Spring Cleanup Day Set for May 21

KVHB Fall Cleanup Photo

The Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful team preparing to head out for a recent fall cleanup.

Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful is looking for volunteers for its annual pre-Summerfest, spring clean-up of the neighborhood. The event is set for Saturday, May 21, 8:00 am – 12 pm.

Volunteers will meet at American Roadhouse on N. Highland Ave. and enjoy bagels and coffee before heading out to do litter, debris, and weed removal, as well as sticker and graffiti abatement along N. Highland Ave., St. Charles Ave., around the triangle island at N. Highland and Virginia Ave and on other streets.

No RSVP needed. Just show up ready to help spruce things up around the ‘hood!

Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful is a joint effort of VaHi residents and businesses. For more information, visit https://www.facebook.com/KeepVirginiaHighlandBeautiful.

Trees Atlanta Conducts Seminar on Atlanta Tree Ordinance

TreeOrdinance2016promoTrees are a tremendously valuable public resource. The goal of a “tree ordinance” is to prevent net loss of trees and the tree canopy on both public and private property.

Urban trees work hard for us — they are an integral part of the natural system that helps lower summer temperatures, offset the urban heat island effect, prevent erosion, lower the incidence of flooding, and enhance the overall quality of life for Atlanta’s residents. In many ways, the mature urban forest is Atlanta’s signature environmental feature. For this reason, the City of Atlanta created the tree protection ordinance to help protect the urban canopy.

What is our tree ordinance? What can (or can’t) city arborists do? What’s the definition of a dead, dying, and hazardous (DDH) tree? Which rules apply to removing trees on construction sites? How does the Tree Commission and the appeals process work? What do the orange and yellow public notice signs mean? Come meet key contacts in the City’s Arborist Division, learn, and ask your own questions. This discussion will be led by key staff from the City of Atlanta Arborist Division. They will guide us through the basics and discuss a local case study. Citizens can become more empowered to act as effective stewards of our trees by better understanding the City’s tree ordinance.

  • Seminar to be held at Trees Atlanta’s TreeHouse facility at the StoveWorks, 112 Krog St., Suite 7
  • Doors open at 6:00 PM with light refreshments.
  • Program begins promptly at 6:30 PM.
  • Please walk, bike, or carpool and arrive early to accommodate for limited parking in local lots and street parking.

Free with registration: https://treesatlanta.org/event/protecting-atlantas-trees-understanding-the-city-of-atlanta-tree-ordinance/

APS Board Member Matt Westmoreland Urges “Yes” Vote on E-SPLOST on Tuesday, May 24th

DSC_0004VHCA Board Votes to Support

By Rebecca Wells & Jack White

At the VHCA meeting on May 9th,  Atlanta Public School District 3 Board member Matt Westmoreland and several parents asked the VHCA Board to support the referendum.  The Board unanimously did that.  We hope you will, too; here’s why.

The upcoming E-SPLOST referendum on May 24th will have a significant impact on our neighborhood. Voters are being asked to keep in place the existing (not new) sales tax funding for Atlanta Public Schools.

APS will use those monies to renovate the former Howard High School building in the Old Fourth Ward – Martin Luther King, Jr. went to elementary school there – and use it as the site of a new middle school for the Grady Cluster.  Relieving the overcrowding at Inman will be the first step in a sequential series of improvements for the cluster that were outlined by the Superintendent and approved by the school board over the last year.  They include major improvements to Morningside Elementary, expanding Grady High School, building new athletic fields, re-casting Inman as an elementary school, and removing the trailers from the Inman fields.

It is a strategic and long-term solution that benefits both us and all our surrounding neighborhoods. An historic and modernized  structure is preserved and reused. Morningside Elementary – expanded repeatedly over the last thirty years – needs a huge modernization of its HVAC systems.  With the middle school gone, the Inman building can house Morningside students while that work is done. Once Morningside is back home, a reborn Inman Elementary (that’s how it started in 1924) can offer additional capacity at lower grade levels.  It’s likely to be needed; Spark has been expanded twice in its brief life and Mary Lin has just been completely renovated.  Adding additional classroom space to any of those schools is highly problematic.

Previous school boards have offered up a series of obviously flawed short-term suggestions for relieving middle school overcrowding in the Grady Cluster.  All of them underestimated the steady growth of the northeast neighborhoods and ignored the City of Atlanta’s Planning Department’s support for increased residential density. Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and the current school board (including our own representative, Matt Westmoreland) responded to a huge amount of community feedback with a plan that anticipates growth at the elementary, middle, and high school levels.  Their proposal was unveiled to a standing room only crowd at Inman last September; it was received with enthusiasm.

A positive vote on this referendum will end the specter of an even larger permanent middle school super-structure at Inman and all the associated problems that would go with it. The school board’s proposed end product – a smaller elementary school at Inman – will result in reduced traffic and parking on Virginia Avenue and Park Drive, roads that are already struggling to handle the existing bus load.

And – lest we forget – the E-SPLOST also offers a light at the end of the tunnel regarding the trailer/classrooms that now consume the fields across from John Howell Park.  Passing the E-SPLOST greatly increases the likelihood of returning the field sites to their previous usages – with existing trees intact.

We are well aware of the existing legacy of cynicism about the Atlanta Public School system.  Much of that reputation was earned by very poor planning and a head-in-the-sand approach to important topics. History’s verdict on our current board is yet to be written, but one point is already clear – this school board is planning for future capacity issues.  Their pending proposal – the one whose funding awaits a ‘yes’ vote – is the first we’ve seen that aspires to anticipate and address the needs of the next twenty years. That alone is noteworthy and meritorious, and we salute the Superintendent and board for that.

The vote on May 24th represents a bit of a crossroads for public education in Atlanta.  A determined coalition of APS administrators, teachers, and parents are doing extraordinarily well for our students under today’s very difficult and challenging physical circumstances. They all deserve better, and this community deserves better.  We urge you to support the funding that will allow our students and their immediate successors to go to school in the facilities that they deserve.

Rebecca Wells is a VaHi parent with two students enrolled in APS and a third who soon will be.  Jack White is the President of the VHCA Board and the parent of two APS graduates.

City Encourages Residents to Sign Up for Recycling Perks Program

Following is a letter from City of Atlanta Public Works Commissioner Richard Mendoza encouraging residents to sign up or its Recycling Perks incentivized recycling program. It’s easy to sign up and you can save up to $25 per month or $300 per year in discounts.

For more information on recycling, visit http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=493. To sign up for the Recycling Perks program visit https://recyclingperks.com/#/.

Recycling Perks

Park Pride Hosts “Pints for Parks” on May 3

By Jack White and David Brandenberger, VHCA Parks Committee

imageLongtime metro Atlanta parks advocates Park Pride will hold their annual spring social and fundraiser Tuesday, May 3rd from 6 PM to 9 PM. The event will feature cycling and walking stops at four BeltLine eateries – The Mercury, Rathbun’s, Richards’ Southern Fried, and Venkman’s. Co-sponsor Orpheus Brewery will provide samples of its products and a brewery tour, and there’s a silent auction and more.

