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.

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.

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…

Resources
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.

New Monthly Snapshot of Crime Statistics in VaHi

by Peggy Berg

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

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

Here is the link.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Little Free Libraries in VaHi – Second in a Series

by Robin Ragland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Ragland is a longtime resident of this neighborhood.

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

by Lola Carlisle

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

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

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

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

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

Many citizens reach the board after serving on a committee, but this is not a specific requirement for running.  If you’d like to run for a seat on the board, please send an email to 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 17 annual meeting.

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

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

Lola Carlisle is a member of the VHCA Board.

What is Hillside? – Part 2

by Stephen Cohen

Conclusion of a 2-Part Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Services Hillside can provide to the community at large

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

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

For more information on the Buckhead clinic, click here.

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

Touring the campus

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

Notes:

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

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

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

Exploring Improvements to John Howell Park

By David Brandenberger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Landscape L1

Landscape L2

Landscape L3

Landscape T1

 

Pedestrian and Safety Improvements Coming to Inman

by Jack White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlanta Streets Alive

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

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

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

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

5K Legal Runaround Charity Run

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

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

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

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

(Rain or shine; no refunds)

Strollers and dogs on leashes are welcomed

For more information and an application:

http://www.rungeorgia.com/legalrun5k.htm…

Streets Alive Returns Sep 27 – Road Closure Alert

By Jess Windham

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

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

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

Jess Windham is on the VHCA Board and Planning Committee.

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

What is Hillside?

By Stephen Cohen

Part 1 of a 2-Part Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City Council Takes First Steps on Sidewalk Ordinance

by Jack White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VHCA Grant Applications for 2015 Now Open

Mosaic_Intow_Hardwareby Peggy Berg

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Robin Ragland

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

Perhaps even install one of your own!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Works! in Virginia Highland

by Jack White

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

In their own words:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pedestrian “Hybrid” Beacons — How They Work

by Stephen Cohen

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, click here.

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

by Stephen Cohen

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

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

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

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

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

19 Restaurants Confirmed for Ponce City Market this Fall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alex Wan’s Moving Tribute to Rick Porter

by Jack White

Council Member Alex Wan remembers Rick Porder

Council Member Alex Wan remembers Rick Porter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Debt of Gratitude to Rick Porter

Our Debt of Gratitude to Rick Porter

By Jack White, VHCA President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Great Summerfest 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update on The Mix

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Passing of Rick Porter

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

It’s Time to Summerfest!

SummerfestWho’s ready for some Summerfest?

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

Friday

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

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

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

Saturday

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

VHCA Summerfest Store

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

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

Free Bike Valet at Summerfest

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

For more information on Summerfest, click here.

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

Spice Up Your Summer at Red Pepper Taquería 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia-Highland’s Dynamic and Developing Transportation Infrastructure

By Jess Windham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Planning discussions at a citywide level continue on the topics of Move Atlanta, Transit-Oriented Development, the Cycle 1.0 Atlanta Study, and a citywide freight study. Each topic is being revisited in recently proposed updated appendices to the city’s comprehensive plan, aka the Connect Atlanta Plan. You can join the discussion at the upcoming open houses listed below and more details found at http://www.atlantaga.gov/index.aspx?page=1228

June 15, City Hall

June 18, Agape Community Center

June 23, Atlanta Plaza Suite 850

June 29, James Orange Recreation Center

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, visit www.critter-camp.org, email ribbit@critter-camp.org or call 678 783 FROG (3764).

Final Commemorative Bricks at North Highland Park Go on Sale

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

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

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

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

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

Bon Voyage (Sort Of), John Becker!

By Jack White (on behalf of the VHCA BoD)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SPARK Garden Center Bees: A Great Learning Opportunity

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

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

By Lola Carlisle

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

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

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

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

Just another everyday adventure in Virginia-Highland.

Inman Middle School Expansion Meeting Set for May 5

DSC_0004What: Inman Middle School Expansion Meeting

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

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

April 16, 2015

Dear Inman Middle School Family,

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Betsy Bockman, Ph.D., Principal

Some Thoughts from My Own Business Experiences with Security Cameras

By: Peggy Berg, VHCA Safety Committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Orme Park Turtle Release a Success!

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

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

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

Help!!

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

By Lola Carlisle

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

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

VHCA Committees in Need of Additional Volunteers

Safety Committee 

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

Communications Committee

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

Fundraising Committee (Summerfest / Tour of Homes)

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

Virginia-Highland Preservation & History Committee

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

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

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

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

APD Officials Listen and Respond to Resident Safety Concerns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for information on participating in the CourtWatch program.

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

Ten Thousand Villages

stroefrontVirginia-Highland’s Fair Trade Retailer for 20 Years

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

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

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

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

Ten Thousand Villages

1056 St. Charles Avenue

404-892-5307

atlanta.tenthousandvillages.com

Support Fire Station #19 at 5th Annual Morningside Mile

mmlogo300pixelsmmraceThe Morningside Mile is a 1-mile race and block party hosted by Doc Chey’s. 100% of race profits will be donated to the fund to renovate Fire Station #19 to help keep it in service. This year’s event – the fifth annual – is scheduled for Sunday, March 29th, 12noon-2pm.

Registered runners get a technical race shirt, free SweetWater beer and other swag. Cash prizes will be awarded for fastest runners. This is a very family-friendly race so all ages, runner levels and walkers are encouraged to participate.

The post-race block party includes music, food and family fun with the FS19 firefighters on hand to join in the fun.

Register ($25) to run at www.morningsidemile.com or in-store at Doc Chey’s, Highland Runners, Phidippides Ansley, or Podium Multisport.  Advance race registration is required.

Visit www.morningsidemile.com or https://www.facebook.com/morningsidemile for more information.

Lighting and Plumbing Improvements Continue at John Howell Park

20150307_122713The progress that the City of Atlanta Parks Department has made at restoring the lighting in John Howell Park is increasingly visible (pun intended). The park’s interior lights have been substantively rewired and many globes have been replaced, so the odd amalgam of three different bulb styles is now almost uniform. Remaining on the to-do list are several park lamps along Virginia Avenue, where street lights offer some help in the meantime.

Each fixture has displayed any (and sometimes several) different challenges, but Parks Department electricians – like those pictured here – have worked through them systematically.

20150212_153120Fans of the perpetually leaky faucet along Virginia Avenue (there are some, and your Parks Committee is grateful for your vigilance; it takes a village of eyes…) will notice that the supply pipes and faucet there have been dug up and replaced, and new concrete footing has been poured.

We appreciate all the department’s work to keep our park safe and available for our use.

“Hotter Than Wasabi™” in Virginia-Highland

By Denise Romeo

Tiger Shrimp

Tiger Shrimp

That’s the motto of Genki, Virginia-Highland’s favorite sushi restaurant that offers fresh, creatively presented sushi rolls and generous noodle bowls. Since opening in Atlanta in 1996, Genki has not only expanded from its original Buckhead location to two other restaurants, but has also become the sushi purveyor for the Georgia Dome, Philips Arena and the World Congress Center. Genki recently added a food truck to their inventory as well with the idea that they would like to reach every neighborhood in Atlanta.

I ♥ Sushi Roll

I ♥ Sushi Roll

For its location in Virginia-Highland – which owner Reid Zeising feels is “the best true neighborhood in Atlanta” – Zeising strived to create a warm, welcoming environment for residents by combining 100-year-old reclaimed wood with high ceilings, and hanging original artwork influenced by his childhood in Tokyo on the brick walls that came with the historic space. In the true spirit of the menu, the TV’s are frequently tuned to NatGeo’s “Wicked Tuna.” The restaurant lives up to its name, which means “energetic, and full of life” in Japanese, with an enthusiastic wait staff and lively clientele.

Virginia-Highland Roll

Virginia-Highland Roll

Virginia-Highland also serves as Genki’s home office and is the name of one of the most popular sushi rolls on their menu. The Virginia Highland Roll is made with spicy tuna and mango topped with escolar, avocado, fresh jalapeño and Masago. The plate is beautifully garnished with fresh oranges and spiraled beets. You can literally taste the freshness of the ingredients in each bite-sized creation. All dishes are hand made at each location and because each piece is sliced a bit thinner than the typical ½-inch roll, each morsel is perfectly bite-sized so that you taste all of the complementary components in one mouthful. The I ♥ Sushi Roll with shrimp tempura and cream cheese, topped with tuna, avocado, sweet and spicy chili sauce, and wasabi cream is equally spectacular with its unsurpassed flavor and texture combinations.

Yakisoba

Yakisoba

In addition to amazing sushi, Genki also serves an array of appetizers including Tiger shrimp sautéed in spicy garlic chili sauce, served over house made guacamole with wonton chips – a fun play on guacamole and chips with a spicy shrimp accompaniment. And, what Japanese-style restaurant would be complete without a selection of noodle bowls? Yakisoba is the most popular street food in Japan and Genki’s version is proof of its status with stir-fried ramen noodles topped with super thinly sliced grilled beef and shredded cabbage, sprinkled with nori and served with red ginger and a side of Japanese mayonnaise.

Tiger Shrimp

Tiger Shrimp

Genki is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week with daily specials like “Tokyo Tuesdays” with deals on sushi, sake and beer, or Sundays when children eat free with the purchase of a parent’s entrée. Their Monday night “Genki Gives” program allows charitable organizations to earn 10% of each dedicated check. Genki also has a wide range of catering options for corporate functions and weddings.

Genki Noodles and Sushi

1040 N. Highland Ave. NE (Virginia-Highland Location)

404.853.3315

www.genkiatl.com

Local food blogger Denise Romeo has lived in the Virginia-Highland area for 25 years. She and her husband, Dom, enjoy spending time together cooking and entertaining. You can read more from Denise on her award winning blog at We Like To Cook!

Traffic Alert: Intown 10K Passing Through VaHi on March 1

2015intowntenredmanlogo1-300x300The Intown Ten 10K Road Race will take place one week from today, Sunday, March 1, 2015 starting at at 9:00 AM. There will be no street closings, only “rolling closures” as the racers pass through intersections. Click here for more information on the Intown 10K Road Race.

Here’s a turn-by-turn of the race route:

  1. Start – 900 block of Virginia Circle near Todd Avenue—westbound
  2. Go west on Virginia Circle
  3. CROSS Barnett Street
  4. Turn RIGHT on Arcadia
  5. Turn RIGHT on Virginia Avenue
  6. Turn RIGHT on Barnett Street
  7. Turn RIGHT on Greenwood Avenue
  8. Turn RIGHT on Ponce de Leon Place
  9. Turn LEFT on Virginia Avenue
  10. Turn RIGHT on Kanuga ( 1st Water Stop on the Right)
  11. Turn RIGHT on Monroe Drive
  12. Turn RIGHT on Sherwood Road
  13. Turn RIGHT on N. Morningside Drive
  14. Turn RIGHT on North Highland
  15. Turn RIGHT on Courtenay (2nd Water stop on the right)
  16. Courtenay changes to Amsterdam Avenue
  17. Turn RIGHT on Brookridge Drive
  18. Bear RIGHT across the Orme Park bridge
  19. Turn LEFT at Brookridge/ Orme Circle (signs are confusing)
  20. Turn or bear RIGHT on Elkmont Drive
  21. Turn LEFT on Park Drive
  22. CROSS Virginia Avenue
  23. Turn LEFT on St. Charles Avenue
  24. Turn LEFT on Barnett Street
  25. Finish on Barnett Street between Adair and Virginia Circle on the right side of Barnett

Walk to Your Doc: New Practice Opens in VaHi

Va Hi primary care ad The Voice rev FINAL 022415Those who live or work in Virginia-Highland now have another convenient option for health care.

Atlanta Medical Center Primary Care Physicians at Virginia Highland has opened in Amsterdam Walk, in the former Supplement Warehouse location. Same-day appointments are available.

Dr. Lekeshia Jarrett, a board-certified family medicine physician, is accepting new patients. She enjoys caring for the whole patient and the whole family, realizing that both physical and mental health are important in achieving an optimal quality of life. Dr. Jarrett cares for patients as young as newborns all the way to 100 years of age. Dr. Jarrett encourages a healthy lifestyle as the first step for any health plan.

Jarrett_Lekeshia_MD_labcoat_4x6A native of Mississippi, Dr. Jarrett earned her medical degree from University of Mississippi School of Medicine. She completed a residency in Family Practice and Community Medicine at the University of South Alabama. A wife and mother, she lives in nearby Grant Park.

Dr. Jarrett is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Medical Association, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and National Medical Association.

Services include:

  • Preventive screenings and complete physical exams
  • Sports participation physical exams
  • Well-child checks and well-woman exams
  • Chronic disease management
  • Prenatal care
  • Acute illness management
  • In-office procedures

The practice offers free parking and is designed to be convenient for people who live or work in Virginia-Highland.

