Volunteer Now for Summerfest 2017!

By John Becker

In 1983, MASH ended an 11-year, 251-episode TV run, Vanessa Williams became the first African-American crowned Miss America and McDonald’s introduced the Chicken McNugget.

Did you know ‘83 was also the year a group of Virginia-Highland merchants – led by late Atkins Park owner Warren Bruno – got together and threw a block party that would eventually become Summerfest?

Yes, it’s really been 34 years since the first Summerfest, and organizers are hard at work planning this year’s festival set for the weekend of June 3. Featuring a 5K Road Race and Tot Trot, one of the largest juried artist markets in the South and a variety of local, regional and national acts performing on the music Summerfest stage, our festival has become one of Atlanta’s most eagerly anticipated seasonal events.

Aside from simply attending the event, how can you get the most out of your Summerfest experience? Why, volunteering, of course! Summerfest volunteer shifts are generally 2-3 hours long and you can choose to help with:

Volunteering is a great way to meet new friends and reconnect with old ones, and also help ensure the success of VHCA’s biggest fundraising event of the year. Volunteering can be a great way for high school or middle school students to get service hours. You can even sign up for multiple shifts if you like (and many do). Encourage your friends and neighbors to volunteer. Come join in the fun and go home with the coveted volunteer t-shirt!

We’re using SignUp.Com (formerly VolunteerSpot) again this year for volunteer registration and management. The tool is great at helping us organize our various tasks and shifts and is very easy to use. (Note: SignUp.com does not share your email address with anyone.)

Here’s how it works in three easy steps:

  1. Click here to access the Summerfest area on VolunteerSpot.
  2. Review the different tasks and shifts listed and identify the tasks/shifts that work for you.
  3. Sign up – it’s easy and you won’t have to register or leave a password on SignUp.com.

Have questions or need more information? Contact volunteer coordinator John Becker at jnbecker@me.com. Please don’t delay – volunteer today! We look forward to seeing you in June!

John Becker is a past VHCA board member and serves as Summerfest volunteer coordinator.


Come to VHCA’s Open House at D.B.A BBQ on January 29

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

Want to become more involved in the neighborhood?  Interested in meeting more of your friendly VaHi neighbors?  Have you always wondered what VHCA does but were afraid to ask?  Now is your chance to learn the answers to these burning questions! 

VHCA is hosting a Committee Open House on Sunday, January 29 at DBA BBQ from 3:00-5:00 pm.  We’ll provide the snacks and stimulating conversation – all you have to do is show up.  We’ll have VHCA Board members and representatives from our Safety, Planning, Communications, Parks, Summerfest and Tour of Homes Committees to explain what these committees do and how you can get involved.  We’ll also be seeking volunteers for our new Business District Task Force, which will be comprised of commercial property owners, business owners and VaHi residents and will focus on revitalizing and improving our commercial district.

This is a great opportunity to become involved in the neighborhood.  Thanks to DBA, a frequent supporter of the neighborhood and a Tour of Homes sponsor, for hosting this event. 

Hope to see you on the 29th!


New Plaza Honors One VaHi Woman’s Church Membership of Almost a Century

By Sue G. Collins

When Blanche Reynolds turned 90-something (she’ll never tell!), more than 120 friends sang to her in three-part harmony with an organ backing them up.  It was glorious and she beamed.

Their gift to her wasn’t quite complete yet, though, and couldn’t be wrapped anyways. Her friends, the diverse congregation of Virginia-Highland Church, will dedicate a newly designed, more accessible and neighborhood-friendly front plaza to her, the church’s longest worshipping member.

Blanche Reynolds

“We are excited to honor Miss Blanche Reynolds by rebuilding the plaza and naming it for her and her nearly one century of membership in this church,” said Reverend Michael Piazza. “Four years ago, the wood around the windows in the Virginia-Highland Church sanctuary was rotting, and a window fell out of the steeple, crashing to the sidewalk below. The air conditioning in the sanctuary had failed, as had the water heater and the roof of the education building. Although the church was still extremely small, we rallied together, pledged our money, and took out a loan with the United Church of Christ’s Building and Loan Fund and did quite a bit of the work needed to repair the building.  In a building as old as ours, there still is a lot to be done, but the one major project we have not completed is making the building accessible to everyone. This is important because it is something we value and a true expression of who we are.”

The work is nearly done, with the broken concrete, uneven steps, missing handrails replaced to better serve those with mobility issues. There will be a ramp to access the door nearest the street on the east side of the building. The driveway between the church and parsonage (the brick house just east of the church) will be repaired and repaved. A lift will be installed that will ascend half a floor to the sanctuary and descend half a floor to the fellowship hall, making most of the building accessible to everyone. The downstairs restrooms will be made unisex and accessible with two non-gender-specific private restrooms, and two gender-specific restrooms. 

The total cost for the project is just over $100,000. “We are proud to be a part of such a vibrant and historic neighborhood and hope that the newly configured space will be used by neighbors at their leisure,” said Piazza.

Virginia-Highland Church is a progressive and inclusive community of faith in the heart of the city that gave us such civil rights heroes as Nobel Peace Prize-winners Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and President Jimmy Carter. This church seeks to embody the values of justice and peace for which they both worked so hard. The congregation stood up for the inclusion of women, and lesbian, gay, and transgender folks. As a result, we had to give up our place in the Southern Baptist and Georgia Baptist Conventions. Courage such as that should be honored. We continue to expand a deep commitment to inclusion. The 11am Sunday  worship service is interpreted in American Sign Language.

You can learn more about the Virginia-Highland Church at our website.


Survey Reveals VaHi Residents’ Key Concerns, Sources of Contentment

The recent survey of Virginia-Highland residents shows that public safety, the commercial district, public infrastructure, and neighborhood parks are the top policy issues we care about.  And while the commercial mix and safety are high on the list of activities that residents rated as important, there is room for improvement. Read the full report to learn more.


Two New Members Join VHCA Board of Directors

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

We had several strong candidates interview for two open positions on the board and last night confirmed Micah Stringer, Director and Troy Murray, Alternate Director to serve out the balance of the 2016/2017 term.

Micah Stringer

Micah Stringer and his family have been Virginia Highland residents for almost two years.  Micah is originally from Syracuse, New York and his wife Kara is an Atlanta native.  They live in Atkins Park and both daughters attend SPARK elementary.  Micah is currently President of Atkins Park Neighborhood Association, a Division Vice President for a regional bank and graduate of the College of Charleston, SC.  Since moving to the neighborhood, the Stringer family has been very involved in local volunteer initiatives, VH Tour of Homes, SPARK and youth sports.  Micah has a strong interest in parks, planning and helping to revitalize the VaHi business district.

Troy Murray

Troy Murray is a 19-year resident of Atlanta and a 13-year loft owner at Greenwood Lofts in Virginia-Highland.   Originally from Nashville, Troy moved to Atlanta after earning a bachelor’s degree in Logistics and Transportation with a minor in Geography from the University of Tennessee.  Troy is a project manager for United Parcel Service, Inc.  (UPS), and has a passion for transportation and a strong interest in infrastructure growth and sustainability.   With a balcony view overlooking the Beltline and Ponce City Market, Troy has seen many changes in the neighborhood.

Troy has been involved with several organizations in Atlanta including:  UPS LGBTA Business Resource Group (2014 – current); AIDS Walk Atlanta (Team UPS captain, 2015 & 2016); Out & Equal Atlanta (board member, 2008 – 2013); United Way (UPS team leader, 2006 – 2008); Greenwood Lofts HOA (secretary 2005 – 2008); and Open Hand volunteer (1998 – 2005).