Your $35 ticketed donation will support an organization that has made generous grants to every one of Virginia-Highland’s parks. Sign up early and you can be part of a bike ride with the city’s Chief Bicycle Officer, Becky Katz. Yes, there really is such an office in Atlanta government, and Becky holds it. She and Rebecca Serna of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition are two major reasons the city has made the cycling progress it has. Go meet Becky and support Park Pride; you’ll enjoy doing both.

For more information, click here or on the flyer to the right.

It’s Almost Summerfest Time!

We’re one month away from our annual celebration of the arrival of summer and you can almost feel the eager anticipation for Summerfest 2016! We thought we’d pass along a few updates as the festival draws near.

Music Line-Up

DSC05195We’re super excited about the Summerfest music line-up this year.

On Saturday we have a great one-two punch of the always fun and rocking Southern Culture on the Skids at 4:30 – be sure to bring your eight-piece box of fried chicken! Our headliners at 6:30 are the most entertaining and awesome Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers who will surely bring the house down. You may remember their former incarnation as The Refreshments and their theme song to King of the Hill. These performances are not to be missed!

On Sunday we have the fabulous Dirty Dozen Brass Band at 4:30 for that great New Orleans funk. Is there a better way to spend a Sunday Summerfest  afternoon than enjoying the fat bottom and heavy horns with your neighbors? We sure don’t think so.

The rest of the lineup follows.  Please come out and enjoy the music. 

Saturday, June 4

  • 12:00 – 1:00pm:  Frank Hamilton School Band
  • 1:30 – 2:30pm:  Donna Hopkins
  • 3:00 – 4:00pm:  Liz Bracher
  • 4:30 – 5:45pm: Southern Culture on the Skids
  • 6:30 – 8:00pm:  Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers

Sunday, June 5

  • 12:00 – 1:30pm:  House Music
  • 1:30 – 2:30pm: City Mouse
  • 3:00 – 4:00pm: Stephen Kellogg
  • 4:30 – 5:45pm: Dirty Dozen Brass Band

We’ll also have some great musical acts performing for you on the Acoustic Stage near the triangle island at N. Highland and Virginia Avenues. On Friday evening from 8:00 – 10:45pm Francisco & Friends will be performing. On Saturday from 12:00 – 2:00pm students from Eclectic Music will perform. Fransisco & Friends return to the stage on Saturday from 2:00 – 10:45pm and again on Sunday from 12:00 – 6:00pm.

We hope to see you at either of our great music venues during Summerfest 2016!

DSC_0036Community Parade

The theme for the 2016 community parade is Rio Olympics. Show your Olympic spirit by dressing up as your favorite part of the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil!

Local Market

New to Summerfest this year is the Local Market.  It will be located at the Barnett/Virginia intersection which is one of the entrances to John Howell Park. Local, handcrafted products for sale here include bath care, bakery items, candles, dog treats, cacti and succulents arrangements, and gourmet foods products.

Stroll through this new section to peruse the small artisan batches of homemade natural soaps, toothpaste, essential oils, grooming and beard care products, bean to bar chocolate, Brazilian breads, apple bread, fruit donuts, muffins, cookies, cheese straws, dog biscuits and BBQ sauce.

BeltLine Study Group Meeting Set for May 10

You are cordially invited to attend a meeting of the Northeast and Southeast Atlanta BeltLine Study Groups on Tuesday, May 10 from 6-7:30 pm. The meeting will be held at Trees Atlanta’s offices at 225 Chester Ave, SE, Atlanta, 30316.

Discussion topics will include an update on the Eastside Trail extension project and a review of conceptual layouts for Bill Kennedy Way.

And if you use the BeltLine – especially during evening or nighttime hours – consider making a donation to the BeltLine’s Light the Line campaign to install pedestrian lighting on the Atlanta BeltLine. To learn more about this crowd funding campaign and to make a donation, click here.


Help Prevent Theft from Vehicles

By Jim Hardy, NPU-F Public Safety Coordinator

Our neighborhoods are continuing to experience numerous thefts from vehicles.  Several of the vehicles were parked in the same general area, probably indicating gang activity. Police reports indicate that in many instances the vehicles were left unlocked or with windows partially open.  In even more cases, items stolen were left inside the vehicles in plain sight.  More alarmingly, in a number of instances weapons were also reported stolen from the vehicles. 

While good investigations, increased police presence and increased video coverage of parking lots have been successful in capturing a number of the thieves, many of the thefts were preventable. Vehicle owners can help prevent these thefts using a few common sense rules.

  • Choose your parking place carefully.  The safest spots are usually well-lit, with lots of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, with video coverage, and not adjacent to a parking lot exit.
  • Remove all valuables from sight in the vehicle (laptops, tablets, cell phones, purses, etc),
  • Remove from sight all backpacks, briefcases, gym bags, etc.  Even bags which don’t contain valuables will attract thieves.
  • Lock valuables and bags in the trunk before you get to the parking place.
  • Remove all charger cords, GPS and GPS mounts.  These things indicate you may have valuables hidden in your vehicle.
  • Do not leave weapons in your vehicle, unless locked in a safe in your trunk.
  • Make sure all windows are closed.
  • Lock your car and insure the alarm is on.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Watch for anyone watching you.
  • Immediately notify the police if you do experience a theft from your vehicle.
    • Also notify the company that owns the parking lot.

Crime Prevention is not just a police responsibility.  We all share that responsibility.  A number of insurance companies recognize vehicle owners/drivers responsibility to help prevent thefts from vehicles.  Those insurers will not pay claims if the owner/driver did not properly secure their vehicle and its contents.

House Number Event Set for April 30th

house-signs-homeHow many times have you driven around the neighborhood trying to find a particular address and had to search high and low to find the home’s street number? If it’s hard for residents who live in the neighborhood to zero in on a specific residence, imagine how tough it is for firefighters and police officers who don’t live in the neighborhood and are often responding to an emergency?

The VHCA, in conjunction with neighborhood watch volunteers, is hosting a Street Number Event on April 30th to help address this problem. We will have tables at the corner of Virginia and Highland Avenues and at Ace Hardware where you can see samples of reflective mailbox numbers, house numbers and solar address plaques. In addition, we will be selling VHCA-branded house number plaques.  

Please come out to say hi to our Street Number Event volunteers and learn more about effective street numbers, how they can help and where to buy them.

April 30th

  • 9:00 – 11:30 a.m. – Corner of Virginia and North Highland
  • 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. – Intown Ace Hardware Parking Lot

South Fork Conservancy “Creek Rising Party” Fundraiser Set for April 28

Peachtree+Creek+South+Fork_4-21-2013_123590Passing along the following from our friends at South Fork Conservancy. Image courtesy of the conservancy’s website.

The South Fork Conservancy invites you to its annual ‘Creek Rising Party’ at the new Zonolite Park and Trail, 5 PM to 8 PM, on April 28. The event features live music, food, beer & wine, and a special “Bog Water” cocktail for attendees. Proceeds will help the Conservancy build a bridge across Peachtree Creek to connect its Confluence Trail, near the intersection of the creek and Lindbergh Drive, with the planned PATH 400 and Atlanta Beltline trails. Tickets for the event are available online at www.southforkconservancy.org/creek-rising.

