by Bailey White
Five Points is home to vintage shops and tattoo parlors that share space with upscale dining spots such as Stella’s Piano Bar and boutiques featuring high end apparel. Young crowds are attracted to nightclubs, which offer some of the city’s edgiest musical acts, and plenty of adults flock to the antique shops, guaranteeing a diverse crowd.
Now the area is scheduled for a face lift — a beautification project which includes new streetlights, sidewalks, and landscaping. With the success of the Publix shopping center on Riverside Avenue and the continued prosperity of San Marco and Avondale, it seems that Five Points, too, is edging ever closer to a more upscale vibe.
Still, merchants in the area believe that no matter the change in appearance, it’s likely that the atmosphere will remain as it has always been — eclectic, edgy and completely its own.
“The trick will be in maintaining the feel of Five Points,” said Cindy Barfield, long-time owner of Fans & Stoves antique mall. “We’re not San Marco and we’re not Avondale, and I like the diversity and uniqueness.”
Heartworks Gallery and Cafe owner Elaine Wheeler agrees.
“This is a very special neighborhood and everyone here is an individual,” said Wheeler, adding she has already experienced a rent increase for her space on Lomax Street.
“But I think this is such a wonderful neighborhood already and that there is really something for everyone here,” said Wheeler.
“We noticed that with Publix, there are a lot of new people in the area,” said Jim Webb, owner of Fuel Coffeehouse. “And I think this will make the area even more appealing.”
The project started several years ago, when City Council member Jim Overton set aside $100,000 in City funds to be used for the project, which calls for a joint effort between members of the community and the City.
“Five Points has a lot of potential,” said Overton. “It’s really the heart of the area, with a a lot of visual and cultural interest.”
Since then, business owners and neighborhood leaders have been working to raise extra funds for the project. The community is responsible for the sidewalks and landscaping and the Department of Public Works will handle street work and lighting.
“We’ll install palm trees and flowering trees and take the sidewalks to eight feet,” said Webb, who has been working to raise funding for the project.
“I think the area will definitely retain its funk and unique character,” said Bonnie Grissett, Riverside Avondale Preservation, Inc.’s executive director. RAP has been working to coordinate plans with the City and business owners who will share responsibility of the project.
She’s currently working with architect Ted Pappas on an agreement that must go before Public Works before construction can begin.
“It should be complete by the end of next week,” said Grissett.
Pappas has been involved in the project since early on, drawing some original plans for the area’s new look.
“I live in Riverside and was born near Five Points,” said Pappas, “so I have a special interest in the project.”
Once an agreement is reached, the City will work with business owners to decide the best time to begin construction, which could take as long as eight months to complete.
“We’re looking to merchants to give us a timeline because the work is probably going to have an affect on their business,” said Lynn Westbrook, director of Public Works. “And we obviously don’t want to start at Thanksgiving and devastate the Christmas holiday for them.”
One more issue to discuss is whether the community is interested in providing funding for an upgrade of electrical wiring, which would include connecting unsightly wires to the backs of buildings.
“I think there’s a strong desire on everybody’s part that if you’re going to make major improvements, you don’t want wires hanging across the street,” said Pappas. “But that would mean a new service outside, as well as upgrades of service inside the buildings, which triggers a lot of expense.”
Still, Pappas is hopeful the work will get started sooner than later.
“I’m hoping construction gets started sometime in late March or early April,” he said.
No matter what changes occur to the area’s physical appearance, it seems that diversity will continue to be one of Five Point’s key characteristics.
“It has a flavor of its own,” said Bill Walton, who owns retail space in Five Points. “A lot of people come to Five Points for the specifics of what’s there and I expect that flavor to continue.”
“I think Five Points will become a little more upscale,” said Overton, “but it will continue to be funky and its own thing.”