The story is about race in my neighborhood of Kirkwood.
The goal of white yuppies who began moving in over a decade ago was to have a quiet, single-family residential area with a cutesy little downtown where they could eat and shop.
They got their wish when Kirkwood Station opened a few years ago, replacing some abandoned storefronts reportedly owned by Hosea Williams himself with ground-floor shops under two-story condos and townhomes. (The main street through Kirkwood is called Hosea Williams Ave.)
The neighbors love Kirkwood Station, so much so that when a developer recently tried to redevelop the land behind it as senior housing, they rejected the application.
The anchor was a restaurant, originally called Vinocity, then the Kirkwood Public House. In both incarnations it was yuppie-friendly, with fine wines, table service, and community gatherings.
Both restaurants failed.
It's a financial success, but the neighbors are pissed-off. Johnson put reflective foil over the windows, supposedly to reduce heating costs, but white folks aren't buying it. Most patrons are black, the place is open until after midnight, they have a rope line and security and there's a constant threat of violence in the air (although nothing has yet happened).
Check out the Kirkwood Bar & Grill section under Good Eats and Not So Good Eats, on the Kirkwood message board. Talk to some of the KNO members, like Earl Williamson, or the head of the group's zoning committee, which voted 2-1 against extending Johnson a liquor license but couldn't really explain why at this week's Kirkwood Neighbors Organization meeting. Especially with Johnson standing nearby to reassure everyone he is a righteous dude.
For more fun go across the street to Jax All Inn. Formerly Aces , this held within its smoky confines some of the clientele that now hangs at the KB&G. (Plus a pool table don't you understand?) Bowing to neighborhood pressure, Joshua Kahn changed the menu, made the place more family-friendly, but still tried to maintain his “old business” and allow smoking after 9, as the law allows.
The result is a place that is neither fish-nor-fowl, but is generally empty. Kahn is apparently not web-centric, or he'd have a chance. (His Web site still advertises Aces.) The food is sometimes quite good, but he's already threatening to quit the business unless things pick up soon.
Which they won't.
What happens when a neighborhood transitions from poor-black to rich-white is that when the commercial district re-opens, as in Oakhurst, it's a white man's place. Oakhurst, just a few miles from Kirkwood, is thriving, with restaurants, bars, and even a fancy food place called Oakhurst Market. Go by there at 5 PM on a Friday and the corner will be filled with young white folks and their super-young white children. Oakhurst is still 35% black, but that's changing quickly too. Decatur is on its way to being an intown version of Dunwoody, a Virginia-Highlands with self-government.
Kirkwood's transition was stopped by the recession, leaving it in this sort of no-man's land. I agree with the KNO. No yuppie wants to live above the Kirkwood Bar & Grill. I doubt even David Johnson does. What he's doing is destroying the rest of the area's chance for recovery for a quick dollar.
But if any KNO board member said that, they'd be called racist. So they make do with hand-wringing complaints about “urban people,” as if they weren't urban people themselves. And watch their urban pioneering dreams go up in smoke.
Now if that ain't a story I don't know what is. Check it out. Do your own reporting. Get some pictures. Have fun. I got better things to do.