As an avid runner and dog owner, Troy can be seen daily either walking Jesse along Greenwood Avenue or running on the beltline. When not out an about with Jesse, he will bring his extensive non-profit and transportation expertise to our transportation and safety issues.

As previously noted, these two positions became vacant due to the resignation in December of two Directors.  I am excited to welcome Micah and Troy to the Board and am confident that they will make many valuable contributions to the neighborhood. 


Local Police Officers Will Soon Be Wearing Bodycams

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Board and Safety Committee Chair

By the end of January, police officers in Zone 6 of the Atlanta Police Department (APD), which includes Virginia-Highland, will be using body cameras on each shift.  As officers report for duty, they will pick up fully-charged camera units and attach them to the front of their shirts. 

As part of the bodycam rollout, Zone 6 held a public meeting on January 4th to demonstrate the new units and answer questions.  I was interested to hear that the camera does not automatically record the entire on-duty shift.  Rather, the officer needs to tap the large “event button” on the front of the camera in order to begin the audio-video recording.  (However, a 30-second video-only “buffering period” provides recording of the 30 seconds prior to the event button being pushed.)  Once started, recording continues until the officer stops it, and visual (flashing LED light) and audio/vibrating cues remind the officer of the recording status.  Battery life is sufficient to cover more than an entire shift.

Safety is paramount, so activation should not come at risk to officer or citizen safety.  Training and mentoring will take place to ensure that officers become familiar with the units and that activation becomes part of “muscle memory” in appropriate situations. 

Upon return to the Zone 6 precinct after a shift, the unit is docked and automatic uploading of the video will occur.  A helpful feature of the APD units is the automated nature of the system’s “back end,” preventing officers from taking time away from patrolling to upload and manage the videos.  The units also provide easy “bookmarking” of key moments on recordings, as well as streamlined categorization of recordings.

Recordings will be retained according to a schedule for the type of event—for example, a traffic stop recording is retained for 180 days whereas a homicide recording is kept indefinitely.  The automatic retention period can be lengthened by an appropriate official if circumstances warrant.

The system has the ability to obscure faces of victims and undercover officers when needed—for example, when videos are released after a Freedom of Information Act request.

APD anticipates that the cameras will help protect both members of the public and its officers, and assist in its investigations.


Undecking the Halls – Weather Update – Snowball Fight Anyone?

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

Update: Due to the winter storm warning our plan to dismantle decorations at North Highland Park will be postponed until Saturday afternoon at 1:00 pm. Hopefully this will allow time for any wintry mix to move out of the area. It will still be cold though, so dress warmly and plan to have some fun in the snow!

The feedback on our North Highland Park holiday decorations has been very positive. All of the trees, lights, wreaths, and even Frosty were donated by residents who no longer needed these items. Volunteers set up the decorations a few weeks ago, and an army of elves (mostly anonymous) stopped by to keep everything in working order as rain, wind and other acts of nature tried to defeat our holiday cheer.


Sadly, now it’s time to think about packing away all this holiday splendor! What are you doing on Saturday January 7th? Volunteers will meet at the park again on the 7th at 10:00 am to dismantle and pack away these treasures for next year. If you can lend a hand, please join us!

Also, for that tree you have at home, Home Depot is a sponsor for “One for the Chipper” again this year. Drop off your completely undecorated natural tree on Saturday, January 7th between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm and it will be turned into mulch to be used locally.


VHCA Tour of Homes Committee—Come Help Us Rebuild in 2017

By Robin Ragland, 2016 VHCA Tour of Homes Chair

Our neighborhood Tour of Homes is a weekend favorite for attendees and community volunteers each December.  Like other initiatives within VHCA, the tour occurs because a committee of volunteers spends their time throughout the year to create the experience that so many have come to enjoy.  This dedication has contributed to VHCA granting over $270,000 to our schools, partnering non-profits, and neighborhood partners over roughly the last decade.  This includes just under $130,000 for schools, almost $40,000 for Trees Atlanta, and almost $45,000 to our local public library.  The money raised also supports other neighborhood initiatives such as security cameras, the restoration of Fire Station 19, and parks projects.

There are several volunteers who have been on the committee for a number of years, whose work and commitment has enabled the Tour to significantly increase the amount of funds raised.   Each year, some members of the committee retire, and new folks join.  Such is the nature of volunteer efforts—it’s not known who will come forward each year to help accomplish our goals, but we depend on residents stepping forward as they are able. 

2017 will be an important rebuilding year for the Tour of Homes.  After co-chairing the committee in 2015, and chairing it in 2016, I am stepping down to join the ranks of a ‘regular’ committee member in 2017.  A few sub-committee chairs will return to plan the 2017 tour, but a number of critical positions must be filled with new volunteers. 

If you’re someone who loves our neighborhood and really enjoys the Tour of Homes, please strongly consider taking advantage of a wonderful opportunity to meet new folks, and have such a positive impact on Va-Hi.  Recruit a friend to volunteer with you!

For the tour to occur as usual in December this year, it is critical to have folks raise their hand and volunteer to fill these roles.  I am happy to chat with anyone who is interested and needs more information before signing up for the task.  We are also planning a committee celebration for this past December’s tour.  Let me know if you’d like to join us to meet some of the committee members, and learn more about what’s involved.  You may contact me at robin_ragland@bellsouth.net.  Committee members will also be present at the Volunteer Open House on January 29.


Virginia-Highland Supports Police Christmas Party for Kids

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Board and Safety Committee Member

Generous Virginia-Highland residents donated four car-loads of toys to the annual Zone 6 Atlanta Police Department holiday party for kids held on December 17th.  This year Zone 6 doubled the number of children invited from 50 last year to 100 in order to provide toys for more children. VaHi resident John Wolfinger once again provided a drop-off point on his porch and transported toys to the precinct (see photo below).

John Wolfinger’s trunk filled with neighborhood donations for one of his trips to the precinct. Photo credit – John Wolfinger

Kay Stephenson and Eleanor Barrineau of the VHCA Board and Safety Committee volunteered at the event, which included a hot meal, activities including tours of various police and fire vehicles, games, and musical presentations by current and retired police department employees.  It was great to see the kids interacting with the many police and fire department officers who were participating – a great example of police-community relations.

Officer Felicia Dodson calls children up to receive their gifts. Photo credit – Kay Stephenson

Children play musical chairs with Santa. Photo credit – Eleanor Barrineau

There were enough toys to provide for all of the children – and any toys left over were to be donated to parties hosted by Zones 1 and 3.


President’s Message and Goals for 2017

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

Happy New Year!  Now that the holidays are over, I wanted to bring you up to date on some of the activities of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association.

2016 was a year of transition for VHCA.  At the Annual meeting in September, six new directors were elected to the VHCA board.  I was a bit of a hybrid – I had served on the board for several years, but was not a current board member at the time of the election in September.  Rounding out the board were four returning directors who had each been serving for several years.

As President, my top priority for 2016 was to bring together the old and new directors, many of whom did not previously know each other, and build a strong and effective board.  To that end, the first few months of our 2016/2017 term were focused on electing officers, defining and assigning committee roles and chair positions, and getting a complete handle on the Association’s finances, and legal and financial obligations.  The process has been difficult at times, but I feel we now have a strong foundation and structure from which to pursue the many important and exciting initiatives that inspired each director to run for the Board.  And in the midst of working to rebuild the Board, we have already achieved a lot, including posting agendas and written minutes for board meetings, publishing The Voice twice per month, executing a successful Tour of Homes, moving forward with the design phase of the Fire Station 19 preservation and renovation, and providing monthly updates on the Association’s finances.  In addition, negotiations continue to settle the lawsuit filed last year related to the Todd memorial. I will continue to provide updates on the litigation at our monthly general meetings.

