Summerfest Committee Seeks Additional Committee Members

by John Becker

Who’s ready for some Summerfest?

Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a few more months for this year’s weekend of art, music, food and neighborhood fun. Our 33rd festival is set for June 4-5, but the Summerfest committee is already hard at work planning this year’s event.

If you can’t wait for June to start thinking about neighborhood fun in the sun, the committee has a couple of open slots it would love to fill with interested VaHi residents.

Lead Needed for Kidsfest Area
One opening is for someone to assist in the planning of, and act as primary onsite manager for, our ever-popular Kidsfest area. Jenifer Keenan and Meghan McCloskey planned and executed an incredible Kidsfest last year, but Jenifer will be unavailable for onsite management this year and Meghan will be focusing on this year’s children’s book sale (a very popular part of last year’s Kidsfest).

Jenifer has relationships established with a number of Kidsfest sponsors. She will work with the new person to secure those and other agreements and will be available to otherwise assist in planning this year’s event. This is a rare opportunity to get directly involved and learn from a successful previous chair at the same time. If you love children – and organizing and executing an awesome event – this is the perfect opportunity for you.

Onsite Manager Needed for Tot Trot
We also need someone to assist with planning and possibly act as onsite manager (at least assist) for our incredibly popular Tot Trot which takes place on Saturday morning after the Summerfest 5K Road Race. Dana Woodhall was last year’s point person and she did an outstanding job with what has become one of the festival’s most popular events (and one that is over by 10 AM Saturday, leaving you free to enjoy the rest of the festival). Dana is more than willing to help with planning this year’s festival but there’s a chance her job as a doctor will require her to miss the festival itself. Our new team member will work with Dana to plan the event and either lead onsite if Dana can’t attend or work side-by-side with her if she can.

For More Information
Please visit last year’s event page at to learn more about these events. If you’re interested in helping or just want to learn more, send an email with your contact info to and he’ll get back with you.

John Becker is Co-Chair of Summerfest 2016.
Photo by John Becker

A Long and Winding Road to a Better Zoning Code

by Lola Carlisle

The Virginia-Highland Master Plan was adopted in July of 2014 by Atlanta City Council and is now part of the City of Atlanta’s Comprehensive Development Plan. (You can see a copy of the Master Plan here.)

During that process – which was facilitated by the association’s longtime urban planner, Aaron Fortner of Canvas Planning – one of the residents’ top concerns was the mass and scale of that new construction in the neighborhood. Many citizens argued that that the size (and sometimes the design) of new homes were having a negative impact on the character of the community.

In light of those concerns, the Virginia-Highland Civic Association Planning Committee has been studying other cities’ responses to these challenges.  With our consultants’ help, one concept we examined pretty closely is Residential Overlay Zoning, an approach that adds neighborhood-specific zoning elements to the existing city zoning.

In the midst of that research, the City of Atlanta launched a review of its own zoning code and processes. The general need for a review is obvious.  The current code has been modified many times since its last overhaul in  1982, and a number of new approaches to construction and planning have taken hold since then. Some existing code sections overlap one another and approach new challenges from different perspectives. A more comprehensive – ideally, simpler – code would be welcomed by citizens, builders, architects, enforcement officials, planners, and neighborhoods. An improved and clearer zoning code will also delineate more carefully what is appropriate in historic neighborhoods,  which are currently facing intense development pressure. Virginia-Highland is considered an exemplar of the problem – and possibilities – and this neighborhood will be looked at in this process.

It is a credit to the skill of our own professional team that they are a major part of the effort the city has begun.  Under those circumstances, their recommendation to us was to pause and see where the larger city effort goes. After some discussion, we agree that this is the most practical course, and (we hope) the most rewarding.

Lola Carlisle is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Planning Committee

10-Year-Old VaHi Student Honored for Efforts To Save Rhinos

by Robin Ragland

Each January, Atlanta INtown Paper recognizes its 20 UNDER 20–twenty students that give back to their communities in a significant way.

For the second time in three years, a resident of Elmwood Drive has been recognized as an honoree.

This year it’s Elizabeth Cohen, 10-year-old daughter of Dan and Jennifer Cohen on Elmwood Drive. There is a fetching article about her in Atlanta INtown, describing how she became aware at age 6 that rhinos were needlessly being killed for their horns, and how, for the following four years, she has dedicated herself to raising money for rhino preservation,  giving presentations about the dangers to rhinos, and even meeting with preservation leaders in London to share ideas.

For the full article, including bios for each of the 20 students honored in 2016, click here.

If you have an interest participating with Elizabeth in saving the rhinos, you can learn more about it here.

Community Spirit

Elizabeth’s community spirit is local, too. In addition to her work to help save the rhinos, Elizabeth was also a contributor to the Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s first annual tree lighting event in N Highland Park this past December. Her Haygood Girl Scout Troop 21340 provided baked goods for us all to enjoy.

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association joins with Atlanta INtown in saluting our second very special Elmwood resident, Elizabeth Cohen.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Cohen

Order Custom Virginia-Highland House Number Signs

by Lola Carlisle

Signs are available to order here.

These signs are really nice-looking. But more importantly, identifying your house with its number is an important safety concern – it helps emergency services like Police, Fire Department and Emergency Medical find your house.

The signs are made to order and we place orders in batches. Payment is needed in advance, and we will have the signs made as soon as the minimum order is reached.

Of course, if we don’t reach the minimum order, your money is refundable.

We’re close to having another batch of (10) orders ready to go out for the layered design so our suggestion is that one. It’s had the most interest from residents.

Lola Carlisle is a VHCA Board Member.

Ramona Liddell, Wife of Heyward Todd Liddell Jr., Has Died

By Lola Carlisle

We have Ramona Liddell to thank for a significant portion of this neighborhood’s historic archives.

Several years ago, Karri Hobson-Pape, Judy Potter, and I had the pleasure of meeting Ramona while working on our book, Virginia-Highland, Images of America.  Over several visits and many cups of coffee, we all went through boxes and boxes of images and family documents. Ramona answered so many questions so graciously that we felt like she had made us part of the family.  Her mother-in-law, Bertie Sue, was a Cheshire (as in Cheshire Bridge Road) and (from all accounts) a strong and amazing woman.

Ramona was married to Heyward Todd Liddell, Jr., a descendant of Richard Todd. Richard Todd (Todd Rd. and the Todd Cemetery Memorial) was the first white settler in this region. Richard’s wife, Martha, lured her sister to the area. It so happens that her sister was the wife of Hardy Ivy – generally characterized as Atlanta’s first European citizen (Ivy St., Hardy Ivy Park). Todd Rd. originally connected the Todd farm to Ivy’s place downtown.

The Todd holdings in VaHI encompassed 202.5 acres approximately bounded by Ponce de Leon Pl. to the west, St. Charles Ave. to the south, Barnett St. to the east, and Adair Ave. on the northern boundary. The only remaining portion of (once lengthy) Todd Rd. runs from Virginia Ave. (near the Wells Fargo branch) south to Highland Ave.

The Todd Cemetery Memorial was established in the rear of 797 Ponce de Leon Ter. in the late 1980s as part of an agreement between the developer of that property, the family, and local citizens. According to documents provided by the Todd family, the site was to include a vault containing material from the original cemetery. The memorial headstone that had been on the property since the late 1920’s was placed and surrounded by a brick and wrought iron enclosure and an easement was filed with the city for the memorial and the public access.

The Memorial has been visited over the years by a stream of family members, historians, and interested citizens. Sadly, the Todd Cemetery Memorial was destroyed around the end of 2015. The Todd family has been notified and we’ll share more information on this topic when we have it.

The family of Ramona Liddell is in town this weekend for Ramona Liddell’s funeral services. You can learn more about the life of Ramona Liddell here.

Lola Carlisle is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Planning Committee.

Family Photo of Ramona with Heyward Todd Liddell, Jr. and their son, courtesy of Ramona Liddell.

Map Courtesy of Kenan Research Center at the Atlanta History Center.

Alex Wan’s Latest Newsletter Anticipates Piedmont Traffic Resolution at New Development in 2-3 Weeks

by Stephen Cohen

In his latest newsletter, Alex Wan notes that many of you have contacted his office regarding the lane configuration on Piedmont Road in front of the Modera Morningside/Sprouts development. He goes on to say, “I share everyone’s frustration with the traffic situation that the construction has created, and we have been in close contact with both the developer and the city’s Transportation Department throughout this project regarding this matter.”

Alex states that he is hopeful that once the construction is completed – which the developer anticipates will be within the next two to three weeks – the final Piedmont Road lane configuration will alleviate the congestion that is currently occurring in that section of Piedmont.

For more details, and for other articles in Alex’s newsletter, click here. These articles include:

  • City Council Approves New Intergovernmental Agreement with Atlanta Public Schools
  • ‘A CHaRMing Evening’ – Thursday, March 10th!
  • Modera Morningside / Sprouts Traffic Configuration
  • Curbside Glass Recycling Update
  • APD Hiring Police Officers

Stephen Cohen is Editor of the Voice.

Recycling in a Tough Spot Right Now

by Peggy Berg

Recycling is a good idea, but it’s in a tough spot right now.

Oddly, recycling is one of the things that is negatively affected by the low price of oil.

Local glass companies are rejecting glass materials from the City’s recycling stream (our blue bins) because recycling glass is not currently profitable.

However, you can take your glass to be recycled at the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM), a city-supported recycling facility located at 1110 Hill St SE Atlanta, GA 30315. CHaRM accepts clean glass bottles and jars and is open:

•    Tuesdays & Thursdays 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
•    Saturdays 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

CHaRM is a permanent drop-off facility that aims to improve our environmental health by encouraging reuse and diverting thousands of pounds of household hazardous waste, bulky trash and other hard to recycle items from Metro-Atlanta landfills and water systems. A list of materials accepted is at CHaRM was created by legislation drafted by Council members Alex Wan and Carla Smith.

Curbside recycling is for household paper, cardboard, cans, and plastics numbered 1-7. Collection for your blue recycling bin is the same day as garbage collection – Monday for most of us.

All recyclables are placed together in the bin and are separated at the recycling processing facility. The only thing that should be bagged is shredded paper in a clear bag. All recycling must be clean and dry because, as you can imagine, separating shredded cans with sticky stuff still attached is a problem.

Here’s what you can put in your blue bin:

* Aluminum and Steel (Tin) Cans
* Brochures, Reams
* Cardboard Boxes- dry and broken down to fit into bin
* Cartons & Juice Boxes
* Envelopes: including windowed and labeled
* File Folders
* Glass Bottles: remove lids and place in recycling
* Greeting Cards
* Hard Plastic – Labeled 1-5, remove the tops and place in recycling
* Junk Mail
* Magazines
* Newspapers
* Office Paper – All Colors
* Paperboard, cereal boxes, etc.
* Phone Books
* Shipping Boxes
* Soft and Hard Back Books
* Wrapping Paper

The following items are recycling “NO’s.”  Putting them in your recycling bin makes it much more difficult and expensive for the City to run its recycling operation.

* NO paper towels or tissues
* NO plastic bags
* NO hoses or wire
* NO plastic pipe
* NO plastic furniture
* NO wood or building materials,
* NO food or sticky stuff.
* NO polystyrene

For recycling bins and service questions, please call 311.

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member.

VaHi and Angelika Taylor Star in Southern Weekend

by Stephen Cohen

This summer, VHCA Board Member Angelika Taylor was invited to be the guest star for a visit by the website, “Southern Weekend”.

This online magazine launched in 2015 looks across the south for interesting things to see and do. From the Southern Weekend website: “Consider us your trusted expert and adventurous tour guide. We’re passionate about weekends in the South, great eats, and amazing adventures.”

Recently, Southern Weekend honed in on Virginia-Highland and invited VHCA Board Member Angelika Taylor to be the tour guide. Both Angelika and Virginia-Highland look great!

Here’s the clip.

Pictured: VHCA Board Member Angelika Taylor.

Dine Out with Contact Point

by Stephen Cohen

On Tuesday Jan 12th, Atlanta ContactPoint is partnering with YEAH! BURGER in VaHi at 1017 N. Highland Ave for their “Feel Good” Tuesday.  They will share 10% of their evening’s proceeds to help support Atlanta ContactPoint’s work in the  community.

Says ContactPoint’s David Epstein: “We invite you to join the ACP Team and friends for burgers, beers, & milkshakes! From 6-10pm, join us and meet our team, eat really tasty food, and support our work! Please come hungry and feel free to bring a friend or two! The more the merrier! We are so grateful for your support and look forward to seeing you, soon!”

Who is Atlanta Con­tact­Point?

Atlanta ContactPoint engages chil­dren and adults through the power of play. Their neigh­bor­hood programs include sports, fit­ness, art, and nutrition to facil­i­tate well­ness and learn­ing.

An example may be found in the PLAY DAYS that they host through­out the year at local city parks and pub­lic venues. You may have seen them, for example, on BeltLine fun days. This photo, courtesy of the ACP Website, is from a PLAY DAY held at Inman Middle School.

Their activities are very diverse and include such personal favorites as Dragon Goal. (More about that below).

Currently ACP is in the process of launch­ing a multi-functional recre­ation and com­mu­nity activ­ity space for kids and adults to PLAY, learn, and social­ize.  Named Con­tactPoint, Druid Hills, it will host daily activ­i­ties and pro­vide a vari­ety of cus­tom classes empha­siz­ing sports, fit­ness, arts, and nutri­tional education. Con­tact­Point, Druid Hills is located at DHUMC 1200 Ponce De Leon Ave., Atlanta GA 30306

About Dragon Goal
I love watching kids playing Dragon Goal. You may have seen it pop up at various neighborhood events. Portable Dragon Goal micro-fields, invented in Italy a few years ago, cre­ate more oppor­tu­ni­ties to play soc­cer, while also providing great ben­e­fits for the play­ers. It engages kids and adults to play Flash Goal, a fast-paced game that strengthens the abil­ity to con­trol and pass the ball quickly while con­stantly antic­i­pat­ing the oppo­nent team’s reactions. Here’s a YouTube clip of Dragon Goal in action.

For more information about Atlanta Contact Point, click here.

For more information about YEAH! BURGER and their Menu, click here.

Stephen Cohen is Voice Editor

A Visit to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit

by Peggy Berg

Carrie Morey and Callie (her Mom) have been in the biscuit business in Charleston for ten years – supplying tender buttery biscuits via an on-line store and through outlets including Fresh Market. They opened their first shop in Charleston just over a year ago. Our Virginia-Highland Hot Little Biscuit is their second, and they are delighted to be here. I had biscuits for breakfast one morning a few days ago, and I’m glad they are here, too!

Carrie may be the only baker for whom the little shop on the corner feels luxuriously large. Their store in Charleston is only eight feet wide, including the kitchen. Our shop here has a bright show kitchen in the storefront where you can watch your biscuit being made. There’s also a counter to stay and enjoy biscuits, coffee and watching the passersby.
Biscuits come in seven varieties: buttermilk, country ham, cheese and chive, cinnamon, black pepper bacon, cocktail ham and shortcakes. And there is fresh made blackberry jam or pimento cheese to go on top. Biscuits come by the pair, hot out of the oven – crispy on top, tall and tender inside. Or you can buy them hot to go or frozen to use out of your freezer.

Judging by the many comments in our local social media, both before and after opening, Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit is already a stunning success. The neighborhood was buzzing days before they even opened for business, and after they did, there were lines stretching out the door.

For more background, see Bob Townsend’s AJC blog from January 3.

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member.

Photo by Peggy Berg.

Tour of Homes–Another Great Celebration of VaHi

by Robin Ragland

What a fabulous weekend we all enjoyed for this year’s Tour of Homes. Incredible weather, beautiful homes, tasty food, and approximately 200 volunteers who pitched in to help make it the most successful Tour to date. The $75,000 in revenue we took in is a 23% increase from last year’s Tour. The Tour’s popularity has grown such that it has raised over $225,000 for the neighborhood over the last four years.

Of course, when you have a successful effort like this, there are a great number people who need to be thanked. First, the homeowners for being hosts and hostesses to us – what’s a home tour without homes? But also SPARK, Grady, and Knock Music for providing holiday music during the event. Then we have our advertising and restaurant sponsors who continue to be so generous each year. Many thanks as well to all who volunteered throughout the weekend and to the House Captains who managed the volunteers in each home.

The Tour of Homes committee works throughout the year in order to organize the Tour. Angelika Taylor and I, as co-chairs, would like to thank them for all their efforts. A special thanks to Angelika Taylor, who has chaired the committee for the last four years. This most successful Tour to date is her last—a wonderful note to end on indeed.

  • Home Selection: Mandi Robertson, Melinda Chandler-Muffley, Bill Bell, Pam Bullock
  • Public Relations: Betsy Riehman Buckley, Hillary Harmon, Emma Cathey, Liz Lapidus
  • Restaurants: Jeanne Drehs, Alison Hutton, JoAnn Zyla
  • Volunteers: Eleanor Barrineau, Karen Murphree
  • Collateral: Ashleigh Bryan, Chelsie Jordan Coker
  • Graphic Design: Lori Zurkuhlen
  • Website: Centner Consulting
  • Ticket Sales: Arturo Cruz-Tucker
  • Signage and Flocking: Holle Gilbert, Samantha Costello, Patti Hinkle

Successful new additions to the Tour

This year we added a couple of new aspects to the Tour: a History Tour and transportation shuttles. Many thanks to Lola Carlisle for creating our tour route and brochure, and to Kari Hobson-Pape, Raymond Keene, and Lola for contributing as docents for the tours. The History Tour was a huge success, and plans are already in place to repeat it next year with focus being on another area in our wonderful neighborhood.

As a fundraising committee, we focus not only on generating high proceeds, but also on creating a Tour at the lowest expense possible.

One of our biggest expenses is printing our lovely Tour booklets. This year, we included a ‘donate back’ program for volunteers to help offset some of this expense. By donating back one or both of their complimentary booklets, we were able to reduce the number printed. The money saved from printing will be earmarked for the Fire Station 19 restoration and John Howell Park improvements. Thanks to the following folks: Steve Voichick, Pat Lamar, Beth Walter, John Craft, Dale Robbins, Shelley Sexton, Mary Hallenberg, Emily Malkin, Claire Segar, Donna Stevenson, Paige Hewell, Kathy McGraw, Connie Ward-Cameron, Mandy Holton Brooks, Bruce Gunter, Abby Martin, Steve Saunders, Nancy Safay, Howard Kaufman, Emily Gilbert, Paige Follmann, Lauren Boudreau, Renay Thomas, Matt Killeen, Sarah Tomaka, Lisa Fish, John Wolfinger, Michael Fischer, Mike Kondalski, Karen Murphree, Eleanor Barrineau, Stephen Cohen, Juliet White, Arturo Cruz, Lori Zurkuhlen, Charles Harper, and Lola Carlisle.

Looking ahead to the 2016 Tour of Homes

If you really enjoyed the Tour this year, or would like to be part of an effort that raises needed funding for our neighborhood, you may want to note that our 22nd Tour will be on December 3-4, 2016. We’d love to have you join our Tour of Homes team! Contact Robin Ragland at if you have an interest.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.

Photos by Stephen Cohen and Lola Carlisle

Songs and Warmth at First Tree Lighting in NHP

by Robin Ragland

It was fun! 175-200 people gathered for our first annual (joint VHCA and VHBA) Tree Lighting event in North Highland Park last week. Our unusually warm weather held, and made for a beautiful evening in the park. Knock Music provided holiday music as well as very talented performers (see photo). City Church Eastside accompanied our caroling with guitars and banjo, and provided a tour of the old Hilan theatre – their future home. Santa’s sleigh got caught in traffic, but he managed to appear in time for selfies in front of the tree.

The first folks who arrived were treated to custom gift bags from blabla kids that were filled with over $75 worth of gifts, coupons, and gift cards from local businesses. Another $2,000 worth of donated gifts and gift certificates were raffled. We raised $595 from the raffle, which enabled us to  purchase two bikes and helmets for the toy drive and donate $297.50 to the Fire Station 19 restoration project.

A salute to our local businesses

Thanks to all our local businesses, whose generosity made the wonderful evening possible. As you complete your holiday shopping, let’s show them how much we appreciate having such great neighborhood businesses, and give them our support in return!

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.

Photos by Stephen Cohen

2015 Santathon a Huge Success

by Jess Windham

The 2015 Santathon – a fundraiser put on by VHCA and Tailfin for  Fire Station 19 – was a huge success this year. We raised about $4,500 toward the renovations needed at Station 19.

In this instance, “we” includes Santa; our generous sponsors listed below; the neighbors who attended and added to the fun; the volunteers; the fire fighters who opened the station to the community; our local artist (Steve Spetseris); all of the Tailfin team (including our own Lola Carlisle, Jeanna Weeks, and Erin Fagan) who organized and ran a sparkling event; Catherine and Emma Lewis; and both batches of their fine holiday cookies, including the second one they ran home at noon to make.

The funds raised by the neighborhood will be added to those allocated by the city to make important improvements at FS19. While the city will certainly focus on much-needed structural and compliance work, contributions from the Civic Association, supporting businesses, and the neighborhood are a big part of the process.

This event was made even better by the generosity of Avant Gardner, Barefoot Mountain Farms, The Great Frame Up, San Francisco Coffee, and Worthmore Jewelers.

And also Jupiter Pluvius, who took a pass and sent his cousin, Warm ‘n Sunny.

Thanks everyone, and Happy Holidays!

Jess Windham is a VHCA Board Member.

Photos by Lola Carlisle.

Tipple & Rose First Annual Cookie Swap and Neighbor Meet n’ Greet

by Robin Ragland with Doria Roberts

Do you have a sweet tooth, or are you one of those people who can usually resist treats . .  unless it’s the holidays when mom’s or grandma’s traditional favorites are creating that delicious aroma you look forward to each year?  Maybe you’re looking for new ideas for holiday treats of your own.

Take a break from holiday shopping and decorating on Sunday, December 20 from 3:00-5:00 and head to Tipple & Rose. They are hosting an old-fashioned cookie swap!  Bring your own cookies to swap for free (at least 2 dozen, please, with ingredients card) or $5 to fill a bag!

Story time is at 4:00 p.m., so be sure to bring the kids.

Local maker Treehouse Milk will be on hand for sampling their small-batch organic pecan and almond milks! Coconut Milk, Organic Local Whole Milk, Almond Milk and Soy Milk will be available!

Click here for more information.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member.
Doria Roberts is the co-proprietor at Tipple&Rose.

Images courtesy Tipple&Rose Facebook page.

Traffic Alert: Up to 2000 Christmas 5K Runners Coming Through VaHi Sat, Dec 19

by Stephen Cohen, Voice Editor

Last week there was the Santa Speedo race. Now you are about to see 2000 runners with Santa hats running through VaHi!

It‘s the Annual Christmas 5K in Virginia Highland / Morningside!

If you want to get a first-hand sense of how much fun it was last year, here’s a link to a blog written by a visiting runner named Ashley after last year’s run:

The photo is courtesy of Ashley’s blog.

Here are the details:

Racers will gather at the YWCA, 957 N. Highland Ave., for race-day packet pickup prior to an 8 AM race start.

