Economic Development: The Restaurant Factor

by Jeff Delp on

Two young ladies enjoy conversation over food and drink at Community Grounds.

Two young ladies enjoy conversation over food and drink at Community Grounds.

A grocery store, a coffee shop, and now a space for a restaurant. There’s something about having a spot for neighbors to gather that matters, and people (all people) love to gather over food. Food is the one thing that we all need. It’s one thing that all of us enjoy. It combines hospitality, adventure, and culture. For community developers, there’s a lot of potential in places that serve food in ways that intentionally bring people together. Done well, they act as a bridge between cultures and peoples.

Which is why renovating this vacant gas station across the street is important for our neighborhood. We know our neighborhood is changing, like a lot of Atlanta is changing. In some places that have seen rapid demographic change, many new restaurants cater primarily to the new folks moving in, often at the expense of leaving out those that have lived in the neighborhood for the past fifty years. When this happens, restaurants become exclusive and don’t harness the opportunity to be the bridge, the place where new neighbors and old neighbors could see each other and even get to know each other. At FCS, we’re going to make it a point to ensure that the restaurateur renting the space caters to everybody in the community - just like we’ve done at Community Grounds and Carver Market. We see huge potential.

Once finished, a restaurant will serve as another public space. It will be a point of pride for the neighborhood, a space where people who don’t live in Historic South Atlanta can be introduced. Think about it -- when guests come over to your house, you don’t invite them in and take them to your bedroom. You hang out with them in the living room, in the dining room. A restaurant can serve as a living room for Historic South Atlanta. Visitors who want to know about the community can get a literal small taste of it in a way that honors historic residents. Restaurants show to others that our community is thriving, that people are living rich lives nearby in a dignifying way.

But at the end of the day, this restaurant is primarily for our neighbors. It provides another opportunity for neighbors to gather, another opportunity to do something different economically. When our neighbors see a restaurant come into the building, they will be able to say to themselves, “that’s a place for me.”  Certainly we’ll welcome outsiders, but the eatery is first and foremost for neighbors. It’s another vision of beauty, another example of what “making it” looks like, a chance for young people in our neighborhood to see an example of what they could do one day. When a restaurateur occupies the space, it will offer the taste of possibilities, in addition to the delicious food that comes out on a plate.

It’s a long process; we’re still working on acquiring all the and around the building, but we are committed to long haul. Glad you’re on the journey with us.

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