In its eight-year history the Conservancy has worked to restore and conserve the natural habitats and biodiversity of native flora and fauna along the south fork of Peachtree Creek; to build a network of trails and bridges to connect parks and people in the heart of the city; and to involve the larger community in the work of the Conservancy through public outreach, education and advocacy. It has secured over $4 million to build four trails along the creek, to create a new DeKalb County park, and managed thousands of volunteer hours to maintain the trails and to restore habitats for native flora and fauna.

VaHi Residents, Construction Worker Rescue Baby Barred Owl

By Deborah Schwarz

Editor’s Note: Deborah and Greg Schwarz live on lower Drewry Street. Thanks to their efforts and a caring construction foreman, one wayward baby Barred owl was successfully returned to the wild and perhaps even reunited with its parents. We thought you’d like to hear Deborah’s story in her own words. Please contact us at communications@vahi.org if you have a similar experience you’d like to share with other VaHi residents.

Is it a dog or a cat? Nope. This is a new one for us.

Is it a dog or a cat? Nope. This is a new one for us.

With the rapid pace of daily life, we often miss opportunities to appreciate the diversity of the Virginia-Highland community where we live. On April 18, I received a reminder! It came in the form of a baby Barred owl who had been found on the grounds of a residential construction site on lower Drewry Street. 

Our first move was to contact the Chattahoochee Nature Center and AWARE Wildlife Center, both organizations that provide rescue services for at-risk birds. CNC was willing to take the baby owl but felt an attempt at reuniting it with its parents (Barred pairs typically mate for life, raising one brood each year) was worth a try. They advised us to get her/him back up in the trees and – thanks to a solid team effort – we did!  

Greg builds a new but hopefully temporary home.

Greg builds a new but hopefully temporary home.

My husband, Greg, got to work building a faux nest. This included a plastic container with holes drilled throughout to provide proper ventilation and drainage in case of rain. A bed of soil and leaves was added as well as a covering of small branches. While it wouldn’t be mistaken for the real thing, it was a success as it met the specifications needed to protect the baby. 

Construction site foreman Felix Lopez was the real hero as he climbed a sizable Dogwood and secured the “nest” as high in the tree as possible, creating a new use for bungee cords! He then hand-delivered the baby owl back where it belonged. 

We enjoyed a spectacular Spring evening listening to the owls while we watched  the baby owl’s fuzzy, little head bob in the treetops. By nightfall s/he had moved out of the nest onto the branch next to it. In early stages of development, young barred owls are known as “nesters.” They become “branchers” once they venture onto the tree limbs where they have room to stretch their wings and practice flying movements.

The guest of honor was waiting patiently.

The guest of honor was waiting patiently.

The following morning the baby was gone. We searched the yard but s/he was nowhere to be found. We believe the anticipated reunion occurred given feedback from an AWARE Wildlife Representative: “My feeling is not to worry…s/he is in a place where mom wants him/her to be.”

It would have been perfectly fine for the story to have ended there. But, like many such adventures, we hadn’t seen the last of the baby owl. Five days after the rescue as I was leaving my yoga class, I got a text from Greg: “Call me. The baby owl is back.”

I arrived home to find the little devil hiding in the ferns by our front door. S/he had definitely grown and looked healthy, so we put him/her back in the tree – again – and s/he was gone by late that night.  We hope the baby Barred owl has found a place of his/her own in the Virginia-Highland tree tops, but we’ll welcome a fly-by anytime.

Here are some photos we took of the experience. We hope you enjoy them as much as we did helping our feathered friend.

About to be hand-delivered to faux nest.

About to be hand-delivered to the faux nest by Felix.

Felix carefully places the owl in the nest with a first class view!

Felix carefully places the owl in the nest with a first class view!

Safe and ready for Mom and Dad in the treetops.

Safe and ready for Mom and Dad in the treetops.

Baby owl hiding in the ferns.

Baby owl returns – this time hiding in the ferns.

Deborah and the "rogue baby raptor"

Deborah and the “rogue baby raptor”

This was one of our last glimpses of the baby Barred owl.

This was one of our last glimpses of the baby Barred owl.

Morningside Mile Set for April 17, Profits Support FS #19 Restoration

e-flyer-mm-vh-2016You can help save Virginia-Highland’s historic Fire Station #19 by registering now to run in the Morningside Mile, set for April 17.

100% of race profits are donated to preserve our treasured fire station and help keep it in service. Thanks to grass roots support of Morningside Mile and other efforts, the station is no longer on the chopping block, but we are still raising funds for the renovations, whose final costs are not yet known. We  need your active support; please register now to run or walk and support our neighborhood firefighters and first-responders!

Click here to register.

  • 1-mile Race
  • Cash Prizes
  • Great Swag
  • Block Party

Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates National Arbor Day

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member

WP_20160405_17_03_41_ProTen Thousand Villages, our neighborhood fair trade retailer at 1056 St. Charles Ave., will participate in a nationwide campaign to plant 10,000 trees in our national forests. The program, which runs April 21 through May 1,  invites customers to donate $1 to plant a tree in a national forest through the Arbor Day Foundation. Ten Thousand Villages in Atlanta hopes customers will donate to plant 100 trees on behalf of our community. Ten Thousand Villages corporate office in Akron, Pa., will donate 1,000 trees to kick-off the campaign.

Store Manager Juliet White said, “We are excited about this opportunity to partner with the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 10,000 trees because it allows us to make a positive impact on our environment.” White continued, “As an organization, we are committed to environmental responsibility and sustainable sourcing of products. We also make a positive impact in the lives of artisans around the world every day. Every purchase at our store provides vital, fair income which allows artisans to provide food, clothing and education for their families.”

blobThe campaign kicks off an in-store Earth Day Celebration April 22-23 and connects to the international Earth Day theme of Trees for the Earth (#Trees4Earth).

Other events planned for the Earth Day Celebration include the launch of the new “Landscapes” collection of home décor and garden items Friday, April 22; a sale that offers 22% off select sustainable items April 21-24; and contests to win fair trade prizes throughout the weekend.

10K photoAs a fair trade retailer, Ten Thousand Villages is committed to sourcing products made with sustainable materials and methods. The majority of the products customers will find at Ten Thousand Villages in Atlanta are produced in the most environmentally friendly way possible—by hand. Many artisans recycle materials such as newspaper, post-consumer magazines and glass to create innovative and functional products. Ten Thousand Villages product line includes a wide range of items made with natural materials, from bamboo to water weeds.

Groups source renewable, natural materials to keep resources in balance. Artisans use local raw materials whenever possible, and many artisans use natural dyes. Several artisan partners also source sustainable wood, or “good wood,” from farms that replant trees after they are harvested.

For more information about Ten Thousand Villages or the campaign to plant 10,000 trees, please contact Juliet White, store manager, at 404-892-5307 or visit atlanta.tenthousandvillages.com

Express Your Passion for VaHi Through Photography – and See Your Work on Public Display!