START: YWCA, 957 N Highland Ave NE, Atlanta, 30306
FINISH: Morningside Presbyterian Church, 1411 N Morningside Dr, Atl 30306

The route:

1. START- 957 N. Highland AVE NE Atlanta 30306 ( North Highland & Adair)- in front of YWCA of Greater Atlanta
2. Go south on North Highland
3. Turn RIGHT on Greenwood Avenue
4. Turn RIGHT on Ponce de Leon Place
5. CROSS Virginia Avenue
6. Turn right on Elkmont Drive
7. Bear LEFT at Elkmont/ Brookridge Drive
8. Turn RIGHT on Brookridge Drive (water stop on the right)
9. Cross the Orme Park bridge and bear left to Amsterdam Avenue
10. Turn LEFT on Amsterdam Avenue
11. Amsterdam merges to Courtenay Drive
12. Turn LEFT on Greenland Avenue
13. Greenland merges to Hillpine
14. Turn RIGHT on Wayne Avenue
15. Turn LEFT on Courtenay Drive
16. Turn LEFT on North Highland Avenue
17. Turn LEFT on N. Morningside Drive
18. Turn right into the lot at Morningside Presbyterian (1411 N. Morningside Drive Atlanta 30306)

All post-race activities – awards, refreshments, Christmas music, etc. – will take place on the Morningside Presbyterian Church Property.

Drivers may want to avoid North Highland from Ponce to Virginia until after 8:30am.

VaHi Student Performs in Madeline’s Christmas

by Stephen Cohen, Voice Editor

Madeline’s Christmas returns to Horizon Theatre Company in Little Five Points this holiday season for the eighth year.

Based on the popular children’s book character, the Horizon Theater production features local girls performing with a professional theater company alongside professional actors.

This year’s cast features girls, ages 8 to 12, from 19 different schools in four metro Atlanta counties, and includes Virginia- Highland resident Lyndsey Davis (5th grade). Lyndsey performed in Madeline’s Christmas last year, and returns this year in the role of “Kate” in the Green Cast. Please see the show and support our VaHi performer!

Madeline’s Christmas runs December 5-31, 2015. Tickets, show times for each cast, and other information may be found at  or 404.584.7450.

Public Hearing on Park Atlanta at Inman on Dec 10

by Jack White

On Thursday, December 10 at 6:30 PM, there will be a public hearing on the Park Atlanta Contract renewal in the Inman Auditorium.

Origins of the contract

In 2008 the real estate crash brought the wave of burgeoning property tax revenues that (then) Mayor Shirley Franklin had enjoyed throughout her tenure to an abrupt end, and mild budgetary panic set in downtown. Franklin had significantly sidestepped the looming challenge of a badly-underfunded city pension fund and chosen to build extraordinarily expensive, huge underground storage tunnels as a solution to the sewer crisis that she herself had inherited.  (The cost of the tunnels – which continue to be functionally problematic and expensive to maintain – was reflected in Atlantans’ paying the highest water bills in the country, a distinction with no end in sight.)

Citing a need to save money, Franklin (in mid-summer of 2008) suddenly dismissed all the city’s parking enforcement staff, and a year of significantly free parking on streets commenced. Then Public Works Commissioner Joe Basista grudgingly acknowledged that the parking revenues forfeited as a result meant this was a net overall loss to the city, but cutting employees was a political salute to the pension worries and provided a guaranteed (if lower) income figure for budgeting. In any case, Basista and the mayor had a plan and they implemented it in 2009, the summer before her time in office ended.

In September of that year Franklin signed a seven-year, multi-million dollar contract that provided the city with an annual lump-sum payment in return for giving control of all city-controlled, fee-based parking to Park Atlanta, a subsidiary of Milwaukee-based Duncan Solutions. Next to the coming decades of high water and sewage bills, it has been her most enduring legacy to citizens.

What has happened since the contract signing

Park Atlanta’s ticketing spree started almost immediately and has continued ever since, interrupted only briefly in 2010 when our own newly elected council member, Alex Wan (joined by Kwanza Hall, representing downtown), pushed for a moratorium in response to a huge volume of citizens’ complaints. The contract was modified to reduce some hours of enforcement and allow better reporting, but cancellation wasn’t a practical option; the penalties for doing so were enormous. Citizens have been gritting their teeth ever since, waiting for the contract’s expiration.

Which comes, at last, next summer.

Mayor Kasim Reed has been a public critic of the contract; a few years ago he said ending it might be his “last gift” to the city. Of course, renewing a contract is far easier administratively than creating an alternative, and Reed has not been eager to increase the number of employees, so nothing is certain. In our strong-mayor form of government, influencing his opinion is paramount.

With that in mind, City Council’s Transportation Committee is holding public hearings on the topic, including one (thanks to Councilmember Wan) at the Inman Middle School Auditorium at 6:30 PM on Thursday, December 10th.

What the issues are now
The problems with privatized enforcement (at least as approached in this contract) are numerous. Many citizens resent the avaricious ticketing, which (supported by modern technology) leaves very little room for user error. That the payment machines are balky, have hard-to-read displays, and don’t accept all credit cards doesn’t help, either. The merchants along North Highland have been supremely frustrated with their own customers’ complaints and threats not to return.

We all understand that parking has a cost and needs monitoring; that is not the issue. However, the goals of parking regulation should be based on meeting the planning needs of a given neighborhood and not be driven by the revenue enhancement of a private vendor, which is the premise of the current arrangement. (In a city as car-prone as ours, competition for space and its related negative impacts are common, but – absent them – municipalities shouldn’t be ticketing purely for revenue, either.)

There is an inherent contradiction between private profit and the public good in the city’s relationship with Park Atlanta, perhaps most clearly seen in noting that the vendor gets reimbursed if the city removes parking spaces from its own inventory for any reason –  wider sidewalks or bike racks or other public amenities.  Last decade’s redesign of the corner of Virginia and North Highland would not have been possible had this contract existed; aspirations to make similar changes along the Atkins Park stretch of North Highland face similar obstacles. Nor can hours or costs be easily adjusted to reflect evolving usages.

Our local businesses and vendors also assert that VaHi has a more intense level of enforcement and more metered spaces than some nearby neighborhoods. We suspect that they are correct, and we observe that the solution is not to inflict our misery on others but to end it everywhere.

The VHCA Board Recommendation

Given these issues and the level of public anger and lack of trust in this vendor, the VHCA Board supports not renewing this contract. We would prefer that the city return to enforcing its own parking laws, even if it produces less total revenue. The city can be flexible in responding to citizens’ complaints and the recommendations of its own planners in ways that are simply not possible with this type of private contract.

That’s our opinion; we hope you will come share yours at Inman on the 10th.

(Below are links to two newspaper articles on the topic, one from the AJC and one from the Atlanta Daily World.)   It opens with “money-grubbing parasite that vacuums away people’s hard earned money at the parking meters…”

Image courtesy of Creative Loafing via Google Images

Jack White is President of VHCA

‘Tis the Weekend to Eat, Shop, Tour!

by Angelika Taylor

If your idea of a good time is spending a few hours touring some of Virginia-Highland’s most unique and beautiful homes, and sampling tasty offerings from some of the neighborhood’s best, we’ve got you covered this weekend.

Make plans now, if you haven’t already, to attend the 21th Anniversary Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes. Tour hours are Saturday December 5, 10 AM – 5 PM and Sunday December 6, 11 AM –  4 PM (food tastings Noon – 4 PM both days).   This year’s ticket sales, will call, and volunteer check-in will be in John Howell Park (corner of Barnett St. and Virginia Ave).

Click here for more information on the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes and to purchase tickets.

This year’s tour features six beautiful homes, plus a history tour of our own neighborhood. Local restaurants, such as Murphy’s, Highland Tap, Atkins Park, Marlow’s Tavern, Savi Provisions, Fontaine’s, The Cook’s Warehouse, and San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co. will provide tastings at each of the Tour homes.

The Tour of Homes is one of VaHi’s largest annual fundraisers. Event proceeds benefit VHCA and support community initiatives such as school grants and neighborhood park improvements, as well as safety, planning and preservation efforts.

The Tour of Homes experience is the perfect way to kick off your holiday season. Bring your family and friends out to hear the Grady High School Chorus and the SPARK choir perform, and see why Creative Loafing readers again voted Virginia-Highland the city’s Most Walkable Neighborhood in CL’s 2014 Best of Atlanta competition.
See you this weekend at the 2015 VaHi Tour of Homes!

Angelika Taylor is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.

Old Virginia-Highland Photo courtesy Tom Catron.

Come Join the Tree Lighting on Dec 8 in North Highland Park

by Robin Ragland

Don’t miss the first annual tree lighting event of The Virginia-Highland Business Association and the Virginia-Highland Civic Association, which will be held on December 8 in North Highland Park from 6:30 – 8:30 pm.  Our tree will be purchased from the Inman PTA lot and donated to Briarcliff Summit in late December.

In just a couple of short weeks since the last Voice edition, we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving, and I’ve watched the number of businesses signed up to participate in the tree lighting event more than double!

The kids from Knock Music House will kick off the evening with a musical performance at 6:30. We’ll also have light refreshments offered by our local favorites, such as Atkins Park, Osteria 832, The Warren City Club, Rose +  Tipple, 310 Rosemont, and City Church Eastside.

The first sixty people who join in the festivities will receive Gift Bags filled with goodies and coupons donated from businesses such as Tailfin Marketing, Savory Spice, DBA Barbeque, La Tavola, El Taco, and many more!

Also plan to visit the Fire Station 19 table to purchase stocking stuffers and gifts. You can also enjoy baked treats from a local Girl Scout troop.

The tree will be lit at 7:00, followed by a raffle of donated items and gift certificates from neighborhood businesses. How about doing some holiday gift shopping at the tree lighting event by participating in the raffle?  These are gifts that give twice–first to the recipient, and a second time to Fire Station 19 or the APD toy drive*.

Here’s a sneak peak at the list of items to be raffled:

  • Atkins Park:  Gift bag ($50 value)
  • Highland Pet Supply:  Free food sample, gift certificates for a Self Serve Dog Wash, and for Store Merchandise
  • Ten Thousand Villages:  A cookbook
  • blabla kids:  Large, soft doll
  • Osteria:  $25 gift cards
  • Pink Barre: A private class
  • Knock Music House:  Free parent’s night out @ Knock ($30 value)
  • Tipple + Rose: Tea sampler pack with tea brewing accessories
  • Midtown Butcher Shop: $50 gift card
  • Intown Ace Hardware: $50 gift card
  • Taco Mac: $25 gift cards
  • Judith Bright: A gold bracelet ($150 value)
  • 310 Rosemont: $50 gift card
  • Henry and June’s: Bag of specialty coffee, gift card, and a Chemex Coffee Brewer
  • Urban Cottage: $50 gift card
  • Fit:  To Be: Gift Bags ($60 value)
  • Dakota J’s: Gift card
  • Highland Tap: $50 gift card
  • Fontaine’s: $50 gift card
  • Toscano and Son’s Italian Market: Gift Basket ($50 value)
  • Worthmore Jewelry: Gift card
  • La Tavola: Gift bag

Please plan to join us and make this a new part of your holiday traditions.

* Raffle tickets = $5.  All proceeds are split between Fire Station 19 and APD toy drive. How it works: We’ll draw a name, person whose name is drawn picks a prize, draw a second name, pick a prize, continue to pick names until all prizes are gone. Must be present to win.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member.

Get Ready for Santathon!

by Lola Carlisle

Station 19 Firemen. Santa Photos. Fire Trucks. Crafts. What are we missing? … You.

Please come join us on December 12th (from 11AM – 3:30PM) as we have fun and raise funds for Fire Station 19 renovations. You can sign up for pictures or walk up – we’ll do our best to work everyone in.

Don’t miss the chance to decorate ornaments for the tree (or to take home) and have fun with your neighbors. Steve Spetz will be on hand again this year doing great caricatures. And if you just want to hang out and volunteer for the event, you can do that through the link above.

Along with the Fire Station’s great hats, t-shirts, and mugs, we’ll have two original watercolors of the Fire Station for sale and prints made from the originals.

See you there!

Lola Carlisle is a VHCA Board Member.

Tipple & Rose First Annual Cookie Swap and Neighbor Meet n’ Greet

by Robin Ragland with Doria Roberts

Do you have a sweet tooth, or are you one of those people who can usually resist treats . .  unless it’s the holidays when mom’s or grandma’s traditional favorites are creating that delicious aroma you look forward to each year?  Maybe you’re looking for new ideas for holiday treats of your own.

Take a break from holiday shopping and decorating on Sunday, December 20 from 3:00-5:00 and head to Tipple & Rose. They are hosting an old-fashioned cookie swap!  Bring your own cookies to swap for free (at least 2 dozen, please, with ingredients card) or $5 to fill a bag!

Story time is at 4:00 p.m., so be sure to bring the kids.

Local maker Treehouse Milk will be on hand for sampling their small-batch organic pecan and almond milks! Coconut Milk, Organic Local Whole Milk, Almond Milk and Soy Milk will be available!

Click here for more information.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member.
Doria Roberts is the co-proprietor at Tipple&Rose.

Images courtesy Tipple&Rose Facebook page.

These Holiday Gifts Give Back to Virginia-Highland

by Lola Carlisle

Check out Virginia-Highland’s Zazzle store where you’ll find neighborhood designed gift items. There are mugs, aprons, holiday gift wrapping paper, and more.

Proceeds go to fund neighborhood initiatives in our parks, provide grants to our schools, and help with many other efforts including the fire station restoration. Have a great holiday season!

Lola Carlisle is a VHCA Board Member.

5th Annual Atlanta BeltLine Eastside 10K on Sat, Dec 5 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership invites all fitness levels to participate in the 5th Annual Atlanta BeltLine Eastside 10K on Saturday, December 5th from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Proceeds from the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside 10K will benefit the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, the nonprofit organization committed to raising funds to support the Atlanta BeltLine and working with neighborhoods, community organizations, faith organizations, businesses and other groups to raise general awareness and broad-based support for the Atlanta BeltLine.

The Atlanta BeltLine Eastside 10K is a Peachtree Road Race qualifier and will also provide challenges to attendees showcasing the most spirit throughout the day. For the neighborhood challenge, register at and form your neighborhood team or join the team if it already exists. Register for the race, communicate with your neighborhood and show your spirit! There are 3 ways to win cash prizes: be the fastest, the largest or the most spirited. Winning teams will be announced at the end of the race, must be present to win.

For full details:

Photo courtesy via Googke images.

Tour of Homes Committee Thanks 2015 Sponsors

by Robin Ragland

The 2015 Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes is only three short weeks away. With ticket sales already booming and our sponsorships locked in, our 2015 tour promises to be another successful neighborhood event.

This year we have a total of 74 business/individual sponsors and have raised $40,000 to fund important neighborhood initiatives. THIS IS INCREDIBLE!  In addition to sponsorships, some businesses and restaurants donated TOH tickets and gift certificates via the Tour of Homes Facebook page. We’ll continue to run these promotions right up to event weekend so check our page out daily to have a chance to win!

On behalf of myself and the entire Tour of Homes Committee, we would like to say a HUGE THANK YOU to this year’s sponsors. Thank you for your generous contributions at all levels to help ensure the success of our event, support our community and give back to our neighborhood.

This year’s Presenting Sponsors are Muffley & Associates Real Estate and Carrera Homes.

Our first ticket sponsor is Keller Knapp Real Estate Consulting and Marketing.

We will offer our attendees a shuttle service, which is sponsored by Engel & Volkers Intown Atlanta.

Our Premium Sponsors are Coldwell Banker, Julie Sadlier–Re/Max Metro Atlanta Cityside, Karen Hott Interiors, Phoenix Renovations Group, Regions Bank, and Renewal Design Build.

Our Major Sponsors are Atlanta Intown, AT&T Digital Life, Barking Hound Village, David Fowler Architecture, Peachy Clean, Fit: TO BE, Red Level Renovations, Timberland Cabinets, Traditions in Tile and Stone, The Great Frame Up,  and the YWCA.

Our Benefactor Sponsors are  Balance Design, Centner Consulting LLC, Copper Sky Renovations, Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery, HOMESTEAD Real Estate Consultants, Liz Lapidus, Lori Zurkuhlen–Graphic Design & Illustration, Mark Arnold–Architect, and Mast Custom Cabinets.

Our Neighborhood Sponsors are Abraham Properties, Allied Fence Company, Dakota J’s, Dan DeHart–Muffley & Associates Real Estate, Design BH Architecture, Energy Conservation Solutions, Fern Valley Landscapes & Interiors, Intown Hardware, Nonies Garden Florals & Botanicals, PSB Studio Architecture, Resort to Laura Madrid, and The Mad Hatter.

Our Best of Atlanta sponsors are 310 Rosemont, Alon’s Bakery and Market, Diesel Filling Station, Murphy’s, and Worthmore Jewelers.

Our Giveaway sponsors are 310 Rosemont, Alon’s Bakery and Market, Atkins Park, Barking Hound Village, Bla Bla Kids, Carrera Homes, Coldwell Banker, Dakota J’s, Diesel Filling Station, Engel & Volkers Intown Atlanta, Fit:  TO BE, Fontaine’s, Highland Tap, Julie Sadlier, Karen Hott Interiors, Keller Knapp Realty, Marlow’s Tavern, Muffley & Associates, Murphy’s, Phoenix Renovation Group, Regions Bank, Renewal Design Build, The Great Frame-Up, and Worthmore Jewelers.

Get your tour tickets online NOW at the Tour of Homes website. Plan Dec 5th and 6th as your weekend to EAT, TOUR and SHOP in VaHi. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 day of tour. Your tickets get you access to six incredibly unique homes, a tour of our historic neighborhood, food samplings from 8 different community restaurants and special coupons and discounts from our local eateries and shops.  This is the perfect weekend to kick off your holiday season and celebrate the amazing community in which we live.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.

Volunteers Still Needed for 2015 Tour of Homes

by Eleanor Barrineau

The 2015 Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes is fast approaching and we still need volunteers!

In addition to being a festive holiday event, the Tour showcases our neighborhood and is our second-largest fundraiser after Summerfest.

Please show your support for the tour and our neighborhood by signing up for a volunteer shift.  Volunteers will receive two complimentary tickets to the tour.  Volunteers are especially needed for the afternoon shift on Sunday.  You can sign up quickly and easily by going to and clicking on the blue button.  We couldn’t put on the Tour without our wonderful volunteers!

This year the Tour Committee has conducted special interviews with the homeowners, so there is lots of interesting information about the homes for docents to use. It’s fun to welcome visitors to the house and give them little tidbits of information about what they are seeing.

If you can’t volunteer this year, please plan to attend the tour and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. It’s a great way to give back to your community and get out and meet and interact with your neighbors.

Eleanor Barrineau is the VaHi Tour of Homes Volunteer Coordinator.

Don’t Forget VaHi Small Business Saturday on Nov 18

by Robin Ragland and Jess Windham

With two other articles in this edition of the Voice outlining and listing the many businesses that support our neighborhood and its efforts to remain a vibrant place in which to live and visit, it seems appropriate to remind everyone that “Small Business Saturday” is Nov 28.

We’ve all heard the phrase “buy local,” but why is it important to shop locally? Frankly, it’s all about economics. The non-profit organization Sustainable Connections said it best by highlighting that “when you buy from an independent, locally owned business – rather than nationally owned businesses – much more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms, all of which strengthens the overall economic base of the community.”

Residents of VaHi love our neighborhood and the rich options available within a walkable distance. Supporting our commercial neighbors perpetuates and heightens both our sense of place and the economic vitality of Virginia-Highland. Our neighborhood is home to a vibrant mix of commercial endeavors, from butchers and chocolatiers to bicycle shops and clothing boutiques, dog groomers, sugaring studios and everything in between. The neighborhood features countless retail shops, mouth-watering restaurants, and numerous businesses providing services along North Highland between Amsterdam Ave. and Ponce de Leon Ave. That’s not to mention shops at Rosedale and Virginia or those along Monroe at 10th, the Ponce de Leon corridor, and Amsterdam Walk.

Together, these businesses employ hundreds of Atlantans and purchase merchandise from local creators and global providers alike. We have the world at our doorstep and our local businesses bring it to us.

Thanksgiving confronts us with the best of problems: what to eat! I encourage you to explore the shops in VaHi to help lighten the burden of Thanksgiving cooking, because there are amazing take-home and dine-in options available from Monroe to Amsterdam to Ponce.

Once you get past the big day of food and family, Shop Small Business Saturday is Nov. 28th! Small Business Saturday is an event officially hosted by American Express.  Whether you use AmEx or not, Shop Small presents a wonderful opportunity to unwind, get some fresh air, and walk off some of those marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes. You could park your bike at North Highland Park, then explore the gems that our local vendors have stocked for your perusing pleasure in order to get a leg up on Christmas and Hanukkah shopping. We even have some new kids on the block – can you spot them?

Robin Ragland and Jess Windham are VHCA Board Members.

Inman Needs Volunteer Crossing Guards

by Joel Markwell

Inman Middle School is one of the Grady Cluster schools in our neighborhood with active and engaged parents involved in the school and our community. A few years ago a group of those parents created a volunteer crossing guard program that has been working since then to make the paths to school safe for our kids and to keep the Virginia Ave and Ponce de Leon Pl/Park Drive corridors moving in a safe manner.

We know that our neighbors in the community also want safe streets, so in cooperation with APS and the Inman Staff we are looking for a few community volunteers to help us staff the four primary crosswalks around Inman.

The urgency of this need is illustrated by some close calls we have had resulting from aggressive morning commute drivers that include:

  • Ignoring students in the crosswalk at Arcadia and the Virginia Ave corridor.
  • Driving at a high-rate of speed through the school zone (even with heavy traffic).
  • More than one case of drivers, frustrated at the slow pace between Barnett and Arcadia on Virginia heading West, actually pulling out into the ONCOMING lane of traffic and blowing through the Arcadia school crosswalk going at a high rate of speed during a red light at Park Drive. It’s only luck that kept students from being run down when a group of fours cars made this type of “dash” in that lane to get ahead of the right-turning cars into the school parking lot at Arcadia and cars waiting for students at the crosswalk. As stated I’ve seen this behavior twice in the last year.
  • Passing on the right at the Virginia/Park Drive light heading West, again at a high rate of speed.
  • Cars ignoring students at the Clemont/Park Drive crosswalk while negotiating the congested traffic there.

How you can help by volunteering as a crossing guard

Be a part of one of the most vital volunteer teams at Inman. With just a 40-minute effort each shift you can join parents and neighbors as Crosswalk Guards at Inman Middle School. We have been officially trained by APS and can train new volunteers quickly and we have an online registration system for requesting and posting assignments.

These 8:25AM to 9:05AM shifts are mornings-only at this time and are based entirely on your availability. Nothing’s easier or more important! Once a week or once a month, help when you can! Our volunteers tell us that there is no better way to start a weekday than guiding our wonderful students on their way to school. You will greet a hundred smiling faces and meet interesting and excited kids as they head to school each morning!

Whether you are a grandparent with family at Inman Middle School or just an interested neighbor, we are looking for a few new friends to help us out. Make Virginia-Highland better and safer, join us!

To find out more information you can email us at or you can call and leave a message at 404-254-6985.

Help us keep them safe!

Joel Markwell

Joel Markwell is the transportation representative for the Inman Middle School PTA.

Images courtesy Google Images.

Cliff Kuhn Passes Away at Age 63

Cliff Kuhn Passes Away at Age 63

by Jack White

This neighborhood was stunned last week by the sudden death (following a heart attack) of Virginia-Highland resident and Georgia State University professor Cliff Kuhn.  He is often thought of professionally for his longtime work in oral history, a field in which he was an early and avid practitioner.  He was an enthusiastic student of what he saw as “the people’s history”, with emphases on the civil rights, labor, and the women’s movements, of which he often spoke on WABE.   When local residents Lola Carlisle and Kari Hobson-Pape wrote their book on the history of Virginia-Highland, Cliff was one of the first people they interviewed, and they had yet another round of talks scheduled with him.  “New to writing history, we so appreciated his knowledge of how communities in Atlanta developed and the encouragement he readily provided.” Ms. Carlisle noted with sadness this week.

