Breaking News
More () »

From crime to failed businesses: Troubled road in DeKalb County set to get a fresh start

DeKalb County leaders plan to revitalize the area to try and bring more business and curb crime

DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. — Standing on the balcony of the tattoo parlor where he works, just off Memorial Drive, Chase Gates sees a freshly paved road and a potential start to revamping his community. He's lived in DeKalb County for about a year and said business has been booming.

"We got no worries for the most part," Gates said. "They need more lighting in certain areas on the strip, but other than that, it’s pretty safe. It's the stigma of Memorial Drive basically."

That stigma, Gates said, stems from shootings, boarded-up businesses and few places for people to turn.

"You have a history, a future and a present," Gate said. "So the history has been partying and having fun. In the present, it's been up and down. So we have to find some type of balance to make the future of Memorial Drive, way better than all of that."

DeKalb County leaders are hoping to rebrand Memorial Drive, starting by placing signs with a new logo. The efforts come after a survey taken pre-pandemic by people who live on that stretch of the busy road, home to several international and homegrown residents and business owners. 

DeKalb County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw said he looked to Bill Kennedy Way in Atlanta, along with the city's stretch of Memorial Drive as examples to follow in revitalizing the road. He said the hope is to attract new business to the area and curb crime.

"In and of themselves they won't," Bradshaw said. "A sign by itself won't do that, private investment follows public investment. So this is us demonstrating a public investment in this corridor so that the private investment will follow." 

Bradshaw said a task force already meets every month to address issues along the Memorial Drive corridor between I-285 and Highway 78. Police, code enforcement, sanitation and the county's economic arm are all involved.

Architect Gregory Walker of Houser Walker, the company charged with designing a logo for the soon-to-be-branded Memorial Drive corridor, said the rebranding was just a first step after which many more would follow.

"These are businesses that had largely been bypassed by time and other conditions," Walker said. "Branding is just one way to try and bring the community together and give them a common voice. And that's what all branding can do, really in this kind of application, just help give something to the community itself."

Gates said he was optimistic the signs could mark the start of revamping his community and shedding its stigma.

"If they just gave more people opportunities to have an actual business, or push the business they have on the strip, it would probably be way better," Gates said. "I actually think it could be way better than it actually is. It’s just the opportunity has to be presented.”

DeKalb County officials would not give a specific total amount they think the rebranding project on Memorial Drive could cost. They say the signage alone could cost up to $100,000, and they could decide on a logo and slogan by the end of the year.

Before You Leave, Check This Out