Submit photos now for upcoming North Highland Park public exhibition showcasing life in our awesome neighborhood

ACP logo with TaglineBy David Brandenberger, VHCA Board Member

Photos courtesy John Becker

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association is partnering with Atlanta Celebrates Photography to create a ‘neighborhood-based’ temporary public photography exhibition that will be on display at North Highland Park (St. Charles & North Highland) this summer – beginning Summerfest weekend!

DSC_0012The theme of the exhibition is ‘Life in Virginia-Highland’ and photography submissions will be accepted from anyone who lives, works, plays, visits or goes to school in VaHi. All lens-based enthusiasts can submit and upload five of your best photos depicting ‘Life in Virginia-Highland’ for consideration. A select group of the submitted photos will be featured on several banners that will be on display at the park. Each banner will feature large versions of the selected images with the photographer’s name and image title displayed below. Submissions can be from old photos or from recently taken ones. Submission is free and entry will be easy. Not all submitted photos will be chosen for display.

DSC_0114Submission deadline is May 8, 2016 at midnight so don’t waste time. Have fun and get your creative juices flowing, whether you’re an amateur or master, junior or senior! The goal is to submit photos that allow us all to see what makes our unique and beautiful neighborhood so special to you!

Click here to register and submit images for the exhibition. 

Share the news and be sure to submit – and show us what makes Virginia-Highland so special to you!!

Lionheart Framing Celebrates One Year in VaHi!

Article and photography By VHCA Board Member Robin Ragland

Lionheart Framing folks Austin Yapp, left, and Alton Baker, right. Painting shown done by Jeffrey McDonald.

Lionheart Framing folks Austin Yapp, left, and Alton Baker, right. Painting shown done by Jeffrey McDonald.

We’re only a week away from the annual Dogwood Festival, but there’s an even more local art event to put on your calendar to attend first. Lionheart Framing is celebrating their one year anniversary in Virginia-Highland by showing works by local artists from April 7 – 30. It all kicks off with an opening reception on April 8 at 7:00 p.m. There’s no cost for entry.

This piece from Rose M. Barron will be on display during the exhibit.

This piece from Rose M. Barron will be on display during the exhibit.

The artists featured include:  Johnny Warren, Trek Matthews, Vasili Vasilev, R Land, Alex Kerr, Austin Yapp, Brent Walker, Bjoern Arthurs, Chris Veal, Kurt Aquino, Henry Samuels, BWT Clothing, Jeffrey McDonald, Stefen Sornpao, Nate Tavel, Sam Pritie, Chris Hall, Rose Barron, Elyse Defoor, Lindy Lane, Josh Wallman, Kyle Brooks, Maddy Barreto, Anastacia Howley, and our very own Lionheart Framing Alton Baker.

Lionheart Framing is located at 804 N Highland Ave. Please stop by and congratulate them on their anniversary, and enjoy the show!

Briarcliff Terrace Apartments

By Lola Carlisle, VHCA Board Member and Jack White, VHCA Board President

Briarcliff Terrace Apartments has been a quiet apartment community east of the CVS (and east of Arlington Pl.) since the 1960’s. For the last couple of decades, it has been very stable – mostly Latino, with lots of kids – and (according to anecdotal police observations) very little crime. Its relatively isolated site – accessible only from Briarcliff Place on the south and Rosedale Drive on the north – has been one reason for limited social interaction with neighbors on other streets; there’s also been very little conflict. The children in the community have been a notable and valued presence in both the SPARK and Inman communities.

Over the last half decade, the area has also attracted an increasing amount of attention from builders interested in redeveloping it; there is no other large tract of land remotely similar to it left in VaHi. Most of these inquiries – at least the ones we’ve known about – have not moved forward, but we have recently learned of one that may. A developer is considering purchasing the property and building a large collection of townhomes.

Had a specific proposal been made – if there were anything in writing – we’d share it.  There’s not, but it appears that a change to the NPU’s Comprehensive Development Plan (the CDP) and the land’s zoning may be in the works. Both will get extraordinary scrutiny at the neighborhood and NPU level.

The land is zoned R-4 but has been apartments for years.  Any townhome proposal is likely to propose a decrease in the number of units and a sharp increase in density. The latter, if it occurs, would require the changes noted.

Absent any drawings or details or a site plan, there’s not much more to say at this point.  VHCA’s planner (Aaron Fortner) and land use attorney (Bob Zoeckler) have reviewed what few specifics there are. We expect to hear more in the next month, and we will share it when we do.

New Pedestrian Signal Light in Place at Inman Middle School

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

DSC_0509The installation of the (solar-powered) Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacon (RRFB) at Inman Middle School on the corner of Virginia and Arcadia in almost complete. The city reports that the vendor failed to ship one needed piece; it is on the way.

This signal is an RRFB, not a HAWK, for those who are fans. A nearby example of an RRFB is the signal located across from the Midtown MARTA Station on 10th Street. That one is pole-mounted; Inman’s is overhead.

DSC_0511We appreciate the efforts of CoA Technical Project Manager Daniel Ephraim and his Public Works colleagues on this effort, which was quietly and effectively supported (as so many outcomes are in VaHi) by Councilman Alex Wan. VaHi resident and parent Mary Stouffer was a critical part of the process that led to both this light and the one at Spark; we salute her for her impressive and persistent work.

We hope it will make the crossing safer for everyone, an outcome we can promote by rigorously following the speed limit there and elsewhere.

Annual City of Atlanta Resident Survey Due by April 15

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

City of Atlanta logo colorThe City of Atlanta is conducting an online survey on a number of topics; the press release and link are below. If you find that a potential response you might want to give is not listed, there is sometimes an opportunity to provide your own at the end of a question.

We hope you will spend a few minutes on this survey and let your voice be heard. If you have suggestions or critiques about the survey itself, please include them. Writing a useful survey takes real skill and this one may not be perfect, but knowing how citizens are viewing given issues is obviously very important and can help drive city policy. We will try to share the results in the Voice. Survey responses will be accepted only through April 15.

From the Office of the Mayor’s website:

Each year, the City of Atlanta conducts a survey to learn what residents think about their city government and the services it provides, and you are invited to participate this year! The purpose of this survey is to gather valuable feedback from the perspective of Atlanta’s most important asset – its residents. Your response to this survey is critical because it will be used to understand your satisfaction with city services and help us determine how best to prioritize future improvements.


SF Coffee Hosts Meet and Greet with Artist Jamie Calkin

Note: Images in this article were taken from http://www.jamiecalkin.com.

jamie_headshotAthens-based artist Jamie Calkin is kicking off a month-long exhibit at San Fransisco Coffee, 1192 N. Highland Ave. in VaHi, with a meet and greet at the cafe on Friday, April 1 from 7 to 9 p.m.

Jamie is a science teacher turned full-time artist who paints with ink and watercolor in the plein air style. Jamie loves to paint street scenes and buildings, and one of his most notable pieces is a 64-foot long mural in the University of Georgia’s student center.

Jamie regularly produces commissions, prints, murals, and other forms of art for his clients, both in Athens and elsewhere. Recently, he completed a series of Atlanta paintings which will be on display at San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co. in April. He hopes you’ll stop by to check out his work.

To learn more about Jamie and to view his work, visit http://www.jamiecalkin.com/ and  https://www.facebook.com/events/807199999424081/.