His sons’ growing passion for soccer turned him into a serious mid-life fan of the sport.  He bemoaned the dearth of books on the subject in the university and county library systems, borrowed a lot from wherever he could, and became quite knowledgeable about the game’s history.  A student of organizations, he inevitably found himself spending a lot of time in youth sport administration, an oft-trying and unending challenge that he undertook with both devotion and humor. His labors in that field were leavened by his obvious love for the sport and appreciation of what it had meant to his family; a majority of my conversations with him over the last decade were on one or both of those two topics.

His death is a great loss for his family and his many friends, for Virginia-Highland, and for his many other communities.  We will all miss him hugely.

Learn more about Cliff Kuhn’s life and contributions to Atlanta here and here. The remembrance (by Alex Saye Cummings) in the second article is particularly apt and very touching.

Jack White is the President of VHCA.

Photo courtesy of the GSU Library via Google Images

Tree Lighting in North Highland Park on Tues, Dec 8

by Robin Ragland

How many times have each of us said, “I live in the greatest neighborhood”?  I predict a number of folks will be repeating that phrase throughout the first couple of weeks in December this year. There’s the tree lighting at Murphy’s on Dec 3, the Tour of Homes Dec 5-6, and the Fire Station Santathon on Dec 12.

There is now one more festive event to put on your calendar!  The Virginia-Highland Business Association and the Virginia-Highland Civic Association have crafted a fun evening for Tuesday, December 8—their first annual tree lighting event in N Highland Park from 6:30 – 8:30 pm.

The kids from Knock Music will kick off the evening with a musical performance at 6:30. We’ll also have light refreshments offered by our local favorites such as Atkins Park, Osteria 832, The Warren City Club, and Rose + Tipple.

The tree will be lit at 7:00, followed by a raffle of donated items and gift certificates from neighborhood businesses such as blabla kids, Highland Pet Supply, New York Butcher Shop, Knock, Pink Barre, Tailfin Marketing, and Ten Thousand Villages. Gift bags with goodies and coupons will be provided for the first sixty people who join in the festivities. Also plan to visit the table displaying Fire Station 19 items to purchase stocking stuffers and gifts.

Our tree will be purchased from the Inman PTA lot, and donated to Briarcliff Summit in late December.  Proceeds from the raffle will be donated to Fire Station 19 and APD Beat 6 Toy Drive.

Please plan to join us and make this a new part of your holiday traditions.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.

Don’t Miss the Santa Speedo Run

by Stephen Cohen

It’s the most hilarious run of the year – the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run, a charity event that began in 2009 and is now entering its 7th year. This year, the run is raising money for BlazeSports, and it has a goal of $100,000.

I stumbled upon it one December, a few years back, when I was walking along North Highland. I watched with delighted amazement, as did many others who happened to be walking by. It was absolutely priceless, both for the runners and the spectators. Not to be missed!

In 2015, the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run is excited not only to be back on North Highland, but also to be hosting the event at Manuel’s Tavern — just before it closes for renovations.

So please join them at 2:00 PM on Saturday, December 12, 2015 at Manuel’s at 602 N Highland Ave NE. The course is 1.5 miles, and runs along North Highland from Manuel’s to Highland View and back.

For registration information, event history, and a gallery of very amusing photos from past years, visit the Atlanta Speedo Run website.

Volunteer Opportunity – Plant 150 Trees in VaHi and Morningside, Sat Nov 14

We have a volunteer opportunity to add 150 trees to our neighborhood on Saturday, November 14th (9-11am). 175 volunteers are needed to achieve this goal!

Boy Scouts of America Cub Scout Pack #17, along with the Morningside and Virginia-Highland communities and Trees Atlanta, will be planting and mulching over 150 trees in both neighborhoods. This is the 3rd consecutive year both communities have collaborated to plant & mulch new trees.

Three planting locations will be set up with tools, trees, and mulch on Saturday Nov. 14th from 9-11am. We need your hearts and muscles to make it happen!

Contact: Pierce Pape – Cub Master, Cub Scout Pack 17:

Click here for further information and to sign up online.

Alex Wan’s Latest District 6 Newsletter Includes info on Park Atlanta Meetings

The November 5 issue of Alex Wan’s District 6 newsletter includes information on the upcoming Park Atlanta Town Hall meetings and how to submit your concerns and questions.

The full newsletter is here:

Here’s the portion dealing with the Park Atlanta meetings.

PARKatlanta Town Hall Meetings
The Transportation Committee of the Atlanta City Council will hold a series of Town Hall Meetings regarding the Parking Management Contract that is currently held by PARKatlanta. These meetings are part of Council’s evaluation of whether our policy position will be to 1) renew/extend the current contract; 2) cancel the contract and rebid; 3) cancel the contract and bring parking enforcement back in house; or 4) some combination of these options.


  • To inform and educate the public on the history of the parking contract and its expiration date
  • To illustrate the City Council’s interest in supporting the desires of its constituents
  • To gain as much feedback from the target audience so the City Council can make an informed decision that includes the community’s perspective

Citizens are encouraged to submit their questions and concerns thoroughout the entire process (until one week after the third and final public meeting).  Please submit your input:

  1. via email to
  2. via Twitter to @ATLCouncil and use the hashtag: #parkatlanta2016
  3. via Facebook at
  4. by calling the Atlanta City Council Office of Communications at 404-330-6823 or 404-330-6775; please leave your name

Town Hall Meeting Schedule:
PARKatlanta Town Hall Meeting #1

Wednesday, December 2, 2015 @ 6:30 p.m.

City of Atlanta Council Chamber
55 Trinity Ave SW

[Note:  Channel 26 will broadcast this first Town Hall Meeting live; go to and click the ATL 26 icon to stream.]
PARKatlanta Town Hall Meeting #2
Thursday, December 10, 2015 @ 6:30 p.m.
Inman Middle School
774 Virginia Ave NE


PARKatlanta Town Hall Meeting #3
Date, Time & Location – TBD

It’s Almost Time to Tour!

by Angelika Taylor

YES! It’s finally Autumn in VaHi and the air is cooler, the leaves are falling AND the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes committee is in FULL SWING preparing for our neighborhood’s next big event. The 2015 Tour of Homes is set for the first weekend in December, Saturday and Sunday the 5th and 6th. Our committee has been working hard all year to ensure the success of this year’s tour.

Our line-up features six incredible homes and an historic tour of the neighborhood via an electric car. Each home is uniquely designed and decorated and represents the charming characteristics of our Virginia-Highland neighborhood.

One of the highlights of the Tour remains the delicious food tastings served in each home. Local favorites like Marlow’s Tavern, Murphy’s, Highland Tap, Fontaine’s, Atkins Park, and San Francisco Coffee are back. New this year: Savi Provisions and The Cook’s Warehouse.

To make the Tour more festive this year, we are very excited to have the Grady High School Chorus and Jazz Band, the SPARK choir, KNOCK Music House, the Virginia-Highland Church, City Church East, and Grace Lutheran performing live holiday music and carols throughout our community streets, restaurants and shops.

Each year the Tour just keeps getting bigger and better. So many people make this fundraising event possible in order to improve the quality of life in our community. The funds raised by the Tour of Homes go to support various projects in our neighborhood, including playground/park improvements, sidewalks, safety, traffic concerns, planning and preservation and other community efforts.

So far, 2015 ToH has raised $40,000 in sponsorships alone. This does not include tickets sales. Hopefully, Mother Nature will provide the clear skies and perfect temps to bring out tour goers. We know businesses and residents will give them a warm welcome.

Please visit our special Tour of Homes website for more detailed information on the times, the homes, the sponsors and the restaurants. There’s a map of the tour and some “teaser” pictures of our featured homes. You can purchase tickets on the website, as well.  Also follow us on Facebook for many opportunities to win gift certificates and free tickets.

This is a great weekend to kick off the holidays. TOUR, EAT and SHOP in the charming neighborhood we all call home. Remember, ToH tickets make great gifts, day dates, girls’ trips and family memories!

Hope to see you all out & about!

Angelika Taylor is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.

What’s New for the 2015 Tour of Homes?

by Robin Ragland

Lots! The Tour committee has worked to enhance the Tour experience in many ways, and to maximize its impact as a fundraiser for the neighborhood.

Extended Tour Hours

First, you’ll have more time to tour because we’ve extended the tour hours on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, you can enjoy the tour from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., and on Sunday, it begins an hour earlier at 11:00 a.m. and ends at 4:00 p.m.

New Ticket Headquarters Location

Our 2015 ticket headquarters, will call, and volunteer check-in will be in John Howell Park (corner of Barnett St and Virginia Ave.)  As in past years, print your ticket or use your smart phone to show your electronic ticket at Will Call for pre-purchased tickets. You may also purchase tickets the weekend of the Tour. Please note all advance tickets will be sold online in 2015. Click here for more information or to purchase a ticket.

More Ways to Help With Fundraising

This year, there are two ways you can directly help raise funds for John Howell Park and Fire Station 19 improvements. On our ticket site, we’ll have a ‘donate’ button. If you are unable to attend the tour, but  would still like to support the neighborhood, we hope you will consider a donation. These direct donations will be earmarked for John Howell Park and Fire Station 19 improvements.

It requires approximately 200 volunteers to help in a multitude of ways in order to host our annual tour of homes.  We hope you will consider signing up to help. For more information, and to sign-up as a volunteer, click here. Each volunteer receives two complimentary tickets to the Tour.  In some cases, our volunteers are unable to use one or both of their tickets. If you are a volunteer in this situation, please consider “donating back” any tickets you are unable to use. For each ticket donated, $25 will be earmarked for John Howell Park and Fire Station 19 improvements.

Note: Fire Station 19 improvements funded are those items not covered by the infrastructure bond.

Shuttle Service

You will be seeing these electric cars buzzing around the neighborhood throughout the weekend of the tour.  The YWCA at 957 North Highland Avenue will be the 2015 shuttle and history tour headquarters.  The YWCA is located at 957 N Highland Ave.  We will have a limited shuttle service available during tour hours.  Park and board a shuttle (you need to have your Tour ticket in hand) at the YWCA or at any of the homes on this year’s tour.

Holiday History Tour

Also new for this year is a docent-led history tour of the Virginia-Highland neighborhood via electric car. The authors of Images of America: Virginia-Highland have planned this special treat. Virginia-Highland is on the National Register of Historic Places and is filled with great architecture and stories. Please note you must purchase a tour ticket in advance to be able to sign-up for a history tour.  For more information or to sign-up for a tour, please click here.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member and Co-Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.

Briarcliff Summit’s First Annual Fall Festival

by Lola Carlisle, VHCA Board Member (pictured with fellow VHCA Board Member Peggy Berg to her left)

All photos by Briarcliff Summit

Inside Virginia-Highland there are a number of organizations that serve our diverse groups of residents. One of my favorites is Briarcliff Summit, a nine-story high rise located at the corner of Highland and Ponce de Leon that serves low and limited-income seniors and disabled adults. Briarcliff Summit has been on the National Register of Historic Places since the 1980’s and has been extensively renovated over the last few years – work that was completed just in time for the building and their community to be part of the 2013 Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) Tour of Homes.

Last month we were all invited to the community’s Fall Festival, and several board members gladly attended. The event was fun and informative and the residents again welcomed us enthusiastically. If you have questions about Briarcliff Summit or would like to be involved with their activities, reach out to Johnnetta Bushel, the resident Assistant Manager who is (like all VaHi residents) a member of VHCA.

Briarcliff Summit staff member Kama King provided an additional report on the event:

Briarcliff Summit Senior Apartments celebrated its First Annual Fun Fall Festival on Friday, September 25th, 2015. Even though Briarcliff Summit Apartments has been a staple in our community for over 30 years, this is the first time there has been a community event for the 200 residents that live there.

Those residents, both senior and disabled, were treated to lots of good times and information. Residents got to meet a lot of friends, service providers, and vendors, including HisGrip Health Care, Humana Health Care, WellCare Health Plan, Druid Hill Baptist Church, 4 Front Health Care, Health Market, Adesse Health Care, Crown Health Care, the newly- formed Briarcliff Summit Resident Steering Committee, and our special guests from the Virginia-Highland Civic Association. Residents provided live music and an art display that included woodwork and paintings.

The staff at Briarcliff Summit provided everyone a lunch – including cake – to celebrate this event. And many residents were also excited to win prizes during the multiple drawings that took place during the festival.

We all look forward to the next community event, and we hope you will join us.

Important Town Hall Meeting Concerning Crime & Safety

Mayor Kasim Reed will be hosting a Public Safety & Crime Watch Town Hall Meeting this Tuesday, October 13, 2015 at 6:00 p.m.

Public Safety & Crime Watch Town Hall Meeting
Tuesday, October 13, 2015
6:00 p.m.
Grace United Methodist Church
458 Ponce de Leon Ave NE (corner of Charles Allen)
Atlanta, GA 30308

There will be a Q & A session, but if you’d like to submit your question in advance, please email

VHCA Street Captain Meeting

The annual Virginia-Highland Street Captain meeting will be held Saturday morning September 19th from 10:00 am until 12:00 noon at Church of Our Savior church on N. Highland. Entrance to the hall is from Los Angeles. We will meet and greet from 9:40 and begin the meeting at 10:00.

This is an excellent opportunity for new street captains to learn from those who have been doing the job for many years, or for anyone interested in public safety to learn about our neighborhood watch program. All residents and businesses are welcome to attend. This year’s speakers will include Danielle Simpson to speak about Citizen’s CourtWatch, and Chad Gurley, APD detective to answer questions about his perspective on crime as a resident of the neighborhood.

VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers

VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers set for September 17

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s annual general meeting and election of officers will be held Thursday September 17th in the Inman Middle School cafeteria, starting at 6:30 PM. Please be sure to bring your ID or recent utility bill in your name as proof of residency. Regular civic association business will be conducted at the VHCA’s monthly board and general meeting to be held September 14 at 7:00 PM at the public library on Ponce de Leon Ave.

The VHCA board consists of ten members and one alternate who are elected to one-year terms by residents at the annual meeting. There’s also an ‘Atkins Park designee’ board member who is chosen by the Atkins Park Homeowners Association prior to the annual meeting.

The alternate member has historically functioned as a full board member, but formally votes only if another member is not present. The VaHi resident getting the fewest votes of the top eleven residents receiving votes in the election serves as the alternate member.

Our neighborhood thrives because of a high level of volunteer involvement by residents in a variety of areas. The framework for much of this volunteerism is provided through VHCA’s committees: Budget, Fundraising (Summerfest, Tour of Homes), Planning, Preservation and History, Parks, Safety, Education and Communications.  Click here for a complete list of the association’s committees, their areas of responsibility and their current chairs/members.

Click here for a list of those serving on the current VHCA board. Any of these board members would be glad to talk with you about the responsibilities and time commitments associated with board service and will be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Many citizens reach the board after serving on a committee, but this is not a specific requirement for running.  If you’d like to run for a seat on the board, please send an email to with your name, contact info, a short bio, and a few comments on how and why you’d like to get involved. A list of all residents running for the board with bios will be published on and included in The Voice e-newsletter prior to the September 18 annual meeting.

We encourage all VaHi residents to attend the annual meeting and make your voice heard. Again, please be sure to bring your ID or recent utility bill in your name as proof of residency. The more residents we have at the meeting, the more the VHCA’s 2014-15 leadership will reflect the collective thoughts and goals of our community.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at our annual meeting in September.

VHCA Annual General Meeting this Thursday, Sept. 17; Absentee Ballot Available

by Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle

The VHCA Annual General Meeting will be held September 17, 2014 at the Inman Middle School Cafeteria starting at 6:30 PM. In order to vote, please bring a copy of a valid ID (GA driver’s license, e.g.) or a utility bill issued within 60 days of the meeting and showing your name and address..

Here is the list of candidates. Click here to go to a page with candidate bios.

Peggy Berg
David Brandenberger
Lola Carlisle
Lauren Wilkes Fralick
Emily Gilbert
Paige Hewell
Karri Hobson-Pape
Jenifer Keenan
Catherine Lewis
Robin Ragland
Angelika Taylor
Jack White
Jess Windham

Members of the association (18 years of age residing within the official boundaries of Virginia-Highland) may vote at the Annual General Meeting. In order to vote, please bring a copy of a valid ID (GA driver’s license, e.g.) or a utility bill issued within 60 days of the meeting and showing your name and address.

Absentee Ballot

Members may also vote by absentee ballot. Your ballot along with a copy of one of the forms of identification mentioned above may be delivered to the offices of Tailfin Marketing (1246 Virginia Ave.) by noon on September 17 or to the Annual Meeting by its start time at 6:30 PM. Please put your ballot in a sealed envelope with the identification documents separately sealed inside or stapled to the outside. (Please cross out specific account or driver license numbers.) After your residency is verified, the identification documents will be removed and destroyed. Your ballot will remain anonymous.

Click here for a copy of the absentee ballot.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at our annual meeting in September.

Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle are VHCA Board Members and serve on the Nominating Committee.

APS Supt. to Meet with Grady Cluster on Sept 24 at Inman (6:00 pm in Auditorium)

by Stephen Cohen, Voice Editor

Supt. Meria Carstarphen and APS Board member Matt Westmoreland will reveal the Board’s updated proposals for additional middle  and high school classrooms in this meeting.  You may read the Superintendent’s letter to “The Grady Cluster Family” here, which states in part:

“The District’s facilities team is now developing options for addressing the best use of our resources within the cluster. Using feedback from meeting discussion, emails, letters and phone calls, we have insight from you to shape these options. This has allowed the team the best opportunity to match space solutions with the needs of our students and the vision of the Grady Cluster……Please join some of your Board of Education member and me to map a permanent solution for the cluster.”

New Virginia-Highland House Number Signs

by Lola Carlisle and Peggy Berg

Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) announces custom house numbers designed for Virginia-Highland. Signs are available to order here.

You can see examples of two of the new sign models at 899 Arlington Place and 1105 Rosedale Drive. The signs use elements of the latest Virginia-Highland logo and are the result of artistic collaboration between the sign makers and the logo designers.

Identifying your house with its number is an important safety concern – it helps emergency services like Police, Fire Department and Emergency Medical find your house. It also helps your friends and colleagues arrive on time for dinner parties.

The signs are made to order and we place orders in batches. Payment is needed in advance, and we will have the signs made as soon as the minimum order is reached. Of course, if we don’t reach the minimum order, your money is refundable.

The signs were showcased at Summerfest and we even noticed interest from folks in other neighborhoods, which we welcome of course. Some are purchasing signs as gifts as well.

Several folks worked on the project, including Peggy Berg, Ernest Lessinger, Brandon Patterson, Angelika Taylor and Lola Carlisle.

Lola Carlisle and Peggy Berg are VHCA Board Members.

VHCA Street Captain Meeting Sat Sep 19

by Peggy Berg and Eleanor Barrineau

The annual Virginia-Highland Street Captain meeting will be held Saturday morning September 19th from 10:00 am until 12:00 noon at Church of Our Savior church on N. Highland. Entrance to the hall is from Los Angeles. We will meet and greet from 9:40 and begin the meeting at 10:00.

This is an excellent opportunity for new street captains to learn from those who have been doing the job for many years, or for anyone interested in public safety to learn about our neighborhood watch program. All residents and businesses are welcome to attend. This year’s speakers will include Danielle Simpson to speak about Citizen’s CourtWatch, and Chad Gurley, APD detective to answer questions about his perspective on crime as a resident of the neighborhood.

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member and she chairs the Safety Committee. Eleanor Barrineau, a long-time resident, is on the VHCA Safety Committee.

Little Free Libraries in VaHi – Third in a Series

by Robin Ragland

Many of the Little Free Libraries in our neighborhood have their own charming stories. For those of you who missed the first or second article in this series, a Little Free Library operates on the concept of a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories.

The third destination on my tour through the neighborhood to find Little Free Libraries brings me to Amsterdam Ave.  George Andl established this library on the street as a birthday present for his wife, Linda Pogue, about eighteen months ago.  As you can see in the photo, what makes this library unique is it is painted the same color as their charming yellow cottage.

Linda and George are not the only residents in their “Happy Home” at 741 Amsterdam.  This is how Linda describes the members of their household:

  • There’s Murray the cat, “old and cranky”
  • Esme the terrier mix mutt, who’s “young and enthusiastic”
  • Their four chickens, otherwise known as the Virtue Sisters:  Grace, Prudence, Justice and Patience, or the “pets that provide breakfast”
  • Three bee hives—Ken, Buda and Pest—“the organic honey makers”.

Like the other LFL hosts I’ve met so far, they are enthusiastic about their libraries and the experiences gained. “It has provided us much satisfaction and joy,” said Linda, “and introduced us to more neighbors and friends.  People shout up the driveway, asking, ‘So do we just take a book?’  We are always amazed at the wide range of books, and that even the most obscure seem to find a home.”

Similar to the other libraries, children’s books are a hot commodity, and in too short supply at Linda and George’s.

So if you have any you’re able to share, please keep our LFLs in mind.

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member.

Tea or High Tea: A Visit to Tipple + Rose Tea Parlor and Apothecary

By Peggy Berg
Tea or High Tea? Yes, please!

Tipple + Rose Tea Parlor and Apothecary offers tea and high tea, and there is a difference.

Tea is that lovely beverage you sip hot or cold. Tipple + Rose has 84 varieties and there is a menu with details like ingredients and caffeine levels, plus there is a sniff-bar to give you a preview before you make your final choice. Seasonal teas will be a coming attraction, and chai will be a unique house blend made on site. A special hot water machine adjusts the temperature to optimize the flavor of each individual tea. And all teas can be iced. Tea is available to take home, sit and sip, or enjoy with a scone, slice of cake, or sandwich.

High tea is a ritual: it’s a cultured midday offering of special savories, like cucumber tea sandwiches, quiche, scones with clotted cream and lemon curd.  An assortment of treats comes on a 3-tiered cake stand and is served with tea. For occasions when you want to savor high tea, Tipple and Rose serves from 2:30 to 5:30, but reservations are required. They need a little notice to make all those delectable bites fresh.

Whether you come for tea or high tea, the scones are homemade and delicious. An assortment of cakes from Southern Sweets is ready to serve by the slice for dessert or after theater. Quiches and sandwiches are also homemade and offered for brunch and lunch. Breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon delights, and evening dessert are available. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 9 am to 9 pm.

The Apothecary aspect of the shop includes special bath and tea items and vintage mercantile. Doria calls it comestible gifting, so enjoy for gifts or indulgence.

The proprietors of Tipple and Rose, Doria Roberts (pictured) and Calavino Donati, met in Virginia-Highland and are delighted to have moved back into the neighborhood recently to live and build their new business. Meet Doria as she talks about the essential ingredients for an ideal neighborhood store on TEDX.

Tipple and Rose Tea Parlor 806 North Highland Avenue near Greenwood; 678.705.7995

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member.

10th and Monroe: Still (and Always) on the Radar

by Jack White

For many years, VHCA has paid a lot of attention to the corner of 10th Street and Monroe. When Wayne Mason bought the land that later became the BeltLine, he proposed an infamous pair of 38 and 42-story towers in the area. (A favorite memory from those days was his suggestion that a future trail could go in a tunnel under one of his skyscrapers.)

The creation of the BeltLine  (incorporated as the Atlanta BeltLine Inc., or “ABI”) and the subsequent purchase of the Mason tracts were widely supported in this community. The joy didn’t last long; ABI spent most of 2009 advocating for land uses changes that would allow the construction of  a combination of  four- and eight-story apartment buildings  on land that was – and still is – zoned for single-family. VHCA and NPU-F resisted very vigorously. ABI’s proposal would have shredded the principles in the NPU’s central planning document, the Comprehensive Development Plan ( “CDP”).  Tom Wheatley’s excellent reporting in Creative Loafing from that time neatly and humorously sums up the community’s overwhelming  and successful opposition. (You can read it here.)