The first order of business for 2017 will be replacing board members Paige Hewell and Jess Windham – two directors who resigned in December.  Both Paige and Jess had significant changes in their lives that made it difficult for them to dedicate the time and energy needed to serve on the board.  Paige, who was the Co-Chair of Summerfest, will continue to work on Summerfest.  Jess, who has been on the Planning Committee for several years and was the Co-Chair of the Master Plan Committee, will also continue to work on Planning issues.  We are fortunate that we will still have an opportunity to work with Paige and Jess and are thankful for their service to the Board and Virginia-Highland.

Other goals for 2017 include refreshing Summerfest, helping to revitalize the VaHi business district, improving transportation infrastructure, monitoring proposed commercial development, supporting the Monroe Complete Streets project, modernizing communications, increasing fundraising, and improving public safety.  In addition to all of these important initiatives, we will continue to meet our commitment to increase community participation in, and access to, VHCA.  To that end, we will be hosting periodic “Meet the VHCA Board” gatherings at local restaurants and will have a VHCA Committee Open House in the near future.  Details on all of these initiatives will be provided at upcoming General Meetings and in future editions of The Voice.  The 2017 Goals for each of our Committees, as well as the 2017 budget, will also be published on vahi.org by mid-January.

We have an amazing neighborhood, but can make it even better with a robust and open civic association.  I look forward to working with VaHi volunteers old and new on the exciting initiatives happening in our neighborhood.


Safety Camera Update

By Sterling Eaves, VHCA Safety Committee Member

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECHThe 2016-17 VHCA board has made safety a priority and last month, a meeting with Board and Safety Committee members, the Atlanta Police Foundation (APF), and Atlanta Police Department (APD) occurred to discuss the status of video camera installation in our neighborhood. Law enforcement is greatly aided in their efforts to keep our neighborhood safe by the live surveillance of our City streets via this technology. Generally, the funding of each camera can vary between grants, government, and private funding or a combination thereof.

At various city locations, license plate readers are also installed. These cameras help to track vehicles used by criminals as they move away from a crime scene.  All cameras are monitored by the APD Video Integration Center (VIC). Throughout Atlanta, several thousand public and private business cameras (Lenox Square Mall for example) are monitored around the clock by the VIC staff.

Installed before 2016 with public funding, the VIC has been monitoring cameras at Virginia Avenue at North Highland Avenue, Maiden Lane between Ponce de Leon Place and Bonaventure, and Ponce de Leon Avenue at the Ford Factory Lofts/Kroger shopping center.

Funds from VHCA and District 6 Councilman Alex Wan’s office have resulted in the installation of three additional cameras located at Frederica Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue, Ponce de Leon Avenue between Bonaventure Avenue and Somerset Terrace (near the Clermont Hotel), and Ponce Place between St. Charles Avenue and Greenwood Avenue.

A new round of cameras funded by Invest Atlanta will result in twenty additional cameras being installed in Zone 6, with three of these in Virginia-Highland beat 601. These cameras will be located at Amsterdam Walk, Ponce de Leon Avenue at North Highland Avenue, and St. Charles Avenue at North Highland Avenue.

APF is the nonprofit vehicle through which private funding is accumulated to fund safety initiatives all over our City. APF uses the donated funds they receive to purchase the safety technology and hardware and then donate it to the Atlanta Police Department for the Police to operate and maintain.

The Atlanta Police Department has identified six additional locations which are on their priority list for cameras in Virginia-Highland, Beat 601. Each camera cost approximately $15,000. Any person or entity can make a targeted, tax-free donation to the APF to help fund new cameras for our neighborhood and you are encouraged to do so.

If you’d like to learn more, here’s a link to a story WSB-TV aired about the installation of the videos cameras in VaHi.

So, the next time you walk or drive through our VaHi neighborhood, look up for the safety cameras and know that hard-working VIC men and women are looking back and keeping us all safe.


‘Tis the Season for Giving

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member, and Lola Carlisle, Member of the VHCA Preservation Committee

There’s a strong tradition of giving in Virginia-Highland during the month of December – especially when it come to the Fire Station 19 restoration project. 

This year’s breakfast at Osteria 832 raised $5,000 for the fire station, making it the number one beneficiary of Rich Chey’s restaurants’ giving.  This brings their 14-year total amount of funds raised for the station to $55,000!  

Doc Chey's owner Rich Chey presents the Fire Station 19 crew with the proceeds check from Brekafast with Santa. Photo credit Ashley Lepore

Doc Chey’s owner Rich Chey presents the Fire Station 19 crew with the proceeds check from Breakfast with Santa. Photo credit Ashley Lepore.


Marco’s Pizza sponsored FireFest in October and raised $5,000 for Station 19. Thanks to Marcos owners, Robb and Melanie Wallace (pictured above on the back row second and third from the left) who brought their larger-than-life donation over during Santathon. The firefighters pictured are F.F. Kinan Humphrey (back row, left), F.F. Chris Knott (back row, 2nd from right), Cpt. Quentin Campbell (front row, left), and Sgt. Germaine Stringer (front row, right).  

We also just wrapped up our 3rd annual and most successful Santathon, presented by Tailfin Marketing. This year’s fundraising event raised an additional $4,000 for Fire Station 19.

These funds will be added to those already collected for the restoration project, and there will be additional events in 2017, such as the Morningside Mile on March 16.  However, there is still a need for more money – about $15,000 more is needed.  

Breakfast with Santa raised a record amount of funds for FS #19! Photo credit Lola Carlisle

Breakfast with Santa raised a record amount of funds for FS #19! Photo credit Lola Carlisle

Did you know that you can make a tax-deductible donation to VHCA’s Virginia-Highland Conservation League (VHCL)?  Your money will go directly to neighborhood projects such as the Fire Station 19 project, local park improvements, and payments on the loan for our very own North Highland Park.

You can mail a check (made out to the Virginia-Highland Conservation League) to VHCA at P.O. Box 8401 Station F, Atlanta, GA 31106. You can also make an online donation by clicking on the Donate button on the main page at vahi.org. A letter confirming your donation can be mailed to you if you would like to receive one.

Reach out to vhcl@vahi.org if you have any questions.


Relay Bikes Coming to Virginia-Highland

By George Zirkel, VHCA Treasurer

13346590_10154093052861163_128611784686720880_n-450x300Earlier this past summer the Relay bike share program launched in downtown Atlanta with 100 bikes at 10 stations. You may have seen the cute baby-blue, two-wheel bikes around town or on the BeltLine.

The VHCA is pleased to be working with Becky Katz, Chief Bicycle Officer for the City Of Atlanta, and the wonderful folks at Cyclehop to have at least two stations here in Virginia Highland when the next set of 70 stations are opened in early 2017. CycleHop is the largest ‘smart bike’ bike share program operator in North America, managing programs in Phoenix, Orlando, Los Angeles and Vancouver in addition to Atlanta.

img_4678Bike sharing programs have exploded over the last 10 years and it’s no wonder why.   Commuters can leave the stress of congested midtown and downtown traffic behind. Tourists can enjoy exploring Atlanta and our wonderful attractions at their own pace.  And we all get a healthier Atlanta!

While the VaHi locations are still being finalized, top contenders are the intersection of Virginia & Highland and the intersection of Saint Charles & North Highland.  More to follow once we get confirmation of their final location.