Atlanta Medical Center Primary Care Physicians at Virginia Highland is located at 560-D Amsterdam Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30306. Hours: Monday – Thursday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. – noon. The office is closed for lunch from 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. Most insurance is accepted, including Medicaid and Medicare. To make an appointment, call (404) 479-5708.

APS Officials Hold Community Meeting to Discuss Inman Expansion

DSC_0004Officials from Atlanta Public Schools – including Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and board member Matt Westmoreland – met with residents on February 19 to discuss options for addressing overcrowding at Inman Middle School. If you were unable to attend, here’s a link to a video of the meeting.

APS Puts Hold on Inman Expansion Project

DSC_0004By Jack White, VHCA Board President

Yesterday, Matt Westmoreland responded to ongoing queries about the status of the Inman expansion with a note saying the Board had decided to defer confirming the pending construction contract. In a letter released last night, APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen confirmed this action, based on APS’ new estimates that project a 2015-16 school year enrollment greater than Inman could accommodate even if expanded (a process projected to take about two years).

Carstarphen’s letter grimly proposes even more portables at Inman while the school board looks at the challenge the cluster faces. The exact status of the expansion plans is unclear; it is possible that some improvements – a revamped gym and lobby, new science labs, and school bus lanes – could be made even without the classroom additions.

VHCA is investing considerable effort in following this process and will have further comments in the near future. It’s time to calmly put all the challenges and options on the table and openly consider them in a thoughtful atmosphere of respect and cordiality. VHCA is committed to meeting that standard ourselves; we expect that everyone else involved in the process will be, as well.

Meanwhile, the Superintendent, Matt Westmoreland, and other APS personnel will review the expansion dilemma at a public meeting in the Inman Auditorium at 6:30 on Thursday, February 19th. Interested residents are encouraged to attend.

Support Fire Station #19 at Yeah! Burger on February 17

No. 19 StationOn Tuesday February 17 from 6PM – 10PM, Yeah! Burger at 1017 N. Highland Ave. will donate 10% of sales to the Virginia-Highland Conservation League (VHCL) in support of efforts to restore the neighborhood’s historic Fire Station #19. Please consider supporting this worthwhile cause by patronizing Yeah! Burger during the dine-out.

Click here to read more about VHCA/VHCL efforts to protect this neighborhood treasure from an uncertain future.

Feel Good Tuesday Flyer

North Highland Park Update

Over Half of Debt Retired

By Pamela Papner, Virginia-Highland Conservation League

DSC06195

Anyone new to the neighborhood might not know that in December of 2008, the Virginia-Highland Civic Association, Inc. (VHCA) closed on the purchase of two lots at 1076 and 1082 St. Charles Place, at the corner of St. Charles Place and North Highland Avenue. Formerly the site of a public library, these lots had remained vacant and often overgrown for more than ten years. Financing for the acquisition came through the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP). VHCA was the first non-profit in the state to be approved for funding under this program.

The association raised almost $160,000 (including a $50,000 grant from Park Pride), and the two lots were developed as an environmentally-friendly, passive park for the community’s residents and visitors. The park opened on March 16, 2013.

In contrast to city-owned and maintained parks, North Highland Park is privately-owned by our neighborhood through VHCA. The park is not only a respite from asphalt and noise; it is also a bio-retention project for stormwater management. A rainwater garden and a large selection of native foliage capture and hold rainfall on site instead of sending it to the city’s stormwater system. Soil and plants naturally remove pollutants from stormwater. This park is also a major element in the future of the Atkins Park commercial area, the rejuvenation of which was one of the many focus points of the Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

DSC06182

VHCA pays the debt on the park through proceeds raised by our major fundraising efforts – Summerfest and the Tour of Homes – and additional  events sponsored by the Association’s fundraising arm, the Virginia-Highland Conservation League, Inc. (VHCL). Our goal is to pay off the mortgage as soon as possible to ensure the park remains ours forever. To that end, VHCA has made several additional payments over the past two years to further reduce the principal balance on the loan.

We are excited to report that one neighbor who is passionate about the park recently gave us an extremely generous donation of $27,000! We are very excited about this gift and will be adding funds to pay down the mortgage by an additional $35,000. We thank this generous benefactor – who wishes to remain anonymous – so much!

By April 1, 2015 the remaining balance on the loan will be ~$432,000, which means we will have retired over half of the initial debt in just over 6 years of the 15-year GLCP loan term. While we are very happy about that, we still have more money to rise, and we have not lost sight of the end goal of retiring the debt completely. Plans are already underway for this year’s Summerfest, which has been a solid money-maker for our community. If any residents wish to spearhead fundraising ideas, please contact me at ppapner@earthlink.net.

DSC06114Buy a Brick to Support North Highland Park

Residents who have followed this project know that a significant amount of revenue for the park’s construction came from the sale of engraved bricks that are installed along the sidewalk that runs along St. Charles Place. Brick sales brought in more than $38,000 – one brick/one $100 donation at a time. After park construction was completed, we realized we still had space for more bricks. The excitement surrounding the opening of the new park enabled us to sell 24 more bricks; however, we need to sell another 37 before it’s economically feasible for us to engrave and install the final group of bricks.

We are asking the community to help us sell those final 37 bricks! Please consider ordering one so that we can complete this final wave.  If you order a brick, you can have it engraved with up to 3 lines (14 characters, including spaces). Please consider doing so! You can purchase a brick online – or simply contribute to the park – at http://vahi.org/parks/contribute.  If you order a brick as a gift, you will receive a certificate suitable for gift-giving.

Thank you and we hope to see you in North Highland Park soon!

Improvements On the Horizon for City of Atlanta

IMG_6344By Jess Windham, Virginia-Highland Civic Association Board

Those passionate about transportation improvements in the city of Atlanta have experienced a roller coaster of emotions over the past few years. As a review of the list of projects included in the city’s upcoming proposed infrastructure bond reveals, we all now have something to look forward to.

The city of Atlanta is currently conducting a third and final round of public meetings for the upcoming Renew Atlanta 2015 Infrastructure Bond. Representing the city at a January 13 meeting were Public Works Program Management Officer Rodney Givens; Billy Warren, Director of Facilities Management in the Office of Enterprise Assets Management and ADA Coordinator; Chief Real Estate Officer for the Mayor Jalal Slade; Commissioner of Public Works Richard Mendoza; Katrina Taylor Parks, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Mayor’s Office; and Charletta Wilson Jacks, Director of the Office of Planning. All will play an important role in the implementation of projects included in the bond.

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01The bond has two parts: transportation projects and municipal facilities. Each part will be voted on separately;  $186,456,718 is being considered for transportation improvements and $63,543,282 for municipal facilities.  A handful of projects would occur within Virginia-Highland. You’ll recall our neighborhood’s boundaries: the BeltLine to the west, Amsterdam to the north, Briarcliff to the east and Ponce de Leon to the south. Inside this area, six projects are on the proposed list:

  • Inman Middle – School flashers for middle school at 774 Virginia Avenue
  • Monroe Drive – Complete Street improvements inclusive of milling, resurfacing and pedestrian improvements from Piedmont Circle to Ponce de Leon Avenue
  • Monroe Drive at Park: Replacement of traffic signal LED’s, cabinet, controller monitor, signal wiring, communications, & timing at the intersection.
  • Monroe Drive at Amsterdam: Replacement of traffic signal LED’s, cabinet, controller monitor, signal wiring, communications, & timing at the intersection.
  • Barnett Street – Resurfacing from Virginia Avenue to Ponce de Leon Avenue 
  • Barnett Street at Saint Charles Ave: Replacement of traffic signal LED’s, cabinet, controller monitor, signal wiring, communications, & timing at the intersection.

These projects represent only the tip of the iceberg of what would be improved with bond funding. Other inspiring projects include a number of streets to be converted to “Complete Streets” (more on that below), a citywide traffic signal upgrade, numerous road resurfacings, and school flashers for SPARK, Morningside Elementary and many other schools. A full list of proposed projects can be found on the city’s website. The site features a useful interactive map where you can make comments.

DSC_0037“Complete Street” projects would significantly improve existing transportation corridors. The term refers to a set of policy and design principles adopted nationwide in communities looking to improve the variety and safety of their transportation options. In the words of Smart Growth America, Complete Streets “are designed and operated to enable safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities.” (See link below.) This can include bike lanes, sidewalks, rapid transit lanes, or any number of comprehensive transportation infrastructure improvements. With this range of improvement recommendations, each specific Complete Street project must be customized for the unique street where the policy is applied. In our case, we’re talking Monroe Drive.

Virginia-Highland’s Master Plan reiterated the need and consensus for improvements on Monroe Drive. With a fatal accident happening yet again last weekend, the call for improvements on Monroe has never been louder. The Master Plan recommendations, however, are much more specific than what is called for in the infrastructure bond. Those recommendations include support for the road diet recommended by Connect Atlanta and, additionally, a traffic circle at Park Drive. However, that may not at all be what the city ultimately implements. Before any improvements are made, a traffic study and further design will ultimately shape and determine the appropriate improvements to be made. At the end of the day, VHCA fully supports any improvement for safety on Monroe. It simply cannot happen soon enough.

trafficsbadmkeaWithin resurfacing projects, there is an opportunity for increasing Atlanta’s bike infrastructure as well. If a bike lane, cycle track, or sharrow path has been called for in a previously adopted plan, whether it be the Comprehensive Development Plan (CDP) itself or additions like the Connect Atlanta Plan or VaHi’s Master Plan, then bike infrastructure will be engineered into the project. This is a key element in making Atlanta a more healthy, sustainable and desirable place to live, especially as we compete globally with other cities for jobs and housing growth. Not to mention, having separate infrastructure for cyclists makes travel safer and smoother for everyone. VHCA will follow the resurfacing project proposed for Barnett Street and publicize any developments as they come available. The Master Plan made a handful of recommendations for improvements on Barnett Street and we would like to coordinate with the city and neighbors to see those improvements implemented.

If the infrastructure bond is approved by voters in the upcoming election, the city expects to begin work on projects as soon as funding is available on or shortly after July 1, 2015. Similar to the Quality of Life bond projects undertaken more than a decade ago, working through the full list of projects included in this bond referendum is likely to take about five years.

What can you do to support improvements in Virginia-Highland and throughout the city? Vote for the bond on March 17th.  If you aren’t registered to vote, you can do so on this website.

In the meantime, you can always submit regular maintenance and repair requests to the city’s new 311 system. Call 311 anytime or visit http://www.atl311.com/. For sidewalks, don’t forget that at this time citizens are ultimately responsible for sidewalk repairs to their adjacent property. This applies to both residential and commercial property owners. If the damage has been caused by a tree root in the city’s right of way, then the City is responsible and you should reach out to them for repairs. The topic of sidewalks in Atlanta is an entirely different can of worms and anyone interested in what the city is doing to improve sidewalks should closely follow the legislation proposed by city council representative Mary Norwood and eight of her peers. VHCA is also very interested in this topic and would be happy to discuss it with anyone interested.

For more information on Complete Streets, visit Smart Growth America’s website.

Click here to view the complete Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

Tentative Agenda for VHCA’s February Board and General Meeting

Virginia-Highland Civic Association Board of Directors Monthly Meeting

Monday, February 9, 2015; 7:00 PM; Ponce de Leon Library

Proposed Agenda

Call to Order

Adoption of Agenda

Police & Fire Dept. representatives

City of Atlanta officials; other public officials & municipal representatives

Planning Committee

A.     Variances and License applications – Lola Carlisle

  • V-14-305; 1158 Lanier Blvd. NE
  • Liquor license app. (change of ownership): Frances L.S. Catherall on behalf of Sushiking; dba Noche Highlands, 1000 Virginia Ave. NE

B.     VHCA Inman Tree Appeal – Jack White
C.     Reported development along Monroe Dr. – Jenifer Keenan
D.     Large Event study at Piedmont Park – Jack White
E.      Master Plan implementation – Jess Windham
F.      Zoning Overlay study – Lola Carlisle & Jess Windham

Budget Committee

  • Proposed 2015 Budget – Peggy Berg & Jess Windham

Parks Committee – David Brandenburger

  • Triangle
  • JHP

Calendar update

NPU-F at Hillside; mon., 2-16-15; 7:00 PM

 

  • APS Supt. at IMS auditorium; Thurs., 2-19-15; 6:30 PM
  • Tree planting with Trees Atlanta; North Highland Park; Sat., 2-21-15; 9:00 AM
  • VHCA Planning Comm.; Church of Our Saviour; Wed., 3-4-15; 7:00 PM

New Business

 

Adjournment

February City Council District 6 Newsletter

wan_190Click here to read the latest from City Councilmember Alex Wan’s office, including updates on:

  • 2015 Infrastructure Bond Hearings Continue
  • Park Pride Awards Grant in District 6
  • Google Fiber Coming to Atlanta
  • Municipal Court Amnesty ProgramMorningside Mile – and Yeah! Burger Dine-Out – to Benefit Fire Station #19
  • Spotlight on City of Atlant Government: APD

Please note the following from Wan on the status of Fire Station #19:

Clarification About Fire Station No. 19 Replacement Plans

Fire Station No. 19 is one of three fire stations slated for replacement in 2016. This list is generated as solely a proposal to lifecycle all stations based on such variables as age, building code, etc. However, the capital necessary for a new facility has not been budgeted, nor are there yet any viable sources, thus dramatically lessening the likelihood that this will actually happen. As a result, preliminary meetings between Atlanta Fire & Rescue and concerned residents have taken place, and plans are underway to renovate the fire station.