Absent a consensus and facing the end of the City Council term, ABI abandoned their efforts. A year later, with new ABI leadership and Councilmember Wan’s help, a new plan for this area (Subarea 6, in ABI parlance) that was consistent with the CDP was amicably developed and adopted.  It was a relief for us, and it helped ABI and the neighborhoods get on the same page.

With an eye on these proposed changes in the area, by 2009 one owner had privately assembled almost all the private land west of Monroe east of the BeltLine up to and including (except for the last house by the Park) all the property on Cresthill’s south side; he still owns it all. In the last few years that same owner has twice signaled – and then backed off – a push to change the land uses and zoning to allow more intense multi-family development.

This community has always supported a healthy mix of single-family and multi-family options. One of the early things we examined was the amount of multi-family we already have in this community. The answer was a bit surprising: VaHi  already has more multi-family units –  they’re easy to spot on Greenwood and St. Charles – than almost any other northeast neighborhood,  including traditional Midtown. Even more will arrive at some point in areas already zoned for it, such as the North Highland Road Neighborhood Commercial districts and along the BeltLine itself from Ponce to Virginia.

Why is the Monroe/10th area different?

VHCA’s concerns for this area mirror those of many nearby neighbors. While some greater density there may be inevitable and acceptable, the challenges lie in determining an appropriate size and scale for development, mitigating associated traffic impacts, and – most important of all –  coping with the implications for adjacent and nearby single-family residential owners along Monroe and its side streets.

More specifically, professionals in community planning  observe that – unless paired with new protective provisions – any planning rationales that justify denser development around 10th Street have the capacity (whether intended or unintentional) to incentivize similar outcomes further north on Monroe.

Maintaining the single-family character of Cresthill and Cooledge and offering protection to the homes on the east side of Monroe are key outcomes. Strategically, that is one reason that VHCA has always carefully monitored all attempts to alter the zoning or land use in the CDP, both in our neighborhood and others.

Our chief strategist throughout this process has been Aaron Fortner, who has served this neighborhood for years in many capacities. (Aaron most recently led the Master Plan; it was his notion to count rather than just guess the degree of existing multi-family.) In addition to the importance of the CDP, Fortner has consistently emphasized several other points.

The middle of any street (particularly a busy one like Monroe) makes a weak line of demarcation for zoning purposes. If a street has the capacity to accommodate an intense use on one side, it’s very difficult to prevent that use on the other.  The same logic applies on Cresthill. If multifamily is built on one side, it becomes harder to maintain single-family uses on the other. (Potentially less attractive too, obviously.)

There are accompanying quality of life issues attached to the uses and design of streets. As anyone who attended Master Plan meetings will remember, the residents along Monroe face some special traffic challenges – cars going too fast and jumping lanes when traffic allows, followed by congestion, and then back to speeding cars, and sidewalks that offer very little buffering from the street. None of these conditions support pedestrian or front-yard uses, as residential zoning aspires to do. Just crossing the road to get to Piedmont Park with children can be a real challenge on Monroe.

The Monroe Complete Streets program aspires to reduce excess speeds, calm driving behaviors, and protect the pedestrians and cyclists who keep showing up there in ever-greater numbers. Will it work, and what are the implications for zoning and land use?

We should all hope it works, because under no circumstances are the traffic levels of the last century going to return. If the auto behaviors on this street can’t be reined in and Monroe is unlivable at street level, that becomes another argument for replacing single-family residential there with more intense development. That would in turn produce more traffic and more development; it’s a classic domino pattern that is no stranger to Atlantans. (Lenox Road’s rapid change from single-family to very dense multi-family during the 1980’s is a classic example.)

If that’s the predominant direction the development takes, the nature of the single-family residential character of  the whole west side of VaHi is in doubt.

These challenges were in the front of our minds when discussions about developing Monroe and 10th began anew this spring. We took them very seriously; the developer hired a well-known and competent zoning attorney and a prominent developer; the neighborhood had the Planning Committee, the comfort of our dialogue with local residents, and the experience and skills of Aaron Fortner, and former Atlanta Planning Dept. attorney Bob Zoeckler. Alex was there, watching and listening carefully. No formal proposals were offered; the developers explained their broad goals, and we explained ours. (They are the ones articulated above.)

Amidst this lobbing of ideas back and forth, the developers suddenly called a break. We expect that they will be back in a few months. It’s hard to imagine otherwise; this land has sat there for almost 6 years.

Trying to find a reasonable solution that doesn’t threaten this neighborhood in the long run and still satisfies the owner’s ambitions is a challenge. A few months ago a formal proposal seemed likely to be in front of us all by now; the timetable has turned out differently.  Perhaps there’s an acceptable middle ground that provides outcomes that work for all parties; perhaps there’s not. That’s a decision we’ll all talk over and make together when there’s something to decide. We feel as prepared for the discussion and process as we can be, but the timetable is not ours.

Meanwhile, our own professionals have been looking for other ways to protect traditional residential areas from the impacts of any new proposals. If they have any useful ideas, they’ll be shared very openly with citizens first.

If you’d like to hear more about this, there’s an update at almost every Planning Committee meeting. That committee meets the Wednesday before the monthly Board meeting at 7 PM at the Church of Our Saviour, opposite FS 19.  The next one is September 9th; it’s open to all members of VHCA, which – in this neighborhood – is all residents. You’re very welcome to come.

Jack White is on the VHCA Planning Committee and Board.

VHCA Announces Candidates for 2015-2016 Board of Directors; Absentee Ballot Available

by Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle



The nominating committee of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association presents the following list of candidates, all of whom have declared their candidacy.

Click here to go to a page with candidate bios.

Peggy Berg
David Brandenberger
Lola Carlisle
Lauren Wilkes Fralick
Emily Gilbert
Paige Hewell
Karri Hobson-Pape
Jenifer Keenan
Catherine Lewis
Robin Ragland
Angelika Taylor
Jack White
Jess Windham

Members of the association (18 years of age residing within the official boundaries of Virginia-Highland) may vote at the Annual General Meeting to be held September 17, 2014 at the Inman Middle School Cafeteria starting at 6:30 PM. In order to vote, please bring a copy of a valid ID (GA driver’s license, e.g.) or a utility bill issued within 60 days of the meeting and showing your name and address.

Absentee Ballot

Members may also vote by absentee ballot. Your ballot along with a copy of one of the forms of identification mentioned above may be delivered to the offices of Tailfin Marketing (1246 Virginia Ave.) by noon on September 17 or to the Annual Meeting by its start time at 6:30 PM. Please put your ballot in a sealed envelope with the identification documents separately sealed inside or stapled to the outside. (Please cross out specific account or driver license numbers.) After your residency is verified, the identification documents will be removed and destroyed. Your ballot will remain anonymous.

Click here for a copy of the absentee ballot.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at our annual meeting in September.

Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle are VHCA Board Members and serve on the Nominating Committee.

VaHi: Loved to Death

by Jack White

Virginia-Highland’s Master Plan became part of the city’s Comprehensive Development Plan in July of 2014. The plan was the result of a great deal of work in the community. Click here to see the Plan.

The initiatives in the Master Plan cover a wide range of topics and challenges. A few – like installing storm drain signage (“Only rain in this drain”) – need only coordination with the appropriate municipal agency. Some are longer-range planning issues awaiting full funding – the bike lanes along Kanuga Street and Virginia Avenue and supporting the Monroe Drive Complete Streets program. (Fixing Fire Station 19 was such a given that it didn’t make the plan.)

The Master Plan referred some topics for further study. Those include the concerns that citizens voiced during that process about the impacts of neighborhood redevelopment, often expressed as the fear of losing the very characteristics that made this community so attractive in the first place. (“VaHi is being loved to death” was a popular line.)

In the past, the only City of Atlanta mechanism for addressing such challenges was historic designation (“HD”), which was what the Atkins Park section of VaHi adopted after a nice discussion several years ago. Atkins Park was built as one subdivision over a few years, and HD appears to have worked well for them, as it has in several other neighborhoods.

Last fall some VaHi citizens organized their own look at HD for other portions of the neighborhood. That idea predictably produced both support and opposition; even more interestingly, it focused attention on another, more flexible approach (sometimes called – among other terms- an Urban Design District) that some planners and city officials suggested might be useful for neighborhoods like Virginia-Highland.

Such a concept isn’t new to the metro area; Hapeville and Roswell have versions. Such plans can be as simple as identifying five to ten special elements that typify a community: garage placements, front porches, height and lot coverage requirement, et al. Or they can address scale instead of specific design; it depends on what any given neighborhood’s defining features are and what the residents think is important.

Nomenclature aside, the question is whether any approach can be found that identifies and describes common construction elements – both ones that are widely desired and widely disliked – in a manner that both allows homeowners the flexibility to effectively and innovatively renovate and still preserve the essential characteristics of VaHi. Are there guidelines that work and still allow for the inevitably needed exceptions?

It’s a question worth asking and answering for several reasons. The first has already been mentioned; it was a very common comment in the Master Plan process.The second is that the current code is a mess. A large percentage of houses in our neighborhood do not conform to their own current zoning, a result that shreds the underlying logic of the approach and creates so many time-consuming variances that even the city has acknowledged that the entire zoning code needs to be re-written.

We welcome the idea (it’s way overdue), but that very lengthy process will not address the concerns our own residents have identified. If this neighborhood has certain features that deserve to be protected, there is no group more likely to know them than our own citizens.

We are living  – and have lived – with design overlays for years, mostly without knowing it. VaHi’s commercial areas along North Highland have a zoning overlay: the Neighborhood Commercial (“NC”) districts. They allow flexibility in rebuilding and expansion (including building a full-story higher than current conditions) while maintaining many of the characteristics we associate with the area today:  street-facing entrances, shop windows, walkable sidewalks, active street life, etc. The BeltLine overlay addresses similar features.

The VHCA board has asked Canvas Planning Group to lead an examination of potential responses to the redevelopment challenges that citizens have raised. Canvas’ founder, Aaron Fortner, has consulted with Virginia-Highland on several initiatives, including NC (Neighborhood Commercial), development at 10th and Monroe, the Master Plan, and many other related topics.  All of his outreach work has been characterized by a measured pace and the inclusion of citizens in the process; it’s one of many such things he does very effectively.

As ever, deliberative and reflective will be the order of the day.  Nothing else would match the democratic tradition in this neighborhood, or be effective in the end – nor has any board ever approached such challenges in any other way. The last two processes in VaHi –  the Master Plan and the Neighborhood Commercial (NC) process – illustrate the process. There were a ton of chances and ways to be involved; that will be the case here too. The content of both ideas evolved and changed along the way; that’s what happens when there is good engagement on things that folks care about.

Beginning with analysis and discussion means something else, too: there are no pre-determined proposals or outcomes. Whatever the end product, the process itself is certain to produce a vastly better understanding and appreciation of what makes this community unique and special. We look forward to that part with confidence and optimism.

Jack White is a VHCA Board Member and Planning Committee Member.

Second Stage of Inman Pedestrian Safety Project Installed

by David Brandenberger

The second part of the pedestrian safety project at Inman – a new bulb-out adjacent to the volleyball courts on Virginia at John Howell Park – was installed last weekend. Designed to shorten the time needed to cross the street, it will soon be joined by (we are informed) the project’s last element, an RRFB (Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon)–similar to other pedestrian hybrid beacons being deployed throughout the city (HAWK beacons, etc.).

A section of the new plaza at that corner that was built last fall had to removed and repoured in the process.  While we would rather that all the concrete matched, it’s a trifle compared with the safety of the students crossing the street. Slowing down traffic in this area is a solid idea that we applaud.

With a nearby neighbor, we raised the issue of altered stormwater flows with the city in this process and have been assured that they will respond to any new challenges that develop.  In the next round of work at John Howell, we aspire to capture more stormwater further uphill along the curbs in that park and to trap some of the water that occasionally stands along Arcadia.

We appreciate all the work that local resident and parent Mary Stouffer put into this, and we again thank Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Daniel Ephraim at the City Public Works Department for their support.

David Brandenberger is a VHCA Board Member and he chairs the Parks Committee.

Why I Serve on the VHCA Board (and Why I Don’t Like Social Media)

by Jenifer Keenan

I have been a proud member of the VHCA Board for three years.  People often ask why I do this “thankless job” and the answer is always the same – I love Virginia-Highland and want to give back to our great neighborhood.  The things that VHCA and the hundreds of volunteers who support VHCA accomplish are pretty amazing – we put on Summerfest and the Tour of Homes, meet with home owners and neighbors on all construction variances, coordinate and finance major improvements to John Howell Park, funded over $100,000 in grants to the public schools in our neighborhood, and own and maintain North Highland Park.

VHCA also acts as a liaison (or instigator!) for projects big and small, whether it’s working with the city on one-sided parking for a narrow residential street, improving sidewalks, requesting (and getting) weed abatement from the City for our neighborhood and surrounding areas, facilitating safety improvements on our streets, organizing and funding supplemental clean-up and maintenance of our business districts, helping with runoff from poorly regulated construction projects, spearheading efforts to preserve the fire station on North Highland, leading the Master Plan, meeting with all kinds of city agencies, or helping neighbors with concerns about renovation and development occurring in our neighborhood.

In spite of all of these wonderful accomplishments, “the Board” is often criticized or attacked on social media.  In my role as a Board Member, I have been accused on social media (never in person or on the phone) of “pursuing my own agenda” – a particularly strange claim given that I don’t have an “agenda” for our neighborhood.  And recently, someone on social media even suggested that the Board members should be sued for voting on, and approving (at a meeting that was open to the public) an expenditure for a project to explore the development of design guidelines/overlay for VaHi.

Rather than asking “what is a design overlay,” people assumed that it was the same as historic designation.  And although a few vocal voices on social media claim that “the majority of the neighborhood” is vehemently against any building restrictions or development guidelines, the emails and calls that the Board constantly receives asking us to “do something to fight the McMansion going up next to my house” or “prevent the modern design proposed by my neighbor” show otherwise.  In fact, during the Master Planning process, more people said that the destruction of historic properties/in-fill development is the biggest challenge facing our neighborhood than any other issue.

And yet, all of this really misses the point, because the Board has not proposed any guidelines – we have hired a consultant to explore the possibility of guidelines.  Why not simply ask for more information on this, or any other of the dozens of projects undertaken by VHCA, rather than accusing the Board on social media of pursuing some nefarious agenda?  At this point, the consultant has merely taken an inventory of existing structures in VaHi.  If, and when, any guidelines are developed, they will go through the same process used for the Master Plan – there will be a series of small meetings and large public meetings and various opportunities to determine if guidelines are appropriate, and if so, what those guidelines should be.

The Board has also been accused of “doing things in secret” – a claim that I find particularly disturbing given all of our efforts to keep the neighborhood abreast of all VHCA activities.   During the Master Plan process, I personally wrote six articles for The Voice, as well as attended over a dozen meetings on the Master Plan.  Furthermore, all of our Board meetings are videotaped, and all committee and board meetings are open to the public.  Remarkably, there has even been criticism of our use of videotaped minutes of our meetings, even though videotape minutes certainly provide a more complete picture of what transpired at the meeting than the cursory summary that is typically found in written minutes.

I often invite these critics of VHCA and the Board to sign up for a VHCA committee or attend a VHCA meeting, and am always met with the same refrain:  “I don’t have time.”  I don’t have time either.  I’m a full time lawyer at a large law firm, mother to two wonderful daughters at SPARK, and a wife to a busy marketing professional.  And yet, I make time.  I can’t even count the number of times I have brought my daughters to VHCA meetings when my husband has been traveling or at work, but I have done it because VaHi is important to me and I want to show my daughters that I am willing to be a leader and work to make our neighborhood a better place.

Before you go onto social media and chastise “the Board” or suggest that we should be sued for taking a position that you may personally disagree with, I suggest you take a step back and remember that we are your neighbors and are all volunteers who are trying to do our best for the neighborhood.  Come to a meeting and meet us, or give us a call if you have questions . . . that is certainly more effective – and a lot more neighborly – than complaining about us on social media.

Jenifer Keenan is a VHCA Board Member and she chairs the Planning Committee.

Latest Monthly Safety Report

by Peggy Berg

VHCA’s monthly safety reports track crime incidents reported by the Atlanta Police Department for Zone 6, Beat 601 (Virginia-Highland). Here is the July 2015 Safety Report.

The number of incidents reported by category for July is shown in the first section of the report.

The second section shows trends for the categories with the most incidents by month for 2015, with a comparison to the average for the past 5 years.

The third section shows year-to-date trends over the past 5 years for the same three categories.

Peggy Berg is a member of the VHCA Safety Committee and Board. Thanks to Shannon Mehl and Holly Lybeer for creating the Safety Stats Report.

Pink Barre Opening Event to Benefit North Highland Park

By David Brandenberger

Pink Barre is joining the Virginia-Highland community!

One of Atlanta’s top barre studios will be opening its fifth location in Virginia Highland at the intersection of Virginia and North Highland Avenue, with plans to open its doors sometime early this fall.

If you’re interested in learning more about Pink Barre and barre fitness, join Tara Joiner, the founder, for two free demo classes on 9/18 and 10/2 at 9:30am at the North Highland Park located at the corner of St. Charles and North Highland.

Barre is a high-intensity, low-impact workout that sculpts and tones the body using low-impact, high-intensity exercises.

Please bring your yoga mat and water!  Suggested donation of $15 will benefit future maintenance in beautifying this park! Reserve your mat by emailing

Let’s pack the park and support greenspace preservation in VaHi!  For more information, please visit or

David Brandenberger is a VHCA Board Member and he chairs the Parks Committee.

Legal Runaround 5K Sep 12 Benefits Children of Atlanta Police Officers; Street Closures

By Stephen Cohen, Voice Editor

You cannot, absolutely cannot, beat the outstanding name for this race: “The Legal Runaround”, sponsored by The Atlanta Bar Foundation.

About the Race
“Come join us for the 15th Annual Legal Runaround in John Howell Park. Proceeds benefit the Atlanta Bar Foundation Police Scholarship Fund which provides college scholarships to the children of Atlanta police officers who are killed or disabled in the line of duty.”

For more information and an application, click here.

Route and street closings

Here is the route, which is the same as the list of street closings.

Latest Monthly Safety Report

by Peggy Berg

VHCA’s monthly safety reports track crime incidents reported by the Atlanta Police Department for Zone 6, Beat 601 (Virginia-Highland). Here is the August 2015 Safety Report . (Earlier reports may be viewed here).

The number of incidents reported by category for August is shown in the first section of the report.

The second section shows trends for the categories with the most incidents by month for 2015, with a comparison to the average for the past 5 years.

The third section shows year-to-date trends over the past 5 years for the same three categories.

Peggy Berg is a member of the VHCA Safety Committee and Board. Thanks to Shannon Mehl and Holly Lybeer for creating the Safety Stats Report.

Bob Coomes: A Life Well-Lived

Bob Headshot for ObitBy John Becker

Editor’s Note: John Becker is a former VHCA board member and Voice editor who recently moved to Poncey-Highland. John remains involved in the neighborhood and is a close friend of the Coomes family.

Longtime Virginia-Highland resident Bob Coomes passed away recently, finally succumbing to the cancer monster he fought for an incredible seventeen years.

Bob was that rare individual who always had a smile on his face and never met a person he didn’t like – and the feeling was almost always mutual. His constantly upbeat spirit and can-do attitude were infectious and an inspiration to many who stood by him during his long and often difficult battle with the disease that ultimately took his life.

Bob, who would have been 64 in October, shared his love of people with his undying love for dogs. He could often be seen walking his chocolate lab mix Fudge along the sidewalks of VaHi. After a successful professional career that included a 27-year stint with AT&T, Bob and his wife Nancy formed a business around their creation of LickALots, a healthy frozen treat for dogs. LickALots was as much a labor of love for Bob and Nancy as it was a business.

4434_86331041772_4641705_nBob had a sense of community and was always willing to roll up his sleeves and get involved. In addition to volunteering for seventeen years with Meals on Wheels, Bob served several years on the VHCA board, was at one time editor of The Voice newsletter and volunteered with Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful. In recent years Bob and his wife Nancy devoted their time and talents to making the Saturday morning Tot Trot one of Summerfest’s most anticipated events. Bob was the consummate Tot Trot master of ceremonies.

No description of Bob would be complete without mentioning that he was a passionate and knowledgeable sports fan. The Atlanta Braves and Louisville Cardinals lost some major fan mojo with Bob’s passing.

A service in Bob’s memory will be held at Morningside Presbyterian Church (1411 N. Morningside Dr.) at 3 PM on Thursday, September 10th. Anyone wishing to celebrate the life of Bob Coomes is welcome to attend.

Bob Coomes’ full obituary follows.

473504_10150598685126773_1227160640_oBob (Robert T.) Coomes, with his bright smile, enthusiasm, and optimistic spirit is in heaven now.  His 17 year battle with renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) was epic. As he had wished, Bob was at his home in Atlanta when he died on August 17, 2015.  He was 63.

The Service to give thanks and celebrate Bob’s life will be held on Thursday, September 10, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. at Morningside Presbyterian Church.  The Church is located at 1411 N. Morningside Dr. NE in Atlanta, GA 30306 (  A reception at the Church will follow the service.

Bob loved dearly his father, Thomas Coomes (deceased), his mother, Agnes Coomes, his wife, Nancy Phillips Coomes, his daughter, Chelsea Coomes, and his siblings, Barbara Coomes(Jim Johnson), Rick Coomes (Sally), Pat Coomes (Nanci) and their families, as well as his sister-by-marriage, Gena (Demaree) Jones.  Throughout his life he was surrounded and sustained by the strong bonds of a large extended family, many dear and supportive friends and neighbors and a strong church family.  He treasured being known as “Bobby”, “Brother Bob”, “Dad”, “Uncle Bob”, “Cousin Bob”, “Neighbor Bob”, “Friend Bob” and “Beer Rat Bob”.   To Nancy, he was “Puffy”.  To his beloved dogs, Kisses (deceased), Fudge and Chris, with whom he had a close and special bond, he was “Daddy Bob”.

Bob was a proud native of Louisville, Kentucky and lived there until 1988 when he relocated to Atlanta.  He held a masters degree in electrical engineering from the University of Louisville and was a loyal supporter of the school throughout his life.  His professional career included 27 years as a manager with AT&T.   In more recent years, he partnered with Nancy to create a healthy treat for dogs called LickALots.  That business was sold to King of Pops in 2010.  The product continues to be manufactured, sold and enjoyed by dogs throughout the Eastern United States.

Bob volunteered his time to the Meals on Wheels program for 17 years. He not only delivered food to the seniors he served, he brought them cheer with his sincere interest in their lives.  He formed friendships and lasting bonds that were very important to him.

Bob and JohnBob participated as a volunteer for programs sponsored by the Virginia Highland Civic Association in an effort to give back to the community he called home.

In his battle with kidney cancer, Bob focused on being Empowered, Educated and Engaged.  He studied in great detail the development and availability of new treatments, their side effects, and potential benefit.   He worked in close partnership with his physicians and care-giving teams to select and follow treatment plans that had the greatest potential efficacy for him.

He joined the M.D. Anderson Network for patient and caregiver support in 2002.  This group of volunteers, who are current and former cancer patients, are available to talk with someone with cancer who has had a similar diagnosis or treatment as the volunteer. Bob spoke with dozens of patients in an effort to help them and their loved ones make the transition from diagnosis to survivorship.