Pedal on Virginia-Highland!

For more information on the Atlanta program visit http://relaybikeshare.com.


Tour of Homes – Another Great Celebration of VaHi

By Robin Ragland

We were a little apprehensive about the weather forecast after last year’s perfect weekend, but we had a great crowd who came out and toured this year’s eight beautiful homes, and tasty food .  Approximately 250 volunteers pitched in help make it the most successful Tour to date, with approximately $80,000 in gross proceeds.  The Tour’s popularity has grown such that it has raised over $300,000 for the neighborhood over the last five years.

Tour of Homes headquarters at John Howell Park

Tour of Homes headquarters at John Howell Park

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

The Tour of Homes committee works throughout the year in order to organize the Tour. I would like to thank them for all their efforts.

  • Home Selection: Angelika Taylor, Mandi Robertson, Mary Hallenberg, Bill Bell, Pam Bullock, and Peter Harrell
  • Communications: Stephen Cohen, Andy Monfalcone, Mande Harris and Kitsy Rose PR
  • Restaurants: JoAnn Zyla, Alison Hutton, Kara Stringer, and Jenifer Keenan
  • Volunteers: Eleanor Barrineau, Karen Murphree
  • Graphic Design: Lori Z Joslyn
  • Website: Centner Consulting
  • Tour Operations:  Sean Davey, Cherry Frederick, Holle Gilbert and Amanda Lawthorne 
  • Signage and Flocking: Holle Gilbert, Mande Harris, Patti Hinkle, and Angelika Taylor
  • Sponsorship:  Jenifer Keenan and Erica Berg Brennan

Our history tour was a big hit last year, so we repeated it, on a larger scale this year.  Many thanks to Lola Carlisle for creating our new tour route and brochure, and to Kari Hobson-Pape, Catherine Lewis, Jess Windham Jack White, and Lola for contributing as docents for the tours.  Our trolley shuttles were a throwback to the earlier 9 mile trolleys days, and were a great upgrade this year.

Carolers from Grady High School entertained tour-goers.

Carolers from Grady High School entertained tour-goers.

Looking ahead to the 2017 Tour of Homes

If you really enjoyed the Tour this year, or would like to be part of an effort that raises needed funding for our neighborhood, you may want to note that our 23rd Tour will be on December 1-2, 2017. We’d love to have you join our Tour of Homes team! Contact Robin Ragland at robin_ragland@bellsouth.net if you have an interest.

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

Photos by Robin Ragland


Santa Speedo Run Set for December 10

By VHCA Board Member and Treasurer George Zirkel

unnamed-2Saturday, December 10th is the date for the highly entertaining and sometimes revealing Atlanta Santa Speedo Run.  Now in its eighth year, the 2016 run will help raise money to support CHRIS 180’s mission of helping Atlanta’s most vulnerable kids change the direction of their lives.

The 2:00 pm fun run will take an estimated 300 participants for a 1.5 mile scramble through the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. Starting and ending at the famed Manuel’s Tavern, the course winds its way up North Highland Avenue to the heart of our popular neighborhood, passing such popular eateries and watering holes as Hand In Hand, Atkins Park, Murphy’s, Yeah Burger and Diesel, among others.

parade-1-smSince its inception in 2009, the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run has raised more than $500,000 for local Atlanta children’s charities.  Past charitable organizations that have benefited from the run have included Bert’s Big Adventure, Camp Twin Lakes and Blaze Sports. The Santa Speedo Run was originally started in Boston in 2000 by five friends in search of a little holiday fun.

For the 2016 race, the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run is working with CHRIS 180 (formerly known as CHRIS Kids), with the goal to raise more than $100,000 for the organization. CHRIS 180’s mission is to heal children, strengthen families and build community through mental health counseling, training, providing safe housing and services that help youth build real-world skills. Donations help fight youth and teen homelessness and provide at-risk kids with the building blocks, skills and confidence to succeed in school and in life.

4920b34a-c259-4c3a-8888-2eac7a6292a1A Speedo or similar holiday-themed attire is of course required and runners are encouraged to accessorize with holiday themed flair.  Costume creativity promises to be at an all-time high this year so please come out and show some support for these two organizations and a wonderful Virginia-Highland tradition.  For more information about the Atlanta Santa Speedo Run, including how to become a participant or a sponsor, visit AtlantaSantaSpeedoRun.org.

Wear a little, give a lot. 

Click here to see an album of photos from previous runs.


Don’t Miss Photos With Santa at Fire Station #19!

By Lola Carlisle, VHCA Planning and Preservation Committee member

2015-santathon-20Station #19 Firemen. Photos with Santa. Fire trucks. Crafts. Hot chocolate. What are we missing? … You.

Please come join us on December 10th from 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. as we have fun and raise funds for Fire Station #19 renovations. You can sign up for pictures or walk up – we’ll do our best to work everyone in.

Santahon_2015_2Don’t miss the chance to decorate ornaments and have fun with your neighbors. Steve Spetz will be on hand again this year doing great caricatures. And if you just want to hang out and volunteer for the event, you can do that through the link above.

Along with the Fire Station’s great hats, t-shirts, and mugs, we’ll have prints of Steve Spetz Fire Station watercolors for sale.

Our sponsors so far this year include Tailfin and many others who are adding to the fun with activities, treats and specials including Virginia-Highland Civic Association, San Francisco Coffee, Avant Gardener and Barefoot Mountain Farms.



Fire Station 19 Santathon Set for December 10

By Lola Carlisle, VHCA History and Preservation Committee Member

Virginia-Highland’s holiday tradition returns to historic Fire Station 19 on December 10th from 11;00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Kids and parents are invited to join us for arts and crafts activities and have their photos made with Santa himself.

All proceeds go to Station 19 renovations. Our sponsors this year include Tailfin and many others who are adding to the fun with activities, treats and specials including Google Fiber, Virginia-Highland Civic Association, San Francisco Coffee, Avant Gardener, Barefoot Mountain Farms and Knock Music House.

Click here to reserve your spot and remember that walk-ups are also welcome!


In Search of a Christmas Miracle for Ten Thousand Villages

By Bryan Hendrix, Virginia-Highland Resident

15369187_1425073127504083_2077304714292003107_oTen Thousand Villages, the fair trade gift shop that has been on St. Charles Ave. in Virginia-Highland for 25 years, needs our help. Business has been down recently and they’re struggling to stay in this location. Their mission is to support artisans in the developing world, particularly empowering women to improve their communities. (Plus they have cool stuff!)

Lea-Anne Jackson, a Ten Thousand Villages board member, told me they need a “Christmas miracle.” Let’s be that miracle. Let’s show our support for this little shop and its mission by joining together for a Highland Stroll for Ten Thousand Villages on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 11 am. We’ll gather in North Highland Park at the corner of N. Highland and St. Charles and stroll the short distance to Ten Thousand Villages where we can shop, make a donation, or just show support.

I know this sounds like the plot to a sentimental holiday movie but I have to admit that bringing a sentimental holiday movie to life actually sounds like fun to me! (We may even sing one specially customized holiday song but if you’re not into that you can just pretend you don’t know the rest of us!) Let’s show that Virginia-Highland still has a heart and soul and take this stroll. I know we’re all busy this time of year but this will take very little time and should put us all in touch with the holiday and community spirit. Hope you’ll join in and tell your friends and neighbors!

Please see our Facebook page, Friends of Ten Thousand Villages, Virginia-Highland. The event has also been posted on NextDoor.