 

Fire Station #19 – Onward and Upward

No. 19 Fire Station c. 1920sBy Lola Carlisle

Since its opening in 1925, Fire Station 19 (FS19) has been a beloved institution in Virginia-Highland. The firefighters and the building have a unique place in this community. A lot of children in this neighborhood have climbed on its engines, and a good many of us have been treated by the EMT team housed there.

To no one’s surprise and everyone’s delight, FS19 – and its sister station FS27 in Piedmont Heights – have received a lot of attention and support from Councilmember Alex Wan since he took office in 2010.

No. 19 StationWhen the Councilmember and local resident Catherine Lewis discovered last fall that the station had been placed on the city’s 2016 replacement list, it caught everyone’s attention.  The first response was to organize a meeting to review the reasoning behind the announcement, the current status of fundraising, and the specific proposals and options for making needed changes to the building. The goal of that meeting was to develop a strategic plan to update and protect FS19.

Catherine assembled a diverse committee, and the meeting drew a lot of organizational support. The group agreed to schedule meetings with (then) Fire Chief Cochran, develop a comprehensive fundraising strategy, review the needed repairs, place funds raised by the community into a new 501(c)(3) conduit (the Virginia-Highland Conservation League, which has a very low administrative fee for donations), and add Catherine to that group’s board.

Ian Allum with DogCatherine has been involved in researching the subject from a lot of different angles; it is a task to which she is particularly well-suited.  Her resume includes being an Assistant Vice President for Museums, Archives & Rare Books at Kennesaw State University, Special Projects Coordinator for the Atlanta History Center, and President of Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries. It’s everyone’s good luck that she also lives in VaHi and is a member of the VHCA Preservation Committee.

The meetings that followed with Councilmember Wan and (then) Chief Cochran were promising. Cochran indicated that the station’s replacement status was both a result of the station’s age and a perception that it needed to be expanded. The AFD confirmed that funds had not yet been designated to tear it down or replace it, but it would remain on the 2016 replacement list.  The AFD and City of Atlanta were open to listening to other alternatives and partnering with the Virginia-Highland Civic Association to consider preserving the station in its current location.

From his post as Chair of the Finance-Executive Committee, Councilmember Wan is well-positioned to keep abreast of the city’s budgeting particulars – such as funding for new fire stations – and safety planning in general. There seem to be a large number of capital needs more critical than FS19 (which is structurally sound), but there was still concern about FS19’s future.

No. 19 with DogThe firefighters themselves also pay close attention to internal developments within the Public Safety Department, and protecting the historic station became part of last year’s Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

These are not guarantees of the station’s permanence; they’re an opportunity to use the intervening time to good advantage, and that is our approach. Cochran’s unanticipated departure as chief will necessitate a new review with his eventual successor, whenever (s)he is named. Other communities have worked with the AFD and City to raise funds and help preserve older stations, effectively removing them from “replacement.”  We can do the same.

When Councilmember Wan asked VHCL to become the effort’s financial agent last year, we readily agreed. Establishing a long-range financial plan is a necessity, along with finalizing the review and costing of specific repair plans and increasing fundraising.  In the latter category are the Breakfast with Santa at Osteria 832 (organized by Rich Chey), the Santathon fundraiser (a joint effort of VHCA and Tailfin Marketing) at the station, and other upcoming events throughout the community.

As the fundraising plan develops with the new fire chief, we hope you will support it. FS19 is a landmark in Virginia-Highland, and our goal is to keep it functioning as a fire station for as long as it’s viable. To our knowledge, the Public Safety Department believes it has a lot of life left in it. Let’s make the station safe and sound for our current firefighters and for future generations.

If you’d like to help, please contact us at preservation@vahi.org.; we’d be glad to hear from you. You can also learn more and make a tax-deductible donation here.

APS Excludes Trees Around Inman Softball Field from Removal Plan

IMG_0270New plan with reduced tree loss may be offered

By Jack White

As promised last week, APS has filed a revised plan for tree removal at Inman that excludes all the healthy trees on and around the softball field along Greencove Avenue.  They have also removed a 41” oak along Virginia Ave., the removal of which was to accommodate stormwater that this plan no longer creates.  Click here to see the revised plan.

APS’ original plan proposed removing nineteen trees that totaled 435”; the revised one proposes removing eleven trees totaling 192”. The revised plan both generates less stormwater (sparing the tree already mentioned) and makes creating a new replacement tree plan a great deal more practical.

In their note last week that addressed our concerns about removal of these trees, APS mentioned the possibility of further design efforts being undertaken with the specific goals of minimal tree loss and stormwater management. Those are worthy goals, and we will promptly share any information we receive about any new plans.

The revised plan received today still anticipates the removal of the trees around the Clemont driveway (proximal to the proposed expansion) and along Park Dr. (to accommodate new lanes for two special education busses). Those trees are included in separate appeals filed by neighbors who are understandably unhappy to see any trees go and who question whether or not the planned expansion will provide sufficient future capacity at Inman.

Our school board representative, Matt Westmoreland, has assured us throughout the process (most recently two weeks ago) that the trailers will be removed from Inman upon the completion of the addition. At a meeting with neighbors this weekend, he promised that he would review the computations of the APS demographers with this exact outcome in mind.  When we receive his report we will pass it along to residents.

Trees Atlanta Announces Expansion of Environmental Education Programs

treesatlantalogoNew opportunities for grade schoolers and tree enthusiasts

Trees Atlanta is expanding its youth and adult education programming designed to provide opportunities for everyone to learn proper techniques for planting and caring for trees while also becoming better stewards for the urban forest. Each program stands alone, but all serve a common goal: giving members of our community the knowledge and tools necessary to successfully restore and maintain the precious natural resources that are essential to our quality of life.

Junior TreeKeepers

Trees Atlanta is, of course, eager to share the love of trees with the next generation, and is excited to expand the 2015 Junior TreeKeepers Summer Camp at the new Trees Atlanta TreeHouse!

The Junior TreeKeepers summer camp provides five (5) days each session of interactive and hands-on activities in environmental science, as well as field trips to local attractions such as Fernbank Forest, a 200-year-old forest, the Atlanta BeltLine and Atlanta Botanical Garden!

Each week-long session costs $250, and scholarships are available. Enrollment is open and middle and elementary school students are encouraged to apply now at www.treesatlanta.org.

TreeSpeakers

Trees Atlanta needs help sharing its story and is seeking the first group of energetic public speakers to complete training to lead presentations in the community about Trees Atlanta.

Volunteers are needed to present already prepared presentations approximately 30-45 minutes in length and answer questions from the audience. Preliminary interviews will take place prior to the start of training. Training will be held over two 3-hour sessions. It will include classroom instruction, review of presentation, practice, and presentation critiques. Visit www.treesatlanta.org for training information.

Do you have an upcoming meeting or event where you’d like to host a presenter to learn more about Trees Atlanta? Contact kateb@treesatlanta.org to process your request.

Youth Tree Stewards

Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees), CSX, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America are partnering with Trees Atlanta to prepare the next generation of environmental stewards. Trees Atlanta is working with teens from George Washington Carver Boys & Girls Club on programming relating to Atlanta’s urban forest that focuses on three key themes: stewardship, leadership, and advocacy.

Youth Tree Steward environmental activities include removing invasive species from the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum and cleaning up litter around Fred Armon Toomer Elementary. At the end of seven sessions, the students will be empowered to lead local advocacy efforts that build support and awareness of the benefits trees provide to their communities.

Trees Near Softball Field at Inman Middle School to Remain as APS Reviews Plan Design

IMG_0270

By Jack White

Appeals of APS postings for tree removals at Inman Middle School were filed this week by both the Virginia-Highland Civic Association and individual citizens.  Two appeals filed on Tuesday by VaHi residents included all listed trees on site (including those around the construction areas), while VHCA’s (filed Wednesday morning) addressed the large trees in the field by Greencove Ave. and a large oak along Virginia Avenue, the removal of which seemed to result from a new stormwater line there.The loss of any tree – particularly one that is otherwise healthy – is difficult on many fronts. Construction activities imperil trees in many ways: reducing (often already compromised) root zones is an obvious one, and damage from nearby construction equipment is another. Trees that are already living in perilous conditions face extreme challenges when the environment around them changes dramatically. While trees lost will be replaced, losing mature trees is a major loss; saving large healthy trees produces many ecological benefits (and also makes the applicant’s tree replacement burden a great deal more manageable.)

The loss of any tree – particularly one that is otherwise healthy – is difficult on many fronts. Construction activities imperil trees in many ways: reducing (often already compromised) root zones is an obvious one, and damage from nearby construction equipment is another. Trees that are already living in perilous conditions face extreme challenges when the environment around them changes dramatically. While trees lost will be replaced, losing mature trees is a major loss; saving large healthy trees produces many ecological benefits (and also makes the applicant’s tree replacement burden a great deal more manageable.)

In addition to the judgment provided by the city Parks Department arborist on this project, we sought evaluations (both informal and formal) from other professionals, none of whom thought that any tree around the active classroom construction areas could be legally or practically saved. However difficult such opinions were to hear, the result was we found no known logical basis or legal support for an appeal to save these trees.

The trees adjacent to the softball field were another matter. While the additions to the school building along Clemont and the new bus lane along Park had been shared and examined many months ago, no review of any field re-design had been offered for discussion or reviewed in any specific way by the Inman Expansion Committee or any other citizen group.

Our dismay with this plan was especially acute because redesigning to accommodate the field’s large trees had always been an obvious and specific goal, along with providing upgraded facilities for Inman’s softball team (at least for practice and perhaps for games, if APS would accept a reduced field size.) VHCA had offered to provide funds for landscape architecture that would incorporate common design elements found both at John Howell Park across the street and at the Georgia Power facility on Ponce Place, and for hiring the very same firms to lead the process. The design phase of this part of the project – to enhance the field for Inman students and create a more visually appealing space for the community at the same time – had been estimated by APS as more than a year away.  We anticipated and looked forward to a public approach that included citizen input into the process.

The recent abrupt tree posting led to multiple discussions with APS, City Parks arborist Chris Kallio, the Tree Conservation Commission, and several private consultants, all in search of a full understanding of what was driving this design and proposed tree removal and an understanding of viable options. (VHCA Planning Committee member Chip Bullock was especially insightful in this regard). The day before the appeal deadline – and after at least one appeal had already been filed by a local resident – we met with Facility Director Alvah Hardy and Expansion Committee Co-Chairs Tamara Jones and Gail Price and asked again that the field trees proposed for removal be stricken from the plan, pending a full review of the goals and options, and that the Expansion Committee be reconvened to review the plans.

Hardy agreed to review the design imperatives and the points we raised – specifics of the field placement, design objectives and options, the size of the space, methods for reducing and controlling stormwater, the alternatives we offered, and to engage an arborist with the specific goal of saving as many trees as possible. Some trees on the APS site will come down regardless of this process due to their ‘Dead Dying or Hazardous’ (DDH) status. He advised, however, that he could not complete any such review or react before the approaching appeal deadline; we proceeded with our appeal on the field trees, which we filed on Wednesday morning. (Click here to read the appeal document we filed; click here and here to view supporting documents.)

Late Wednesday afternoon, Alvah reported that he had begun the processes we had all discussed and that the trees on the field would be taken off the list of trees to be removed pending an examination of these issues, which he hoped would not take more than a couple of weeks. In that regard, he specifically referred to a ‘temporary’ delay, awaiting the creation of a brand new design plan, which he was optimistic would result in reduced tree loss. He also noted that reducing tree loss would provide other design and project benefits.

He anticipates filing an interim revised plan that excludes removal of the field trees by the middle of next week, ideally followed by a new version of a plan for the field by the end of the following week (which is, for reference’s sake, the end of the month). We appreciate this action and have thanked him for it. This provides an opportunity to reflect on the design goals and objectives in a larger and more thoughtful context.

We understand the formal legal process as follows: the appeals that have been filed are scheduled for the Tree Conservation Committee hearing of February 18th  (6:30 PM, City Hall Committee Room 2, or an adjacent space if needed).  No tree work will occur on site pending the resolution of those appeals. APS is looking at alternatives for the field design. Unless there is a brand new decision by the school board to approach the capacity issue differently (and none are contemplated, to our knowledge), the scheduled construction will continue on its existing track this summer.