In 2004, Bob became a patient advocate for one of the National Cancer Institute’s Cooperative Groups that develop and implement cancer clinical trials.  Patient advocates include survivors who provide input to the cancer clinical research process.  They remain current on new treatment research and ultimately ensure that the patients’ perspectives and needs are at the center of clinical trial decisions. 

Those wishing to honor Bob via donations can send checks made payable to First Presbyterian Church Atlanta with the designation that the money is for the “Meals on Wheels Program in memory of Bob Coomes”.  Envelopes should be addressed to:

First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta

Attn: Meals on Wheels Program

1328 Peachtree St.

Atlanta, GA 30309-3209

Walk-through at John Howell Park to Discuss Enhancements

In the latest edition of the Voice, there is an article about proposed enhancements to John Howell Park.  The Virginia-Highland Civic Association invites you to a walk-through of the park with Landscape Architect Peter Frawley, who will review and discuss his ideas.

There are two opportunities:

* Tuesday evening, August 25th, at 7 PM;  and
* Saturday, August 29th at 10 AM.

We will assemble by the volleyball courts at the Arcadia corner.  If you like Parks, you’ll enjoy meeting Peter.   We’d also be glad to hear from you at

If you can’t do any of these and want to discuss these in person, write us at  We’ll try to find a way to accommodate you.

Here is the latest edition of the Voice.

On the Prowl in Virginia-Highland

By Lola Carlisle

It started with a feral cat, now named Virginia, and you’ll never guess where she was found. We first spotted her slinking around the house across the street from my office on Virginia Ave–slinking because she was stealthily moving her litter of kittens to a “safe place.”

I know a few people committed to cat rescue, and I was beginning to become familiar with recommended practices for addressing the feral cat population. One of the most dedicated people on the cat rescue scene in Atlanta is Warren Royal, a friend from high school. He has managed a feral cat colony behind a Home Depot in Alpharetta for many years (and other colonies, too). He took in one of the largest males out of the Home Depot colony, Big Daddy, who later became a beloved poster cat for feral cat care. (You can read about him here.)

Warren and his friends were unbelievably helpful in the rescue of Virginia and her three kittens. In the case of a mother and kittens, it’s very tricky. Kittens younger than a couple of weeks old do not have a great survival rate if separated from their moms.  In Virginia’s case, patience and vigilance were the keys. Before the kittens were ready to be separated from Virginia, a terrible thunderstorm approached and the kittens were in an unprotected place; we decided it was best to scoop them up. Virginia watched and hissed from a distance. Luckily, Warren’s friend took in the kittens and fed them kitten formula every couple of hours until they could eat more solid food.  (Obviously, she is a saint.) All the kittens were healthy and found homes after a few weeks of special attention.

The next step was to trap Virginia and TNR her – that’s “Trap. Neuter. Return.” Many cats that have been feral for a long time are just unable to become pets. There are several organizations in the Atlanta area that provide TNR services at very reasonable prices.  (There are links to them below.) The obvious philosophy here is population control and disease prevention by vaccination.  And – although the outcome includes releasing a predator in the neighborhood, one that eats many beneficial animals – it feels to me like the most humane approach. You’ll know a cat has been through this program if you see a notch in their ear or the tip of the left ear has been cropped.

As you can certainly imagine, this is a time-consuming process but so important. The process seems to go the smoothest when used closer to home or work, because it’s easier to identify the feral cats and see their routines. It’s also easier to set and watch the trap so the cat spends less time in the trap and is less traumatized.  TNR practitioners always recommend covering the cage when a cat is inside.

There are several people in the neighborhood with TNR experience who are usually more than willing to lend equipment, provide information, and help keep an eye on traps. With the help of neighbors and Warren, I’ve TNR-ed two other cats and found homes for their kittens as well. The neighbors who helped me have also TNR-ed about 6 cats that eventually became their pets. They keep bells on their cats to reduce their chances of catching the local wildlife.

All in all, we’re fairly lucky in Virginia-Highland with regard to the stray animal populations, at least compared to other neighborhoods and rural areas. Putting forth an effort to keep the population at bay is a positive for the cats, their potential prey, and the neighborhood. Please reach out to me ( if you have questions. Another resource in the area is Liz Kroll, Southern Animal Rescue volunteer/board member:

Gotta go – there’s a Tom over by Roadhouse that needs a little TNR TLC…

This organization is very affordable and convenient for TNR:

Lola Carlisle has lived in VaHi for years.

The Rehabilitation of John Howell Park

by Jack White

Four years ago, the VHCA Parks Committee undertook a thoroughgoing renovation of John Howell Park.Designed on two levels a quarter-century ago by local landscape architect Peter Frawley, John Howell is really two side-by-side parks, each complementing the other.

Bordered by Barnett Street, the eastern half is primarily passive, though its two grassed areas can (and do) accommodate periodic large assemblies. This year’s Summerfest Community Dinner and music stages were on (what we call) the Great Lawn; birthday parties and impromptu volleyball games are frequently seen there on weekends. The area is surrounded by a sweeping pedestrian path with benches and is generally quite tranquil.

To the west, a thick vegetative border (with no internal link to the rest of the park) marks the end of the upper area. While the lower section has some reflective spots and benches near the John Howell Memorial, it is a much more active area, defined by two popular playgrounds and two well-used sand volleyball courts.

Peter’s design was not the only possible approach – he considered creating one or more level playing fields, which would have been very popular – but it very successfully accommodates a range of divergent and seemingly incompatible uses in a relatively compact space. (Peter knew very well, of course, that such field spaces existed right across the street at Inman. Will those fields be available a decade from now? That’s another story for another time, but that outcome has never been far from many citizens’ minds, and we certainly aspire to have the neighborhood be part of the processes that decide the issue.)

Carefully maintained until about 2005, John Howell received very little systematic attention from VHCA for the latter half of the decade, and it showed. The grassy areas were in poor condition, a huge gully twixt the two levels was sending mud onto the walkways and De Leon Ave, the benches were shabby, the base of the John Howell Memorial (the black wrought iron piece at the east end of the lower level) was missing bricks, extensive bamboo had invaded the lower playground, the adjacent fences were in poor repair, the walkway planter was filled with trash, the faucets leaked, and well over a dozen lamps weren’t working. Those that did featured a variety of different bulbs and broken globes. The sand on the volleyball courts was barely restrained by a wall of sandbags that hemorrhaged sand onto Arcadia and into the storm drains leading to Clear Creek.

How the park got so shabby raises several interesting questions – first among them the issue of who was (and is) responsible for the variety of tasks it takes to run an upbeat park.

Some of the answers are clear; the city has always covered the park’s basic utility services (water, electricity) and playground infrastructure. (The latter, then relatively new, was functional.) The city mowed and looked after trees.
Those basics are important; doing more than that requires a lot more, and neither the city nor anyone else was providing it.  The city was nearing the end of a quarter-century of reductions in park staff and professional capability. It fixed only what was obviously broken, and it often didn’t do that very quickly.  Even the mowing was not to be taken for granted; the folks who did the work did not have a regular schedule, nor did they service the same parks repeatedly. The Parks’ utilities staff was overwhelmed. All in all, the outcomes were dispiriting and frustrating and left a big functional vacuum.

What the park needed was a major organized maintenance response from VHCA; what it got was individual volunteers randomly taking on various tasks on their own. It was the culmination of the citizen do-it-yourself park movement all over this city, a tradition that produced a lot of odd practices. Some of those citizen responses had real value, of course, including monitoring tree conditions. Many others were well-intentioned but ill-informed. John Howell got a bunch of plant material put in inexplicable locations by well-meaning citizens who needed some horticultural direction. A great many of those plants did not survive and have been removed.

If there were a bright side, the large-scale disorganization and randomness led to the growth of Park Pride, which increasingly sought to meet the obvious need to provide some organized direction and shape to citizens’ responding to the city’s own shortcomings.

In early 2012, VHCA began systematically addressing the conditions mentioned earlier. Two procedural points (both very time-consuming) turned out to be critical – the need to communicate and work closely with the Parks Department and the necessity of finding and hiring capable professional assistance – park designers, horticulturalists, and tradesmen. Get some intelligent recommendations, vet them through Parks and get their consent, and then get going.

Over the next few years – and a huge amount of meeting time later – the approach proved to be reasonably successful. The design aspect was critical. To VaHi’s great good fortune, Peter Frawley was still active and eager to participate. His skill and humor (and connections with capable contractors) proved to be key elements. (And he has a lot of patience, a virtue he repeatedly asked us to emulate.) Walter Bland has supervised almost all the horticultural work. An expert on native plants, he made and implemented a wealth of practical suggestions about what to do and when to do it.

Having these folks in the picture helped change the dynamics with the city’s Parks Department, who originally seemed a bit surprised that we were seeking to include them in the process. The hiring of Doug Voss as Parks Director in late 2012 was a huge step; he helped create a rational new internal system of tracking repairs that immediately produced better results. Maintenance crew assignments were more regularized, with much better public better access to the Parks staff. Some gradual progress slowly built the mutual levels of trust.

Much improved, the Parks Department still faces some real challenges. Their increased budgets and larger staffs have helped, but the latter are nowhere near where they were 35 years ago, even though the amount of acreage they care for has grown considerably. Local parks benefit hugely from active neighborhood support, an element that works well for us. We can afford it, but good parks shouldn’t be as dependent on that as they are. Many neighborhoods don’t have the volume of active citizens or history of successful fundraising that we do. Our parks are a direct beneficiary of the work of the neighbors who produce Summerfest and the Tour of Homes make all this possible.

Quite obviously, we have been very fortunate to have Park Pride in the equation. That organization has played an enormous role in the most visible changes at John Howell, the granite walls and fences around the volleyball courts. Their $50K grant from Park Pride – matched by VHCA (more than matched, actually) – made that work possible. (We will be honoring them at the Sept. 17th AGM; we hope you can come.)

The other changes are also worth noting. The Parks Department is now performing much more systematically and reliably, with very visible results; they deserve a salute. Safety and tree inspections are conducted regularly. Over the last few years they have installed new faucets, rewired over a dozen rusted-out lamps, replaced all the globes, and installed uniform light bulbs throughout. (Go for a walk there at night; soon – before a bulb burns out.) A new safety surface and the replacement of the equipment on the lower playground are on their regular rotation schedule.

Using Parks-approved contractors and Parks-approved scopes of work, VHCA paid for all the design work, fence and brick repairs, regular care of the lawn (aeration, fertilizer, weed removal), the repair of the gully, removal of invasives (still working on them), a host of new plants (more to come), refurbishing benches (more work always needed), and installed erosion control measure hither and thither. John Howell is – we suggest cautiously – in its best shape in a long time.

All that said, there is a lot more to do there, and David Brandenberger has written on that topic elsewhere in this issue of the Voice. Please check out his article, look at the further refinements being considered, and come to one of the scheduled walk-throughs with Peter Frawley later this month.

Jack White is a member of the VHCA Parks Committee and Board.

New Monthly Snapshot of Crime Statistics in VaHi

by Peggy Berg

Did you know that the VHCA website carries a running report of crime statistics in our area?

We have just revamped the monthly report to make it easier to read.

Here is the link.

You will note that Auto Larceny continues to lead the way by far. People are often confused about the differences among robbery, burglary and larceny, so here are the distinctions.

Robbery is taking something from someone using intimidation, force, or threat. In order for robbery to take place, a victim (or multiple victims) must be present at the scene.

Burglary is unlawful entry to a structure to commit theft or a felony. A victim does not have to be present, but a structure – which includes business offices, personal homes, and
even external sheds – must be involved.

Confusingly, Burglary is not the term used for crimes committed on cars. See below.

Larceny is similar to Burglary, but without the element of a structure. The exception to this rule is the burglary of a motor vehicle, which is referred to as larceny. Under all conditions–whether a vehicle is left with the doors locked or unlocked, the windows are open or not, or the security system is or is not engaged–vehicle burglary crimes are referred to as larceny.

Peggy Berg is a member of the VHCA Safety Committee and Board.

Thanks to Shannon Mehl and Holly Lybeer for the Safety Stats Report.

Little Free Libraries in VaHi – Second in a Series

by Robin Ragland

Many of the Little Free Libraries in our neighborhood have their own charming stories. For those of you who missed the first article in this series, a Little Free Library operates on the concept of a “take a book, return a book” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories.

The second neighborhood Little Free Library (LFL) on our tour around the neighborhood is at 629 Cooledge Ave.  It belongs to Nan and Bob Safay.  They have thoroughly enjoyed the experience for over a year-and-a-half.

Says Nan, “We first heard of it on the VHList. Someone out running posted that they were seeing little houses as they were exercising and wondered what they were.  Someone else responded with only the words ‘Little Free Libraries’.  Since ‘free’ and ‘library’ are two of our favorite words, we did some research, and 6 months later had one in our front yard.”

What makes Nan and Bob’s library particularly endearing is that it’s dedicated to a special person–Millie Brown (see the plaque on the side of the library in the photo).

Since the library is so close to the Beltline and Piedmont Park, lots of folks on their way to events take books. But the Safays do wake up at times to find their LFL completely filled with books, CDs, and DVDs from a generous donor.  Bob and Nan also replenish their library by buying books from a local thrift store because the library is only 50-60% self-sustaining. (If you have unused books lying around, consider adding them to a Little Free Library).

Like many others who start a LFL, Bob and Nan initially stocked their library with extra books they had around the house.   They are also patrons of their own Little Free Library, and have been pleased to find a few treasures, such as a Bobsey Twins book that made its way onto a shelf of their ‘inside’ library.  They also have assistance with their library. “We have a lady who stops on her walks and organizes the library, and I am grateful for it. I am sure she was a librarian”.

Whereas our first article described how the biggest users of the Sandmans’ library were neighboring children, it is service people who are the most engaged browsers and users of the Safays’ library.

“This is very gratifying to us,” says Nan, “because they provide service to us and this is a nice way to say thank you.  Our mail lady looks in it quite often and drops books as well as taking them.  Our yard service people, who are Hispanic, thank us every time they get into the library.  They particularly like National Geographic Magazines because, they tell me, it helps them with their English–they associate the text with the pictures. Our garbage and recycle folks, the Comcast van, the Georgia Power truck, even this group laying cable right now, all come to the library–now how cool is that! ”

Nan and Bob find, to their surprise, that how-to books and reference books seem to be the favorite genre of their patrons.  “How to garden, how to start a salt water aquarium, how to write a resume, all kinds of things, appear and disappear quickly.  Dictionaries, thesauruses, and medical pharmaceuticals are gone almost overnight!  Action/adventure books such as Tom Clancy are also pretty popular.”

At times, they receive a special request for a special genre. A young girl asked recently why they don’t have more children’s books in their Cooledge LFL.  They’re not as familiar with young children’s literature, so they invite neighbors to help them offer a selection for children 10 and younger.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about Bob and Nan Safay’s LFL.  I had one person send a note after the first story, wanting to know if a city permit is required to establish a library.  No permit is required as long as it is placed on the private-property side of your sidewalk.

Have a library?  Feel free to contact me at so I can share your story as part of the series.

Robin Ragland is a longtime resident of this neighborhood.

VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers set for September 17

by Lola Carlisle

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s annual general meeting and election of officers will be held Thursday September 17th in the Inman Middle School cafeteria, starting at 6:30 PM. Please be sure to bring your ID or recent utility bill in your name as proof of residency. Regular civic association business will be conducted at the VHCA’s monthly board and general meeting to be held September 14 at 7:00 PM at the public library on Ponce de Leon Ave.

The VHCA board consists of ten members and one alternate who are elected to one-year terms by residents at the annual meeting. There’s also an ‘Atkins Park designee’ board member who is chosen by the Atkins Park Homeowners Association prior to the annual meeting.

The alternate member has historically functioned as a full board member, but formally votes only if another member is not present. The VaHi resident getting the fewest votes of the top eleven residents receiving votes in the election serves as the alternate member.

Our neighborhood thrives because of a high level of volunteer involvement by residents in a variety of areas. The framework for much of this volunteerism is provided through VHCA’s committees: Budget, Fundraising (Summerfest, Tour of Homes), Planning, Preservation and History, Parks, Safety, Education and Communications.  Click here for a complete list of the association’s committees, their areas of responsibility and their current chairs/members.

Click here for a list of those serving on the current VHCA board. Any of these board members would be glad to talk with you about the responsibilities and time commitments associated with board service and will be glad to answer any questions you may have.

Many citizens reach the board after serving on a committee, but this is not a specific requirement for running.  If you’d like to run for a seat on the board, please send an email to with your name, contact info, a short bio, and a few comments on how and why you’d like to get involved. A list of all residents running for the board with bios will be published on and included in The Voice e-newsletter prior to the September 17 annual meeting.

We encourage all VaHi residents to attend the annual meeting and make your voice heard. Again, please be sure to bring your ID or recent utility bill in your name as proof of residency. The more residents we have at the meeting, the more the VHCA’s 2015-16 leadership will reflect the collective thoughts and goals of our community.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at our annual meeting in September.

Lola Carlisle is a member of the VHCA Board.

What is Hillside? – Part 2

by Stephen Cohen

Conclusion of a 2-Part Series

In the August 1 edition of The Voice, I described how, after 32 years of driving by Hillside at the bottom of Courtney Drive and wondering what it was, I was recently taken on a tour and discovered that it is a 13-acre residential campus, right on our doorstep, offering services for children and adolescents who have emotional and behavioral issues.

It doesn’t look like a psychiatric facility. The intent is for kids to arrive onto a cheerful and inviting campus that is a place of growth and healing.

The need for community support
The Manager of Community Relations, Katrina Word, and the Director of Business Development, Mark Pulliam, explained more about Hillside’s place in our community, including the kind of help they need, and how they have recently expanding their offerings.

Since not all parents have the resources to pay all the costs, even when insurance provides coverage, community support from citizens is a real need, and this support can take the form of donating time, items, or funds.

Let’s take as an example the community garden, which is filled with herbs, vegetables, and flowers. The children work in it alongside a horticulture therapist, planting food that they then harvest and take to the Dining Hall for preparation.

“When I was growing up,” observed Mark, “I used to sit and stare at the green beans on my plate, refusing to eat them. These kids now will just pick the vegetables right off the plant and sample them to see what they grew tastes like, and learn to make healthy choices when eating.”

(It is worth noting that apart from incorporating life sciences into the gardening, such as using marigolds as natural pesticides, there are bigger lessons that the children learn, too, as they struggle to find their feet: growth is not instantaneous, either for the plants or the children; it requires patience and painstaking effort.)

There is more work to do in the garden than the children have time for, so one way volunteers could help would be to work in the garden to supplement those efforts.

Volunteering time could also take the form of such activities as sorting incoming clothes in the clothing center, or maybe helping out on campus with sports, art, or other recreational activities.

Donations can be in the form of either funds or needed items, which may be as small as teddy bears for children, or fleeces for adolescents, that can provide comfort at that time of night when we settle in to bed and the anxieties start to crowd in on us.

For more information how you can support Hillside by donating time, items, or funds, click here. You may also call Katrina Word at 404-875-4551 x 321.

Some donation examples:
* Rated G and PG movies for their lending movie library
* E-rated video games for PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii
* Board Games
* Puzzles
* Finger paints and craft items
* Canvas and sketch paper
* Books (series for young adults)
* Fleece blankets
* New stuffed animals

Examples of  volunteer opportunities:
* Help in the on-campus clothing store
* After-school clubs (rotating schedules) for knitting, scrapbooking, photography, art, nature, etc. Any special interest that one might have.
* Take the lead and help Hillside find materials for a soccer group/club on the weekends

Note that VHCA has regularly donated to Hillside in appreciation of their providing a meeting room for the NPU – almost $4000 over the last decade.

Children giving back
Children also learn that giving is a two-way street. When people give back, it helps them grow and heal. So, for example, with the assistance of a volunteer from the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, the children working in the garden recently painted on rocks things they would want others to have. The rocks were then placed in the Zen garden at the Emory Cancer Center.

“Activities like this teach empathy,” said Katrina. “It’s empowering: The kids need help but they also help others in need.”

Services Hillside can provide to the community at large

Hillside has recently expanded its community services beyond psychiatric residential care. Today’s children, especially adolescents, are under social and academic pressures largely unknown to their parents: pressures to achieve, to appear successful, and to take on a huge array of activities and courses. So Hillside  opened up Hillside DBT, an outpatient clinic in Buckhead designed not for residential, psychiatric care like the Courtenay campus, but just to help ordinary kids and their parents cope with the unrelenting pressures of adolescence.

Hillside has found that the same DBT training that is used on Courtney can help these kids, too. The Hillside DBT clinic also offers training and workshops for parents on how to raise kids in these highly competitive times.

For more information on the Buckhead clinic, click here.

For more information on how you can help Hillside on Courtney, click here.

Touring the campus

Hillside welcomes anyone in the community to tour the Courtney campus. Email Katrina Word (shown at right) at  or call her at  404-875-4551 x 321 if you would like to take a tour or discuss volunteering.


The perspectives in this article are those of Hillside, and are described in this article to help further an understanding of the organization’s sense of mission for its surrounding communities.

How this article came about: After Hillside’s new President and CEO, Emily Acker introduced herself at last month’s meeting of NPU-F, which for a decade has met there, our VHCA representatives to the NPU suggested that the Voice carry an article about them. In the clothing store picture in this article, Emily is shown at right working with a volunteer.

Stephen Cohen is the Editor of The Virginia-Highland Voice.

Exploring Improvements to John Howell Park

By David Brandenberger

Completing the major structural improvements around the volleyball court at John Howell  (see below for a history, along with its funding and execution) has provided us a chance to step back and take a look at how the projects have worked out and what else we can do to improve the park.

As regular users know, a storm the week before Summerfest brought down a large sweetgum at the edge of the upper level, right at the sidewalk entrance along Virginia Avenue.   The falling tree also did a significant amount of damage to the adjacent shrubs and other plantings, including taking out two crepe myrtles along the street. While some of these shrubs will recover given time, others will not.

Like all good landscape architects, Peter Frawley sees the results as an opportunity rather than a challenge. He proposes leaving the expansive open space along the street (using some of the area for a small rain garden to handle runoff) and framing a new entranceway with a native beech tree near the old sweetgum and adding Virginia pines opposite it to the left. (Currently – and surprisingly – there are no pines anywhere in the park.)

Peter suggests a new bench adjacent to the walkway in front of the pines, along with the rehab of some of the damaged shrubs, augmented by some new infill plantings.

We also are considering a new wrought iron fence at the rear of the southern edge of the park (adjacent to De Leon) to fill a gap caused by the loss of a different tree a year ago. This is the only unfenced section along that edge, all of which abuts single-family residential. In the same very shady central section of the park, Peter envisions a 4’ high fence along the edge of the hillside separating the upper and lower levels.  This will end shortcutting between the levels (a significant factor in creating the now-repaired gully that was there), as well as facilitating the removal of the invasive English ivy and its replacement with native ferns.

Across from Inman, the walls and fences around the Arcadia volleyball courts have functioned very well.  Their main goal – ending the movement of sand to the street – has been met. We are still watching the slow migration of some sand from the courts toward Virginia. It will never reach the street, and the volleyballers rake it back periodically, but we are examining some additional measures to stabilize it before we finish planting inside the Arcadia corner.

Possible solutions – still under review – include a new 2’ granite knee wall (matching the other walls) on the north side of volleyball court #1. There may be other more subtle options, but there will be a rain garden on the back of the park sign to accommodate both stormwater and drainage from the court’s shower.

One of several new bike racks for John Howell will be along Arcadia, along with additional landscaping outside the granite walls. A small amount of stormwater is accumulating on Arcadia during large events (as it did before). We may explore with Public Works the practicality of letting some of it flow onto a small new rain garden along the street, outside the drip lines of the trees.