Ten Thousand Villages is located at 1056 St. Charles Ave. They are open Mon-Sat 11 am-6 pm, and on Sunday from 1-5 pm. You can read more about Ten Thousand Villages here. 

Disclaimer: I have no professional or financial connection to Ten Thousand Villages.


Inman Middle School Frosty 5K Set for December 10

Are you ready for the Yeti??  

The 2016 Inman Middle School Frosty 5K is open for registration!  The Frosty 5K is set for 9:00 am, Saturday, December 10 and is always tons of fun!  Come join us for some running, strolling, jumpin’-jackin’ fun for the 2016 Inman Frosty 5K supporting the teachers and kids at your favorite intown middle school!


Same route as last year – along the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail – and we’re hoping for the same wonderful weather.

You can sign up here: http://www.active.com/…/distance-runni…/inman-frosty-5k-2016. Students run for just $10, and teachers for FREE!

This is also a super fun event to volunteer, you can sign-up here: http://signup.com/go/MTdi6N.


Safety Subjects: Holiday Safety Tips

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

City_of_Atlanta_Police1Some of us shop online, some go to the mall, and some patronize small local businesses. Wherever you do your shopping or celebrate the holidays, APD Zone 6 Commander Major Peek has offered us some thoughts on safety.

First, he wants us to know that APD has implemented their 2016 Holiday Plan. The plan consists of moving administrative officers into the field so that everyone has a part in patrolling and keeping our streets safe.

For those who shop online and are not generally at home during normal delivery hours, he suggests having packages shipped to a location where someone will be available. This could be your office or a neighbor who works from home. Around the holidays APD sees an increase in thefts of packages left on porches by delivery companies. Here in Virginia-Highland we are very fortunate that two local businesses (Morningside Mini-Storage and Urban Body Studios) have offered to provide a safe package delivery service. Find details here.

060613_atlanta_police_kdj05At the mall or when visiting multiple shops, don’t leave bags and packages in plain sight in your car. And if you carry a big armload of items to the trunk and then plan to do more shopping, you might consider taking the extra couple of minutes to move your vehicle. Criminals often watch for potential victims who place items in the trunk and then return to the mall or a different store.

When you are out and about, you may find you need to fill up at the gas station. Major Peek suggests you do not leave a purse or briefcase on the passenger seat, and remove keys and put them in your pocket. Recently there have been many reports of criminals who sneak up on the passenger side of the vehicle while you are focused on the gas pump. They open the passenger door and steal the bag, or worse, slide into the driver’s seat and make off with your car.

new-cruisers-z6Some final tips for those who may be patronizing bars and clubs during the holiday season, he urges everyone to guard their drinks so no one can add something to it. Also, do not assume that someone met through social media is safe. Always take a companion with you to meet someone you only know through social media, and consider making the first few dates double-dates. If you meet someone new at a club, do not take that person home with you or accept a ride from someone you have just met. Major Peek reminds us that these people should be considered strangers until you get to know them over time.

For most of us these tips seem obvious, but sadly Atlanta PD sees similar incidents go wrong too often. As always, please help the police by calling 911 and reporting any suspicious and criminal activity immediately. Do not engage with criminals but allow officers to handle the situation. For more safety tips visit the Virginia-Highland Security Patrol (aka FBAC) website safety tips pages.


Agenda Posted for December VHCA Board of Directors Meeting

Monthly Meeting of the Board of Directors

Monday, December 12th 2016; 7:00 PM; Ponce de Leon Library

Proposed Agenda

Note: A PDF of the agenda can be found here.

Call to Order and Adoption of Agenda

APD – Recognized upon arrival

Other Public Officials & Municipal Representatives

Other guests (may be deferred at discretion of Chair to New Business)

Regan Hammond, Renew Atlanta

Update on Monroe Drive Complete Streets Project

Planning Committee

  • Variances
    • V-16-320 1165 Monroe Drive

Applicant seeks a variance to reduce the north sideyard setback to install a second-floor addition in the existing footprint.

  • Liquor Licenses – Jenifer Keenan
    • None
  • Recent Annexation by City of Atlanta  – Jenifer Keenan

History and Preservation Committee

  • History Tours – Robin Ragland
  • Old Voice Editions – Robin Ragland

Budget Committee/Treasurer’s Report

Parks Committee

  • Update on Triangle Maintenance – David Brandenberger
  • North Highland Park – David Brandenberger and Kay Stephenson

Fundraising Committee

  • Tour of Homes – Robin Ragland
  • Breakfast with Santa and Santathon – Robin Ragland
  • End of Year Donations – Robin Ragland
  • Summerfest – Jenifer Keenan

Safety Committee

Communications Committee:

  • Update on Online Survey – Kay Stephenson and Cindy Kaufman

Calendar: (All meetings are public)

  • NPU-F Monthly Meeting at Hillside: Mon., Dec. 19th at 7pm
  • VHCA Planning Committee at Garrison Hall, Church of Our Savior: Wed., Jan. 4th at 7pm
  • VHCA BoD at Ponce de Leon Library: Mon., Jan 9th at 7pm

New Business

  • Vote on Committee Goals 2016/2017
  • Motion to Defer Budget Vote



Atlanta BeltLine Schedules Fourth Quarterly Briefing of 2016

The folks at the Atlanta BeltLine invite you to join them at the upcoming Atlanta Beltline Fourth Quarterly Briefing of 2016 on December 6.  Please pass the word along to your family and friends and encourage anyone who wants to hear about the latest Atlanta BeltLine developments to attend.

Fourth Quarterly Briefing of 2016

Tuesday, December 6, 2016, 6:00-8:00pm

Fulton County Government Center, Board of Commissioners Auditorium

141 Pryor Street SW

Atlanta, GA, 30303

In this public meeting, you will be provided project updates from Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. and The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership.  Following the formal presentation, staff will be available in an open house format to answer questions and to discuss all aspects of the project.

A limited number of Underground Atlanta parking deck validation vouchers will be available at the sign-in table.

Please see the flyer below for more details



City Bazaar: Globally Rooted, Locally Made

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

city-bazaarConnect with and support local artisans, enjoy time with neighbors and get some holiday shopping done at The Highland Theater, 800 N Highland Ave NE on Saturday, December 3rd from 2-6 p.m.  City Church Eastside is hosting its fourth annual City Bazaar, formerly known as Beyond Fair Trade This year’s event will focus on celebrating the diversity of the international community right here in Georgia.

This holiday craft market will exclusively feature vendors and artisans from the Clarkston immigrant and refugee communities. All items sold at City Bazaar are handmade by an individual, group, or organization based in or for the benefit of the Clarkston community. You’ll find a wide variety of handmade items, such as art, jewelry, bags, accessories, bath & body products, toys, home goods, and food/consumables. Whether this is your first event or your 100th, we welcome you to participate!


14th Annual Breakfast with Santa Set for December 3

https-cdn-evbuc-com-images-24533266-39816381228-1-originalOsteria 832 will host the 14th annual Breakfast with Santa on Saturday, December 3 starting at 8:30 a.m.

For $25 you get a digital photo with Santa, goodies for the kids and a delicious breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and sausage. Meet our neighborhood firefighters and watch Santa arrive on a real fire truck! Tickets are per person (all ages, including infants) and are non-refundable. 

100% of ticket sales will be donated to the fire stations that keep our neighborhoods safe: Virginia-Highland Fire Station # 19 (Atlanta’s oldest) and Grant Park Fire Station #10.  This event has raised $83,600 for our neighborhood heroes!

