Bike lanes, turn lane coming to Ponce

by Brian Gross

On Feb. 7, John Wolfinger and I attended the City and BeltLine’s Open House about the planned improvements to Ponce de Leon Avenue.

Here were the improvements discussed: note, #3 is a very big change!

1. Resurfacing of Ponce between Juniper and Briarcliff/Moreland (GDOT)

2. Pedestrian safety improvements between Piedmont and Briarcliff/Moreland (GDOT)

3. Improvements from Boulevard/Monroe to Freedom Parkway. (BeltLine)
This would reduce the number of traffic lanes from three in each direction, to two wider lanes in each direction but add:
a) a center lane for turns and with some pedestrian islands and
b) as far east as Ponce de Leon Place, a bike lane in each direction. The bike lanes will be buffered from the car traffic by barriers approx. 1 to 2 feet wide. Unfortunately, the road is not wide enough so that the bike lanes can stretch as far east as Freedom Parkway.

The City rep told us there is not a fixed date, but he expected the work to be completed in the summer.

4. Ponce City Market Plaza Interface (BeltLine)
- A plaza that will let pedestrians walk between the BeltLine and the rail shed along the east side of Ponce City Market. (The rail shed will be turned into retail and food outlets). The BeltLine is hoping that funding will also allow for a ramp at North Avenue.

Well, that will connect Ponce City Market – but what about access from Ponce itself, without going through the Market? (I asked). The City planning rep told me that there are plans for a ramp to the BeltLine from the CVS on Ponce and also the Ponce City Market is considering an elevator from the top level of the rail shed down to street level.

On a related note, here are some links to some additional projects underway in Midtown:  project descriptions on the Midtown Alliance website and a recent progress report published on the Midtown Patch site.

Please also see the full handout from the event below, and the map presented:
(note: a “HAWK” signal is a signal at a mid-block pedestrian crossing)

Voice – August 2012 – City Installs New Signage Along North Highland Avenue

By: John Becker

Thanks to the efforts of VHCA Graffiti Task Force chair Laura Voisinet, city workers recently installed ten shiny new traffic signs along North Highland Avenue. A new speed limit sign and new fluorescent signs warning motorists to look for pedestrians in the crosswalk replace ones that were damaged and plastered with stickers and graffiti. Several mid-crosswalk pedestrian warning signs were also replaced or repaired, and signage was added alerting motorists to the possible presence of senior pedestrians.

“The new signage is the result of a fruitful exchange between our task force, the city of Atlanta’s graffiti task force, and the city’s public works department,” says Voisinet.

“We want to especially thank Officer Brad Etterle, the Atlanta Police Department’s designated graffiti abatement officer, and Keith Fleming, chair of the city’s graffiti task force, for helping get these signs installed and for their ongoing help fighting graffiti in our neighborhood,” Voisinet adds.

Voisinet encourages all residents to help keep the new signs looking good by removing any stickers that are applied, and contacting the task force at graffiti@vahi.org to report any tagging that needs to be removed.

Way to go Laura and task force!

City of Atlanta workers recently replaced damaged and tagged street signs like the two above on North Highland Avenue…

…with brand new fluorescent signs like the ones in the photos below.

Voice – August 2012 – A New Garbage Can Today; A More Beautiful Neighborhood Tomorrow

New Volunteer Group To Focus on Upkeep of VaHi’s Commercial Areas

By: John Becker
A shiny new garbage can made its debut last week on the southwest corner of North Highland and St. Charles avenues. The new receptacle – provided by Keep Atlanta Beautiful and paid for by Atlanta-based UPS – is the first tangible byproduct of the efforts of a new neighborhood group that seeks to spruce up VaHi’s commercial nodes.

According to its mission statement, Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful is an informal group of volunteers committed to keeping VaHi an inviting and well-maintained neighborhood that residents, business associates and visitors enjoy – and criminals avoid. Specifically, the group plans to make sustainable improvements to litter control and weed removal around the neighborhood’s commercial districts.