Traffic Advisory: Filming at Clermont Hotel on March 31

Filming inside the Clermont Hotel on Ponce de Leon Ave. will close the curb parking lane and sidewalk on both sides of Bonaventure Ave. between Ponce and North Ave. on March 31. Be advised there also will be set up work on March 30 and tear down work on April 1 that may also cause minor traffic disruptions.

According to the notice we received, all filming will take place inside the hotel and there should be no traffic disruption on Ponce itself.  See map below.

Bonaventure Traffic Plan

GDOT Seeks Input for Briarcliff Rd. Study

Passing this notice along from the Georgia Department of Transportation:

Photo Credit: John Becker

Photo Credit: John Becker

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), in collaboration with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), is conducting a Road Safety Audit (RSA) for State Route 42 / Briarcliff Road NE, from Ponce de Leon Avenue NE to North Druid Hills Road.  An RSA is a formal safety performance examination of an existing or future road or intersection by an interdisciplinary team of transportation professionals.  RSAs have been used successfully for a wide variety of locations to identify potential solutions leading to both short-term improvements and longer term efforts including construction projects.  RSAs are proactive tools, not solely dependent on crash data, but that use an innovative approach, including firsthand observation, to identify potential safety issues and enhancement opportunities to be considered in improvement projects.

As part of the RSA process for this corridor the audit team is conducting a survey in order to obtain input from key individuals and groups that have an interest in the study area along the stretch of State Route 42/Briarcliff Road NE between Ponce de Leon Avenue NE and North Druid Hills Road.   You are receiving this email because you were identified as a potentially interested party and the audit team would like to gather your thoughts about potential safety concerns and possible solutions to those safety concerns along this corridor.  We invite you to take a few minutes to complete the survey. Please feel free to share this survey with others you think might be interested in taking it.

Please CLICK HERE to launch the survey, or enter the following URL into your browser: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/BriarcliffRSAPlease note, in order to expedite the audit process, this survey will be available for a limited time: it will remain open until 11:59pm on Friday April 15, 2016. Please contact Michael Turpeau, State Safety Program Supervisor, Georgia Department of Transportation, with any questions: MTurpeau@dot.ga.gov.

This survey asks some very specific questions about Briarcliff’s intersections with several roads.  If you have not traveled them recently, you may wish to refresh your memory before taking the survey.


MARTA Extends Hours of Operation for Bus Route #36

marta-logoThanks to Courtenay Dr. resident Cary Aiken, MARTA will be extending the hours of operation for Bus Route #36 (No. Decatur Rd./Virginia-Highland) from the current 9 p.m. to 11 p.m., effective April 18.

Aiken noticed that when MARTA Route #’s 45 and 36 were combined a while back, connectivity to either Emory or Midtown was lost after 9 p.m. This caused problems in terms of getting home late at night from events he chose to attend in either of those areas.

Aiken brought the issue to the attention of MARTA Service Planner II Andrew McBurney in January and McBurney advised in late February that Bus #36 service would indeed be extended to 11 p.m.

McBurney additionally advised that starting in April Bus #36 will be re-routed to end at Decatur Station due to a transit-oriented development construction project at Avondale Station, where the bus currently terminates. The re-route is expected to be in place for approximately 18 months.

First Plastic Reduction Day Set for March 24

thOn March 27, 2015, Atlanta City Councilmember Kwanza Hall, along with local Atlanta artist Pam Longobardi, and a group of international attendees, convened at the Centers for Disease Control and officially proclaimed this date as Plastic Reduction Day Atlanta. In recognition of this date, a group of Atlanta-area researchers and artists have created a pledge drive to reduce the use of single-use plastics in restaurants throughout the city. The group hopes that Atlanta businesses will serve their last plastic straw – or better yet – give up single-use plastics altogether.

Here’s a schedule of events for Atlanta’s first Plastic Reduction Day:

6 PM: Meet & Greet at Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Dr., NE, Atlanta, GA 30308

6:30 – 8 PM: Film Screenings / Speaker Series, also at Midtown Art Cinema

8 PM: Cocktail Hour at nearby Apres Diem

Click here to view the event day flyer. Click here to go to the EventBrite site to register.

Intersection of Barnett Street and Virginia Circle Now a 4-Way Stop


The city has installed stop signs for north and southbound traffic on Barnett. Previously, only motorists going in either direction on Virginia Circle were required to stop at the intersection.

Nearby resident Anurag Sahu had witnessed a few accidents and numerous near misses at the intersection over the years and reached out to VHCA to see what could be done. City Councilmember Alex Wan asked the city’s Office of Transportation to examine the situation.

Stop signs are not a cure for many traffic challenges.  Transportation engineers have a set of specific criteria – volume of traffic, signage on nearby roads, speed, and visibility among them – by which they make such decisions. It makes sense because the impacts can be widely distributed. This decision was not clear-cut, but after considerable input from neighbors and VHCA Safety Committee members Peggy Berg and Jenifer Keenan, the city decided to install the signs.

As always, we appreciate Councilmember Wan’s willingness to initiate and support the study, and we hope this change will reduce accidents and improve safety at the intersection.

Traffic Advisory: Publix Georgia Marathon and Half Marathon

ATC_EventBadges_CMYK__MarathonExpect traffic delays, road closings along the course route on Sunday March 20 between 7AM-1PM

More than 12,000 runners, 2,500 volunteers and 30,000 spectators will be along the course from downtown Atlanta to Decatur and back. Runners will pass through Centennial Olympic Park, Georgia State University, MLK Historic District, Old Fourth Ward, Inman Park, The Carter Center, Candler Park, Agnes Scott College, Emory University, Druid Hills, Virginia-Highland, Midtown and Georgia Tech. VaHi residents should be aware of the course route and plan their travel accordingly.

To view a map of the Marathon and Half Marathon course, click here. For detailed traffic and road closure information, click here.

Here’s an overview of how VaHi traffic will be impacted:

Shortly before 8 AM half marathon runners will enter the neighborhood, proceeding north on N. Highland Ave. from Poncey-Highland. Runners will turn left at Virginia Ave., then right on Park Dr. Runners will proceed down Park, across Monroe and into Piedmont Park. Partial roadway closures will begin on these streets around 7:15 AM and streets should reopen to normal traffic by 10:30 AM.

Shortly before 9 AM marathon runners will enter the neighborhood, proceeding west on Stillwood Dr. from Briarcliff Rd. Runners will turn right on Los Angeles, make a quick right on N. Highland followed by a quick left on Los Angeles. Runners will continue on Brookridge Dr. after the road changes name, staying right at the ‘Y’, then turn right on Elkmont, then left on Orme Circle. Runners will cross Monroe and proceed into Piedmont Park. Partial road closures will begin on these streets around 8:30 AM and street should reopen to normal traffic by 12:45 PM.

A Community Meeting with LifeLine Animal Project

lets talk flierBy Kay Stephenson

Several months ago on a Sunday morning, VaHi resident Elizabeth Baker (who operates a local dog walking business) found two loose dogs on her front porch. She was able to get them leashed and checked (unsuccessfully) for microchips.  It was the start of a challenging journey that lasted well into the night, when the dogs were finally taken into the Fulton County Animal Shelter.