Appointment times – 8:30, 10:00 or 11:30 a.m. – must be booked in advance. To book an appointment or for more information, visit the Breakfast with Santa event site.


Virginia-Highland Civic Association Survey

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECHThe Virginia-Highland Civic Association Board, elected in September, is looking for input from association members as we make plans for 2017. Please follow the link below to complete a brief survey so that we can learn how to serve you better. 

All responses will remain anonymous, and the survey will remain open through Sunday, December 11th. Note that at this time we are only seeking responses from residents of Virginia-Highland who are 18 years of age or older. 

If you have questions please contact kay.stephenson@gmail.com.

Take the survey here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/RV8G656 


Trees Atlanta, Many Volunteers Plant 90+ Trees in VaHi

By Stephanie Coffin and Lola Carlisle; Photos courtesy Lola Carlisle

img_1498November 12th was a fun day of tree planting in Virginia-Highland! There were many helping hands from Virginia-Highland, local schools and organizations. Due to the lack of rain, it took all the volunteers working very hard to dig through the hard soil to plant.

We planted Kousa Dogwoods, American Fringe Trees, Trident Maples, Carolina Silverbells and other species provided by Trees Atlanta and funded by the tree recompense fund of the City of Atlanta. You can view the planting list here. 

img_1494Protecting and adding to the overall tree canopy in Atlanta are critical to improving our environment and promoting healthy lifestyles. Virginia-Highland is known for its beautiful tree-lined streets and these Trees Atlanta plantings, and those we all do privately, are increasingly important as we continue to lose old growth trees from development pressures and environmental impacts.

Due to the drought we ask that you please help by watering the trees in the planting strips near your homes. Even under our watering restrictions new plantings may be watered for 30 days after they are planted. Use a couple of buckets for each tree, once a week. Pour the water slowly around the tree, so it gets a chance to saturate the soil and not run off. If it rains, don’t worry about watering.

Special thanks to all the volunteers, VHCA, Alex Beasley of Trees Atlanta, and Stephanie Coffin for a successful planting!

img_1489       img_1491


VHCA, American Roadhouse bring First Responders Thanksgiving Cheer

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Safety Committee Chair

VHCA Safety Committee members Sterling Eaves and John Wolfinger are pictured with American Roadhouse general manager Ahmet Toker and catering manager Marci Leonard. Photo credit Eleanor Barrineau

VHCA Safety Committee members Sterling Eaves and John Wolfinger are pictured with American Roadhouse general manager Ahmet Toker and catering manager Marci Leonard. Photo credit Eleanor Barrineau

First Responders at the Atlanta Police Department Zone 6 and Atlanta Fire Station No. 19 were delighted on Thanksgiving Day when three members of the VHCA Safety Committee arrived with a total of 80 meals for all staff on duty.

The meals were kindly provided by American Roadhouse, which stepped up in response to a call for meal donations issued by VHCA Safety Committee member Sterling Eaves. 

In a thank-you to the VHCA Safety Committee, APD Zone 6 Commander Major T.D. Peek wrote: “Thank you all so much! You have truly been a blessing to us and the community. We are grateful to have you all as partners as we work together to keep Atlanta safe and beautiful.”

VHCA Safety Committee members with some of Zone 6’s finest. Photo credit Eleanor Barrineau

VHCA Safety Committee members with some of Zone 6’s finest. Photo credit Eleanor Barrineau

We in turn in the Virginia-Highland community are so grateful for our wonderful fire and police staff who work 24/7 to keep us safe, and also for the partnership and support of one of our local restaurants, as we all work together to make our neighborhood and city a great place to live.

In an additional gesture of support, the American Roadhouse also offers an ongoing 50% discount to police and fire officers in uniform.


‘Tis the Weekend to Eat, Shop & Tour!

logo-pictureBy Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

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

img_6233Make plans now, if you haven’t already, to attend the 22nd Anniversary Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes. Tour hours are Saturday, December 3, 10 AM – 5 PM and Sunday, December 4, 11 AM –  4 PM (food tastings Noon – 4 PM both days).  This year’s ticket sales, will-call, and volunteer check-in will be at John Howell Park (corner of Barnett St. and Virginia Ave).

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

612-park-drive_4698This year’s tour features eight beautiful homes, plus a history tour of our own neighborhood. Local restaurants, such as DBA Barbecue, Taco Cowboy, Highland Tap, Atkins Park, Marlow’s Tavern, Tapa Tap, Fontaine’s, Apres Diem, Pea Ridge, Highland Bakery, Press & Grind, The Cook’s Warehouse, and San Francisco Coffee Roasting Co. will provide tastings at each of the Tour homes.

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

The Tour of Homes experience is the perfect way to kick off your holiday season. Bring your family and friends out to hear the Grady High School Chorus and the SPARK choir perform, and enjoy hot mulled cider provided by Savory Spice shop. 

See you this weekend at the 2016 VaHi Tour of Homes!


Cub Scout Pack 17 Selling Mistletoe to Raise Funds

image1For its annual fundraiser, Haygood Cub Scout Pack 17 will again be selling fresh artisan mistletoe in decorative artisan containers for $10 ($15 online) from November 26 to December 17. 

Our scouts will be selling mistletoe on Saturdays at five locations in Virginia-Highland and Morningside including Half-Moon Outfitters, the Freedom Farmers Market at the Carter Center, the Morningside Farmers Market, San Francisco Coffee, and Haygood United Memorial Methodist Church. You can also purchase your mistletoe online at goo.gl/Ss1gY9.  Bulk mistletoe orders for shipment in December can be placed by contacting pack17scouting@gmail.com.

The Scouts thank you for your support!


Annual Trees Atlanta VaHi Tree Planting Set for November 12

By Stephanie Coffin and Lola Carlisle

Editor’s Note: Stephanie Coffin is a long-time Virginia-Highland resident whose passion for trees has helped make our neighborhood one of the most tree-friendly in the city. Lola Carlisle is a past VHCA board member who stays active in the neighborhood.

image001Mychorrhizae, planting depth, root bound, tree species and planting hole size are just a few examples of the vocabulary of tree planting.  These terms and more will be discussed and then applied to planting trees at the annual Trees Atlanta VaHi tree planting event which is scheduled for Saturday, November 12, 9:00 am. Volunteers will meet at North Highland Park (corner of N. Highland and St. Charles).

We will use gloves, shovels, buckets, water, mulch and teamwork to plant the trees.  As always we have beautiful trees to put in the ground: Kousa dogwoods, American fringe trees, Trident maples, Carolina silverbells and other species are provided by Trees Atlanta, paid for from the tree recompense fund of the City of Atlanta.

Traffic calming is a major focus of the tree planting project this year, in addition to adding beauty, creating shade, and reducing air pollution and noise.  The planting in Virginia-Highland will start at Lanier Blvd. and Virginia Ave. and go east on N. Virginia to fill in street tree gaps on Stillwood and Los Angeles Avenues.  These streets have been newly inundated by cut-through traffic.  We hope that the tree will say, loud and clear: SLOW DOWN. BE CAREFUL OF OUR CHILDREN.  RESPECT OUR NEIGHBORHOOD.

Volunteers meet at North Highland Park for the 2015 Trees Atlanta planting event.

Volunteers meet at North Highland Park for the 2014 Trees Atlanta planting event.

The Morningside planting is also designed in part as a response to increased cut-through traffic on Courtenay Dr. between N. Highland Ave. and Monroe Dr.  In addition, we will add a few more Crape myrtles on N. Highland to continue the 100+ Crape allee from Ponce de Leon to Amsterdam. The planting of Crape myrtles on both sides of N. Highand will be extended into Morningside.  Crapes provide summer color and beautiful winter bark. They are drought-tolerant and forgiving of traffic. They are the perfect tree to line our major corridor.

