My first glimpse of Jimmy is in a stairwell mirror at the Oakland City MARTA station. He’s slowly climbing the stairs with a grocery sack, placing the bag a few steps above him then shuffling up the steps to join it. His elbow is visible through a hole in his long-sleeved white shirt and he has a glove on one hand.
“Can I help you find something?” he asks.
Before I can hardly respond, he starts explaining the station layout, the tunnel under the railroad, the Kraft-Nabisco bakery next door where he says they make Oreos.
“And if you walk just a little ways, there’s a great neighborhood — Sylvan Hills. There’s still affordable houses. Cute houses. And just behind Kraft is a new middle school.”
After chatting briefly, I learn Jimmy is 72-years-old and has lived in Atlanta since 1946. He explained that the crack epidemic in the ’90s led to the decline of the neighborhood. Over a period of 30 years, he had been robbed at gunpoint several times when walking home from the station at night, though he says daytime is safer.
Despite his brushes with crime, he ends the conversation by inviting me to become a neighbor, exemplifying the community spirit in the neighborhood. The conversation also provided a helpful impression of the best features of the area, including:
East of the station via the Murphy Avenue exit, Sylvan Hills does indeed still have some affordable housing in the city. Built in the 1920s, the neighborhood has a mix of long-time residents and young professionals.
Another historic neighborhood with affordable housing, Capitol View is also next to the MARTA station. It was named after the literal view of the Georgia Capitol from the neighborhood and is filled with bungalows built between approximately 1915 and 1925.
BeltLine Westside Trail
The end of the BeltLine Westside Trail is just north of the MARTA station off of Murphy Avenue (turn right out of the station). When complete, the trail will travel to West End and Washington Park. In the other direction, the southern trail loop will connect with Grant Park and the Eastside Trail.
An artist gallery and cooperative, the B Complex is a creative space in old warehouse buildings on the east side of the station (pictured above).
James Orange Park and Recreation Center
On the Lee Street side of the station is the James Orange Park and Recreation Center. Highlights include a new swimming pool, playground, tennis courts and ball fields.