Hudson-6Once the dogs were safe (and happily reunited with their owner a couple of days later), Elizabeth and I had some conversation about how difficult it can be for private citizens to know how to help loose dogs that we encounter around the neighborhood. Virginia-Highland is a dog and cat loving community and almost daily we hear about or are directly involved with cats and dogs that need help or are lost.

Many are reunited with owners after a quick post on our neighborhood bulletin boards. Others are taken in and eventually re-homed through rescue groups and individuals. However, when those solutions are not an option, most of us don’t know where to turn. In the past, many of us avoided contacting the county shelter for fear that a healthy animal would not fare well in that environment.

Kittens-12Enter LifeLine Animal Project. Both the Fulton County and DeKalb County animal shelters are now operated by Lifeline Animal Project. Anisa Telwar-Kaicker, Founder & CEO of Anisa International and Board Chair of Lifeline Animal Project is also a Virginia-Highland resident and committed pet lover. Over the past several months Anisa and I have continued the conversation started with Elizabeth back in October.

The result of those discussions is that Virginia-Highland Neighborhood Watch is hosting a gathering for the community to hear from Rebecca Guinn, Lifeline founder and CEO, and Laura Hudson, Director of the Fulton County Shelter. They will share information about how our community can work with them more effectively. They will answer questions about the shelter, when and how to contact animal control officers, and share their plan to make Atlanta a no-kill city.

Flora-4On Wednesday April 20th we will gather at the Trees Atlanta TreeHouse, 112 Krog Street, Suite 7 (The Stove Works) from 7:00 – 9:00 pm. To attend, RSVP to VaHiSafety@gmail.com with name and number of attendees. We are limited to 50 people, so don’t miss out.

Special thanks to Trees Atlanta for the use of their new education facility right on the Atlanta BeltLine. We encourage you to carpool, walk or bike to this event. Parking is available in the valet/pay lot ($3) at Krog Street Market, in the gravel lot adjacent to The Stove Works, or on nearby side streets.

For more information on Lifeline and the animal services they provide for Fulton county residents: http://www.fultonanimalservices.com/

To learn more about the Lifeline Animal project and its no-kill goals: http://www.lifelineanimal.org/news/96-are-you-in

Most vets will scan animals for microchips with no charge, including Ansley Animal Clinic, Briarcliff Animal Clinic, Inman Park Animal Hospital, Intown Animal Hospital, and Pets Are People, Too.

Kay Stephenson is a long-time Virginia-Highland resident and serves as a volunteer for the Virginia-Highland Neighborhood Watch. 

Update on Restoration of Fire Station #19

No. 19 Fire Station c. 1920sBy Dr. Catherine Lewis, VHCA Board Member

For the past year, VHCA and dedicated neighborhood volunteers have been working on a plan to renovate Fire Station #19. This promises to be a model partnership between the City of Atlanta, City Councilman Alex Wan’s office, the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department, and VHCA.

VHCA board member Catherine Lewis, left, and VHCA planning committee member Chip Bullock, right, meet with architect Tom Little of Surber Barber.

VHCA board member Catherine Lewis, left, and VHCA planning committee member Chip Bullock, right, meet with architect Tom Little of Surber Barber.

Throughout the fall and winter a committee interviewed four architects and after a rigorous process selected Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects, the team that recently completed the restoration of Ponce City Market. One of the project’s goals is to have VHCA donate the architectural work to help stretch the $600,000 the city has set aside from the recent transportation bond. Over the next several months you will be seeing more information about the station renovation, and we appreciate anyone’s willingness to donate funds to support the effort. 

VHCA board members Jack White and Catherine Lewis, left and center, talk with firemen outside FS #19.

VHCA board members Jack White and Catherine Lewis, left and center, talk with firemen outside FS #19.

There is an important fundraising event coming up soon for the station – the Morningside Mile. This is a nearby, one-mile race where 100% of the proceeds support restoration of the fire station. The race will be held Sunday April 17, Noon – 2pm. Please encourage everyone to register. After all…it’s only a mile! For more information or to register, click here.

We will advise of future steps in the process of restoring our treasured Fire Station #19 as the plan takes shape.

Catherine Lewis is a VHCA Board Member, a historian and museum curator, and is coordinating the restoration of the No. 19 Fire Station. If you would like to become involved, email her at clewis1@kennesaw.edu. 

Piedmont Park Activity Update

Lake Clara Meer #1Here’s an update on a few events and activities taking place soon at Piedmont Park, as passed along to the VHCA board by Cresthill Ave. resident Ken Haldin.

  • The Green Market in Piedmont Park opens this Saturday for the 2016 season. The market is open every Saturday from 9 AM to 1 PM at the 12th St. entrance into the park.
  • FREE History tours are given each week at Green Market. A walking tour that gives you a fun and educational tour of the park. 
  • Doggie Dash 5K benefiting the Piedmont Park Dog Park is this Saturday March 20. $25 pre-registration and $35 day of. Onsite registration is at 8 AM and the race starts at 9 AM. You can run or walk with or without your dog. Strollers are also welcome. Winners get a medal and also a one night stay at the W Midtown Hotel.
  • 2016 Season Pool Passes are available and range from $125 for a Senior (55 or Over) to $395 for a family of 5 or more. Get unlimited access to the pool during all pool hours, special pass holder only hours, late night swims and guest passes.
  • EnviroVenture Summer Camp registration is open.  Camp runs June 6 to July 29 with different themes each week.

For more information on these events and all the goings-on at Piedmont Park, click here to visit their website.

Recycling News

thReduce, reuse, recycle.

Those concepts are what the three sides of the chasing arrows logo found on every recyclable item represent.  The logo informs the consumer that the item is recyclable where allowed.  Recycling is just a portion of the larger effort that goes into saving our natural resources.  The big picture approach includes a fourth R: refuse, as in, refuse to accept single-use items.  Bring a reusable shopping bag to the grocery store and refuse the single-use plastic bag.  Bring a travel mug for beverages, and refuse a single-use coffee cup, wrapper, and lid.  Up to 52 billion paper coffee cups per year are used once, then thrown away.  Due to health regulations, the cups must be made almost entirely of virgin – not previously used – paper.  Would you join the City of Atlanta and reduce, reuse, recycle, and refuse?

The City of Atlanta accepts the following recyclables curbside: cardboard, carton board, paper, glass, plastics #1-5 & 7, metal cans, and juice cartons.  All items to be recycled should be clean and dry, and placed loosely in bin, not bagged. Lids and caps should be removed and placed with recycling bins.

The City of Atlanta hosts Recycle Day at 850 Oak St., SW, Atlanta, GA  30310.  This event is held the 3rd Saturday of each month, except in December, between 9 AM to noon.   Acceptable items include:  paper for shredding, clothing, tires, #6 polystyrene, electronics, and all items accepted curbside.


New Life for North Highland Park Bike Rack at IMS

The bike rack at its original location at North Highland Park. Photo courtesy Jack White.

The bike rack at its original location at North Highland Park. Photo courtesy Jack White.