(We also learned this week that the city is planning to build new bulb-outs along both southern corners of .Arcadia and Virginia as part of the Safe Routes to School program. Those will not affect our work.)

Other contemplated updates include more infill plantings near Barnett and Virginia, relocating an existing park sign and doggy bag dispenser so they are both less obtrusive and more visible, a new bike rack in the area, completing the brick walkways, and resolving the problematic fenced-in area protruding from the middle and back section of the park, which has periodically accommodated overnight sleepers.

Drawings on the improvements suggested by Peter Frawley may be found here:

Landscape L1

Landscape L2

Landscape L3

Landscape T1


Pedestrian and Safety Improvements Coming to Inman

by Jack White

From December of 2013 through the following spring, local parent and resident Mary Stouffer chaired a multi-neighborhood PTO effort to promote pedestrian safety at Spark. It resulted in the school’s selection as one of two Georgia sites for a Safe Routes to School study of traffic and pedestrian challenges. That study – which included GDOT (property owners of Briarcliff Road) – was part of the process that led to the signal and crosswalk modifications at that school. To the best of our knowledge, those changes have worked out well.

A by-product of that process was a separate ‘Safe Kids’ study of the same issues at Inman, supported by Children’s HealthCare of Atlanta. Its main focus was similar – improving pedestrian safety. The eventual recommendations included upgrading  the Virginia Avenue and Arcadia crosswalks to ADA standards and adding a HAWK crossing signal, both to make the pedestrian trip safer and to moderate the tendency of some drivers to speed down that road’s long unimpeded stretch from Park to Barnett.

Children’s Healthcare also provided much of the project funding. Because the city is supplying the rest, implementation seemed uncertain – until this past week, when Public Works informed Inman and our council member that the money would soon be available and that (since the school year had just begun) the project would begin as soon as possible, perhaps over the next few weekends.

The goals are laudable; Inman Principal Betsy Bockman has wanted pedestrian improvements on Virginia for some time. Having the Public Works Department react too promptly has not been a widespread challenge in this city; it’s a general concept that all citizens can support, as we do sharing plans in a measured way.

As noted, these crosswalks are at the Arcadia corner of John Howell Park. During that park’s recent rehabilitation, the local citizens made sure that all parties were aware of the stormwater improvements the city had made in this area over the last two decades. The construction around the volleyball courts did not alter stormwater flows at all, and neither will these changes, Public Works assures us.  Nor should they diminish the capacity of the newly-widened corner plaza to accommodate small groups of kids waiting to be picked up after school (or just socializing), which was a specific park renovation goal.

We will share further updates and details on  You may see the conceptual plans – they are not construction documents – here.

Jack White is a member of the VHCA Planning Committee and Board.

Atlanta Streets Alive

Atlanta Streets Alive returns to North Highland Avenue on Sunday, Sept 27th from 2:00 pm-6:00 pm. Road closures begin at 1:00 pm and end at 7:00 pm.

North Highland, Boulevard, and North Ave will again host this popular event. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and its partners will close the streets to cars and create a space for people-powered transportation, with fun activities for all ages and spaces to engage in a healthy way with your surrounding community.

With over 100,000 people attending in 2014, this event enables us to re-imagine our streets and the way we get around town. Bring your bicycle or just your feet, and get ready to explore your community streets in a safer, healthier, more livable way.

Here is a link to the street closings on September 27.

5K Legal Runaround Charity Run

About the Race
“Come join us for the 15th Annual Legal Runaround in John Howell
Park. Proceeds benefit the Atlanta Bar Foundation Police Scholarship
Fund which provides college scholarships to the children of Atlanta
police officers who are killed or
disabled in the line of duty.”

– 7:30 am – Packet pick-up and race day registration.
– 8:30 am – 5K begins.
– 9:15 am – tot trot begins.

Entry Fees
— $25 if received by August 21; late and race day registration $35.
— Tot Trot is open to kids ages 5 & under. There is no charge. Finisher ribbons given. No Tot Trot t-shirts.

For those who cannot participate but would still like to support the cause, “Phantom Runners” can make donations and will be mailed a t-shirt.

(Rain or shine; no refunds)

Strollers and dogs on leashes are welcomed

For more information and an application:…

Streets Alive Returns Sep 27 – Road Closure Alert

By Jess Windham

Atlanta Streets Alive returns to North Highland Avenue on Sunday, Sept 27th from 2:00 pm-6:00 pm. Road closures begin at 1:00 pm and end at 7:00 pm.

North Highland, Boulevard, and North Ave will again host this popular event. The Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and its partners will close the streets to cars and create a space for people-powered transportation, with fun activities for all ages and spaces to engage in a healthy way with your surrounding community.

With over 100,000 people attending in 2014, this event enables us to re-imagine our streets and the way we get around town. Bring your bicycle or just your feet, and get ready to explore your community streets in a safer, healthier, more livable way.

Jess Windham is on the VHCA Board and Planning Committee.

Here is a link to the street closings on September 27.

What is Hillside?

By Stephen Cohen

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

For 32 years I have driven by Hillside, seemingly a small cluster of cottages around a green at the bottom of Courtney Drive, and had no clue what it was.  Never saw anyone there. Always wondered.

But last week I got to meet the Director of Business Development, Mark Pulliam, who took me on a tour. I was astonished at what I saw.

It is far more than the few cottages you see at a glance from the street. There are residential cottages, a 2-story fully-accredited school with classes for elementary, middle, and high school students, a large swimming pool, a vegetable garden, a full-sized gym, an outdoor tennis/basketball court, a large dining room with an adjoining cafeteria, a clinic, an animal center….13 acres, in fact, rising up to a hilltop with a stunning view of downtown Atlanta.

An interesting history
It was founded over 125 years ago as a shelter for homeless women and needy children, originally named The Home for the Friendless—a wonderfully Victorian name.  At that time they were downtown, and to raise money, the ladies would take some of the orphans and sit them inside the old Rich’s building in the display window. Then the ladies stood outside with baskets for donation.

As the home grew, more space was needed. In 1926, in order to be in a larger, peaceful wooded area, they bought the rolling woodland at 690 Courtenay Drive.

Today Hillside operates as a private, nonprofit organization offering services for children and adolescents who have emotional and behavioral issues. It has 81 beds, housing children ages 7 -21, twelve children to a cottage. Children typically live on campus for 3-6 months while they and their families go through DBT training, which incorporates the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change. For example, DBT therapists accept clients as they are while also acknowledging that they need to change in order to reach their goals.

Hillside struck me as having some imaginative approaches to this, incorporating animals and recreation. The tennis court is shown at right.

Here’s an example of how animals are used. The animal center includes a ferret. I saw the ferret.  One of its charming characteristics is that it appears to be dead when it is asleep—its breathing almost stops–and someone at Hillside almost buried it once. I thought it was a stuffed animal. Ferrets are also very stubborn. So how is it used? The staff may put the ferret on a lead; the child wants to go right, but the ferret is determined to go left. How to reconcile that conflict? The DBT training teaches the child to understand and reconcile opposing behaviors.

Another sweet example of how animals are used: Some children find themselves going from one foster home to another. So Hillside keeps hermit crabs. A hermit crab leaves its “home” (its shell) in search of another home until eventually it finds one that is just right for it.

Once the child has completed the 3-6 month residential program, he or she may become a day student during a transitional period.

In the past, all the children served were in state custody, but due to cuts in Medicaid funding, that is no longer the case.  Now families whose children are struggling with behavioral issues may contact Hillside directly. The State of Georgia Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFCS) still refers some children to Hillside for services on campus and through their foster home placements.

As a privately-run non-profit organization, Hillside is expanding its community presence to tell their story, so that families know they are there as a resource. Since not all parents have the resources to pay all the costs, even when insurance provides coverage, community support from citizens is a real need—particularly to volunteer and/or donate funds.

These are topics I’ll expand on in the second part of this article, which will appear in the August 15 edition of the Voice.

In the meantime, for more information about Hillside, click here.

A note on how this article came about: After Hillside’s new Executive Director, Emily Acker, introduced herself at last month’s meeting of NPU-F, which for a decade has met there, our VHCA representatives to the NPU suggested that the Voice carry an article about them.

City Council Takes First Steps on Sidewalk Ordinance

by Jack White

Repaired_SidewalkAs many people know, VHCA and Virginia-Highland property owners made a tremendous investment in sidewalks over the last 2.5 years. This was possible because neighbors and VHCA stepped up financially, and because VHCA was able to bundle over 200 improvements to move the repairs through the city. To this day it is very difficult for individual citizens to repair sidewalks cost-effectively.  A daunting wall of permitting red tape is only the first challenge.

The project benefited from a city program that provided sidewalk repairs for about a third of the city’s actual cost, making it a good value for property owners. That program is no longer available, but the process of funding and delivering the repairs focused City Hall’s attention on sidewalk repairs in a new way. While Virginia-Highland still needs more sidewalk work, the improvement is noticeable.

Along the way, VHCA, including Peggy Berg, the Board member who chairs the Safety Committee, got deeply involved in the nuts and bolts in the political challenges involved in improving our sidewalk system citywide. While the neighborhood repair program has ended, the advocacy campaign continues.

In mid-July our City Council unanimously revised the applicable ordinance in several important ways. For the first time, the city has appropriated funds directly for sidewalk repairs, and the Public Works Department is now required to ‘prioritize’ where the greatest needs are. Peggy’s op-ed on the topic in last week’s AJC is linked here.

The initial levels of funding are modest, but there’s now a better chance that monies will be spent on making our sidewalks safe and usable. Over time, this should reduce sidewalk injuries that lead people to sue the city.  Settlements of such suits have cost the city several million dollars in the last decade, a fact that was not lost on anyone.  An ounce of prevention can save a lot of money.

An immediate task for Public Works under the revised Ordinance is the creation of a prioritization policy, which (in our view) has to be based on a formal sidewalk inventory if repairs are to be planned objectively.  Some readers may recall the work of Georgia Tech Civil Engineering professor (and VaHi resident) Randy Guensler and his (then) graduate students Alice Grossman and Zan Frackelton. In 2013 they developed an innovative wheelchair-mounted camera with vibration sensors that videoed and measured the roughness of sidewalks.  Whether those results – they have examined about half the city – and that system (or others) are used, a formal inventory and approach to sidewalk management will be critical to thoughtful and effective spending by the city.

The revised law also did not delete the section that formally makes individual owners responsible for their abutting sidewalks.  This archaic, unenforced, (and unenforceable) provision remains at odds with existing city practice and the direction of this new ordinance. It needs to be removed, if only for clarity.

These limitations notwithstanding, it’s worth noting that even this first step took a huge effort from Councilman Mary Norwood and faced resistance from the administration.  (Please note that Alex Wan’s initial hesitation on this issue concerned the city’s ability to fund the commitments made in the legislation. He  supported the final draft as a financially responsible start.)

The director of the pedestrian advocacy group PEDS (an organization to which VHCA has donated for many years, and still does) was disappointed in the final version, calling it insufficient.  (Sally Flocks’ op-ed may be read here.)  Peggy agrees that much more is needed, but she argued very effectively at Council that passing this bill at least (and at last) put the camel’s nose in the tent. The creation of a framework for future funding and moving toward formal policies were good first steps.

Now we – this ‘we’ is neighborhoods, NPUs, and citizens – need to keep pushing on funding and implementation.  It’s particularly important that this program remain a viable and visible item in next year’s municipal budget. On that, almost everyone will agree.

Finally, that VaHi got so many sidewalks repaired was a result of Peggy’s doggedness, the willingness of several successive VHCA Boards to spend (a lot of) money on the matter, support from Councilmember Wan, and deep enthusiasm and financial support for the outcomes from local citizens.  The enthusiasm of our own residents to get things done now showed that such repairs were quite practical, especially if approached in an organized manner, and made it a lot harder for City Hall to keep burying the issue.

From a poly sci perspective, our sidewalks are a good example of how effective fundraising, planning, and a targeted public effort can make a real difference.  From a practical perspective, it immediately made our neighborhood more walkable for us and our visitors. In even the most optimistic estimate, it will take the City a very long time to start making repairs on their own initiatives in our community.

In the larger context, it is fundamentally unfair that even the partial successes VaHi has enjoyed required a funded civic association, enthusiastic citizens, and the unusual focus and determination that Peggy displayed. Safe, walkable sidewalks are not just for kids and seniors and those who can afford to pay more – every community in Atlanta needs and deserves them. Let’s make it happen.

Jack White is a member of the VHCA Planning Committee and Board.

VHCA Grant Applications for 2015 Now Open

Mosaic_Intow_Hardwareby Peggy Berg

VHCA’s grant program supports not-for-profit organizations and public initiatives that benefit the Virginia-Highland community. Applications for 2015 are due by August 15, 2015.

Successful applicants in past years have included the College and Career Center at Grady High School, SPARK for supplemental materials for a science program, Trees Atlanta, PEDS, Inman Middle School for computer equipment, Stephanie Coffin to support the installation of public art – the mosaic at Intown Hardware, and a variety of other initiatives the benefit the community.

Successful grant applicants met some or all of the following criteria:

  • Promote Virginia-Highland or physically improve the public spaces of the neighborhood.
  • Support education, life-long learning, sustainability, healthy living, ecological health, art and aesthetics, historic preservation, environment, recreation, or safety in Virginia-Highland
  • Include and demonstrate other sources of support.

If you are interested in applying for a grant, please review the Grant Process Document on and send in the Grant Process Application. Call Peggy Berg with any questions at 404.236.9064.

What Are Those Cute, Colorful “Little Free Libraries” You See Around Here?

by Robin Ragland

Emilia_LFLBefore you download that next book or magazine to your e-reader for vacation, a long weekend at the beach or just an afternoon at the pool, consider visiting one our local Little Free Libraries in the neighborhood.

Perhaps even install one of your own!

I’ve just described the premise for how each library operates as a “take a book, return that same book or another” gathering place where neighbors share their favorite literature and stories . . . for free!

I saw my first Little Free Library (LFL) while one vacation a few years, and thought it was a wonderful idea.  When I got home, I visited their website, and learned the first library was built by Todd Bol of Hudson, Wisconsin in 2009 as a tribute to his mother.  Being a retired teacher, it was only fitting that the library resembled a one- room school house.  Todd soon had partners who had likewise been inspired by various forms of free public access to reading.   The non-profit organization has passed a number of growth milestones as the concept continues to catch-on.  As of January, 2015 there were at least 25,000 registered libraries world-wide, and thousands more being built.

While walking my dog around the neighborhood, I spotted my first LFL in Virginia-Highland.

I excitedly went home and looked again at the map of registered libraries.  Guess what . . . we have four!  Of course I then deliberately routed my dog walks to visit each one.  Along the way I discovered additional LFLs that are available, but not formally registered. Some were built from a kit ordered from LFL.  Others were handcrafted.  A few are decorated to resemble the larger home to which they belong.  Several are dedicated or named for someone special.  They are all unique in some special way.

I decided to write a series of articles to share the individual stories behind some of them.  The first belongs to librarians Chris and Tom Sandman at 1066 Maryland Ave, who discovered LFLs while driving through Decatur a few years back.  They were inspired to install their library to encourage the 30+ children who live nearby to read and share.  It also gives a reason for their two grandchildren who live two doors down from their house to visit their grandparents more frequently. Who better to be their first patron than their granddaughter Emilia? (She’s the little girl in the picture)

They found a way for their granddaughters in California to be involved with their LFL by including them when choosing which style of library to put in their yard. And they have continued to stay engaged. In Chris’s own words:

“They have eagerly asked me, via Skype, to walk to the LFL, with computer in hand, let them pick out a book, go back into the house and read it to them….They sit listening and looking at the pictures as if we were in the same room! As the one neighbor said, “books bring people together!”

As hoped, it has been also proven to be a popular LFL with near-by children.  Kids love coming by to pick out “new” books.  In addition, it’s a destination for visitors to Virginia-Highland, as well as those providing home and yard maintenance.  Patrons visit by walking, biking and driving in order to borrow and donate books.

One thing I’ve learned the librarians have in common is they keep tabs on each other’s libraries–especially the types of books available.  Chris shared that a Midtown neighbor rode his bike over with a tote bag over his shoulder.  His LFL library is garden-focused, and he was seeking to make some trades.

The Sandman LFL library has been consistently full since they put it up, but their biggest challenge is keeping enough children’s books available.  As with many who install an LFL, they have a ready supply of books around the house to donate when they first begin, but before long they really depend on visitors not only taking books, but donating them as well.  They are always particularly heartened to see neighbor children contribute their own used and loved books.

Again quoting Chris: “I saw a couple of neighbor girls come down to the library, their arms loaded with their own used and loved books. That was great to see!”

So next time you happen to notice one of the LFL, feel free to browse and take a book, but please also help keep the libraries full through donations.  If you are the owner of a LFL, and want to tell your story, I’d love to hear and share it.

Georgia Works! in Virginia Highland

by Jack White

Georgia_WorksResidents who have occasion to be on North Highland Avenue on many Monday mornings may have seen a number of men in bright blue T-shirts cleaning the commercial areas, with a particular emphasis on the street trash that sometimes accumulates around the Triangle at Virginia Avenue.  These men are members of Georgia Works! (exclamation point included), a not-for-profit residential program tasked with addressing one of this country’s most unrelenting challenges: mainstreaming homeless men.

In their own words:

“Our goal is to take chronically homeless men and help them become self-sufficient, productive members of society. Our men typically are facing multiple challenges, including criminal records, past drug use, poor work history, dependency on handouts, bad habits, lack of formal education, past child support, outstanding fines, etc… WE END ALL OF THESE THINGS.  At Georgia Works, if a man is committed to being clean, to addressing the past, and to working, we will help him get a full time job, transportation and permanent housing within a year.  Our program is proven to be effective in helping chronically homeless men, proven to be cost effective, and proven to improve our community.” (From the Georgia Works! Web site:

The program is multi-dimensional, as any such effort has to be.  It offers dependency counseling, paid work, job training, money and debt management, and a host of other forms of support.

Our neighborhood has a long history of residential homelessness within our borders – especially in the summer – as well as several programs trying to meet the needs of such citizens.  Georgia Works is highly aspirational and is based on the concept of putting participants to work and paying them for their labor.  To that end, the program has contracted to provide cleaning services to several communities, including Buckhead (through their CID) and now–on a trial basis though the end of July–VaHi (through VHCA).

In addition to their regular task list, Georgia Works supplied a crew to help us on very short notice to help the City and VHCA Parks Committee mitigate the damage of the fallen tree in John Howell Park just prior to Summerfest; and they provided additional services the day after the festival ended.  They came well-recommended – the Buckhead CID and Councilmembers Wan and Dickens spoke highly of the program and its results.  Our experiences have been gratifying – we’ve been very pleased with their work and have enjoyed getting to know the crews and staff.

Needless to say – like many citizens in this neighborhood – we are happy to support a program that systematically tackles one of the country’s most intractable challenges.  And we appreciate the cleaner neighborhood.

As always, your comments are most welcome via email to For more information, please visit the group’s web site, noted above.

Pedestrian “Hybrid” Beacons — How They Work

by Stephen Cohen

The first one in our neighborhood went up on Monroe near Piedmont. Now there is one on 10th opposite The Children’s School. There are more on the way. Because they are relatively new and unfamiliar, many motorists are confused by them, especially when the red is sometimes solid and sometimes flashing.

The whole purpose of these crossings is to safely stop motorists only when needed. Here’s how it works:

1. When a pedestrian pushes the button, a flashing yellow light advises drivers to prepare to STOP. After 3 seconds, the flashing yellow becomes solid.

2. Next comes the solid red, signaling drivers to come to a complete stop. At the same time, a “Walk” symbol is displayed on the pedestrian signal, telling pedestrians that it is okay to cross the street.

3. Next comes the flashing red for the motorists. While it is flashing, there is a countdown for the pedestrians that displays the exact time allotted for crossing. During the flashing red, drivers should treat the crosswalk as a stop sign, by coming to a full stop; and if the crosswalk is clear of pedestrians the motorists can advance through the intersection. (This is the part that many motorists do not understand and they sometimes remain stopped unnecessarily). Remember, the whole point is to minimize the interruption of traffic flow while keeping pedestrians safe.

4. Once the countdown is complete, the lights go dark, allowing vehicles to proceed through the intersection without interruption.

For more information, click here.

Atlanta Moon Ride Raises $45,000 for Terminally, Chronically Ill Children

by Stephen Cohen

On Friday, June 19, 2015, nearly 4,000 people of all ages from across Atlanta participated in the third annual Atlanta Moon Ride benefiting Bert’s Big Adventure, a local nonprofit organization. This photo, courtesy Joseph Wong Photography, shows what 4,000 cyclists look like at the start of a race!

The festivities began at 6 p.m. in Piedmont Park, kicking off the fun-filled evening with live entertainment from Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics, delicious food options from The Fry Guy, Burger ATL, Tikiz of Cobb County and Tex’s Tacos and a variety of premium drinks from ShockTop and Deep Eddy vodka.

Then the ride began, and thousands of intown cyclists, from children to adults, some dressed outlandishly and some a tad more conventionally, had a blast on a 6.5-mile ride that began at 10:00pm on a perfect evening in Piedmont Park under a crisp new moon and ended up in Virginia-Highland. This photo, also courtesy Joseph Wong Photography, shows the colorfully dressed crowd spreading out as it wound through our neighborhood.

Afterward, bars and bike racks along North Highland were packed, as exuberant cyclists capped off a wonderful evening. If you want to get the full flavor of the ride, click here.

One hundred percent of the proceeds from the night went directly to Bert’s Big Adventure, a nonprofit organization that takes children with chronic and terminal illnesses and their families on an all-expenses-paid trip to Walt Disney World.

19 Restaurants Confirmed for Ponce City Market this Fall

photo_ponce-city-market_renderingWe have learned that Ponce City Market’s Central Food Hall, which opens this Fall, has 19 confirmed restaurants. (Some of these will actually open a little earlier than Fall—it’s a on a rolling schedule). The full list is below, where you will see quite an emphasis on ethnic foods. Some restaurants will also offer raw market ingredients for guests to purchase and take home to prepare themselves.

Dub’s Fish Camp by James Beard Award winning chef-owner Anne Quatrano.  The casual-style fish shack opening in fall 2015 will feature a raw shell counter, housemade sandwiches and steamed fish bowls.

Chef-restaurateur Linton Hopkins of Atlanta’s Holeman & Finch and Restaurant Eugene will debut his latest concept, H&F Burger, in fall 2015. At 1,543 square feet, the restaurant will provide a glimpse into the world of the famous H&F burger and fries by the James Beard Award winning chef.

Adjacent to H&F Burger, chef Linton Hopkins introduces his latest concept, Hop’s Chicken, exclusively to the Central Food Hall. The menu will feature Springer Mountain chicken, fried-to-order, from-scratch biscuits and a selection of sides including coleslaw, macaroni and cheese and seasonal salads.

Jia is an authentic Szechuan concept from the operators of Tasty China and Peter Cheng’s Tasty China 2, Dahe Yang and chef Jiguo Jiang. The 1,950 square-foot space will debut in summer 2015.

Ponce City Market will play host to the first brick-and-mortar location of Honeysuckle Gelato from chef-owner Wes Jones. To add to the unique character of the Atlanta-based company, the Ponce City Market location will introduce new products to the city such as gelato popsicles, sandwiches, floats and more. The 182 square-foot store is expected to open in August 2015.

Chef Hannah Chung is bringing artisanal kimchee, sauces and Korean steamed buns to a 233 square-foot space named Simply Seoul beginning August 2015.