With the pending appeals in place, many citizens remain very disappointed at the prospect of any tree loss, particularly for an expansion that some believe will not sufficiently address Inman’s capacity challenges and may not result in the pledged and promised removal of the trailers when the expansion is complete. While such issues are not a formal part of the plan to remove trees, they do raise anxiety levels in several contexts.  One of them is APS’ promise that the trailers will leave the site at project completion, a topic that we have discussed several times with District 3 School Board Representative Matt Westmoreland.  He has always plainly and publicly stated – at Inman this past fall and most recently in the last two weeks – that the trailers will depart upon the completion of the new addition.

An improved field re-design does not ensure that any of us will be completely satisfied or pleased with the eventual outcome. What it should do is provide clear design goals and a chance for review and comment along the way. Such a process is not necessarily small-d democratic, nor does it threaten the primacy of school needs in the process.  It does acknowledge that schools and communities have to get along as neighbors,  understanding and considering the ways in which we impact each other and working together on solutions to mutual challenges.

How hard can that be?  We’ll keep reminding ourselves and all parties of the importance of making it happen.

Life on the Atlanta BeltLine: Virginia-Highland’s Jenny Wood

The third installment of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s Life on the BeltLine video series highlights the story of cancer survivor Jenny Wood, and the role the BeltLIne played in her recovery process.

FrankowskiFamily-2Jenny lives in Virginia-Highland, along with her husband, Matt, and their twins. After seeing the first two installments in the video series, she decided to reach out to the folks at the BeltLine to tell her story.

“The BeltLine is something I feel very passionate about,” Jenny says, “and it definitely played an important role in my recovery. It really felt wonderful to share my experience with others.”

Check out Jenny’s story here. We think you’ll find it inspirational. And be sure to say hi to the Woods when you see them out and about in the neighborhood.

Work Begins on Implementing Master Plan Recommendations

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01By Jess Windham & Lola Carlisle, VHCA Board

As we raised our glasses this New Year’s Eve, we paused to remember – with appreciation and gratitude – the many contributions of neighbors and volunteers during 2013-2014 on the Virginia-Highland Master Plan, which is now an official part of the City of Atlanta’s Comprehensive Development Plan. As important as its adoption was the process that created it and its rich content. Close to 100 projects were recommended for our neighborhood.

Now that we’ve had a chance to catch our breath, we’re ready to dive into the hard part: implementation. The VHCA Planning and Master Plan Steering committees have been reviewing the recommended action items, identifying the processes and agencies that can move them forward. The projects can be distinguished in several ways. Some are dependent on City of Atlanta funding initiatives (a broad topic now on the table at City Hall); some are longer range and process-intensive and will take a while to come to fruition. Some projects are already underway or can be initiated here at the local level.

In the last category are some that could use volunteer help from the community; they include storm-drain stenciling (reminders not to dump paint or commercial liquids in street drains, which in both of our sub-watersheds lead to the streams), further research on the Eco District concept (already adopted by Georgia Tech), rain barrel promotion, and the search for space for a community garden (we’ve been looking for several years; any potential ideas are welcome).

We are monitoring the City of Atlanta infrastructure bond initiative with a close eye toward improvements in our own neighborhood. So, of course, are many other communities. That process is underway, and we appreciate Councilmember Wan’s advocacy and efforts on our behalf. We’ll share what we know as this develops. Topics like the study of an Urban Design District need – and are getting – further study by the Planning Committee, a process spurred a bit by the recent wave of new construction that is pushing the legal limits on height and size. Some topics in the Master Plan are being addressed by other entities than VHCA, including the latest pedestrian improvements at SPARK. Pedestrian safety and improvements to help students get safely to school were a clear priority in the Master Plan. The new signal on Briarcliff Road has been installed and is now functional, with much credit going to Mary Stouffer, one of several Virginia-Highland residents involved in the Safe Routes to School program. We applaud the result (which we supported) and credit all the partners (including GDOT and the City) for their work.

As you may have noticed, none of this happens – or will happen – quickly or without discussion. If you have questions or are interested in helping in a particular area, please contact us at planning@vahi.org. The Planning Committee meeting is public and you are welcome to attend. Meetings are held at the Church of Our Saviour (on N. Highland across from the fire station) and start at 7 PM on the Wednesday before the monthly Board meeting (dates posted on our vahi.org calendar). This month’s meeting is January 6th. February’s and March’s are on the 4th of each of those months.

Click here to review the entire Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

Trees Marked for Removal at Inman Middle School

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGB

VHCA has closely followed the expansion plans for Inman Middle School. The first construction drawings have just emerged, and a number of trees on campus have been marked for removal. Some of the most relevant school personnel are not back from holidays to provide all the information we want, but we met the city arborist at the site during his formal posting and learned a few things.

Four of the marked trees are designated DDH – dead, dying, or hazardous (i.e., the arborist determined that they merit removal based on their existing health). One of those, a large water oak on Park Drive, has a critical root zone that will be compromised by the creation of the new school bus lane. There are other trees marked for removal for reasons we do not currently understand, nor do other members of the Inman Expansion Committee to whom we’ve spoken. Included in this group of trees are several that appear to be well outside the boundaries of the softball field featured on early renderings, including two along Virginia Ave and another near the entrance to the parking lot.

City of Atlanta Parks Dept. Arborist Chris Kalio (l) and VHCA Board President Jack White

City of Atlanta Parks Dept. Arborist Chris Kalio (l) and VHCA Board President Jack White

These trees may be marked for reasons related to issues with existing sewer, stormwater, and utility lines that traverse the school fields along Virginia Ave and (are believed to) connect to other lines down Virginia just west of John Howell Park. According to the VHCA rep who served on the previous Inman expansion, those lines were problematic then.

By early next week, we expect to have seen the plans and have better information, which we will share with residents on vahi.org.  We have full faith in the integrity and knowledge of the city arborist who is handling the case, but we want to understand the reasoning behind the requested removals. If there are ways to save trees in this process, we’d like to know them, and we believe that APS would, too.

Softball Field Renovations

Many Virginia-Highland residents aren’t even aware Inman has a competitive softball team, partly because the team travels about five miles to Crim High School for its ‘home’ games. Crim is a nice facility, but it’s not home for Inman students.  Games on campus will result in many more residents and students getting to see the team,  local citizens will be able to attend, and the entire experience will have much more of a community and family feel to it.  These are outcomes we support enthusiastically.

Crowd sizes are historically modest and the school’s own parking lot will be available for parking. The games start well after the lot’s daytime users have left, and many local residents will bike or walk, as they do now. We have also told APS that we want to be part of the design of the new facility, so that the field retains its neighborhood character and feel, including an appearance that is consistent with John Howell Park across the street. We very much hope that such facilities will continue to be accessible to all citizens during off-hours, as they are now; that decision, of course, belongs to the school system, which owns the property in its entirety. By far the best way to achieve all these outcomes is to work as closely as we can with the school and be as supportive as possible.

Supportive doesn’t mean uncritical; we all believe the sylvan nature of the neighborhood is invaluable. It has been our experience that a reasoned fact-based discussion centered on understanding mutual needs and goals is most likely to achieve all these ends. This is the approach that VHCA and its members have pursued in our interaction with APS on this expansion, and we are convinced that it yields the best results.

As we learn more specifics about the trees and the rest of the project, we’ll share them here.

IMG_0272 IMG_0270 IMG_0269 IMG_0266

Santathon Fun at Fire Station #19

station19santathonBy all accounts, the Fire Station #19 Santathon fundraiser was a huge success. If the children’s smiling faces didn’t make it clear, the great turnout in spite of rain and the firemen’s appreciation sure did. We can’t thank the firefighters enough for opening up their “home” to the neighborhood and for all they do for our community. And thanks to the community for coming out to have fun and show support.

Santa_1_jpgWe raised nearly $3,000, not a small amount for a first-year event. We’re hoping to continue to raise additional funds for the much-needed repairs and improvements that will preserve this historic fire station. You can browse through shots of the events and donate to the fund at www.station19santathon.com. Your donations are tax deductible.

Santa_2A special thanks goes out to Catherine Lewis for her amazing coordination skills and dedication, our Fire Station #19 firemen, Santa, Councilman Alex Wan for supporting our neighborhood and fire station, Rich Chey for helping raise funds for Fire Station #19 as well and supporting Santathon and the Virginia-Highland Civic Association. Of course, none of this would have been possible without the incredible volunteers who donated countless hours. Thanks to our generous sponsors again for their support and donations: Osteria 832, George’s, Photography by Alli, Virginia-Highland Civic Association, Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes, Avant Gardener, Fit: To Be, Kroger, San Francisco Coffee and Barefoot Mountain Farms.

Here at Tailfin Marketing we are already looking forward to next year’s event. Can’t wait to see you all there!

Get Your Workout On at Fit: To Be

FTB FINALNew Fitness Studio Opens in Retail Space Behind American Roadhouse

Fit: To Be has opened in the retail space on N. Highland Ave. behind American Roadhouse. The new workout studio offers classes that help clients sweat, sculpt, and shake their way to personal transformation.

“At Fit: To Be, we pride ourselves in creating an atmosphere that promotes comfort, growth, and change,” says owner Julie White. “We are a comprehensive fitness studio designed to produce fast results, with change often seen in as little as ten visits.”

untitled (3)White says Fit: To Be’s classes focus on working ancillary muscles as well as major muscle groups with targeted, repetitive movements that result in a deep burn. A wide variety of classes ensures clients are always challenged and never get bored. Sculpt classes are derived from ballet, pilates, TRX and weight training. Cardio and boot camp classes are interval classes, designed to “trick” your heart into working hard. The cardio interval classes offer a wide variety of exercises, and they change frequently.

1047986_428610860623847_1950443779550449537_oFit: To Be is the exclusive provider of Ballerobica in the Atlanta area. Ballerobica is an internationally growing workout that fuses ballet technique with aerobic exercises creating long, lean, dancer-like muscles.

“We also offer two candlelight stretch classes per week,” White says, “and two stretch and tone classes per week that are designed to build strength and flexibility while also facilitating deep release of the physical, energetic, mental and emotional effects of everyday stresses. Stretching is critical in any exercise program and is incorporated into every class, as a limber body is key to injury prevention.”

At Fit: To Be, become part of a community dedicated to better health and stronger bodies. Come workout with us! Your first class is FREE!

Click here for more information on Fit: To Be.

Fit: To Be

842 North Highland Ave, Suite 3, Atlanta, GA 30306 (behind American Roadhouse)

404-229-4195

Inman Frosty 5K Road Race Set for December 13

Fosty-5K-2014-600You’re invited to run – in Virginia-Highland and along the Beltline – to benefit Inman Middle School students and teachers. Experienced runners, beginners, and families are welcome. Runners with strollers stay to the back, please.

5K begins at 9 A.M. Early registration is $25, ‘day of’ registration is $30. Check-in and number distribution begins at 8:00 AM.

The race begins at the school on Virginia Avenue, then continues along Atlanta’s beautiful Beltline from Piedmont Park to Old Fourth Ward skate park and back. See map below for course route.

Click here for more information or to register.

2014 Frosty 5K Final map copy

APD Zone Six Toy Drive Underway

Christmas Drive Poster 2014 copyPut an unexpected smile on the face of a deserving child this Christmas by supporting Atlanta Police Department Zone Six’s Annual Toy Drive and Giveaway.

The VHCA encourages you to consider donating an unwrapped toy to this year’s drive. Don’t worry about the age of the recipient – toys are needed for all ages, from toddler to tween.

Toys can be dropped off at the precinct offices at 2025 Hosea L. Williams Drive, Atlanta 30307, or you can drop them on John Wolfinger’s front porch at 1054 Vance Ave. in VaHi. John is periodically shuttling carloads of toys from VaHi to the precinct and would be glad to include your toy in one of his runs.

You’re also invited to join John and other VaHi residents at the giveaway event to be held at the precinct on December 19 from 10 AM to 1 PM. If you’re interested in riding to the event with John, contact him at jjonww2@earthlink.net.

Tentative Agenda: December VHCA Board/General Meeting

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBFollowing is the tentative agenda for tonight’s general meeting of the VHCA Board of Directors. The meeting will be held at the public library on Ponce de Leon Ave. and will start at 7 PM. The meeting is open to the public and interested residents are encouraged to attend

  • Tentative Agenda
  • Call to Order
  • Adoption of Agenda
  • Police & Fire Dept. representatives- Zone 6
  • City of Atlanta officials; other public officials & municipal representatives
  • Planning Committee – Variances
  • Fire Station 19 Fundraising
  • Fundraising Committee – Tour of Homes report
  • Parks Committee – John Howell Park construction update
  • Calendar update
  • New Business
  • Adjournment

 

20th Anniversary Tour of Homes Set for December 6-7

2014 VHTH Logo_OL

Mark your calendars now for the 2014 VaHi Tour of Homes – the 20th anniversary of one of the best home tours in Atlanta – set for Saturday and Sunday December 6-7. This year’s tour will showcase seven homes and the Church of Our Saviour on N. Highland Ave. across from the firehouse, with each stop including a food tasting from one of your favorite local restaurants. It’s a great way to celebrate the holidays in the ‘hood. Tour, eat and shop…all right here in VaHi!

