Mims Bledsoe
Mims Bledsoe

Buckhead’s West Village is a remarkable neighborhood. With over 100 retailers in just 40 acres, it offers perhaps the highest concentration of independent businesses anywhere in Atlanta.

Loosely bordered by East Andrews Drive, West Paces Ferry Road and Roswell Road, West Village has boutiques, restaurants and nightlife, home décor, specialty shops, and a full range of professional and personal services: architectural, educational, pet care, automotive, floral, beauty and fitness.

Any neighborhood would be proud to boast the kind of variety West Village maintains.

After 2 ½ years here, I am very proud to do business in West Village. In that time, I have noticed that our neighborhood has considerable needs. Our independent variety is also our Achilles’ Heel.

West Village suffers from unsightly and even unsafe conditions. Without the cohesion provided by a single property management entity, border areas can easily be neglected. There are no common standards for waste management, asphalt repair, erosion, litter control or creation of public gathering space.

With improved streetscaping and continued maintenance, West Village will quickly become an inviting destination. Improving our surroundings will increase foot traffic to local businesses as well as heighten investment for area residents. Nestled between Buckhead Village Lofts, the St. Regis Hotel, and the forthcoming Camden Paces, West Village is surrounded by neighbors eager to support a more welcoming walkabout.

Other Atlanta neighborhoods inspire and instruct: downtown Decatur, Virginia-Highland and Inman Park went from unwelcoming to thriving, healthy, family destinations.

How did they do it? They organized and set the right goal: to increase pedestrian-friendly, aesthetically-pleasing, enjoyable public space. These neighborhoods achieved that through merchant organizations, public-private collaboration, collective marketing, and interest-aligned real estate development.

West Village already has the bones of a walkable, booming small business environment – our challenges are more approachable than what these areas faced. They have seen tremendous results through grassroots efforts; we should follow their example.

There are many possible ways to address the needs of West Village. However, there is not yet a forum for considering them, much less consensus on how to proceed.

Establishing goals and undertaking neighborhood revitalization requires a collective of stakeholders. It will take community involvement, fundraising, city government representation, cooperation among business owners and landowners, concerted marketing, and a whole lot of elbow grease. Establishing a West Village Merchants Association is the first step toward organizing and channeling these efforts.

The Buckhead Theatre hosted our initial gathering on Oct. 22. I am grateful to Aaron Fortner of Market & Main for encouraging West Village to “keep up” and “stand out” among Atlanta’s many thriving districts, and to Jim Durrett, who advocated for annexing into the CID.

West Village is unlike any other neighborhood. It has the potential to be one of the nation’s premier commercial destinations. Visit Telluride, Colo., or King Street in Charleston, S.C., and you will see bustling nightlife along with busy daytime traffic. These places are clean, beautiful and inviting, and have a character all their own.

Ours may be the next must-visit neighborhood known across the country, but only if we act collectively. Martha Stewart magazine featured West Village in March, saying, “It has the dreamy combination of old and new worlds that we find so exciting … plus it’s easily walkable and provides a sense of this bustling Southern city’s great charm, history and style.”

Please pick up a copy of the latest Buckhead map, which through the generous donation of its publisher, features a pop-out section on West Village. Nov. 30 is Small Business Saturday – we look forward to seeing you in West Village!

Mims Bledsoe started Pie Shop in 2010.