Boti Walla is an authentic Indian streetfood concept from James Beard Award semifinalist Meherwan Irani of Chai Pani. Bringing the spice of India to Ponce City Market, Boti Walla will feature sizzling tandoori and regional specialty kebabs as well as retail offerings including custom spice blends, chutneys, pickles, to-go lunches and more. The counter-service restaurant will occupy 1,625 square feet in the Central Food Hall.

Created by Rawesome Juicery founders Chantel Jiroch and local artist Kawai Laurencin, Lucky Lotus will offer natural cold-pressed juice, superfood smoothies, energy enhancing shots and freshly prepared meals daily.

Minero is a casual Mexican influenced concept by Neighborhood Dining Group and James Beard’s 2010 “Best Chef Southeast” winner and Charleston-based chef Sean Brock. The second Minero location, Brock introduced the concept in Charleston in 2014. This location expands on the original concept adding raw ingredients including fresh Mexican spices, chili peppers, homemade salsas, fresh tortillas and beans to the market. The innovative street food-style taco menu is inspired by Brock’s own love of the Mexican classic while the cocktail offerings feature a variety of mezcal and tequila-based libations.

Adding to the Central Food Hall’s fresh market options, Bellina will join the property in mid-2015. A gourmet Italian market, Bellina will offer fresh ingredients and slow-cooked foods for guests to enjoy on-site and at home.

Strippaggio is an Atlanta-based purveyor of small-batch extra virgin olive oils, vinegars, gourmet salts, spices and culinary serving accessories carefully sourced from around the U.S. Founded on a passion for high quality, artisan ingredients, the shop at Ponce City Market will be Strippaggio’s second location in the city.

Popular Atlanta restaurateur Guy Wong of Miso Izakaya will bring his latest concept, Ton Ton, to the Central Food Hall in August 2015. Japanese ramen, yakitory and sushi will round out the menu with noodles, rice and other Japanese ingredients available for purchase.

Farm to Ladle is a European café and farmstand selling a selection of locally sourced products including raw vegetables, fresh herbs and spices. Additionally, Farm to Ladle’s café will offer soups, salads and sandwiches.

The Spiller Park Coffee is the latest concept from James Beard Award-winning chef and Georgia restaurateur Hugh Acheson and Dale Donchey, formerly of Steady Hand Pour House. Located in the center of the food hall, this kiosk will offer freshly brewed artisan coffee, espresso and tea, from-scratch baked goods and packaged ground coffee to enjoy at home.

The Mercury opens on the second floor of the Central Food Hall from the owners of the popular Decatur bar and restaurant The Pinewood. This establishment captures the spirit of the classic mid-century American cocktail culture and will be open lunch, dinner and cocktail hour daily.

The first of its kind in the U.S., Biltong Bar comes to Ponce City Market from restaurateur Justin Anthony, owner of South African-inspired concepts 10 Degrees South and Yebo. Biltong Bar will feature organic, all-natural beef jerky and other specialty jerky meats. In addition to a retail shop, the counter-service restaurant will also offer gourmet pies, salads, craft beer, cocktails and a full wine list featuring a variety of South African blends.

18.21 Bitters opens as a Prohibition-inspired shop dedicated to providing the necessities to craft a better cocktail.  The kiosk will sell handcrafted premium bitters, syrups, tinctures, shrubs, old fashioned tonic, ginger beer and craft cocktail mix designed to elevate any beverage.

El Super Pan is the latest brainchild of celebrated Atlanta chef Hector Santiago. An ode to Santiago’s popular pop-up sandwich shop of the same name, Super Pan will offer Latin-inspired sandwiches, baked goods and hot plates by day with Latin-inspired small plates at night. This 757-square-foot outpost will be located at an entrance of the Central Food Hall.

Marrakesh, named after one of the capitals of the ancient spice routes, offers regionally-inspired dishes including seasoned meat kebabs, freshly made hummus and tahini, a variety of regional spices, cheeses and fresh pita breads made daily. The concept is the brainchild of the owners behind Fuego Mundo in Sandy Springs, one of Atlanta’s only completely kosher restaurants. The approach at Ponce City Market will not be kosher, but will follow the same principles of fresh and locally sourced ingredients throughout.

More details about developments at Ponce City Market will be covered in upcoming editions of The Voice.

Alex Wan’s Moving Tribute to Rick Porter

by Jack White

Council Member Alex Wan remembers Rick Porder

Council Member Alex Wan remembers Rick Porter

A circle of Rick Porter’s friends and relatives gathered in John Howell Park on June 20th for a remembrance celebration. Council member Alex Wan eloquently framed Rick’s accomplishments, the context in which they occurred, and what they meant to this community.  With Alex’s permission, we share his remarks.

Alex Wan’s Eulogy to Rick Porter at John Howell Park 

“It is a privilege for me to be here as the city council member for this district and on behalf of the City of Atlanta to celebrate the life of Richard (Rick) Porter.  While I did not know Rick well, I wanted to be here today to acknowledge his contributions to our neighborhood and to our community.

“That we are remembering Rick today in this setting – John Howell Park – is a fitting testament to the impact that Rick had. While my predecessor, Mary Davis, can illuminate far more eloquently Rick’s role in the conception and realization of this beautiful green space, one need only to look at this group assembled here today – or any day – to see Rick’s legacy in our community.

“It is hard to imagine Virginia-Highland without John Howell Park – without Summerfest, or neighborhood jazz concerts, or individuals and families strolling through and playing in this park every day. It has become a vital part of the fabric of our neighborhood. I stand here today on behalf of the City of Atlanta to express our deepest gratitude to Rick and his partner, Jerry, and others for their determination in making this park – with its tribute to gay rights activist John Howell, a loving reminder of those in the fight against HIV/AIDS – a reality.

“And on a more personal note, I want to acknowledge his 30+ year relationship with Jerry Bright. As we stand on the (near) eve of a potentially historic ruling from the United Supreme Court, I know that the strides the LGBT community has made towards equality would not be possible without those who have lived their lives openly, participating, contributing and demonstrating that the values of loving, caring relationships are universal. It is not lost on me that their quiet work has changed hearts and minds, creating opportunities for people like me to serve and contribute in other ways. Thank you for being that role model.

“So today we remember, celebrate, and appreciate Rick for the tangible contributions (like this wonderful park that we see) and – equally importantly – for the intangible contributions that we feel.  They all serve as Rick’s lasting legacy for us and generations to come.”

Our Debt of Gratitude to Rick Porter

Our Debt of Gratitude to Rick Porter

By Jack White, VHCA President

Rick PorterA couple of weeks ago we reported in this space the death of longtime VaHi resident and activist Rick Porter.   (A link to his obituary in the AJC may be accessed here. In the photo below, Rick is on the far right.)

Rick’s mark on this neighborhood is quite significant, but –as is often the case in dynamic and evolving communities – easy to miss.

Virginia-Highland – the community and the name – are defined in modern times by resistance to the efforts of the Georgia Highway Department (now GDoT) to build a multi-lane divided highway from the Atlanta Medical Center on Boulevard to I-85 near Cheshire Bridge.  This monstrosity would have allowed northeast-bound commuters to bypass the Grady curve and allegedly reduced interstate traffic volumes downtown (at least for a little while; even GDoT knows better now.)   Massive resistance from this and adjacent communities all along the route stopped the road; the coups-de-grace (there were actually several) were supplied by (then) Governor Jimmy Carter and Mayor Maynard Jackson in the early 1970’s.

In the process, the state had acquired quite a few houses, many of which it had immediately demolished, ignoring pleas to await the end of the political discussion.  When the road battle was won, many empty lots – including those near Inman School, whose parking lot would have been eradicated by a cloverleaf highway exit on Virginia – sat empty.  State law prescribed several next steps, including offering the parcels back to the original owners.

From Lola Carlisle and Karri-Hobson Pape’s 2011 book Virginia-Highland (Note: I was involved in some of the book’s editing):

“Long after the I-485 battle had been won, vacant lots and the foundations of a few homes remained along Virginia Avenue. Years of discussions about what to do with the land ended with an agreement that a park would be built … named after John Howell, a gay rights activist and president of VHCA who died in 1988 from HIV complications. By this point, Virginia-Highland had a significant gay population. The park became one of the first in the country with an HIV component, creating an empathetic face associated with the tragic disease.”

Rick Porter (alongside his longtime partner, Jerry Bright) led the John Howell Park Project, which selected the landscape architect (Peter Frawley, still our LA) and oversaw the entire design, management, and construction process of John Howell Park.  The city acquired the land and provided infrastructure support – both real contributions – but this was an era of downsizing in the budget and staff of Atlanta’s Park Department.  The fundraising challenges were considerable and required a decade of sustained and innovative efforts, from both obvious sources like VHCA and innovative ones like the sale of commemorative bricks.

It’s easy after the fact to take certain outcomes for granted, particularity when they are successful and institutionalized.  As difficult as it is imagine VaHi without John Howell Park, its creation was in no way inevitable.  We all owe a huge debt to the determination and persistence of all those who conceived, organized, designed, and built it – Rick and Jerry, the late Tinka Green, Swan McKnight, Josephine Gross, and many others.

There will be a public memorial service for Rick at – quite appropriately – John Howell Park this Saturday, June 20th, at 2 PM.

A Great Summerfest 2015

A week before, a giant oak fell on John Howell Park. The week after,  our first broiling heat wave of the summer arrived. And in between those two unpleasant events, we had one of our most enjoyable Summerfests ever.

As has come to be expected from Summerfest, this year’s artist market was an impressive array of some of the most outstanding art in the southeast; our music stages were busy with talented, entertaining performers; and our generous sponsors helped us deliver a festival that, by all accounts, was enjoyed and appreciated by all.

Kicking it all off was the neighborhood parade. Lots of fun for adults and kids, who showed plenty of creativity and flair! Thanks to Kris Smith for organizing this.

Next came the Community Dinner and Outdoor Movie. Thanks to  Bill Chan for the great video of this he took from his drone.

Following these events were the 5K road race, the Tot Trot, the opening of the Artist Market, Kidsfest, lots of music in two locations, food, and the Warren Bruno Celebration Bike Ride… something for everyone. Here are lots of photos for you to enjoy.

Special thanks to our army of community volunteers who made this all possible. More about them, and about how much we brought in, in an upcoming edition of The Voice.

Update on The Mix

Mix_Parking_LotAn article in the June 4th Creative Loafing is the first public report that the longstanding imbroglio about the zoning classification at 841 North Highland Avenue is over. (As shown in the photo, it is the parking lot opposite Osteria and the American Road House; often called ‘The Mix’.)  Like the remainder of the non-residential properties in VaHi, this parcel of land is now covered by the Neighborhood Commercial (“NC”) code.  Creative Loafing reports that all differences have been “amicably resolved” by all parties.  (You can read their article here.)

VHCA is happy to leave this site’s tangled history behind.  The city’s 2009 adoption of the NC zoning classification for the North Highland Avenue commercial areas concluded a very deliberate and thorough two-year process that involved – and got formal support from – a clear majority of both this community’s commercial owners and citizens.  NC was a great choice for all of Highland, including this parcel.

One of our consultants on that NC project was the same Aaron Fortner who has since worked with us on many other efforts, including our Master Plan.  As a planner for the city, Aaron had been on the team that wrote the original NC codes a decade earlier.  Many of the designs and specs for those statutes were taken straight from existing measurements in this neighborhood, which served as a model for the overall approach.  (Ironically, the codes were adopted in a half-dozen other communities before VaHi.)

In the midst of the economic slowdown of those days, one of Aaron’s best insights was emphasizing that substantial future commercial redevelopment along North Highland was a certainty and that business owners and residents needed to collaborate on a common vision before specific development pressures became acute.  One of the NC codes’ key components is granting off-site parking flexibility inside an NC zone.  Taking full advantage of that capability will require additional parking facilities – potential sites and conditions for them were carefully discussed during the planning – to accommodate the kinds of live-work-shop models that have since become mainstream.  In return, future building heights can in no case be higher than 42’ – more than we have now but lower than what is being built in many similar areas.

The relevance of all that effort seem obvious in today’s upbeat climate, but Aaron saw the lights on this train when it was way around the bend.  While there is much room for improvement along VaHi’s sections of Highland (and while no community as popular as ours will ever restore the traffic levels of the 1990’s), one glance at the kinds of construction going on just south of Ponce reminds us that NC zoning gives us a much better starting point for approaching  such challenges than many other areas.

And that is why we are just as amicable as can be about this outcome.

The Passing of Rick Porter

We learneRick Porterd with great sadness this week of the passing of longtime VaHi resident and activist Rick Porter.  Rick made many contributions to this neighborhood, but his special passion was John Howell Park, to which he devoted years of effort.  No one had more to do with establishing and shaping the park than did Rick.
Our thoughts are with his partner Jerry Bright and his many friends and family.  In this photo, Rick Porter (right) is shown with his partner Jerry Bright and others involved in the creation of John Howell Park. (Photo, courtesy of Jerry Bright.).
We look forward to sharing more memories of Rick in the next edition of the Voice.

It’s Time to Summerfest!

SummerfestWho’s ready for some Summerfest?

The 32nd edition of VaHi’s summertime celebration of art, music and food is just days away. Here’s the 411 on this year’s event:


It all gets kicked-off Friday June 5 with resident-only events, starting with the Community Parade (this year’s theme is “Rock Stars and Divas”) which kicks off from Intown ACE Hardware at 7 PM. Parade participants should arrive no later than 6:30 PM. If you have not yet registered for the parade and would like to do so, click here and complete the form at the bottom of the page. On-site registration will also be available.

DSC_0036For those cheering on the participants, the parade will proceed down Drewry, turn right on Barnett and end up on the eastern side of John Howell Park where the community dinner and movie will be held this year. Please note that this event has been moved from the Inman Middle School ball field where it has been held in recent years. The dinner starts at 7:30 PM, and the movie will start around dusk (usually around 8:45 PM). Admission to the dinner/movie is free to VaHi residents with an ID. Non-resident guests (date, houseguest, babysitter, etc.) are welcome when accompanied by a resident. Cost for guests: $10 for adults, $5 for children. If space is available, non-resident neighbors may enter the area after dinner (around 8:15 PM) to watch the movie. This year’s movie is Big Hero 6.

DSC_0103There will also be live music on the Acoustic Stage at the intersection of Virginia and N. Highland Ave.’s on Friday night from 8-11 PM.


DSC03397Don’t stay out too late Friday night because the popular Summerfest 5K Road Race gets going at 8 AM Saturday June 6. For more information on the race or to sign up to participate, click here. On-site registration will also be available this year. If you have aspiring runners too young for the road race (ages 5 and younger), bring ’em over to the eastern section of John Howell Park following the 5K’s conclusion (around 9:15 AM) for this year’s Tot Trot. Click here to pre-register for Tot Trot or you can register on-site.

Summerfest 2015 officially opens at 10 AM Saturday. Festival-goers can choose from events like the Artist Market and Kidsfest (please note Kidsfest ends at 3 PM and the Artist Market closes at 6:30 PM on Saturday).

DSC05195The Music Stage gets going at Noon Saturday with a performance from Sans Abri. Here’s the rest of Saturday’s music lineup:

Please note that this year’s Music Stage will be located on the eastern side of John Howell Park and not on the Inman Middle School ball field.

And after Southern Gothic wraps things up on the main Music Stage, the Acoustic Stage at Virginia and N. Highland Ave.’s will be the place to be again Saturday night with entertainment provided from 9-11 PM.


IMG_0716Get ready to do it all over again on Sunday June 7 when Summerfest reopens at 10 AM. Before you hit the festival, though, why not participate in the 2015 Warren Bruno Summerfest Celebration Bike Ride? The ride starts at 8 AM at North Highland Park (corner of St. Charles and N. Highland) and you can choose to ride a 9.5 mile loop (once or twice) or a 20-mile loop. Cyclists of all ages and levels are welcome. For more information or to register, click here.

DSC01436If you’re up for a little music on Sunday morning, grab your coffee and bagel and head over to the Acoustic Stage where the spotlight will be on two fun and unique groups featuring young performers from our area:

  • 10:00 AM: Performers from Eclectic Music
  • 11:00 AM: Irish Dancing with Burke Connolly Dance

The Music Stage gets going Sunday at 12:15 PM with Taylor & Ciara performing. The rest of Sunday’s music lineup:

DSC01429And, since you probably didn’t have enough time to enjoy all the activities on Saturday, be sure to stop by the Artist Market and Kidsfest area on Sunday. Kidsfest closes at 3 PM Sunday and the Artist Market closes at 6 PM.

Just a reminder that Summerfest’s Artist Market is a juried show of gallery-quality art featuring 230+ of the Southeast’s finest artists. You’ll find artists specializing in painting, sculpture, jewelery, textiles/fiber arts, photography, clay, wood, metal, graphics and mixed media (click here to view a list of exhibiting artists). Please be sure to visit the Artist Market and support the 2015 Summerfest artists by making a purchase or two.

VHCA Summerfest Store

11080256_978523362211018_332461056547736383_oThis year we’re making it even more convenient to buy your commemorative Summerfest t-shirt and help support the neighborhood. We’ll be selling Summerfest t-shirts at Friday night’s Community Cookout & Movie and at the Acoustic Street Party. Ladies, you’ll have three designs from which to choose: two in a fashionable ladies-cut and another in a traditional unisex t-shirt cut. Guys, you’re sure to enjoy the 2015 Summerfest design. T-shirts are available in sizes S thru XXL. Get one before they’re gone! And if you’re unable to join Friday’s resident-only events, or you lost sleep regretting not having purchased a t–shirt, be sure to stop by one of the two Summerfest stores during the festival on Saturday or Sunday.

11165072_978523358877685_1823068065588305904_oIn addition to the always popular Summerfest t-shirts, we’ll also be carrying Virginia-Highland branded car tags, address plaques, framed neighborhood posters and signed copies of History of Virginia-Highland, written by VaHi residents Karri Hobson-Pape and Lola Carlisle. The store will also display samples of several Virginia-Highland branded items now available for purchase at the VHCA’s’s Zazzle store.

Free Bike Valet at Summerfest

imageAnd don’t forget that you can help alleviate Summerfest traffic congestion by cycling to the festival. We’ve made that easier to do by partnering with Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to provide free bike valet parking during festival hours. This year the ABC bike corral will be located at the “Field of Dreams” on the southwest corner of Virginia Ave. and Ponce de Leon Pl. (adjacent to the festival’s western entrance).

For more information on Summerfest, click here.

We look forward to seeing everyone this weekend at Summerfest 2015!

Spice Up Your Summer at Red Pepper Taquería 

_MG_0496Who isn’t a fan of Mexican cuisine? These days, it seems like there’s a new taco stand opening on every corner, and with so many options it can be difficult finding those with any real hint of creativity or originality. Then, there are those that far exceed expectation, like Red Pepper Taquería. With two locations in Atlanta, Red Pepper makes its mark as one of the city’s top destinations for Mexican cuisine.

IMG_6810A far cry from the average “Tex-Mex” cuisine one may expect, Red Pepper’s menu features a wide range of options and has something for every palate. In addition to fajitas, enchiladas, and other familiar south of the border menu items, a variety of ceviches, oysters (both raw and cooked), and “addictive” taco combinations are just a few things that make Chef Mimmo Alboumeh’s menu at Red Pepper worth exploring. Truly impressive, Chef Alboumeh adds a signature Spanish flair to the menu with standout specialty dishes – like the mussels in a spicy morita cream sauce – that are enough to excite even the stiffest of critics.

IMG_1672Let’s not forget the drinks. Those familiar with the ‘order two drinks at once because it will take forever to get a second round later’ act will find a refreshing change of pace at Red Pepper’s Briarcliff location. Why? Because of the P.Y.O.B (Pour Your Own Beer) program, which puts guests in control by allowing them the option to pour as they please at one of several available draft tables. Draft tables are equipped with between two and six built-in beer taps, featuring an assortment of craft and domestic options for the ultimate customer service experience.

_MG_0585Not a beer fan? Aside from the traditional lime variety, Red Pepper offers several flavor options to allow guests a truly customized margarita experience, including watermelon, blood orange, mixed berries and prickly pear. But flavored margaritas aren’t the only star on the drink menu; unique cocktails like the El Maestro – made with Maestro Dobel, lime juice and Cointreau – also make an appearance.

_MG_0554Food and drink aside, local live music performances on the weekend help set the vibe at Red Pepper, which can be described as the perfect blend of upbeat and carefree. Additionally, several flat screens with surround sound inside and out help make Red Pepper the ultimate game day destination, as sports fans cheer their favorite teams to victory with an assortment of delicious snacking options.

While their “addicted to tacos” tag line is displayed throughout, there’s plenty more to be addicted to at Red Pepper. With great times, delicious food, creative cocktails, exceptional service, and a top-notch game day viewing experience Red Pepper is nothing short of a home run.

Red Pepper Taquería is located in Decatur at 2149 Briarcliff Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30329 and in Buckhead at 3135 Piedmont Road Atlanta, GA 30305. P.Y.O.B options are available exclusively at Red Pepper’s Decatur location. To learn more, visit them online at and follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @RedPepperATL and

Virginia-Highland’s Dynamic and Developing Transportation Infrastructure

By Jess Windham

Looking back, much of Virginia-Highland was built in a series of developments at the end of a street car line in a time when few people owned automobiles.

Looking forward, Virginia-Highland sits as one of the most dense and most walkable communities connected to a major pedestrian and bike thoroughfare: the BeltLine.

Featured Image If you squint harder into the distant future, you might even see Virginia-Highland yet again becoming a street car communitPhoto courtesy Wikimedia Commonsy.

Sidewalks, street design, and bike lanes all play an integral part in our individual lives and our connectivity to the things we do every day. In the coming 18-24 months, we’re likely to see these elements of our community begin to improve.

One traffic-calming and pedestrian safety project we’ve been able to find traction on is the installation of a stop sign at Virginia Circle and Barnett. Keep an eye out for that in mid-July.

Virginia-Highland’s mix of walkable density, commercial interest areas, and proximity to the BeltLine make it an obvious choice for inclusion in the City’s bike share program. Contracts with CycleHop were signed in March, with the deployment of 500 bikes across 50 rental stations slated for this year. Having Virginia-Highland as a location for at least one or two bike kiosks especially makes sense when you consider the possibility of bike lanes on Virginia Ave., Monroe Dr., Kanuga St., Barnett St., and Saint Charles Ave as outlined in the recently adopted Master Plan for Virginia-Highland.

Recently voters supported the city’s request to issue bonds in order to address a backlog of deferred infrastructure maintenance. The list of projects was officially voted on by Council on May 2 and work will span the next five years, starting with any shovel ready projects breakingCAM00433 ground this summer. For Virginia-Highland, we won’t likely see work starting that quickly. However, between infrastructure bond funding and funding from Department of Public Works, we’re likely to see the bike lanes and sidewalk improvements shift from possible to very much a reality.

Planning discussions at a citywide level continue on the topics of Move Atlanta, Transit-Oriented Development, the Cycle 1.0 Atlanta Study, and a citywide freight study. Each topic is being revisited in recently proposed updated appendices to the city’s comprehensive plan, aka the Connect Atlanta Plan. You can join the discussion at the upcoming open houses listed below and more details found at

June 15, City Hall

June 18, Agape Community Center

June 23, Atlanta Plaza Suite 850

June 29, James Orange Recreation Center



Reptile and Amphibian ‘Critter Camp’ at Friends School this Summer

Those of us who were there will never forget the look of wonder on the faces of the children who witnessed the release of the five baby snapping turtles into the Orme DSC_0272Park creek this spring. The turtles were five out of thirty who survived against the steepest of odds, thanks to the efforts of Mark Mandica, Amphibian Conservation Coordinator at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, who cared for the rescued hatchlings until they could be released back into the creek.