Click here for more information and be sure to like our Facebook page to receive important updates as the event approaches and to have a chance at giveaways including free TOH tickets as well as gift certificates to local businesses.

Atlanta City Council District 6 Newsletter

wan_190To read City Councilperson Alex Wan’s latest newsletter, click here. This issue includes updates on:

  • Holiday Safety Reminders
  • Morningside/Lenox Park Public Safety Meeting
  • Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Recognizes Rich Chey
  • Help Shape the Clifton Corridor
  • Center for Hard to Recycle Materials to Open in 2015
  • Neighborhood Spotlight: Midtown

VaHi’s Shops and Restaurants are Open for Business for the Holidays

Don’t Forget “Small Business Saturday” on Nov 29th 

By: Jess Windham, VHCA Board Member

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01We’ve all heard the phrase “buy local”, but why really is it important to shop locally? Frankly, it’s all about economics. 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.”

Talking with residents of VaHi, we love our neighborhood and the rich options we have 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, a plethora of shops along Monroe at 10th, the Ponce de Leon corridor, and Amsterdam Walk. Together, these businesses employ hundreds of Atlantans and purchase merchandise from both local creators and global providers alike. We have the world at our doorstep and our local businesses bring it to us.

This week, 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.

IMG_6362Once you get past the big day of food and family, Shop Small Business Saturday is Nov. 29th! Small Business Saturday is an event officially hosted by American Express, who provides credits up to $30 for participating card holders. 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, pick up your Tour of Homes tickets, 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?

IMG_6360During the recent Master Planning process, many neighbors expressed concern over the empty storefronts along North Highland, especially in the St. Charles commercial district, which stretches from Diesel to Hand in Hand. This district in particular faces the challenges presented by Park Atlanta. I’ve spoken with a handful of business owners who have frequently lost sales as people drop their selections to run out in an attempt to avoid the merciless and oftentimes unwarranted parking ticket. To alleviate this parking stress, the Master Plan recommends rezoning the Druid Hills Presbyterian Church parking lot into the Neighborhood Commercial district so that it can be used as parking for this commercial district. We hope to continue those discussions with the church and surrounding neighbors early next year to whip up a vibrant, livable solution. All of this is to say, we locals know about the parking at the back of our commercial nodes, the bike rack at the park, and love few things more than we love the walkability of our neighborhood. So let’s get out there and show our VaHi businesses how thankful we are to have them!

All of this is to say, we locals know about the parking at the back of our commercial nodes, the bike rack at the park, and love few things more than we love the walkability of our neighborhood. So let’s get out there and show our VaHi businesses how thankful we are to have them!

John Howell Park Construction Nears Completion

IMG_0021By: David Brandenberger and Jack White, VHCA Parks Committee

The construction activity at the western end of John Howell Park is almost complete. The new granite walls on three sides of the volleyball courts are finished, new columns have been built along Virginia, and the steps that lead to the courts from the street along Arcadia are done. The path connecting the sidewalk to the new plaza is finished.

IMG_0020We await the new wrought iron fences around the court and along Virginia; they will be offset sufficiently to allow room to sit along the inside. The same contractor will install a new railing on the Arcadia steps. New hollies (refugees from Ponce City Market) have been planted; more landscaping in this area will follow during this dormant season and beyond.

IMG_0024A couple of minor issues are as yet unresolved. That said – and a few enlightening and amusing episodes notwithstanding – the entire process has proceeded fairly well. Much of the credit for that goes to our extremely capable landscape architect (and the park’s original designer), Peter Frawley, who has been steady and calm even amidst occasional chaos. Park Pride is paying for half our expenses on this project; without them the project would not have been possible.The city’s Parks Department has donated the fences along Arcadia, which is a huge help; Parks Commissioner Doug Voss has been a constant supporter.

IMG_0018We expect the fences to be installed in December, and we look forward to a formal dedication ceremony this spring.

Say Hello to the Orme Park Turtles!

Editor’s Note: Thanks to Lola Carlisle for the pictures included in this article.

IMG_7726Sometimes good things happen to people who wait. Other times they happen to people who take action.

In June, VaHi resident Paige Cucchi and her husband Sean witnessed a snapping turtle laying her eggs in the middle of the walking path on Orme Park’s northeastern edge (across from 818 Brookridge). Click here to read about the Cucchi’s encounter and resident efforts to protect the nest until the eggs hatched, and hopefully ensure the hatchlings short but treacherous trip to the nearby creek.

IMG_7729It was thought the eggs might hatch as early as late July or early August. But when summer turned to fall, concerned residents – many of whom had modified their daily walking habits to check on the status of the nest – began to wonder when – or even if – the young turtles would make their appearance. Most were reluctant to dig up the nest for fear of harming the hatchlings or otherwise disturbing their natural birth process.

Fortunately, VaHi resident Anita Wallace, who volunteers at the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Amphibian Conservation Program, saw our post about the Orme Park turtle nest and shared it with her supervisor. As amphibian research coordinator for the Department of Conservation Research at the Garden, Mark Mandica knew something was awry when the hatchlings hadn’t made their appearance by mid-October.

Mark Mandica's wife Crystal does her part to help rescue the Orme Park turtle hatchlings.

Mark Mandica’s wife Crystal does her part to help rescue the Orme Park turtle hatchlings.

Mandica reached out to the VHCA and offered to lend his expertise. When Mandica inspected the nest on Wednesday he determined the hatchlings were definitely overdue, and that the reason for their failure to appear was likely the dense, compacted soil in which the nest was buried. In a rescue operation worthy of major media coverage, Mandica and two others dug up the nest and, in fact, found numerous young turtles struggling to make their way to the surface and then on to the creek. If Mandica and crew had not intervened, all of the hatchlings would most likely have perished.

Amazingly, all ten hatchlings were rescued, although one unfortunately did not survive the short trip to Mandica’s home. Three of the remaining nine appear somewhat lethargic, but the rest are frolicking in the bathtub playground Mandica’s created for them. Dehydration is the major concern at this point. Mandica’s watching them closely,  though, and he’s hopeful that, now that they’re in water and receiving nourishment, all nine will make a speedy recovery.

IMG_7725

No doubt about it: ABG Department of Conservation Research amphibian specialist Leslie Philips, Mark Mandica and Mark’s wife Crystal (l-r) have earned their gold star for the month by rescuing the Orme Park turtles.

Mandica will observe the baby turtles for the next week or two, after which the survivors will be released into the creek in Orme Park. VHCA plans to organize a turtle release event and interested residents will be invited to attend. We hope to also include an educational component at the event during which Mandica can help attendees better understand the plight of these wonderful creatures which he describes as “a species most people would just as soon kill.” When a time and date for the event are confirmed, we’ll let you know.

Click here to view a video of the grateful hatchlings thriving in Mandica’s bathtub.

Battle of the Burgers Returns to VaHi

hamburgerThe Battle of the Burgers returns to John Howell Park this Saturday October 18 from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

2014 marks the event’s fifth year as up to 25 of your favorite Atlanta restaurants fire up their grills and compete for the best burger title. Attendees can look forward to savoring signature burgers, while enjoying live music and cold beer. Prizes will be awarded for The People’s Choice Best Burger and for Judges’ Choice Best Burger.

Event organizers are also hosting a 5K road race starting at 9:00 a.m. at John Howell Park on the morning of the event.

Click here for more information including ticket prices, a list of participating restaurants – some from VaHi – and judges. You can also purchase tickets and sign up for the road race on the website.

Volunteers Needed for Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful Fall Clean Up

KVHB Fall Cleanup PhotoPassing along the following from our friends at Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful…

Join residents and business owners in a fall cleanup of the neighborhood. This is the kick-off for our efforts to having N. Highland Avenue looking in top shape for the upcoming holiday season.

For Volunteers:

  • Meet in front of American Roadhouse restaurant (coffee and biscuits will be served). If you can’t be there at 8:30 am, join us at any point in the morning!
  • Bring work gloves, rakes, weed spray, gas powered weed whackers, small scrapers for sticker removal, etc.
  • We will provide trash bags and latex gloves
  • Can’t make it on the 18th? Go for a walk in the neighborhood any day. Take a trash bag and pick up litter as you go.
  • Parents, please consider bringing (or volunteering) your teens to help. This would make a good volunteer project for any youth group or to meet high school volunteer requirements.

For Business Owners:

  • Volunteer staff to work alongside residents
  • Hire someone to do extra clean up around your business
  • Donate supplies or refreshments for volunteers
  • Consider what you can do to improve the appearance of your storefront – perhaps it’s time for some new planters and fall pansies. See Mica at Intown Ace Hardware for guidance on what to plant
  • Don’t neglect parking areas. This is often the first thing your patrons see driving into the neighborhood.
  • Partner with nearby businesses and hire someone to do regular cleanup of your whole block, or shared parking area.
  • Make sure trash is making it all the way into the dumpster and dumpster doors/lids are kept closed.
  • Have graffiti on your building? Contact the Graffiti Task Force for help. graffiti@vahi.org

Questions? Contact Kay Stephenson kay.stephenson@gmail.com (404) 431-2603, or Tim Langan t_langan@hotmail.com (678) 464-7268.

Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KeepVirginiaHighlandBeautiful

 

It’s Almost Time to Tour!

2014-Tour-of-Homes-DatesYES! 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 2014 Tour of Homes is set for the first weekend in December, Saturday and Sunday the 6th and 7th. Our committee has been working hard all year to ensure the success of this year’s tour.

This year’s line up of homes features seven incredible homes and one historic church. Each home is uniquely designed and decorated and represents the charming characteristics of our neighborhood. The Church of our Saviour is included this year, giving tour goers a special look inside a historic landmark and one of the oldest church communities in VaHi.

IMG_6360One of the highlights of the tour remains the delicious food tastings served in each home along the tour. Local favorites like LaTavola, Murphy’s, Highland Tap, Fontaine’s, Atkins Park, Timone’s, Noche, El Taco and San Francisco Coffee are back. New to the tour this year: Moore Farms & Friends and Tapa Tapa.

To make the tour more festive this year, we are very excited to have the Grady High School Chorus and Jazz Band 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 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.

DSC06097So far, 2014 ToH has raised $32,500 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.

Please visit our website vahitourofhomes.org 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.

This is a great weekend to kick off your 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

 

Agenda: October VHCA Monthly Board and General Meeting

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBFollowing is the tentative agenda for the Monday October 13 monthly Board/General meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association:

Call to Order

Adoption of Agenda

Welcome from Reverend Zachary Thompson

Police & Fire Dept. representatives: Zone 6

City of Atlanta officials; other public officials & municipal representatives

Variances

V-14--200; 841 Virginia Circle (SW corner of De Leon Ave.); the zoning is R-4 in the BeltLine Overlay.

Applicant Cathie Magnan Power (on behalf of owners Allan & Lori Levy) seeks a variance to reduce the required half-depth front yard setback (along De Leon Ave.,  on the west) from 17.5’ (existing) to 8’ to allow for a rear addition (with a garage underneath) to an existing single-family dwelling.

The addition will be level with the main floor of the existing home; garage access will be from De Leon Avenue.   A new terrace will act as a rain garden to capture stormwater.  Unrelated to this project, concrete from an old parking pad in the very rear of the lot adjacent to a very old oak tree will be removed by hand. Letters of notification were sent on 9/29/14 to 825, 826, 840, 843, & 844 Virginia Aves and 828, 840, & 846 Adair Avenue.

The Planning Committee unanimously recommended approval conditioned on the applicant’s provision of a revised site plan stamped by the City showing elevations and better tree details.

V-14-213; 815 Drewry St. NE.   Deferred at request of applicant.

V-14-197; 657 Cresthill; the zoning is R-4 

Applicants and owners Kasey Libbey seek a variance to reduce the west sideyard setback from 7′ (required) to 3′ to allow a new addition and deck on the rear of the property.

The proposed additions total 1081 s.f. and bring the lot coverage to 50%. Two boundary trees (a 36’ hardwood and a 24” pine) will be lost. Though the applicant’s infiltration test suggests that no formal mitigation is required by city regulations, they are adding a 65 s.f. rain garden at the southwest corner to accommodate new stormwater.

The Planning Committee unanimously recommended approval based on the applicant’s provision of a revised site plan matching that one signed at the Planning Committee meeting that included the rain garden. (Mr. Bulloch did not participate in this vote.)

