ATLANTA, Ga. -- When they opened the Elliott Street Deli and Pub, Peter and Mike Jakob had chosen to take a chance on an untested neighborhood called Castleberry Hill.
The old warehouse community within eyeshot of the Georgia Dome was starting a renaissance in early 2006; it was becoming known as a neighborhood that supported art and fashion and residential living.
"There wasn't anybody living here in the 2000s," said Mike Jakob. "People started coming and creating these really cool lofts, great gallery space and Castleberry Hill started becoming this really cool neighborhood. And we just kind of wanted to be part of that."
But the Jakob brothers didn't know a construction project would threaten their neighborhood's vitality.
The Mitchell Street bridge crosses the railroad gulch behind the Richard B. Russell Federal Building. The bridge was one of only two links over the gulch between Castleberry Hill and downtown Atlanta. In March 2008, the state of Georgia deemed the bridge to be unsafe, abruptly closing it. The bridge stayed closed for four and a half long years.
"They've built a lot of things in four and a half years that are way bigger than that bridge," Mike Jakob said ruefully. The New Georgia Encyclopedia says the Georgia Dome was built in two and a half years.
As the construction dragged on, and the economy collapsed, the Jakob brothers say Castleberry Hill's growth all but stopped. The street outside their pub closed and their main link to downtown stayed severed. The construction took place just a few feet from the pub's front door. Jakob says the construction equipment shook the pub's foundation and damaged the facade of his building.
"We lost a lot of galleries during that time," said Jakob. "It's like a main artery that gets cut off in a heart."
So when the bridge reopened Thursday, the Jakob brothers could allow themselves a low-key toast -- to a downtown customer base that may slowly return-- and to the patience of a neighborhood.
"It's linking us to downtown, finally," said Peter Jakob.