Now there is another chance for children to be enchanted, only on a much larger scale. Mark is offering a summer camp at the Friends School of Atlanta this summer — it’s called Critter Camp.

The camp is geared towards campers ages 6-12 (though 13-year-old children are also welcome). Mark writes that “Critter Camp is a fun, science-based exploration into the world of reptiles and amphibians. Over one hundred extraordinary animals are available to illustrate aspects of biology, ecology and conservation — a safe and truly hands-on experience for our critter campers (ages 6-12+).”

Mark also notes that the camp will, indeed, include snacritter-camp_media_squarepping turtle appreciation and importance!

For more information, visit, email or call 678 783 FROG (3764).

Final Commemorative Bricks at North Highland Park Go on Sale

DSC06114Dedicated in 2013, North Highland Park has quickly become one of our neighborhood’s most popular features. Residents and visitors alike can be seen enjoying the wonderful green space – reading a book, relaxing under the trees, walking a dog, or eating lunch at one of the picnic tables along North Highland Avenue. Click here to read more about the park and how it came to be.

One of the ways we’ve raised money to maintain the park and pay down the debt owed on the mortgage is by selling commemorative bricks. There are already several sections of bricks installed along St. Charles Pl. but we still need to sell 37 more before we can engrave and install the bricks in the last section. Several residents who have already purchased bricks have been waiting more than a year for these final bricks to be sold. You can help us complete the project.  

Please consider showing your support for the park by purchasing one of the last bricks to be sold. A tax deductible $100 donation gets you the brick and up to three lines (up to 14 characters per line) to inscribe as you see fit. Leave your own legacy in North Highland Park and/or give an inscribed brick as a gift (each comes with a certificate suitable for gift-giving).

So, act now and be one of the last to buy a brick at North Highland Park. Click here to order yours today.

Thanks so much for your support of Virginia-Highland’s newest green space!

Bon Voyage (Sort Of), John Becker!

By Jack White (on behalf of the VHCA BoD)

This is an article that could have been written a few weeks ago, but wasn’t for a specific reason – no one was very happy about the subject matter. John Becker – long-time VHCA Board member, Communications Chair, and Voice editor – sold his home in VaHi recently and has moved a mere 500 feet past the neighborhood’s borders into a BeltLine condo in Poncey-Highland. As one must be a resident of Virginia-Highland to serve on the Board, John has stepped down from his seat and is in the process of wrapping up his communication and other duties with the VHCA. Though he hasn’t moved far away – and has already been spotted back at Taco Mac on more than one occasion since the move – the Board, the Association and the neighborhood must face the fact that we will miss him greatly.  

DSC06460A bit of history is in order. As recently as four years ago – it seems like another era altogether – the Voice was still being printed and mailed to residents. It had many attributes then (among them the fact that John was its editor); an online tour of the old copies provides a lively flavor of the community’s comings, goings, struggles, and successes. But timely and contemporary it wasn’t. By the time articles were written, edited, mailed and received, the events they described were often well in the rear view mirror. Pam Papner, winding up her time as VHCA President, wanted to transition to an online version, but the challenges seemed formidable. The mailing list of residents was rudimentary, and the process of creating a new advertising and distribution infrastructure seemed imposing to an all-volunteer organization. There was considerable skepticism about whether it would work.

Enter Board member Brian Gross, who was confident that an electronic version of The Voice would be a vast improvement – less costly to produce, much more timely, with greater outreach potential and capable of generating good ad support. In six months Brian created a proposal, designed the site, sold ads, and convinced (an ever-dwindling group of) skeptical residents that the concept was sound and solid and that our newsletter would reach more people than ever before. Responding to arguments that not enough citizens were wired in, Brian found studies and stats that showed that 90+% of citizens in communities like ours were online. Out of an abundance of caution, the Board offered to print and mail copies to anyone not online; not one such request was ever received.

DSC_0058Brian himself moved about a year later (he still owns property here and – like many former residents – still subscribes to The Voice), by which point the online version was firmly established. The new format was an incredible success from the start. Three years later, the whole topic seems quaint, but Brian’s contributions cannot be underestimated.

When Brian left, John Becker took over again as editor and made a good thing even better. He did a fantastic job of managing ads, writing and gathering content, nudging board members and others to write stories, and suggesting topics for coverage.

Those who know John in any of his many roles – as a Rosedale Road neighbor, as a Taco Mac denizen, as a supporter of all things Auburn, as an inveterate dog lover and walker, as a huge fan of John Howell Park (for years John has kept up with the community’s insatiable consumption of doggie poop bags at JHP), as a faithful friend of the Triangle, or as volunteer coordinator for the past three Summerfests – will immediately know why he was so good in those roles. He has been involved firsthand in so many aspects of this community’s daily life that he was a perfect candidate to coordinate a written and photographic narrative of it online. His background as a journalist and his considerable photography skills were on display from the start. When he wasn’t a part of the story (when an Inman student left a menacing book bag at the Triangle and the APD bomb squad closed the intersection, John was among those cleared out – not the first or last time algebra has threatened us) he was recording them for posterity, as he did with countless APS, Master Plan, and VHCA Board meetings.

triangle_volunteers_265hAnd because John knew so many people in so many contexts, he had a great read on the pulse of our neighborhood – on topics both serious and silly. There were few people better able than John to gauge the concerns that residents expressed in multiple forms and formats, and few who were more instinctively knew which topics needed responses and which needed to play themselves out on their own.

Selfishly, we will miss John for many other reasons, too. He has a fine sense of humor, one of the most important parts of any volunteer activity. He measured his friends on the board and residents (their attributes, personalities, motives, and contradictions) in a kind but realistic fashion that served us very well, and often left us laughing at ourselves and others. We will all miss those parts of dealing with John on a regular basis.

Champion LeadershipOf course, like most stories, this one has a silver lining. John is starting a new job that is well-aligned with his considerable talents. He has a new home just yards from the BeltLine about which he is so passionate, and not much further from his old neighborhood. By the way, if Virginia-Highland ever gets an army, that’s the area we’ll annex; the empty fields between us and John are lightly defended. Until then, Poncey-Highland is fortunate to have him. Meanwhile, we will see John at Summerfest both this year and – we very much hope – in the future.

And John is leaving us in good hands. As Brian did with him, John is closely involved in training his replacement, who – we are delighted to report – is longtime VaHi resident Stephen Cohen. Stephen and his wife Eleanor (who has herself been involved with the Tour of Homes and the street captain network for many years) have lived here for over 40 years. Stephen is anything but a neophyte on communication; he is the founder of the neighborhood’s first and longest-lasting community blog, the Yahoo Group VHList. Stephen is quite capable and also has a deft touch with people; he will do a fine job. Like Brian and John, Stephen will no doubt put his own stamp on all parts of the job; he will introduce himself here soon.

Meanwhile, bon voyage John Becker, and many thanks for everything you’ve done for VaHi.

Latest Zone 6 Crime Stats

Click here to view the November 2015 crime statistics for APD’s Zone 6, which include Beat 601 (Virginia-Highland).

Click here to view the October 2015 crime statistics for APD’s Zone 6, which include Beat 601 (Virginia-Highland).

Click here to view the September 2015 crime statistics for APD’s Zone 6, which include Beat 601 (Virginia-Highland).

Click here to view the August 2015 crime statistics for APD’s Zone 6, which include Beat 601 (Virginia-Highland).

Click here to view the July 2015 crime statistics for APD’s Zone 6, which include Beat 601 (Virginia-Highland).

Click here to view the June 2015 crime statistics for APD’s Zone 6, which include Beat 601 (Virginia-Highland).

Click here to view a pdf of earlier crime statistics for Zone 6.

SPARK Garden Center Bees: A Great Learning Opportunity

Fifth generation beekeeper Jon Caylor dons his protective suit to work with the SPARK bees.

Fifth generation beekeeper Jon Caylor dons his protective suit to work with the SPARK bees.

By Lola Carlisle

On May 6, we heard there was a swarm of bees at Springdale Park Elementary (SPARK), then heard that they were part of the school’s garden center. So, where did we go? Over to watch Jon the beekeeper sort out what was happening. He wasn’t 100% sure but believed the colony had grown too large so some bees were leaving to start another colony. In this case “the defectors” gathered temporarily in a nearby tree, and then returned to swarm around the old hive. Jon set up another hive to encourage formation of the second colony. He moved the queen to the new hive along with some of the other bees and now he’ll just keep an eye on how it goes. Jon is quick to note the extensive benefits of honey bees, and points out that they are not aggressive. SPARK is very careful regarding both the care of the bees and the safety of the students.

Caylor works to establish a second colony for the swarming SPARK bees.

Caylor works to establish a second colony for the swarming SPARK bees.

If you think this is fascinating – and who wouldn’t? – jump on over to SPARK’s Garden Center website to learn more. The center’s headed up by Jenna Mobley, SPARK’s Environmental Science teacher…and many energetic kids are actively engaged. You’ll also find more stories about Jon Caylor, a fifth generation beekeeper, who says that beekeeping is a hobby. He’s actually completing his graduate degree in organizational development at Mercer. Don’t you imagine he can draw some parallels between the organizational structure of businesses and bee colonies?

Just another everyday adventure in Virginia-Highland.

Inman Middle School Expansion Meeting Set for May 5

DSC_0004What: Inman Middle School Expansion Meeting

When: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Where: Inman MS Auditorium, 774 Virginia Ave., NE, Atlanta, GA 30306

April 16, 2015

Dear Inman Middle School Family,

In February, we met as a community to discuss the space and enrollment issues at Inman Middle School.  We had good dialogue about the current situation, potential scenarios for addressing our issues and explored new ideas (many from you) for solutions.

A big part of our discussion also included weighing the effect that the potential annexation of the Druid Hills community would have on the enrollment zone.  The annexation proposal did not pass the legislature, and now our planning will turn solely to developing solutions within the existing Grady Cluster.

We have scheduled another Community Meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5, in the Inman auditorium to continue these discussions.

We appreciate your energy and continued support as we work to develop a long-term plan for meeting the enrollment growth projected.

Along with our superintendent and area Board of Education members, I look forward to seeing you.


Betsy Bockman, Ph.D., Principal

Some Thoughts from My Own Business Experiences with Security Cameras

By: Peggy Berg, VHCA Safety Committee

logitec_alert_750e-11372307Using security cameras to provide additional information for police investigations came up at the Atlanta Police Department safety presentation at the VHCA meeting in April. We’ve had cameras at our business for a while, and I’ve spent a fair amount of time listening to comments and thoughts from the professionals who’ve installed and maintained ours.  Here are a few points from them – and some other professionals I’ve spoken to – that might be of interest if you’re thinking of this approach and aspire to have a chance to provided information for the police. (The professionals are mentioned for purposes of attribution and without any implied endorsement at all. I thank them for their time.)

  1. Watermarks: To be admitted as evidence in Court, according to I-Tech Security, the footage or images should be watermarked and time stamped to show that they are genuine. Camera system clocks sometimes get out of sync, and police may need to see the camera system as well as the footage. Not all systems use watermarks or time stamps, but these are good features if you are shopping for security cameras. The presenter should be able to show that the integrity of the footage is not compromised, which means showing that it has been properly stored and presented.
  2. Pixels: Resolution of security video is measured in pixels per foot. The minimum for facial recognition is 40 PPF, explain our friends at Aronson Security. The range is from hundreds to millions of PPF. More is better, particularly if you want to zoom.  The new cameras at my business make it obvious how much cameras have improved. We used to get grainy footage of barely recognizable people; we now have a chance to capture license plates and faces at some distance. Basically,  the security footage is only as good as the camera’s resolution.
  3. Infrared: Not all security cameras record clearly in the dark. If you want coverage at night – particularly if you want it to have value for security purposes – select cameras with infrared.
  4. Color: Not all security cameras record in color. The oldest of my old business cameras provided grainy black and white footage, resulting in our spending a lot of time looking at images that were only vaguely discernable. The new camera images are much more crisp and useful.

Of course, no cameras can take the place of a range of security measures that discourage break-ins in the first place, but if things go wrong at our homes, video can be instructive both in apprehension and in trying to prevent this from happening again.  VHCA is pleased to work with the Atlanta Police Department in asking citizens for camera footage from residents when crimes occur.

Show Your VaHi Pride – Shop at Our New Zazzle Store!

virginia_highland_pillow-rf0a80da6e5df465287c9946220daf0b9_i5fbw_8byvr_512After creating the new VHCA logo last year, our design team has been working to apply the new branding across all of our messaging channels. Last summer we created fun Virginia-Highland posters that were received very well at Summerfest. And now we’ve created and populated The VaHi Zazzle store with fun Virginia-Highland branded merchandise.

whats_cookin_virginia_highlands_apron-rcfa56cb555e24a3899509133c50288e7_v9wh6_8byvr_512Twenty-five percent of every purchase will go directly to the Virginia-Highland Civic Association to support the work they do in the neighborhood. A few of the items are shown here, but we encourage you to go to the store and check out all that’s there. If we know Virginia-Highlanders, you’ll have a few ideas of your own for new products. We welcome your suggestions at

viewSpecial thanks to VaHi resident Ernest Lessenger for helping us get the store off the ground!

Orme Park Turtle Release a Success!

DSC_0272We had a successful release of five turtle hatchlings at Orme Park today. With a crowd of about 40 on hand (including many fascinated children) Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Mark Mandica led the event, allowing the children to touch and handle the turtles before they were released. You’ll remember that Mandica and his staff, along with concerned residents, were instrumental in the rescue and care of the hatchlings. Go to for articles on how the turtle nest was discovered and protected and how the hatchlings were saved from an almost certain demise.

DSC_0313Thanks again to Mandica and his staff for all their care and concern for the Orme Park turtles over the past few months. The five young hatchlings they’ve nurtured are now fending for themselves along the creek in Orme Park. Mandica gives them an excellent chance for survival and a long life. We sure hope he’s right.

Here’s a link to photos from today’s release event.


at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01A Call for Volunteers

By Lola Carlisle

I’m not sure if all who live in the neighborhood know how much the Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) does to help maintain the quality of life we all enjoy. That’s OK – we’re all busy and some are new to the area and have never heard of VHCA. We’re a group of volunteers and we could use your help. Actually it’s really rewarding but can be so much more so if the workload is distributed across more engaged and talented residents.

From the amount of comments one sees on social media channels for our neighborhood, there are many who care a lot about what’s happening around them. We’d sure like to see that positive energy and concern channeled into action!

VHCA Committees in Need of Additional Volunteers

Safety Committee 

Peggy Berg chairs it and in case you didn’t know, she is our sidewalk hero! But there are so many influences on safety and Peggy could use some help. There’s criminal activity, homelessness, appearances that may influence safety (keeping trash picked up and graffiti removed), VHCA’s support of the Neighborhood Watch Street Captain program, traffic/lighting/signage, communication with our elected officials and APD, and more. Reach out to

Communications Committee

This committee is very important and we’re losing one of the neighborhood’s most treasured volunteers (to Poncey-Highland and aren’t they lucky!): John Becker, who’s served as Communications Chair (among other things) for the past three years. As a result of the efforts of many including John, VHCA communications are a best-in-class example of how it should be done. Our website, newsletter and social media communications are effective and important. We’re looking for someone to act as committee chair and others to fill out the committee. These volunteers will need to help steer our communications strategy, update our WordPress website, write and edit articles, manage ad sales and placement, send out the newsletter, tape and upload the board meeting videos and other tasks. If you’re interested in helping with this committee, reach us at

Fundraising Committee (Summerfest / Tour of Homes)

DSC05121A key reason that our neighborhood is so effective at maintaining our culture is our funding. We are able to hire consultants on planning, traffic and development issues; we receive grants to match the funds we put into our parks (see recent JHP improvements); and we give grants to our schools and local non-profits. We plan and execute both the Tour of Homes in winter and Summerfest in the summer; this work is time-intensive but certainly rewarding both in terms of experience and monetary gains for the neighborhood. Both committees need help! Tour of Homes is looking for a volunteer graphics person and someone to help sell sponsorships. Summerfest will need many volunteers so sign up at To get more involved with Summerfest, email or for the Tour of Homes email or

Virginia-Highland Preservation & History Committee

DSC_0144This committee does a good bit of scanning and filing and could really use help from someone who has a passion for history. We have 100 gigs of historic images and documents and many physical items that need organizing and attention. When better managed this can become a resource for the entire city of Atlanta as we’ll share it with the Atlanta History Center. If you’re interested in helping, you can reach us at

Just for fun – and as proof that you’ll learn new things during your volunteer experience – these are things I thought I’d never know, but do because I volunteer with VHCA:

  • Many amazing neighbors!
  • Many city officials personally – lots of whom are professional and energetic and care a lot.
  • How many guns were stolen out of cars in our neighborhood this year so far – 7!
  • Where the Todd Cemetery is and its history – you can visit it, too.
  • What a “quatrefoil” is, and where it appears architecturally in our neighborhood.
  • That the state stream buffer protection line is 25’ and the city stream buffer protection line is 75’.
  • The subdivisions of VaHi.
  • Our neighborhood’s exact boundaries.
  • Many folks that have contributed to things I enjoy – John Howell, Jerry Bright, Tinka Green (who we sadly lost recently), the Coffins, Warren Bruno and so many more.
  • How nice the folks at Open Door Community are.
  • How many neighbors routinely do a lot of thankless tasks that produce a much more liveable community.
  • How city planning constantly evolves, and how hard it is to anticipate the impacts of land use decisions.
  • That there aren’t near enough fields left in VH for our kids to go play on, with or without adults present.
  • How diverse the knowledge base is in VaHi – from aerospace engineers to paleontologists to geologists to dog walkers to master gardeners to screenplay writers to cartographers to…
  • A little more about Robert’s Rules of Order.
  • That Winnie Currie is from the mountains of Appalachia and worked at Sears for years and bought a house in VaHi when many were afraid to and told her she was crazy to do so.
  • How many structures, addresses, and people there are in VH.
  • That there used to be an attack goose owned by one of two feuding neighbors – the goose attacked the neighbor almost daily.
  • Who started VHCA, why it was started, and what highways had to do with that.
  • That Nass Almeleh paid 50 cents for a beer at Atkins Park as long as he lived – no matter what the price of beer was at the time.
  • The difference between Green B. and George W. Adair.
  • That Rooster Foot Alley must have been really cool and I need to find descendants of people who lived there.
  • That the top of Atkin’s Park Tavern is the house that was on that lot but was raised a story when the bar (that started as a deli) was built below it.
  • That we should start a VaHi Trivia game as part of Trivia at George’s!

If you’re not sure what you’d like to do, reach out to and someone will get back to you. Better yet, attend a planning or board meeting and you’ll start to get a feel for what we all do. Meeting schedules can be found on

APD Officials Listen and Respond to Resident Safety Concerns

IMG_0560The first portion of this month’s regular meeting of the VHCA held on April 13th was devoted to a special discussion of neighborhood safety.  District 6 Councilperson Alex Wan (who organized the meeting and arranged the speakers), APD Asst. Chief Shawn Jones, Deputy Chief Joseph Spillane, Zone 6 Commander Timothy Peek, and other officers made presentations, listened to resident concerns, and spent over an hour answering a wide range of questions.

While acknowledging the well-publicized instances of violent crime in and around Beat 601 that have caught everyone’s attention, the presenters pointed out that violent crime – murders, rapes, robberies and burglaries – is down in our beat when compared with last year, which itself had low numbers.  What is not down is the level of vehicle break-ins; officers encouraged residents and visitors to remove anything of value from parked cars and pointed out that among the items stolen from cars recently were seven handguns.

IMG_0563One resident pointed out that her knowledge of crime came at least in part from social media and asked about actual statistics. VHCA Safety Chair Peggy Berg and Board member Jess Windham graphed the last six years of stats for Beat 601 (solely and entirely composed of VaHi) and prepared and distributed a handout of those numbers at the meeting.  (They may be viewed here on our website, and we will update them monthly as we receive new data from APD.)

The officials thanked residents who told stories of calling 911 when they saw something suspicious, and encouraged everyone in attendance to do the same if they find themselves in a similar situation.  They explained the priority system that governs response to calls and provided average response times for all categories.  They reminded, urged, and pled with citizens not to intervene in crimes being committed, but to call APD.

IMG_0561Officials also commented that common traits of neighborhoods that effectively fight crime are neighborhood watches like the two-decade old one in VaHi. If you are not currently connected with your local Street Captain, please contact

Several speakers were critical of the county role in dealing with juvenile offenders and thought sentences were too light.  Another viewed the problem of keeping criminals off the street as a multifaceted one.  Police, prosecutors, judges, and the state (which runs prisons) all have a role in ensuring that the most dangerous and predatory of criminals are successfully caught, prosecuted, and incarcerated.

What was abundantly clear is that APD is highly informed as to the location and frequency of crimes, with data coming in and being analyzed constantly. The department’s ability and willingness to respond and shift resources around on an hourly and daily basis was impressive.

We appreciate the time and energy that the whole department expends on this effort, and the presentation ended with a warm ovation from neighbors.  We thank all those at APD and Councilmember Wan for the work they do and for making the evening possible.

Click here to view a video of the meeting in its entirety.

Click here for information on participating in the CourtWatch program.

Click here for a link to the Christian Science Monitor article on the Atlanta Police Department referenced by a resident who spoke at the meeting.

Ten Thousand Villages

stroefrontVirginia-Highland’s Fair Trade Retailer for 20 Years

Ten Thousand Villages has been a Virginia-Highland staple since 1993. Located at 1056 St. Charles Avenue, the neighborhood shop has seen the ebb and flow of the local business community and, at one time, was the only open storefront on their side of St. Charles for nearly a year. Selling handcrafted items from nearly three dozen countries around the world, the locally run, non-profit store is committed to providing fair wages and steady employment to thousands of artisans through the sales of their products. The forty or more volunteers who give their time to helping customers and supporting fair trade love the local community and, while they hail from all over Atlanta, many of them live in Virginia-Highland and most live in surrounding intown neighborhoods.

childrens cornerThe staff and volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages enjoy being part of such a vibrant and special community.  There’s always a water dish for neighborhood dogs outside the shop and the staff is committed to keeping Virginia-Highland beautiful with seasonal plantings in their tree bed and regular sidewalk cleanup of theirs and neighboring storefronts. Ten Thousand Villages sales associates love to help customers shop for just the right gift, home décor accent, or piece of jewelry and are accommodating to all shoppers. There’s even a little nook where children can play, color and read while their parents shop.

spring trendWhether you are a long-time customer, have never visited, or it’s been a while since you’ve stopped by, the staff at Ten Thousand Villages would like to welcome you in for a visit. There’s always something new going on at the shop and this spring is no exception. There is a new collection of jewelry and accessories on trend for Spring 2015.  Planters, bird houses, wind chimes, and other garden décor are featured, and Mother’s Day shopping is made easier with thoughtful gifts, personalized assistance, and gift wrapping. With all of the online shopping these days it’s truly a pleasure to enter a brick and motor store that knows how to give a multi-sensory shopping experience: fragrant soaps and candles calm the senses, natural materials like stone and intricately carved wood beg to be touched, unique and vibrant color palettes draw your eyes to goods from Colombia to Kenya, global music often incites toe-tapping and hand-clapping, and samples of fair trade coffee and chocolate tickle the taste buds.

blue fountainFind out about upcoming sales and events at, on Facebook or visit the store during regular business hours Tuesday-Saturday 11-6 and Sunday 1-5.

Ten Thousand Villages

1056 St. Charles Avenue