The city of Avondale Estates, in DeKalb County, is talking with MARTA about leasing land to provide 150 new parking spaces in its downtown area.
So why does a small, quiet city of just 3,000 people need additional parking? There is a quiet, but active small business boom going on there.
Evening rush hour traffic stops at the intersection of North Avondale Road and North Clarendon Avenue. It is busy, but most of the vehicles are just passing through. If you get stuck at the light, you might notice the large Tudor style building that anchors Avondale Estates — and for the past couple of decades — a lot of empty storefronts.
“You know, there’s 20,000 plus cars that’s coming through the city every day, and they’re shooting to Atlanta. We want them to stop.” That is the goal of City Manager Clai Brown. He has been working for the past seven years with the Mayor and Board of Commissioners to attract new business.
The city hired a planner almost four years ago, and it is getting ready to hire a “business concierge” who will help business owners navigate the permitting and licensing process. Brown says Avondale Estates has also brought its business permitting and inspection process in house to provide faster turnaround than DeKalb County.
It looks like the business development efforts are finally starting to pay off.
In one storefront window: cakes with frosting so perfect they do not look real. “So you can come in and get those cupcakes, and cake pops, cake truffles, etc.: all kinds of boutique sweets,” says Laura Haass. She opened her business, Icing, just two weeks ago.
“We’ve lived in Avondale for eleven years,” says Haass. “And we are just delighted to be part of the wonderful revitalization that’s going on right now. I mean, we have lots of new businesses opening up, restaurants.”
“Pallookaville!” says Jenny Culler of East Lake. “Yeah. We wanted to get some good bad food.” Pallookaville serves more kinds of corn dogs than you cake shake a wooden stick at along with deli sandwiches and a long list of complicated soda fountain concoctions. If you talk to business owners and customers, Pallookaville, which opened early last year, gets a lot of the credit for kicking off the trend of artisanal, locally owned businesses here.
“Today we were just in Pallookaville, and we looked across the street, says Culler, “and there was a new record store that we didn’t even know was here. And it’s clearly locally, independently owned, and we’re excited about it.”
Michael Tyson owns Sunbrimmer Records. He has lived in Avondale Estates since 2009. “When I drove past this space and saw it was for rent,” says Tyson, “I couldn’t believe it, because it’s in this awesome historical plaza.”
Sunbrimmer, which sells only vinyl, has been open since March, and Tyson says business is good. Both Sunbrimmer and Icing are in Tudor Village. The village is just one building, but it is in the center of town and has been the focus since Avondale Estates was built in the 1920s. Avondale Estates was one of the Southeast’s first planned cities and is on the National Historic Register.
A Decatur company, Oakhurst Realty Partners, bought Tudor Village two years ago. Fisher Paty, one of the owners, says, “I frequently will bike down College [Avenue], which turns into North Avondale. And so I’ve been seeing this building for years and just always felt like it was underutilized.”
On the day we talked with him, Paty was showing one of the spaces in Tudor Village to two men who want to open a framing shop. Their real estate agent, Talani Casariego, was with them. Why did she choose Avondale Estates for her clients to consider? “New people moving to the area, and foot traffic,” says Casariego, “and it’s just an exciting part of town all of a sudden. “
Paty says occupancy has increased more than 25 percent in the last two years, and he is still in the process of renovating the building. Some of the biggest buzz surrounding Tudor Village is the possibility of a live music venue going into the Towne Cinema space where, according to local legend, Elvis Presley once played.
Just a few blocks away, someone has just signed a contract to develop a 13 acre mixed use development with retail, offices, and homes. City Manager Clai Brown says he cannot reveal yet who the developer is, but he does say this: “I think we’re gonna need that parking.”
Almost half a dozen business owners are slated to open new or expanded spaces in Avondale Estates in the next six months.