Rarely Used Bike Rack at NHP Repurposed for Use at Inman Middle School

By David Brandenberger

The bicycle rack that has lived at the northeast corner of N. Highland and St. Charles at North Highland Park – likely since the days of the public library – has a new home. Due largely to its obscured location at the park, the rack has received very little use since the lot was converted to greenspace. After noting the increasing use of pedal-power as a mode of transport for students heading to and from Inman Middle School (even more so now that the weather is getting nicer)—and the reality that IMS’ existing bicycle racks were often filled to capacity – the idea of relocating and donating the rack to the school was circulated with IMS staff and the LSC. Several staff members both acknowledged the need for another bike rack and resoundingly supported the gift.

Workers prepare the bike rack's new site at Inman Middle School. VHCA Board member David Brandenberger shovelling at far left. Photo courtesy Jack White.

Workers prepare the bike rack’s new site at Inman Middle School. VHCA Board member David Brandenberger shovelling at far left. Photo courtesy Jack White.

On a fine February Saturday two weekends ago, several neighborhood volunteers and Board members dug up the 10’ long, heavy steel structure, hoisted it into a truck, transported, and then installed the ‘new’ bike rack at Inman next to the portables. We are happy to report that the rack is now experiencing unprecedented use in its second career and new location!

The repurposed bike rack at its new location at Inman Middle School. Photo courtesy of Jack White.

The repurposed bike rack at its new location at Inman Middle School. Photo courtesy of Jack White.

We note that Inman now has five bike racks (up from two a year ago), a measurable reflection of the growth of cycling in VaHi. It’s also a reminder to us all to drive appropriately and be on the alert for cyclists of all ages at all times – and let’s please double our attention around schools.

“Slow Down” Yard Signs Available

Slow Down Atlanta_Signage_v4Is speeding an issue on the street where you live?

The office of City Council President Caesar Mitchell is distributing “Slow Down” yard signs as part of its #ATLSlowDown campaign, “a citywide initiative to reduce vehicular speeding in our neighborhoods and communities.”

If speeding is an ongoing issue where you live, click on this link to order your yard sign.

A Safer Monroe Drive

by Jack White and Jess Windham

The tragic death of Alexia Hyneman has stunned this community. The knowledge that nothing we do now can bring her back haunts every effort to make the corner and roads where she died a safer place.

And yet, heavy heart or not, that is all we can do and that is what we have to do. As the mourning continues, the movement to improve this corner continues to grow.

Monroe Drive’s challenges are more of a web than a list. It has straight wide lanes that mimic the appearance of a freeway, amidst single-family residences and small businesses with dozens of curb cuts. It sits next to the city’s busiest park near two large (and several small) schools. It’s littered with a mishmash of signage, utility poles without setbacks, and three traffic lights in a 60-yard span. It’s a dangerous mess that frustrates all its users on a daily basis.  And it’s especially dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, who arrive there not only from other streets but from the terminus of the BeltLine, which empties directly into Monroe.

And further development is coming. Grady High School will be expanded, and two separate new developments have been proposed on the old Mason stretch of the BeltLine; both propose access from Monroe.

Better law enforcement is a part of the solution, but it’s not enough. Every community in the city wants and needs more enforcement; there won’t be a special police force for Monroe Drive. This road and its intersections need to be re-designed with the safety of its users – all its users: pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers – as a primary goal. Good design will discourage speeding, not reward it. In such a context, improved law enforcement has a much better chance of being effective.

Making Monroe Drive a safer and more livable city street is not impossible. The topic has been widely discussed and studied. At least three formal plans already in place – the Beltline’s Subarea 6 Plan, the City of Atlanta’s Connect Atlanta Plan and (most recently) the Virginia-Highland Master Plan – endorse the Complete Streets program scheduled for Monroe.

While no single act will magically solve all of Monroe’s challenges, the Complete Streets program will mitigate that road’s single greatest danger: speeding vehicles.  Studies suggest that it can do that while accommodating a very high percentage of users at lower speeds, results partly obtained by reducing accidents now produced by drivers’ swerving around cars waiting to make left turns. The narrower road itself and presence of other adjacent users will be helpful; other modifications can be considered as needed.

Many residents along Monroe have been asking for such changes for a long time. The existing automotive conduct – and the frantic and unsafe atmosphere that goes with it – is unsettling and not compatible with single-family residential living. Failing to address this challenge can only lead to justifying much greater density – and even more traffic capacity along Monroe. The implications of that are profound for all the communities along the road.

Here’s the good news: The funding for the Complete Streets program is in place – it was part of the Renew Atlanta bond that passed last year, thanks to Councilmember Wan’s careful foresight. At the city council meeting on February 15th and in a subsequent press release, the Mayor assured council members and citizens that his administration will “move quickly to get these improvements done.”  Many other council members echoed his thoughts, including Andre Dickens, Michael Julian Bond, Kwanza Hall, and City Council President Caesar Mitchell.

At a subsequent meeting at Inman, Alex asked citizens to channel their anger and despair into support for both the plan and a continued examination of additional measures that will make our roads safer for all its users – cars, cyclists and walkers.

We thank him for his support, and we agree with him.  Safer livable streets are long overdue, and Monroe Drive is the place to start.

Mayor’s Press Release: http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?recordid=4279&page=672

Master Plan Page 80: Road Diet Summary and Monroe as a Good Candidate: http://vahi.org/planning/master-plan/

To make a contribution to Ms. Hyneman’s family for funeral and medical expenses, please go here:

Jack White and Jess Windham are VHCA Board Members.

It’s Almost Ours

by Peggy Berg

$232,729 is an exciting number for the Civic Association. That’s how much we still owe on our loan for North Highland Park at the corner of North Highland and St. Charles, a lovely site that is home to our holiday tree lighting and the Warren Bruno Summerfest Celebration Ride.

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association bought this land to increase the neighborhood’s greenspace. The purchase was supported by an $855,000 loan from  the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA); additional funds and a generous grant from Park Pride covered the construction costs. Paul Burks, Sandy d’Aprile, and Peter Hughes handled a lot of the administrative efforts, and the park’s landscape architect, Peter Frawley, made a huge in-kind donation.  (Frawley’s considerable skills are also on display at John Howell Park, which he also designed.)

Many other citizens made significant contributions, but this park’s existence will always be associated with Pamela Papner, whose boundless energy and determination made it happen. We owe her – and the hundreds of neighbors and board members whose volunteer efforts at Summerfest and Tour of Homes each year have helped pay for it – a huge amount of appreciation. We also thank the anonymous special contributors who have given extra donations for the last several years.

We pay the loan down about $73,000 each year in scheduled mortgage payments and have made additional principal payments three times in the last four years. We are delighted to report that over $622,000 of the loan has been paid off. We hope to retire the loan in the next three years.
So $232,729 may seem like a big number, but we’ve come a long way and the end is in sight.

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member and co-chairs the Budget Committee.

Photo by Stephen Cohen

Family Music-Making Hits VaHi

By Jennifer Fargar

If you’ve recently noticed families singing or dancing while they walk down the street, it’s most likely because they’ve discovered VaHi’s newest ‘family find’: family music classes presented by Music Together Metro Atlanta!