2014/15 Committee Appointments:

  • Communication: John Becker, Chair; Lola Carlisle
  • Finance: Peggy Berg and Jack White (ex-officio), Co-Chairs; Lola Carlisle; Jess Windham
  • Fundraising – Summerfest: John Becker & Paige Hewitt, Co-Chairs, Lola Carlisle, Pam Papner.
  • Fundraising – Tour of Homes: Robin Ragland & Angelika Taylor, Co-Chairs; Lola Carlisle
  • Parks: David Brandenberger, Chair; John Becker, Lauren Fralick, Colleen Lysen, Jack White
  • Planning: (rotating chairs); David Brandenberger, Chip Bullock; Lola Carlisle; Karen Feigh, Jenifer Keenan, George Van Horne, Jack White, Jess Windham
  • Safety: Peggy Berg, Chair

Appointments to the Virginia-Highland Conservation League (VHCL) Board (term is three years): Genny Ferrero, Judy Potter, Jack White

ToH update – Angelika, Robin

Music Midtown update – Jack

JHP construction update – David

Calendar update – Lola

New Business

Adjournment

15th Annual Trees Atlanta Tree Sale Set for This Saturday October 4

image001This year, Trees Atlanta’s Annual Tree Sale—its fifteenth!—will be held at the nearby Carter Center. This new venue offers more space for the 1,500+ plants available for sale, as well as much more available parking.

The Tree Sale & Jamboree, held rain or shine, will offer trees, shrubs, perennials, and tree-safe vines for sale. It’s the best selection in town, including over 200 native and exotic species.

Click on the link below for more information.

15th Annual Tree Sale & Jamboree!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Freedom Farmers’ Market at The Carter Center

453 Freedom Parkway NE, Atlanta, GA 30307

Druid Hills Child Development Center Celebrates 45th Anniversary

Passing along the following from our friends at the Druid Hills Child Development Center…

The mission of the Druid Hills Child Development Center is to develop children socially, emotionally and cognitively, to encourage their curiosity, and to help them realize their full potential. We define quality as an environment that inspires children’s natural curiosity and believe children learn best through doing. We partner with families to support them in their role as their child’s first and most important teachers and believe that through this partnership we create a foundation for a child’s future success.

Join us to celebrate Druid Hills Child Development Center’s 45th anniversary of meeting the needs of working families in the midtown Atlanta community! The evening will consist of a center tour, curriculum displays by our educational staff, and time to visit with new and old friends. We are proud of our history and want an opportunity to show you how the center has grown and developed over the years and to connect with current and past families as well as community members.

For further information please contact us at info@dhcdc.com. Visit us at www.dhcdc.com for a snapshot of our center.

Horizon Theatre Invites VaHi Residents to Check Out Their Current Production

detroit regular

Passing along the following from our friends at Horizon Theatre in Little Five Points…

Just down the street in neighboring Little Five Points, Horizon Theatre has been producing plays for Atlanta audiences for 30 years. Committed to connecting people and their communities, we are consistently on the front end, helping to carve out the local artistic scene. Horizon invites audiences to experience a wide variety of ideas and points of view with seasons full of regional and world premieres from playwrights both local and national.

Currently running at Horizon Theatre is Lisa D’Amour’s Pulitzer Prize finalist play, Detroit. In a suburb of a mid-sized American city, Ben and Mary see sudden signs of life at the long empty house next door and invite their young, hip new neighbors Sharon and Kenny over for a cookout. Upwardly mobile Ben and Mary are drawn to these live-in-the-moment recovering party animals like moths to a flame. As they bond over backyard barbecues, the neighborly connection they find threatens to unravel the lives they’ve built and change them forever. Ecstatic and dangerously funny, Detroit rips up the floorboards to reveal the racing heart under the suburban dream.

D’Amour writes, “What if two very different couples suddenly became neighbors, and decided to open themselves up to each other? Detroit, even with all its strange and startling turns, is ultimately a play about the potential within people to imagine, discover, and continually unearth secrets about each other and the world.”

We would love to have our neighbors from Virginia-Highland come down the street to enjoy an evening at our theater! Detroit runs until October 19th with performances Wednesday through Sunday. Please visit www.horizontheatre.com or contact Tim Harland at groups@horizontheatre.com for more information. Tickets may be purchased online or through our box office by calling (404) 584-7450.

Streets Alive Returns to VaHi September 28

Save the date for the next Atlanta Streets Alive: Sunday, September 28 from 2-6 pm.

The route (see map below) is a 4.5 mile loop on N. Highland + Highland + Boulevard + North Avenue — similar to the one that drew over 83,000 Atlantans to run, walk, dance and play in the streets last year! Five amazing Atlanta neighborhoods, connected by open streets for all.

Click here for more information on this great event organized by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. 

Click here for a list of road closures and locations where vehicles can cross the event route.

ASA_FALL-2014_MAP_071014-67-1024x765

Get Your Tickets Now for the 2nd Annual BeltLine Wine Stroll

logo-4Oenophiles and food lovers rejoice as the second annual BeltLine Wine Stroll will be held Saturday September 27. The mile-long wine tasting event will take place along the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine from 1 – 5 p.m. Attendees will visit twenty restaurants and businesses, from Poncey-Highland through Inman Park to the Old Fourth Ward, while enjoying sips of various vinos and discovering new venues along the iconic BeltLine.

Proceeds from the event will benefit phase two improvement projects at Springvale Park as well as the Inman Park Security Patrol.

The following venues will feature a selected wine and light appetizers:

Tickets for the event are $40 and can be purchased online. For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit https://beltlinewinestroll.eventbrite.com/ and like us on Facebook.

Eclectic Music Announces Free, Live VaHi Performance

EclecticKidsAnybody up for some ‘busking’ late Friday afternoon?

A group of advanced students from VaHi’s own music school Eclectic Music will be busking – performing, in this case, music in a public place – from 5:00 – 6:30 PM at the intersection of Virginia and N. Highland Avenues. Look for them at the triangle island in front of Taco Mac.

Eclectic’s event coordinator Emma Gies explains how the busking is a win-win for the students and the neighborhood.

“We want to give our higher-level students the experience of playing in public, and playing on the corner is a fun, relaxed way to do that,” Gies says. “Most of the students live in or near the neighborhood, so by busking in VaHi they can work on their performance skills in a familiar setting, and at the same time contribute to the neighborhood’s lively atmosphere.”

Busk on, Eclectic Music performers!

2014 Annual General Meeting Recap

The SPARK Advanced Chorus performed before the meeting.

The SPARK Advanced Chorus performed before the meeting.

The 2014 Annual General Meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association was held Thursday September 18 at the Inman Middle School cafeteria. Approximately 75 residents were in attendance.

The meeting opened with a performance by the Music@SPARK Advanced Chorus under the direction of Ms. Brianne Turgeon. The chorus performed several songs that were warmly received by those in attendance. This is the third year in a row the annual meeting has opened with a performance by the SPARK Advanced Chorus and VHCA very much appreciates their participation.

The SPARK Advanced Chorus is directed by Ms. Brianne Turgeon

The SPARK Advanced Chorus is directed by Ms. Brianne Turgeon

Community Recognition

The following city officials were recognized and made comments at the meeting:

  • Atlanta City Council District 6 Representative Alex Wan was recognized for his thoughtful and steadfast support of the Virginia-Highland Master Plan.
  • Lawrence Jeter, with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Public Works, was recognized for exemplary and outstanding public service to the citizens of Atlanta and Virginia-Highland. Jeter was VHCA Board Member Peggy Berg’s primary city contact with respect to the sidewalk repairs made in Virginia-Highland over the past two years.
  • VHCA President Jack White presents Cory Rayburn, with the city's Department of Stormwater Management, with an award plaque.

    VHCA President Jack White presents Cory Rayburn, with the city’s Department of Stormwater Management, with an award plaque.

    Cory Rayburn, with the City of Atlanta’s Department of Stormwater Management, was recognized for exemplary and outstanding service to the citizens of Atlanta and Virginia-Highland for his work in creating and implementing the city’s stormwater ordinance.

Other elected officials in attendance:

  • Andre Dickens, Atlanta City Council, Post 3 at Large
  • Mary Norwood, Atlanta City Council, Post 2 at Large
PEDS Executive Director Sally Flocks accepts a grant for her organization. VHCA Board Member Peggy Berg on left.

PEDS Executive Director Sally Flocks accepts a grant for her organization. VHCA Board Member Peggy Berg on left.

Election of Officers

The VHCA Nominating Committee formally introduced the following candidates for seats on the 2014-15 VHCA Board of Directors. All candidates were confirmed in the election that followed and will serve for the upcoming board year.

  • John Becker (incumbent)
  • Peggy Berg (incumbent)
  • David Brandenberger (incumbent)
  • Lola Carlisle (incumbent)
  • Paige Hewell (incumbent)
  • Jenifer Keenan (incumbent)
  • Robin Ragland (new board member)
  • Angelika Hedlund Taylor (new board member)
  • Jack White (incumbent)
  • Lauren Wilkes Fralick (incumbent)
  • Jess Windham (incumbent)
VHCA resident Stephanie Coffin accepts a grant that will fund completion of the tile mosaic she started last year at Intown Ace Hardware.

VHCA resident Stephanie Coffin accepts a grant that will fund completion of the tile mosaic she started last year at Intown Ace Hardware.

Retiring board member Genny Ferrero was recognized and thanked for her three years of service.

Grants and Community Gifts Awarded

The VHCA announced the awarding of the following charitable grants for 2013. A total of $21,000 in grants and community gifts was awarded.

  • Grady High PTA: $2,000
  • Grady High College and Career Connection: $1,000
  • Inman Middle School PTA: $3,000
  • Springdale Park Elementary School PTO: $3,000
  • Atlanta Bicycle Coalition: $1,400
  • Open Door Community: $1,000
  • Church of Our Saviour: $750
  • Virginia-Highland Church: $750
  • Ponce de Leon Public Library: $3,000
  • PEDS: $500
  • Trees Atlanta: $3,800
  • Stephanie Coffin: $500

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

Hope Hill Elementary Needs Your Help

Screen Shot 2014-09-19 at 1.32.55 PMPassing this along from Inman Middle School PTA Co-Presidents Regina Brewer and Alex Coffman…

Our neighborhoods are very fortunate to be home to some of the best schools in the state of Georgia. Grady Cluster schools are high performing and richly diverse which enhances the children’s education experience. Hope Hill Elementary School is one of the feeder schools to Inman Middle and Grady High.  Hope Hill is making incredible progress under the dynamic leadership of Principal Maureen Wheeler but it still faces many challenges for a school comprised of a student population of over 85% eligible for free and reduced lunch.

Inman Middle PTA is reaching out to the community to ask for assistance and mentoring for this school. Angela Lewis, Hope Hill and Inman Middle parent, provided us with a list of needs.  Please reach out to her at angela.dhati@gmail.com and help these wonderful kids to achieve success.

  • Functionality and Beautification
    • Redoing the foyer with a fresh idea and welcome, academic atmosphere
      • There are three trophy cases that need something nice displayed and a bulletin board that needs a welcoming display.
    • Photography–we need some candid shots of students and activities and put in frames around the school (black and white).
    • Need a flag for the flagpole
    • Need mini blinds for all classrooms and cafeteria replaced (they are very old and many don’t work)
    • Teacher workroom needs a facelift.
    • Need new planters in front of building.
  • Interaction with the Students
    • Need 3 volunteers on each of the following days: Monday, Tuesday and Friday from 1030-1230 in the cafeteria helping with the monitoring, the line movement, efficiency and cleanup
    • Tutoring children—Wednesday 2:45-3:45pm every week. If interested, please email John Child, our parent liaison at jc@mentalfitnessatl.org
    •  We are interested in providing after school clubs to our students and would welcome ideas and support.
  • Programs
    • Fall Festival, Friday Oct 17, 5-730pm
      • Need tons of volunteers and stations for games—we currently don’t have game, popcorn, rides, cotton candy stations, etc.
    • Career Day, April 24th, all day
    • Field Day, May 15th, 9-1pm
  • Financially
    • PTA has about $800 in the bank. Financial support could provide supplies to teachers and students and provide programs to our children.
  • Support
    • JOIN THE PTA
      • It is only $5 per person!
    • Provide dinner for one of the PTA meetings, once a month on Thursday.
      • We need Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, Mar, April and May; usually the 2nd Thursday of the month
    • Provide food for Terrific Thursdays, once a month
      • We use this to appreciate our teachers and encourage them with a free lunch

Road Closure Information for Music Midtown 2014

MusicMidtown2014-poster copyMusic Midtown returns to Piedmont Park Friday and Saturday September 19 & 20. There will be road closures starting as early as September 12 for festival setup and continuing through September 21 for tear down.

Click here for a text list of known road closures by date. For a Powerpoint presentation (pdf) showing the road closures, one page per day, click here.

VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers Set for September 18

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01The Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s annual general meeting and election of officers will be held Thursday September 18th 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 8 at 6:30 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, Ansley, Midtown, MLPA, City Council Members Join to Study Event Impacts and Processes

By: Jack White

VaHi-Logo-Vertical-Hypen-RGBThe Virginia-Highland Civic Association is joining three other neighborhood groups around Piedmont Park and several City Council Members in sponsoring and paying for a study of the impacts of large events (such as this coming weekend’s Music Midtown) on traffic flows, parking impacts, and safety issues. Community groups do not commonly initiate such analyses, and the decision to do one in this instance was neither obvious nor simple; it was arrived at and took shape incrementally. Here’s some background.

Music Midtown’s entertainment lineup is extensive and popular, and many citizens from intown neighborhoods (including ours) will attend and enjoy it. So will tens of thousands of citizens from more distant neighborhoods. These visitors are always welcome – Piedmont Park is a great destination – but the accompanying traffic snarls and the inevitable and extensive closing or limited access to parts of (or entire) streets and disruption to work, school, and neighborhood life are real challenges.

While Music Midtown is a “Class A” festival – the city’s classification for its largest category (> 50,000 attendees) – and is staging its largest event ever (and anticipates its biggest crowds ever), these effects occur in varying degrees with other festivals, too. The impacts of the Dogwood Festival, the Peachtree Road Race, the Atlanta Jazz Festival, and the Red Bull Soap Box Derby are felt in adjacent residential neighborhoods in ways that are difficult to fully appreciate for those who don’t live there. Even events that consciously set out to be ‘green’ can’t escape producing most of these impacts.

Some amount of inconvenience may be viewed as a burden residents should accept in exchange for living near a nice park; that argument has a kernel of merit, but it is not limitless. It doesn’t address the reality that both the frequency and scope of such events have grown steadily over the last decade, and neither shows any sign of abating. Music Midtown’s projected attendance for this year, for example, is 80,000 compared to 50,000 last year.

More significantly, the methods of anticipating and mitigating the widespread local impacts – i.e., the basic planning processes – have not expanded to match the scope and complexity of the various events. Significant important pieces – particularly meaningful and effective neighborhood inputs – are not present in the planning stages; they are post-facto at best.

That reality was never more apparent than in an early August meeting of a number of relevant parties hosted by Council Member Mary Norwood, at which the sometimes conflicting and often only partially-defined responsibilities, views, knowledge, concerns, roles, and purviews of a variety of agencies – several APD units, Park Atlanta, Public Works, neighborhood planning agencies, the event applicants – were on full display. Trying to make all this coherent was the Mayor’s Office of Special Events Director Ebony Barley, a very bright and knowledgeable woman who diligently tried to bring order and clarity to a swirl of regulations and practices, both written and de facto.

There were a few head-slapping moments, among them learning that the city’s Public Works Department – home to its own official traffic expertise – has an extremely limited formal role in the review of such events. Challenges about other fundamental issues – how impact fees are calculated and their relationship to street and lane closures (if any), the goals of the safety plan, the adequacy of coordination with Atlanta Public Schools, the varying reliability of attendance estimates, the absence of incentivized mass transit and formal agreements and shuttles with existing parking purveyors, the impacts on closing the bike lanes on 10th Street, et al – abounded.

That an independent, outside review and a much more comprehensive approach to these (and many other challenges) were greatly needed seemed to us abundantly obvious. Ms. Barley’s support for more clarity and better coordination was quite plain to see.

We subsequently asked for suggestions from our longtime consultant, Aaron Fortner, who approached Nelson-Nygaard, nationally-known traffic analysts with an Atlanta office, and asked them to consider the task. That firm was picked specifically because they did the traffic study for the Atlanta BeltLine plan; they know the area, and the City of Atlanta Planning’s staff knows them.

Joel Mann of Nelson-Nygaard developed a proposal for a traffic and parking study that will use this year’s Music Midtown event as an exemplar to examine traffic and parking, study local community impacts, examine the City’s processes and agencies to see what improvements are possible, look at best practices from other cities, and make recommendations designed to improve the city’s approaches to such events.

Though noise is sometimes a complaint, this is not being studied, mostly because the complexity and amount of effort required for a comprehensive evaluation would have made the whole project prohibitively expensive. That topic will have to wait.

Also not being examined here are long-range impacts on the park, which can be extensive. While the sponsors typically pay the direct costs of repairs in such instances – as with last year’s Music Midtown “Mud Bowl” – the ‘cost’ to citizens of having the newly-sodded area in restricted use for a number of months was not evaluated at all, as best we can tell. Such costs – if desired – can be estimated and valued using a variety of means.

The goal of this study is not to ‘stop’ Music Midtown or any such event; it is to streamline and coordinate existing processes, improve traffic flows, improve timely communication between all parties (including event organizers and local citizens), identify and measure safety challenges, bring the city’s considerable existing resources into play as much as possible, and develop a more comprehensive and inclusive approach.

Such a study will not be inexpensive. Nelson-Nygaard’s proposal (revised after meetings with various local neighborhoods and council staffs) outlined a cost of $24,000. In August the VHCA Board kick-started the fundraising process with a $7000 allocation. The Ansley Park Civic Association and the Midtown Neighborhood Association are formally supporting the proposal, including financially.   Morningside/Lenox’s (MLPA) support is pending and anticipated.

Two City Council district members – Alex Wan (who represents VaHi, Morningside, and Ansley) and Kwanza Hall (who represents Midtown) are on board for contributions from their discretionary funds, as are At-Large Council Members Norwood and Andre Dickens. We thank them very much; the study could not happen without their contribution and belief in its value. We have asked for – and expect to receive – support from other council members; we will happily announce their decisions as they arrive.

Let’s be clear; no study – no matter how well done it is – will alone change the city’s approaches in this area. But what is certain is that the current rituals we all know so well – a proposal for a huge event, a traffic plan made without any neighborhood input, subsequent complaints from community groups, hastily-called meetings, dueling press releases, generally accurate but anecdotal claims about the event’s impacts, post-facto grumbling and relief (until it’s time to do it all again) – are not at all effective.  We’ve seen that approach year after year; it’s exhausting and unproductive.

The proponents of this study – both council members and neighborhood associations – believe that a study and recommendations from an established firm will provide the basis for a more systematic and effective approach to making changes. We understand that moving from recommendations to changes in practice is a separate journey and will not happen automatically. We want to use the recommendations of a professional agency as a tool to define what questions need to be addressed and to get the process going with the city’s administration and council. Improved outcomes may not be simple, and they are not certain; the report is a beginning, not an end. But we believe this will get the process started in a credible and fact-based framework.

That four local neighborhood associations are united in backing this effort (with the support of district and at-large council members) is significant and important. While all communities share some common impacts, some issues are more acute and specific in each area. Acting in unison has a much greater chance of effectively addressing the challenges than individual approaches. We respect and appreciate all three groups for being part of this.

In the same vein, that both district and at-large council members have already supported this indicates that they too know how much this matters to their constituents. We are all grateful and appreciative for that.

With all these partners and with a more comprehensive study and set of recommendations in hand, we are hopeful that progress can be made over the next year in addressing these seemingly intractable problems.

VHCA Announces Candidates for 2014-15 Board of Directors; Absentee Ballot Available

VaHi-Logo-Very-Horizontal-Small-RGBThe nominating committee of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association presents the following list of candidates, all of whom have declared their candidacy. Click on the candidate’s name to go to a page with candidate bio’s.

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 18, 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 Thursday, September 18 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.

2014-15 VHCA Board of Directors Candidate Bios

Following are bios for members of the 2014-15 VHCA Board of Directors.

board_peggyPeggy Berg

I moved to Virginia Highland in 1984 and have a home, rental property and had a business in the neighborhood. My husband and I raised our two sons here and I served on PTAs for Morningside Elementary, Inman Middle and Grady High Schools. We have always been active in our neighborhood.

Our family is in the hotel business (we own the Hampton Inn Northlake Mall) and I have also been a partner in a consulting firm and an international CPA firm. I have a strong business background. I have chaired several industry and professional organizations. I recently completed a Masters degree from Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy.

I believe that our individual involvement is what makes our neighborhood such a good place to live so I served on the VHCA Board in 2012 and 2013. I work on sidewalks and streets. This year, the City has responded to requests from us with regard to pedestrian signs, street signs, traffic lights and other maintenance items on the streets. We have also been working on a program to improve sidewalks in Virginia Highland and expect to have 227 sidewalk segments replaced by year-end with collaborative funding from VHCA, the City and property owners.

LinkedIn BrandenbergerDavid_BrandenbergerDavid Brandenberger

I have been a Virginia-Highland homeowner on Rosedale Road for fifteen years. I, my wife and my son, truly love our neighborhood and are committed to supporting, preserving and enhancing its character.

Since living in Virginia-Highland, I have been active with various local activities, including helping to organize block parties, street yard sales, volunteering at SummerFest and the Tour of Homes, and—at various times—working with the City, DeKalb County and other adjoining neighbors to try to remedy various rainwater and sewer-related runoff issues of concern to several homeowners on our street. I have a keen interest in preserving our unique intown neighborhood and the quality of life for all residents it provides.

In my spare time, I enjoy spending time with family, gardening, cooking, coaching my son’s soccer team and enjoying our awesome neighborhood and surrounding communities. While serving on the Board this past year, I have had the pleasure to serve on the VHCA Planning Committee and the Parks Committee. I have been involved with and participated particularly in the ongoing renovation work started prior to my time on the Board at the West end of John Howell Park (volleyball court area) and look forward to helping to manage a successful project completion in the near term.

Looking forward, I would like to focus my efforts on the Board specifically with the Parks Committee—where I would be pleased to work with the rest of the Board on other ‘parks and youth sports field-related’ improvements to the neighborhood at John Howell Park, North Highland Park, Orme Park, and potentially the Inman Middle School fields.

Ultimately, I am eager to be of service wherever needed most upon being re-elected and am always open to communication and thoughts from neighborhood residents.  I appreciate your support.

TRP_Lola_pic_croppedLola Carlisle 

I am currently on the VHCA board. I have volunteered with various organizations in Virginia-Highland since 1997. My husband, Tom Beisel, and I have lived in Virginia-Highland at 1030 N. Virginia Ave. since 1993, and are the second family to live at this address! We have a daughter who is 17 years old and has taken advantage of the amazing quality of life we all enjoy here in Virginia-Highland.

Over the years I’ve volunteered with VHMPA, VHCA History & Preservation efforts, PLAN – reporting to the City of Atlanta from Virginia-Highland as the zoning code was revised, the VHCA Planning Committee and various fundraising efforts of VHCA. Having a passion for preservation, I co-authored Images of America – Virginia–Highland history book with Karri Hobson-Pape. The Virginia-Highland History Center, while looking for a better permanent home, is housed at my offices – Tailfin Marketing. Feel free to stop by and talk history.

I hope to continue working with the planning and preservation committees helping to ensure that development in the area supports the neighborhood’s vision. Through proper planning and oversight, Virginia-Highland can represent the best Atlanta has to offer in a vibrant intown neighborhood.

Emily Gilbert

I am an attorney who graduated from Emory and Georgia State Law School and has lived in this city for almost two decades.  I moved to Virginia-Highland because I appreciate its great mix of homes and businesses, both of which are very important. This community is unique and vibrant, and I want it to stay that way.  While the Civic Association has accomplished a lot, there are even more things it can do, and I hope to be part of that.

angelika and flowers 4584x6Angelika Hedlund Taylor

Hi…I’m Angelika Taylor. My husband Joe and I moved to Virginia-Highland four years ago with our girls Ally, 16, and Kenzie, 14, to start a new life in the city! Two years ago, we welcomed a baby boy named Jack into our family.

We jumped right into Virginia-Highland headfirst. We bought a house in desperate need of love and affection. I have owned my own business as an interior designer for 14 years. Together, my husband and I run our own company, Taylor and Taylor Homes. We have a passion for renovating homes, selling them and changing neighborhood streets, one house at a time.

Our family is committed to our neighborhood and community. Our girls have both gone through Inman Middle School and are now at Grady High, and Jack attends International Pre School. We believe in shopping local and we can often be spotted at many of the restaurants, bars and shops around VaHi.

Three years ago I took on the challenge of chairing the Tour of Homes committee for the VHCA. TOH is the neighborhood’s second largest fundraiser and, since I’ve chaired the event, proceeds from the tour have grown from $15,000 to over $50,000.  This year should be even better.

If elected to the VHCA board, I’d like to continue my leadership of the Tour of Homes committee, and also look forward to finding new ways to serve the residents of the community that my family and I have grown to love so much.

PicCivicAssocPaige Hewell

I have lived in the neighborhood on Virginia Circle for over a decade. A native Atlantan, I grew up in Buckhead and had little exposure to Va-Hi. I truly love our community and sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of it. Leon, my puppy, is loving the neighborhood as well.

My professional background is marketing. I worked primarily in telecom for 10 years before following an old boss to healthcare. I’ve loved the challenges and education I’ve gained from the switch.

Though a latecomer to neighborhood volunteerism, I have really enjoyed working on the Summerfest organization committee. I became involved in many activities that I had never imagined I would, such as appearing in a TV promo and even fence building. I’ve gotten to know some great people whom I might not have met otherwise. I’ve loved every minute of it.