Peggy Denby, Executive Director of Keep Atlanta Beautiful, (l) and John Wolfinger, Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful member, apply a decal to the new garbage can at N. Highland and St. Charles avenues.

While it’s working loosely with the VHCA’s Public Safety Committee chaired by John Wolfinger, the group currently has no formal ties to the civic association. Wolfinger explains why the group formed.

“Many of the businesses and property owners in the commercial areas along North Highland do an excellent job of maintaining their property – not just the storefront, but all the way to the street. They keep litter picked up, sweep their sidewalks and curbs, maintain plantings, remove illegal handbills from poles, and more. Sadly, some owners do not share this focus.”

Wolfinger says the inconsistency creates a poor public image and contributes to the “broken window” theory that says poorly maintained properties send an inviting message to criminals. Wolfinger points out that, while a few dedicated residents have taken it upon themselves to periodically clean up problem areas to supplement the efforts of many business owners, a more sustainable solution is needed.

“Our goal is to expand the regularly scheduled clean-up services that occur in certain commercial areas to include all commercial properties in the neighborhood, including those where upkeep is lacking,” says committee member Kay Stephenson. “We plan to hold special resident and merchant cleanup days and will be contacting property owners – including owners of a few foreclosed storefronts that have become unsightly – to request help. We also hope to develop a kit of resources so that each property or business owner can easily maintain their part of the streetscape.”

Stephenson points out that the group is just getting started and cautions not to expect dramatic change overnight.

“Informally we’re looking first at the St. Charles node,” Stephenson says, “but over time we intend to address all the commercial areas throughout the neighborhood.”

Anyone who shares the committee’s vision of creating a more sustainably beautiful Virginia-Highland is encouraged to get involved. Send an email to Stephenson at kay.stephenson@gmail.com or committee member Tim Langan at t_langan@hotmail.com and you’ll be kept up to date on group activities. If you have thoughts about how the committee can accomplish its goals, Stephenson says, include them in your email.

VOICE tips its hat to the committee for checking the first item off its to-do list with placement of the new garbage can at N. Highland and St. Charles. We look forward to seeing more improvements in the weeks and months ahead.

Alleys in the City of Atlanta

Alley between St. Charles and Greenwood west of Bonaventure

A Virginia-Highland alley

Alley between Adair and Highland View west of N. Highland

When our neighborhood was originally platted, it included alleys running behind many of our houses. Some alleys were used for service access and/or utilities, while others were never actively opened. You can see the alleys on City plats and maps officially http://gis.atlantaga.gov, as well as Google maps unofficially. They appear as a narrow strip between properties. The alleys were generally 10 feet wide.

Here is the story on alleys.

  1. In the 1970s, Mayor Jackson and City Council abandoned all City alleys except 3 located downtown.
  2. The City does not have a good complete record of what alleys it used to own – which may be one reason that they abandoned them en masse. This is no fault of our City employees today; records were a bit less formal around the turn of the century.
  3. When abandoned, the alleys became the property of the adjoining properties, half to each property. For example, 5 feet of a standard 10 foot alley became the property of each adjoining house (or church or commercial establishment).
  4. The alleys then became the maintenance responsibility of the property owner.
  5. There is a restriction that access through the alleys had to be maintained by the property owner unless all the property owners adjoining the original alley agreed to make the alley impassible.
  6. Many alleys have been absorbed into the adjoining yards, fenced, and landscaped so they are no longer passable. This often happened by acquiescence rather than formal agreement meaning there is not a signed document, but since all the homeowners have taken the land they have effectively agreed.
  7. The property’s share of the alley is measured as part of the property for building permitting purposes, which is a significant benefit.

If you are on an alley, you may already maintain part within your garden. If not, maintenance is still the responsibility of the adjoining homeowner. In a neighborhood of valuable land and small lots, alley share is beneficial.

