‘Putting down roots’: Here’s why Atlanta families are flocking to historic Oakhurst

This story was originally published in the January 2017 issue of Living Intown.

Located in the southwest corner of the City of Decatur, the historic Oakhurst neighborhood can take some finding. Bounded by College Avenue to the north, Pharr Road to the south, Candler Drive to the east and Second Avenue to the west, it can seem nestled in a maze of streets.

Like many other parts of Decatur, Oakhurst manages to be hip and happening as well as family-friendly, while carving out a distinct identity. With a relatively small footprint, shady streets lined with mature trees, and often more pedestrians than cars in view, Oakhurst offers an easygoing contrast to the bustle and traffic of surrounding communities.

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Many residents are also business owners who have been active in the ongoing growth and revitalization of what’s known as “Oakhurst Village” and its collection of bars, restaurants and storefronts clustered around the intersections of East Lake Drive, Oakhurst Road and Mead Road.

Marc Brennan, who moved to Oakhurst in 2000 and is a partner in Universal Joint, Steinbeck’s and Oakhurst Market, has observed and participated in the changes.

"We opened Universal Joint in July of 2000," Brennan says. "We opened Steinbeck's six years later. In 2000, I loved all my neighbors, and I love all my neighbors now. But, obviously, people have moved in and out of the neighborhood, and it's grown and evolved like anything else.

The neighborhood

Like the city of Decatur, Oakhurst changed dramatically from majority-black to majority-white between 1990 and 2010, according to a 2014 study of census data.

With the motto, “Putting Down Roots Since 1910,” the Oakhurst Neighborhood Association is a membership-driven organization that supports community events and activities such as the MLK Jr. Service Project, block party grants and holiday celebrations.

Historic Oakhurst also includes the neighborhood known as College Heights, around South McDonough and Lenore streets.

Where to play

Oakhurst Garden

One the most prominent community gardens in Atlanta has morphed into the Wylde Center, an organization of green spaces and community gardens offering education, events and a Community Supported Agriculture program providing weekly farm box pickups with produce from local farmers. The lush, hilly garden features community plots, a greenhouse, a mini-farm, herb garden, chickens and pocket ecosystems around the site.

435 Oakview Road. 404-371-1920.

Oakhurst Parks

With the recently completed “Streetscape” project of new sidewalks, lighting and trees, the expanded Harmony Park has become Oakhurst’s urban designer village square, with a plaza that includes bike racks, benches and sculptures.

Other nearby parks include Oakhurst Park (307 Feld Ave.), with a lighted tennis courts, a basketball court and a playground area; and McKoy Park (1000 Adams St.), with a fenced and lighted baseball field, a skate park and nearby McKoy Pool (534 McKoy St.).

Jazz Nights

The series of free and family-friendly outdoor concerts is held 7-9 p.m. Thursdays in April and September on the lawn in front of the Solarium at Historic Scottish Rite, where neighbors gather with picnic baskets to enjoy a variety of musicians and jazz styles.

321 West Hill St.

Porch Fest

Since its debut in October 2015, this lively, eclectic grassroots music festival has already become one of the neighborhood’s signature attractions. Porches turn into stages, and residents and visitors can walk or bike to enjoy more than 100 different performances.

Insider tip

The Mead Road Mardi Gras Parade began as a family affair in 2005 and has grown into a second line strut through the streets, led by community krewes, floats, marching bands and drum lines. facebook.com/MeadRd.MardiGras

Where to eat

Oakhurst’s restaurant patios and sidewalk seating have long made it a casual dining destination, but fine dining is about to make an appearance, too.

Restaurateur and neighborhood resident Chris Martha is a partner in a new restaurant, called Scout, that’s set to open in a section of the Scottish Rite building in early 2017.

"We really want to create the casual, comfortable atmosphere of a place we would want to go to," Martha says. "The sense of community here is so great that we want respond to that with a restaurant where families can come for dinner or people can drop in at the bar for a drink later in the evening."

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Mojo Pizza N Pub

Opened in 1998, the Oakhurst pioneer is known for its signature New York-style pizza with sesame-seed crust, but also offers a full bar and a large list of bottled draft and craft beer.

657 East Lake Drive. 404-373-1999.

Oakhurst Market

This community go-to includes a butcher and bakery on site, seafood, prepared foods, fresh produce from local farms, essential grocery items, sandwiches, cheese, beer and wine.

650 East Lake Drive. 678-732-3109.

Kavarna Coffee

A cool coffee house and destination for live music, art and performance events embodies the DIY spirit of the community, serving up espresso drinks, beer, wine, and locally made goodies.

707 East Lake Drive. 404-371-1113.

The Imperial

Opened in late 2013 by three longtime Oakhurst residents, including barman and trivia meister Robert Holland, this no-frills pub already has the feel of a longtime neighborhood haunt.

726 West College Ave. 404-464-5698.

Universal Joint

Since 2000, a quintessential neighborhood bar, with wide-ranging menu from burgers to Tex-Mex, plenty of beer and booze, and an easygoing atmosphere for families or bar flies.

906 Oakview Road. 404-373-6260.

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