said. “I love my neighbors and that’s probably my favorite thing about living here. I’ve got a lot of friends in the neighborhood and I can call them at 2 in the morning and say, ‘My toilet is blowing up and I need a wrench,’ and they’ll be there to help.”
Alcock said the area has seen a spur in business recently—a new Sherwin Williams store is being built and several businesses have expanded. Additionally, six years ago the neighborhood added a six-acre park with a pavilion and has several community gardens.
Although the neighborhood is relatively small, Alcock said there’s always a lot happening such as the Kirkwood Spring Fling, a 5K road race that donates part of its proceeds to Special Olympics. The neighborhood also participates in a celebration of the Battle of Atlanta each July with its East Atlanta neighbors and was awarded a national historic designation three years ago.
“There was probably a little bit more crime when we first moved in but that has diminished,” Alcock said. “There’s a good police presence and the neighborhood has hired off-duty police officers for additional security.”
Emily Wimbush moved to Kirkwood in 2007 and is one of the many Atlanta transplants who moved from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Like Alcock, who spent the weekend making homemade ice cream with his neighbors, Wimbush said she chose Kirkwood for its small town appeal and diversity.
Wimbush lives in Kirkwood Station, a mixed-use development on the corner of Hosea Williams Drive and Warren Street. She said when she moved to Kirkwood it was the only area she liked with a mixed-use development where she could both live and run a business.
“I’m a jewelry designer—I do a combination of sales and custom work for clients and online sales. I also sell from boutiques and my studio as well,” Wimbush said.
Once she settled in, Wimbush joined the business association and started a wine stroll to raise money for the area, which has flourished each year since its inception. She said over the past five years several businesses have opened such as Le Petit Marche, a café/market attached to the Kirkwood Station building, and businesses such as Kirkwood Bark and Lounge, a pet day care and boarding facility.
Wimbush said although the business district is flourishing, the area is still in need of commercial real estate to attract more businesses.
The Atlanta Police Department’s Zone 6 Precinct is located in the heart of downtown Kirkwood, which is another reason Wimbush chose to move there. She said she wanted to move to an up-and-coming neighborhood that is also relatively safe.
“When I first moved in I would see the random prostitute walk down the street but now the zone commanders come to all of our meetings. We also have a new fire station down the street and our own library and a post office just a few blocks away,” Wimbush said.
Wimbush said she thinks the fire station, police precinct, post office and Kirkwood Elementary School are big attractions for couples looking to move into the area and start a family. Alcock, who has two daughters, said over the past few years residents have put a lot of energy into rebuilding the school and developing relationships with the staff.
“We’ve got an amazing principal over there who really knows how to manage the school,” Alcock said. “It’s a fun place to live and I’ve really enjoyed it…I don’t think I could ever get my wife to move even if I tried.”