The Buckhead Reporter offers this look at the West Paces/Northside neighborhood as part of a series of articles on where residents live.

Residents of the West Paces/Northside community often gather at the OK Cafe located in a shopping center close to I-75.

The residents living between West Paces Ferry Road, NW and Northside Parkway, NW believe they are stronger as a team, even if their neighborhood spreads out over a mile of pricey Buckhead real estate. The West Paces/Northside neighborhood is known as the location of Pace Academy, a private school, and its most famous resident is Arthur Blank, owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

Sometimes Tom Tidwell sees Blank jogging down his street.

“It’s family friendly,” Tidwell said. “It has sidewalks. I think the sidewalks kind of bring the neighborhood together.”

The West Paces/Northside community is really a confederacy of smaller neighborhoods. Zoning and safety concerns brought them together.

Residents formed the West Paces/Northside Neighborhood Association in 1991. The group, representing approximately 450 households, battled commercial development, fought crime, curbed traffic and coordinated with elected leaders. Tidwell is a member of the board.

Another board member is Fred Assaf, the headmaster at Pace Academy who also lives in the neighborhood. He said the residents and the school have been in constant communication regarding construction of a new high school, slated to open in fall 2014.

Steve Dickson and his wife Paula stand on the porch of their home on North Wood Valley Road. Dickson is a member of the West Paces/Northside Neighborhood Association’s board of directors.

“I like to think that we’re nice complements to each other,” Assaf said. “I feel like the neighbors watch out for us and we watch out for them, and that makes for a great neighborhood.”

The local public elementary school is Warren T. Jackson Elementary, but until 2008 the neighborhood was zoned for Morris Brandon Elementary. Atlanta Public Schools grandfathered in students already attending Morris Brandon when it redrew the attendance maps.

Steve Dickson, also a board member, and his wife Paula live down the street from Tidwell. They like living in a neighborhood where children attend the same school and the family is close to a shopping center. The thing that worries them the most is the future of Atlanta Public Schools.

“As much as we pay in taxes, there’s always some kind of drama around the school system,” Steve Dickson said.

One of the features that makes the neighborhood attractive to homebuyers – its proximity to I-75 – also brought retailers. On Feb. 12, residents drove their SUVs with impunity around the crowded shopping center parking lot at the corner of West Paces and Northside Parkway; walkers, be wary.

People waited outside the OK Café for a table. Tidwell said the neighborhood’s primary gathering spot is the Starbucks, and customers there gazed at the gathering rain clouds while they waited on drinks.

The neighborhood is a mix of older ranch-style houses that are either in their original state or converted into a larger space. Tidwell said some owners tore down the homes completely and built more modern structures. Stately mansions share the neighborhood with breezy modern designs.

In addition to Pace Academy, the Atlanta Speech School and St. Anne’s Episcopal School are neighbors, and it’s close to another Buckhead institution, Thomas “Tommy’s” Barber Shop.

According to the Buckhead Heritage Society, at the beginning of the 20th century the neighborhood was divided into larger tracts owned by wealthy residents. In the 1950s and 1960s, the properties were subdivided into smaller lots where developers built the ranch homes during the early days of suburban expansion.

Jim Murphy, a World War II veteran, has lived there for decades. The 88-year-old resident said he’s endured his fair share of zoning battles – his property is adjacent to commercial areas – but said lately it has been quieter.

He likes the convenience of his location and his neighbors.

“My neighbors are wonderful, but most everybody can say that because to have a good neighbor you’ve got to be a good neighbor, I think,” Murphy said.

Dan Whisenhunt

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011 - 2014. He is the founder and editor of