Located in upper Atlanta is a bird’s nest of strip clubs, dive bars, gay clubs and pornography affectionately known as Cheshire Bridge Road. A manifested mecca of sexual outlets, Cheshire Bridge has always held some significance and stake in the history of LGBT community of Atlanta, having been the location of several legendary bars and clubs.
However, recently there has been a threat to Cheshire Bridge Road and all of its rawness. An effort to gentrify Atlanta’s self-realized red light district has been looming over our heads for the past decade, but now the effort, increasingly led by fellow gay Atlanta city council member Alex Wan and company, has been drawing ever more near.
The end goal of “cleaning up” the Cheshire Bridge Road district is, best described as, making the area more palatable and appropriate for families to live in. The plan also includes restrictions, new laws, and new ordinances to police and alter the community already formed along the famed road—including the many adult outlets that we all enjoy.
The image of a gentrified Cheshire Bridge Road would include tearing down abandoned or unnecessary buildings and erecting large scale, luxury apartments and condominiums—which would lead to higher property values and would cause a major flux in the way the Cheshire Bridge Road area operates now.
And just as there is a very passionate force to see this change come to life, there is an equal, if not more passionate, fight against this change coming to fruition. Those who wish to leave the Cheshire Bridge Road district as it is cite its purpose and creation as justification alone of not needing to alter it. They emphasize that its existence is a true manifestation of human sexuality and desire and that, historically speaking, when that kind of outlet is challenged or eliminated, negative reactions ensue.
If the Cheshire Bridge Road area is to be “cleansed” and gentrified to make it family-friendly, where will people go for sexual expression? What will the people who work there take up once their business runs dry?
The issue is not with the Cheshire Bridge Road area in itself. The issue, rather, is within many representative groups in Atlanta imagining a new vision of Atlanta, without consent from the citizens. As usual with politics, they only serve a certain faction of opinions and that is why the political landscape of Atlanta is warped and constantly making decisions that don’t reflect the majority of their constituency.
The reason why this issue such a heated one is because it’s once again an encroachment by higher-up and out-of-touch Atlanta representatives upon a culture and community that was born out of rebellion, out of expression. LGBT folks’ local histories and community state are at stake if the Cheshire Bridge Road district is to be “sanitized” in any way, shape, or form. Sexual expression is a key part to most of humankind. So why try to alter that for the sake of condominiums and apartments?