I look forward to continuing my involvement with Summerfest and serving on the board of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association.

Keenan-jeniferJenifer Keenan 

I am a mom, wife, lawyer, and community activist who has lived in Virginia-Highland for 10 years. I take great pride in our neighborhood and have been an active neighborhood advocate on the BeltLine and important neighborhood issues.

I served as the Secretary of NPU-F for 7 years and a VHCA Board member for 2 years. My service as NPU Secretary and on the VHCA Board have allowed me to develop a deep understanding of the issues facing our neighborhoods and the most effective ways to deal with those challenges. My neighbors, friends, work colleagues and fellow NPU and VHCA board members would all describe me as a “go-getter” – when I see something that needs to be improved or changed, I work hard to make it happen!

Since my election to the VHCA board in 2012, I have served on the Planning and Education Committees. In 2013-2014, I was the co-chair of the VHCA Master Plan subcommittee. The comprehensive Master Plan addresses many of the most important topics facing our community, including zoning and development, historic preservation, traffic, parks and open space, environmental issues. I look forward to serving on the Board for 2014 – 2015 term and plan to focus on implementing the Master Plan.

RBR-VHCARobin Ragland

After joining my husband in retirement in 2006, we relocated to Virginia-Highland from Gwinnett County. We arrived just in time to enjoy our first Dogwood Festival as locals, relax with our new Elmwood neighbors at the annual street party, and volunteer for, as well as have a blast at, our first Summerfest! I soon lost count of how many times we said “what took us so long to move here” while walking to local restaurants and shops. It quickly became apparent that a key component to keeping our neighborhood so vibrant is the continued contributions of volunteers organized and focused through the VHCA.

I’ve continued to volunteer for Summerfest each year in various capacities. In 2012, I began participating in fundraising for the neighborhood by creating items to sell from recycled Summerfest t-shirts. I joined the Tour of Homes committee in 2013, chairing the sponsorship sub-committee; we raised over $30,000! The tour committee is in the midst of preparing for the 2014 tour, and my sub-committee is once again on track to raise another $30,000 for the neighborhood. We are eager to show off our neighborhood during the 2014 tour, and create another great tour next year! I also look forward to expanding my participation in the VHCA by joining the board.

IMG_2755Jack White 

When my (then four-year old) daughter and I moved from Midtown to Virginia-Highland in 1984, we were the two youngest people on the half-block.  If I am not now the oldest, I’m pretty darn close. My particular interests are planning, parks, and public resources, particularly water use and stream issues, a field in which I’ve worked for several decades. Our neighborhood schools that both my kids attended are pretty high on the list too.

I’m grateful for the Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s role in helping shape the history of the community.  If the residents of the late 60’s and early 70’s hadn’t organized and stood together with their allies to the north and south, it’s very likely that most of us wouldn’t be living in – and might not even recognize – this neighborhood today.  The idea of a huge interstate highway cleaving the Old Fourth Ward, clipping the Inman School parking lot, splitting Orme Park, and blasting through our neighborhood and Morningside seems even more preposterous in retrospect than it did then, but I believe it’s accurate to say that the successful struggle to prevent that road’s construction represented the first defeat of its scope for the (then) Georgia Highway Department.  (Thankfully, there would be more, the original huge Presidential Parkway among them.)

It took endless energy and an almost illogical faith in the potential of citizen movements to stop that road.   The lasting gifts of that period include are a tradition of openness and a belief in the power of organization that are as important  today as they were then.  The challenges of our decade are not as obvious nor as dramatic, but the need for a strong and democratic community organization that capably advocates for the neighborhood remains very clear.

I’ve enjoyed serving on the board these last two years.  The experience has made me even more appreciative of the Association’s wide range of activities and the volume of effort that our volunteers expend.   The challenges and occasional frustrations have been more than counterbalanced by the chance to work with large numbers of energetic, humorous, and hardworking optimists who like to get things done.  I’d be pleased to serve another year.

Lauren Wilkes FralickLauren Wilkes Fralick 

Lauren and her husband Frank moved to the neighborhood in 2011. They live on Highland View with their dog Abner. Lauren works in Government Relations for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. On the weekends, you may find her working on one of the many “do it yourself” projects they have going on at their home.

Lauren has been a board member for two years and has been a driving force on the Parks Committee. Lauren looks forward to another year serving the neighborhood.

Jess at 4th and SwiftJess Windham

I recently moved to Virginia-Highland with my boyfriend after living in three other parts of Atlanta. This area is certainly the best. A transplant from Charleston, SC, I studied Historic Preservation and Community Planning at the College of Charleston and soon after earned an MBA at The Citadel. Now I’m working as a commercial account manager on an energy efficiency program across the state. I’ve always enjoyed volunteering, either with Lifecycle Building Center, ULI’s Sustainability Committee, or organizing Earth Day for my Green Team at work.

Since day one of moving to Virginia-Highland, I have been active with the neighborhood through the VHCA Planning and Historic Preservation Committees. I joined the committees earlier this year and have reviewed variances, gathered feedback from neighbors on issues, presented on behalf of VHCA at the NPU, and provided input at Board meetings.

In my free time, I like to walk to our great VaHi restaurants or over to Inman Park, Poncey-Highland, or Little Five. I keep my eyes peeled for free art Fridays around town and enjoy crafting, reading Atlanta news, and planning adventures. I have a diplomatic approach, a desire to contribute, and would appreciate the opportunity to serve the neighborhood.

I’d like to be involved on the board so that I can support the neighborhood with broad initiatives, from master planning to fundraising for our parks. Having served on the Planning and Preservation committees, I understand the time, patience, and dedication needed to create positive changes that keep the neighborhood vibrant. Change is inevitable and the desirability of VaHi is only going to grow. I’d like to be on the board to ensure the character and quality of life in Virginia-Highland continues to get better each year.

Local Businesses: Consider Advertising in The Voice

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01If you’re a local business looking to connect with your VaHi audience, consider advertising in The Voice, the VHCA’s e-newsletter. We publish twice monthly (1st and 15th), we email to approx. 3,100 email addresses, and our metrics are solid (~33% open rate; ~8% click rate). We have a few different ad styles to choose from, and now’s a good time to consider advertising because our premium skyscraper ad space – available to only a single advertiser at a time – has opened up. All advertising dollars go to covering the cost of newsletter production and defraying the cost of the many awesome programs and events sponsored by the VHCA.

For more information – including ad styles, rates, etc. – visit http://vahi.org/ads/. If you have any questions or are interested in advertising, contact us at ads@vahi.org.

Celebrate the Opening of Art on the BeltLine at the Annual Lantern Parade

Lantern Parade Image #2Art on the BeltLine – the annual celebration of visual and performing arts that’s become a regular fall fixture along the BeltLine – kicks off officially this Saturday September 6 with the fifth annual Lantern Parade.

The glowing procession of light, music and color travels the length of the Eastside Trail, starting at the trail’s current terminus at Irwin St. near Krog St. and ending up in Piedmont Park:

  • 7:30 p.m.: Parade line-up in the Atlanta BeltLine corridor between Irwin Street and DeKalb Avenue with a tailgate party in the parking lot at Krog & Irwin. Irwin Street will be closed between Auburn & Krog.
  • 8:30 p.m.: The parade steps off with The Seed & Feed Marching Abominables leading the way!
  • 8:45 p.m.: The Black Sheep Ensemble step off!
  • 9:00 p.m.: Mausuki Scales & the Common Ground Collective steps off!
  • 9:30 p.m.: Wasted Potential Brass Band brings it on home!

Lantern Parade Image #1Both Art on the BeltLine and the Lantern Parade are free to the public, and everyone is encouraged to attend and participate.

Click here for more information on this year’s Lantern Parade.

Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade: What You Need to Know

Lantern Parade Image #1From our friends at the Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., here’s the essential 411 for anyone planning to attend this Saturday’s Lantern Parade:

The annual Atlanta BeltLine Lantern Parade will mark the opening of the fifth year of Art on the Atlanta BeltLine on Saturday, September 6. Parade-goers are encouraged to gather at 7:30 p.m. with their lanterns at the southern end of the Eastside Trail along Irwin Street / Lake Avenue. The street will be closed from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. between Auburn Avenue and Krog Street. The parade will begin at 8:30 p.m. and move from Irwin Street north to Piedmont Park. After walking the 2-mile Eastside Trail, the parade will guide into the green at Piedmont Park, where Park Tavern is hosting an event with live music and refreshments for sale. The parade will end two miles from the starting point.

Lantern Parade Image #2The interim hiking trail south of Irwin Street will be open for staging for the four marching bands and the Krewe of the Grateful Gluttons, the parade leaders. The ramp from the Edgewood Avenue bridge will be open for use and participants may join the line-up from Edgewood Avenue, or may walk up Airline Street from DeKalb Avenue. After step-off, the parade will also be accessible from any access point on the Atlanta BeltLine, including the newly opened Eastside Trail Gateway from Historic Fourth Ward Park. See beltline.org/explore/maps/ or download our mobile app for Android and Apple phones for a map of the Eastside Trail and all access points.

th-11Parking is extremely limited, so alternative transportation to the parade is strongly encouraged. Many MARTA stations in the metro area offer free parking to transit riders. The Inman Park/Reynoldstown and King Memorial MARTA train stations are a few blocks away from the start of the event. The Midtown MARTA station is six blocks from the endpoint of the parade. For more information on MARTA train and bus schedules, please visit www.itsmarta.com.

HR-Lantern-websizedPaid parking is available in the Piedmont Park Parking Deck and the Park Tavern parking lot. Additional parking is available along neighborhood streets, including Edgewood Avenue at the beginning of the parade and 10th Street at the end of the parade.

Taking a cab, carpooling, and biking are also encouraged, though bicyclists will need to dismount and walk their bikes during the parade. Pets are welcome and must be kept on a six-foot leash.

Two EMTs and several officers from the Atlanta Police Department’s Path Force Unit will be present at the parade. Portable restrooms and trash cans will be available. NO fire is permitted at the event – all lanterns must be lit by LED.Atlanta BeltLine lanterns will be available for sale at the beginning of the event and provided with a pole. For more information, visit art.beltline.org/lantern-parade/.

Tired of Movie Mindlessness? Local Classic Film Group Open to New Participants

Stephen Whiteman lives in Ormewood Park and runs a cool classic movie group out of his home. The group’s in its eight year and Stephen reached out to the VHCA to see if any VaHi residents might be interested in joining. Here’s his group’s story. Get in touch with Stephen if you agree that life IS too short to watch lousy movies.

StephenWhiteman#1After a half hour of commercials and two hours of explosions at the multiplex, have you ever had the feeling that there must be a better way to spend a Saturday night?

The Ormewood Park classic movie seminar Life is Too Short to Watch Lousy Movies, now winding up its eighth year, has a few openings for congenial people interested in viewing, learning about, and discussing the greatest films of all time. Regular participation with guaranteed seating and space-available participation are both available, and there is no charge for the films or the programs.

StephenWhiteman#3The movies are recognized classics, the majority from Hollywood’s Golden Age, the rest from other eras or countries. For example, this year the group has screened Preston Sturges’ screwball comedy, The Palm Beach Story (1942), with Joel McCrea and Claudette Colbert; Vittorio De Sica’s Italian Neorealist classic, The Bicycle Thief (1948); Vincente Minnelli’s groundbreaking Cabin in the Sky (1943), starring Lena Horne and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson; and Nicholas Ray’s brooding film noir, In a Lonely Place (1950), starring Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame, among others. Regulars are polled to ensure that the films chosen aren’t ones that everyone has already seen.  Programs include a cartoon and/or short subject, Coming Attractions, the feature film, and clips and commentary on personnel and genres, with thoughtful discussion interspersed.

StephenWhiteman#2The group meets on the first Saturday of every month and is conducted like a friendly, laid back seminar. Our membership includes both long-time film buffs and more casual movie fans – a background in film is not necessary. Attendees have ranged from as young as 10 to over 70. The group’s wide-screen, surround-sound home theater seats 15, and typical attendance is a dozen or so. Meetings are moderated by Steve Whiteman, a long-time film buff with a 12,000-item video library. Space allowing, screenings are open to all who show up when they say they will and who treat the movie and each other with respect.

Because the evening is more than just a “movie night,” new people should have a look at the group’s website, ClassicFilmAppreciation.webs.com, which explains how things work and includes detailed program examples, photos from meetings, and testimonials.  Then, if they would like to be notified of future films they can sign up for the mailing list as a space-available “Drop In” participant on the Contact Us page of the site. After attending a couple of screenings, signing up as a “Regular” gets you a guaranteed seat and additional benefits.  Steve can answer questions at ClassicFilmAppreciation@gmail.com.

As one of the regulars has said, “There is no better way to spend a Saturday evening in Atlanta!”