So, think positively to conjure continued mild weather with a shower or two before the November 12 planting and come join us.  People working together to green our neighborhoods by planting trees is a great response to the emerging reality of climate change — recently and more accurately recharacterized as “anthropogenic climate disruption”.

Please check the list below for the tree species to be planted at specific locations.  We’ve also posted photos of the tree species to be planted.

Enjoy the planting, everyone!


Hearts of Gold Redbud

Hearts of Gold Redbud

Crape myrtle

Crape myrtle



Kousa dogwood

Kousa dogwood

Trident maple

Trident maple

American fringe tree

American fringe tree






Create a Circle of Leaves

Tree Care 101: Fall – Dress Up, Feed and Winterize

By Stephanie Coffin, longtime Virginia-Highland resident, tile mosaic artist extraordinaire, and certified arborist

20161106_135132Trees naturally recycle nutrients by dropping their leaves, soon to decompose and add to the soil around the tree. Unfortunately, humans interrupt the cycle by blowing or raking the leaves into piles, then bagging and putting them on the curb far from the reach of the tree! Help – this is slow tree starvation. 

Leaves, when left in place, also help keep the soil warm during the winter and act as a cushion to resist compaction of the soil. So, here’s an idea:

Rake the leaves around your tree and pattern them in a circle around your tree as deep as you can. Make an outside and inside border for your circle if you want a more formal look. You can also dress up the circle by adding colorful leaves on top in a pattern.  For example, arrange yellow and red leaves in alternating concentric circles. If you have young helpers, the leaf raking becomes an opportunity for leaf identification, as well as an art project. 

I have a Big Leaf magnolia in my yard.  I always collect the leaves and make a zigzag pattern on top of my flower beds. Nice. Kids pick them up and they become leaf swords. Touche! 

20161106_135529Keep the leaves from touching the tree trunk directly to avoid a wet mass that encourages mold and introduces pathogens. Start the inner circle about two feet from the trunk. Wet down the leaves to hold them in place or, better yet, throw come composted manure on top of the leaves.  Dessert for the trees!  The leaves will fairly rapidly decompose, so they are likely not to just blow away.

Take a look beyond your yard to the trees that grow in the city right-of-way. You can create small art circles around the trees up and down the street. Tree happiness.

Leaf blowers throw dust and dirt in the air. Especially now in a time of drought, the dust in the air adds to allergies and fine particle pollution, not to mention noise pollution that impacts the whole neighborhood. Raking leaves is an enjoyable way to change a modern day practice that is so annoying and ecologically destructive. 

Try this new look in your yard and along your street. Send in a photo of your leaf art for us to share.

The VHCA has asked me to write a few articles passing on information about tree care. If you have tree care questions, drop me a line at stcoffin@comast.net and I will try to answer them.

Stephanie Coffin, ISA Certified Arborist, living in one of the most beautiful tree neighborhoods in the ATL. Graphic images in this article courtesy of Stephanie Miller.  


Catching Up with the Atlanta City Design Project

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

Earlier this year the city of Atlanta launched the Atlanta City Design Project. Under the direction of Tim Keane, Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Community Development, this project will envision what Atlanta should look like decades from now. It will also inform all future decisions on the growth and development of the city.


Atlanta BeltLine visionary and Sixpitch founder and principal Ryan Gravel addresses the crowd at an Atlanta City Design Project meeting held recently at the Central Library auditorium.

Commissioner Keane is quick to point out that the city already has plans – lots of plans. The problem is that it’s hard to know what we want Atlanta to become by looking at the many overlapping, intersecting and sometimes conflicting plans.

The city has hired Ryan Gravel to drive and guide the project; his 1999 master’s thesis was the genesis of the Atlanta BeltLine and he currently heads up Sixpitch an urban design and planning consultancy.

To begin the discussion, Gravel has offered these two premises:

  1. Atlanta is going to change – not changing is not an option – our change will involve significant growth – if properly designed, that growth can be a powerful tool for shaping the Atlanta we want to become.
  2. More people are better than fewer – a diverse population is better than a homogeneous one – the most strategic scenario for growth includes everyone.

Atlanta City Studio

Up front Tim Keane will tell you that this effort is not just about planning and design. It is also about people. There must be vehicles for Atlanta residents to interact with and provide input to the team. The Atlanta City Studio is one such vehicle. Currently housed in donated space at Ponce City Market and open Tuesday – Friday from 10 am until 8 pm and on Saturdays from 11 am until 7 pm, the studio hosts rotating exhibits about neighborhoods and innovative technology. The staff also hosts workshops on a variety of design and planning subjects. Visit the Atlanta City Studio Facebook page for more information and consider dropping into the studio to learn more whenever they are open.

In addition, discussions are being hosted for residents to hear presentations, ask questions and provide input. So far three events have been held, all at the downtown Central Atlanta Library auditorium. The first, convened in early September, addressed projected growth in the city.

The Big Number – 1.3 Million

The first question might be, “how big can Atlanta be”? To answer that, Tim Keane brought in Dr. Arthur Nelson. Nelson is a Professor of urban planning at the University of Arizona. He also has deep roots in Atlanta as a former Georgia Tech professor.


Atlanta BeltLine visionary and Sixpitch founder and principal Ryan Gravel addresses the crowd at an Atlanta City Design Project meeting held recently at the Central Library auditorium.

Looking at projected growth of the metro area, and the shifting preference to live in the city versus the suburbs, Dr. Nelson predicts that our current population of about 465,000 residents will grow to approximately 1.3 million by 2050. Even more importantly, he identified a reduction of 4.5 persons per household in 1950 to 2.5 persons per household in 2010. This means the number of housing units required for this population is also growing. Dr. Nelson’s presentation can be viewed here.

Ryan Gravel tells us that where those people go matters. It is important that we think about and plan for what the city will look like in the future. When we get there, “will we still love it, and is it a place we want to live?”

We can increase density and support that density with transit, jobs, and amenities while still preserving one of the things that makes Atlanta special – our neighborhoods. Neighborhoods can see slight growth, but the majority should occur “in between”, along the central corridors of the city.

These corridors radiate out from the central core of Downtown, Midtown, and Buckhead and are natural boundaries between neighborhoods or groups of neighborhoods. From the north right around the clock face we see Peachtree/Roswell, Piedmont, Ponce de Leon, DeKalb, Memorial, McDonough, Jonesboro, Metropolitan, Lee/Murphy/Campbellton, MLK, Boone, Hollowell, Marietta/Perry, and Howell Mill. To that list we must, of course, add the Atlanta BeltLine.

An Aspiration

In early October, Ryan Gravel presented the framework for the Atlanta City Design. He told us that the design is not a plan so much as an aspiration that will tie together many plans.

The goal is to figure out what is special about this place. Gravel suggests we “capture those things, and embed them in all decisions we make about how the city gets built out over time, so that the city becomes more of what Atlanta is instead of less.” To manage the growth that is coming and still retain the essence of who we are as a city, the team has defined a set of five core values: Nature, Access, Ambition, Progress and Equity.

You can learn more from Gravel’s full presentation.



Meeting attendees participated in a “Design a Smarter Atlanta” workshop at the Studio in October.

Citizens are being asked “What are your design recommendations to improve the future of our city?” On November 3rd, Commission Kean and Ryan Gravel hosted the third city-wide conversation. The audience was asked for their ideas about each of the five core values. You can add your ideas on the notes section of the Atlanta City Studio Facebook page; in person at the Studio at Ponce City Market Suite N220; or at upcoming meetings which will be announced on Facebook.