Each week, families with children ages newborn to 4-years- old gather to sing, dance and play. And underneath all the fun, there’s some serious childhood development going on!  Interactive music-making creates greater bonds between a child and his or her parents, supports cognitive development and introduces these young minds to culture and language through world folk songs and a variety of real instruments.

Music Together is an internationally recognized music and movement curriculum supported by years of early childhood development research. Nine separate song collections allow families to attend classes for 3 consecutive years without repeating any of the material. Each collection includes catchy rhythm chants, instrument play-alongs and circle dances.

The smile behind all that music coming out of the Virginia-Highland location is Lauren Bock, a local musician & guitar teacher, who’s been leading Music Together classes for 5 years. “As a musician, I often find myself playing for folks as they sit and listen. But in class, it’s all about the interaction!  The families in the VaHi community are so wonderful! They really get how valuable this experience is for their children,” says Bock.

In each class, parents are introduced to ways in which they can incorporate music at home, all day long.  The songs and interactions learned in class become a soundtrack for each child’s life, whether it’s snack time or nap time. As part of the program, each family takes home the music and a song book to help keep them singin’ and snappin’ all week long!

Music Together classes are held inside Virginia-Highland Church Monday-Saturdays, mornings, afternoons & evenings. To find out more, or to sign up for a free demo class, visit www.MusicTogetherMetroAtlanta.com. New classes begin March 14th!

Jennifer Fargar is an Early Childhood Music Specialist with Music Together.

Bang the Drum for Tom Tom

by John Becker

Restaurants come and restaurants go.

But when VaHi’s wildly popular Noche shuttered last October you could almost hear the collective gasp from neighborhood residents and metro Atlanta foodies alike. Where were neighborhood beer lovers supposed to go now on Sunday for $2 Tecates?

Ready for some good news, VaHi?

Former Here to Serve owner and chef Tom Catherall brought life last week to that same friendly space when he opened Tom Tom Tapas & Tequilas. Catherall signed a 10-year lease for the space (1000 Virginia Ave., NE) in December and immediately announced his new endeavor, describing it as “classic Catherall with a Spanish-inspired menu that is both innovative and always fresh.”

Don’t walk into Tom Tom expecting it to look like Noche because the space has been completely redesigned.

Like the old Noche, the menu features tacos and share plates, but entree portions are now smaller and less expensive. The drink menu includes 10 cocktails priced between $10-12, 30-plus wines available by the glass or bottle, and a variety of craft beers available for $6-7.

No word yet on whether $2 Tecates will return on Sundays but when we find out, we’ll let you know.

For more background on this welcome addition to our neighborhood, here are three AJC articles:




John Becker co-chairs VHCA Summerfest and is a former VHCA Board Member.

Tom Tom logo courtesy the Tom Tom website.

Safety in Numbers

Safety in Numbers

by Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle

Have you ever seen your house through the eyes of a firefighter? Likely, the answer is no.

But try this: the next time you are in front of your house, consider how a firefighter might find what house number you are. When seconds count, it is an incredible safety advantage to have your house number clearly visible and lit.

To get the best of both worlds – safety and beauty – we have established a design and ordering process for signs uniquely made-to-order for VaHi residents. There are a few different options, the layered metal being one of the most popular to date. Right now we almost have enough orders to make a full batch of that design. Payment is needed in advance, and we will have the signs made as soon as the minimum order is reached.

Signs are available to order here.

Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle are VHCA Board Members.

Upcoming Zoning Code Diagnostic Discussion

by Jess Windham

Atlanta Planning Commissioner Tim Keane,
planner Aaron Fortner of Canvas Planning, and Caleb Racicot of Tunnell-Spangler-Walsh will host a discussion on the City of Atlanta zoning code diagnostic. The event is part of the Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable series and is hosted by Southface. Register for the event here.

Fortner has  served as this neighborhoods’ planning consultant for almost a decade. He is familiar to VaHi residents for his work in spearheading the revised NC districts along North Highland and the creation and adoption of our Master Plan. He also led a review of housing development in VaHi that has been subsumed into the city’s review of the whole zoning code. That topic – plus permitting processes and communications between the city departments – will be addressed at this event.

For more information and to provide input, visit www.zoningatl.com

Zoning Code Diagnostic Discussion
7:30AM, March 4, All Saints’ Episcopal Church

Jess Windham is a VHCA Board Member and serves on the VHCA Planning Committee.

Restore is Movin’ On Up

by Peggy Berg

Atlanta’s Habitat for Humanity has a new facility for ReStore. It’s at 271 Chester Ave SE, just six blocks east of where Boulevard crosses Memorial.

ReStore collects donations of furniture, appliances, home décor, cabinetry, sinks, flooring, construction materials, lighting and more. All proceeds support Habitat, which builds quality affordable green homes in partnership with working families.

ReStore will send a truck for free to pick up large materials.  All donations should be in new or gently used condition.

Whether you’re buying or selling, this approach is an effective form of recycling’ this agency estimates that it has kept over 8,500 tons of materials out of landfills.

The store is open to the public at 271 Chester Ave SE Monday through Saturday 10:30 am – 5:30 pm.
Volunteers are greatly appreciated.

You can reach ReStore for pick-up or with questions about materials or volunteering at 404.525.2114 or http://www.atlantahabitat.org/restore

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member.

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 http://vahi.org/summerfest/events/ 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 jnbecker@me.com 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. It is also of interest that Richard’s oldest sister Sara was the wife of Hardy Ivy (Ivy St., Hardy Ivy Park). Ivy is considered Atlanta’s first citizen – the boundaries of Atlanta had not extended out to the Virginia-Highland area yet. Ivy may have been convinced to move to the area by his wife who wanted to be near her brother, Richard. 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 www.livethrive.org/charm. 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 robin_ragland@bellsouth.net 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 http://www.horizontheatre.com/plays/madelines-christmas/  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.)


http://atlantadailyworld.com/2015/12/01/atlanta-city-council-invites-public-to-meeting-about-about-parkatlanta-meters/   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 BeltLine.org/races 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: http://vahi.org/?p=13982

Photo courtesy beltline.org 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 www.vahitourofhomes.org/volunteer 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 transportation@inmanmiddleschool.org 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: pack17scouting@gmail.com

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 atlantacouncil@atlantaga.gov
  2. via Twitter to @ATLCouncil and use the hashtag: #parkatlanta2016
  3. via Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/atlantacitycouncil
  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 atlantaga.gov 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 zone5questions@atlantaga.gov.

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 communications@vahi.org 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 vahi.org 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 studio@pink-barre.com.

Let’s pack the park and support greenspace preservation in VaHi!  For more information, please visit www.pink-barre.com or www.facebook.com/pinkbarrevahi.

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 (www.morningsidepc.org).  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 parks@vahi.org.

If you can’t do any of these and want to discuss these in person, write us at parks@vahi.org.  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 (lola@tailfin.com) if you have questions. Another resource in the area is Liz Kroll, Southern Animal Rescue volunteer/board member: eliz.kroll@gmail.com

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

This organization is very affordable and convenient for TNR: http://lifelineanimal.org

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.