Voice – Fall 2011

Download PDF here (2.0 MB)

- Summerfest success
- President’s corner: volunteer for the board!
- Safety update: street captains, graffiti removal
- New Highland Park brick purchases
- 2011 Gold List of neighborhood businesses
- Street tree do’s and don’ts
- Patrols expand in VaHi and Old Fourth Ward
- VaHi history book published
- Parks update: Orme and New Highland
- Bella Cucina
- Repairs coming near Chevron and The Cavern
- Garrison Afterschool expands

Voice – Winter 2010-11

Published late November 2010
Download PDF (1.8 MB)

- Get ready to do the tour (Tour of Homes)
- President’s corner by Aly Higgins
- Group works to rid VaHi of graffiti, by Victoria Hathcox and Laura Voisinet
- Planning continues for construction of New Highland Park, improvements to Orme Park: Both projects could see groundbreaking in early 2010, by Pamela Papner
- Green Dream fundraising
- VHCA wants Atlanta Gas Light to repave streets adversely impacted by recent line work: Gas company meets some, not all, of neighborhood’s cleanup requests
- Spotlight on public safety: keep your dollars at home! by John Wolfinger
- History of Virginia-Highland, Part IX
- Restaurant review: Goin’ Coastal
- New burger joint opens in VaHi

Voice – Spring 2010

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- Triangle island renovation nears completion
- Home Tour recap
- Local Haiti relief efforts continue
- President’s Corner: Callanwolde silent auction results
- SPARK students introduced to debate
- Spotlight on Grady High School
- Grow fruit in your garden
- Streetscape update
- Green Dream silent auction a success
- Safety update: Reed administration and the APD
- Orme Park Phase One improvements
- How healthy are your trees?
- History part VI
- Col. Mustard reviews Rosebud

North Highland Streetscape Damage

Thanx to alert dog-walker Rob Glancy who noticed the damaged light pole, bench and torn out tree in front of Highland Hardware that was the result of an auto accident. He obtained the police report from this incident and Kathryn King Metters is pursuing to contact the involved insurance companies to make sure the city is reimbursed for this damage so they can be replaced. Rob has already contacted Trees Atlanta to replace the damaged tree.

Voice – Winter 2009-10

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- VaHi Green Dream silent auction
- 15th annual Tour of Homes
- President’s Corner
- SPARK opens its doors
- Spotlight on Grady
- VaHi’s Green Dream
- Spotlight on public safety
- Spotlight on businesses: Atlanta Activewear and Knitch relocates
- City responds to streetscape project concerns
- Col. Mustard reviews George’s
- Update on Callanwolde drainage concerns

Voice – Fall 2009

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- Summerfest success
- Safety: our neighborhood connection VHList with 331 members
- President’s corner: past year’s achievements
- Streetscape Phase II (Triangle area) update
- Neighborhood arboretum coming to VaHi
- History part IV
- School news: MES, Inman
- New Highland Park fundraising update
- Join the New Highland Park Conservancy
- Neighborhood feels impact of Callanwolde construction
- New afterschool program (Garrison)
- City Storage
- Col. Mustard reviews D.B.A. Barbeque

Streetscape Meeting

For the many of you who have voiced concerns about the changes at Virginia and North Highland and some of the unintended consequences of this project, VaHi president Pam Papner has scheduled a meeting to go over these concerns, and create a list of suggested solutions. Meet at the traffic island on Thursday, July 30th at 7 to collectively look at the corner and then walk to Church of Our Savior for a sit down session and, as a group, work on a list of realistic ideas to solve these problems. This confab is for residents and business owners alike.

Voice – Winter 2008-9

Download PDF here
Published November 2008

- 14th annual Tour of Homes
- President’s Corner
- Safety Update
- The Bus Stop, news from schools
- VHCA attemps to purchase former library lots, by Pamela Papner
- More delays for Phase II of VaHi streetscape improvements, by John Becker
- New elementary school to open in August 2009
- Neighborhood commercial (NC) zoning initiative gains momentum by John Peak and Pamela Papner
- VHCA 2008-2009 membership Q&A
- Street smart by Drew Baughman
- History of Virginia-Highland, Part I
- Buy a brick in the new VaHi park