The Atlanta City Design project will cause intentional shaping of our city. It will not only inform changes to zoning code, Neighborhood Planning Units (NPU) and other planning functions, but will reach into every department from Watershed Management and Public Works, to Parks & Recreation. The design will also engage non-profit and private organizations that already are pursuing change initiatives – for example Trees Atlanta’s initiatives to increase our tree canopy.

Don’t miss your opportunity to be heard! Make sure that Atlanta is a place we want to live for generations to come.


Buy A Brick – The Perfect Holiday Gift

DSC06114Virginia-Highland Conservation League volunteers originally sold almost 400 bricks to help fund construction of North Highland Park at the corner of N. Highland and St. Charles Ave., which opened in 2013.

After installation of the first wave of bricks, we learned we had spots for 105 more, and we now have just 53 bricks left to sell, then that’s it! All the bricks sold since the park opened in 2013 will be installed by the Spring of 2017, and proceeds will go toward payoff of the remaining mortgage on the land. 

To learn more or buy, click here.  


Shop Small!

By Cindy Kaufman, VHCA Board Member and Communications Committee Chair

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECHFirst, there was Black Friday, then Cyber Monday. Then in 2010, Small Business Saturday was born as a nationwide movement to celebrate small businesses every day and to help communities thrive. Small Business Saturday is the day we celebrate the Shop Small movement to drive shoppers to local merchants, not just in our neighborhood, but all across the U.S.

Created by American Express in 2010, Small Business Saturday® is the cornerstone of American Express Shop Small efforts. While Small Business Saturday is highlighted as a special day when we can show our support as a nation for small business owners and our communities, the Shop Small Movement is a year-round campaign to celebrate and support small businesses every day.

The day is dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country.

Christmas_Welcome_To-VaHa_1This year it falls on Saturday, November 26th, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and as always, we want our community to go out and support the small businesses that make up the heart of Virginia-Highland, from shops and services to restaurants and bars. We are so fortunate to have an abundance of small businesses that line N. Highland Ave, Virginia Ave, as well as St. Charles and Greenwood, and we’ve been promised that there will be a lot of fun activities taking place on the 26th, including a scavenger hunt that will take participants all over the neighborhood searching for clues and picking up little trinkets along the way.

Also, Tipple + Rose will be hosting a raffle! To enter the raffle, you must spend at least $20 at three different restaurants/businesses (totaling $60) over the weekend starting Friday, November 25 and ending Sunday, November 27. Then simply bring your receipts to Tipple + Rose in exchange for 3 raffle tickets. The winner will be announced on the Shop Small Virginia-Highland Facebook Page here: https://www.facebook.com/ShopSmallVaHi/?fref=ts .

As a resident of VaHi, you’re a key part in helping our small businesses thrive. By shopping or dining at small businesses throughout the year, you’re showing your support and love for our diverse community by patronizing our vibrant business district. You can support the community in other ways as well — invite friends to shop with you, or share on your social networks where you #ShopSmall. We hope to see you out and about in Virginia-Highland on Saturday, November 26th!

For more information, check out:




Tour of Homes Recognizes 2016 Sponsors – Don’t Forget to Buy Your Tickets Today!

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee


The Tour raises needed funds for our much-loved neighborhood through ticket sales and sponsorships.  We hope many of you decide to kick off your holiday season and celebrate the amazing community in which we live by attending this year’s tour Dec 3rd and 4th!  Get your tour tickets online NOW at the Tour of Homes websiteTickets are $25 in advance and $30 on the day of the tour.  Your ticket gets you access to eight incredibly unique homes, food samplings from 14 different community restaurants and special coupons and discounts from our local eateries and shops.  Include a docent-led tour of the neighborhood for an additional $5.

The Tour would not be possible each year without the support of our sponsors. We’d like to sincerely thank all of our 2016 sponsors.

This year’s Presenting Sponsors are Google fiber; Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery; Traditions in Tile and Stone.

Thanks to  Keller Knapp Realty, our ticket sponsor, for a second year.

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

Our Premium Sponsors are Barking Hound Village; Coldwell Banker Residential Broker; Darby Construction; Sarah Mercer Chatel, Keller Williams Peachtree Rd., Distinctive Atlanta Homes Team; Inman Park Marble & Granite; Phoenix Renovations; Red Level Renovations; Julie Sadlier, RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside; Tailfin Marketing.

Our Major Sponsors are Benchmark innovations in renovations; BlaBla Kids; Atlanta INtown; Cantoni; Copper Sky Renovations; Intown Renovations Group, LLC; Peachy Clean; PSB Studio ARCHITECTURE; YWCA; The Great Frame Up Morningside.

Our Benefactor Sponsors are Balance Design; Bedard Design; Bellwether Design Co; Boutte Tree, Inc.; Distinctive Appliances; European Kitchen & BathWorks; Georgia Water Tanks; Homestead Realtors; Karen Hott Interiors; King Landscaping; Marco’s Pizza; Maxwell Gardens; Morningstar Storage; Park Tavern; Ten Thousand Villages; Worthmore Jewelers.

Our Neighborhood Sponsors are 675 N Highland Apartments; Abraham Properties; Across Atlanta Property Management; Allied Fence Company; Alon’s Bakery & Market; Arden’s Garden; Cablik Enterprises; Center Consulting; Design BH Architecture; Kitsy Rose KRPR; Mark Arnold, Architect; Moores Farms and Friends; Nonie’s Garden Florals & Botanicals; Savory Spice Shop.

Our Giveaway sponsors are Alon’s Bakery & Market; Apres Diem; Arden’s Garden; Atkins Park; BlaBla Kids; DBA Barbecue; ENGEL & VÖLKERS Intown Atlanta; Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery; Fontaine’s; Google fiber; Highland Bakery; Highland Tap; Judith Bright; Keller Knapp Realty; Marco’s Pizza; Marlow’s Tavern; Moores Farms and Friends; Orpheus Brewing; Park Tavern; Pea Ridge; Press & Grind; Savory Spice Shop; Ten Thousand Villages; The Cook’s Warehouse; The Great Frame-up Morningside; Tapa Tapa; Taco Cowboy; Traditions in Tile and Stone; Worthmore Jewelers; Yeah! Burger.


Volunteer for VaHi Tour of Homes and Receive Two Free Tickets!

By Eleanor Barrineau, Tour of Homes Volunteer Chair

2016 TOHThis is an excellent deal. We have eight very interesting homes on tour this year in VaHi on Dec 3-4, and anyone who volunteers for a 2-3 hour shift gets two free tickets—up to a $60 value. The rest of the weekend is yours to tour the eight homes for free—not to mention sampling mouth-watering dishes from neighborhood restaurants, because each home on Tour also has a restaurant sponsor!

With your 2 free tickets, take your spouse, partner or friend on this wonderful Tour of Homes right here in VaHi. Nibble while you look around at the creative renovations that VaHi families have recently engaged in. It’s always interesting to see what other families have done to improve their homes, and many visitors over the years have gotten ideas for their own home renovation projects.  It’s an experience that is yours for free all weekend in exchange for just one 2-3-hour shift.

As you’ll read in a future Voice article, the Tour also brings in much-needed funds that benefit all of us. So please do your bit to help make this happen. It’s just a few hours of your time, and without our volunteers, the Tour simply could not happen. Again, here is the link to sign up.

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the Tour.


Safety Subjects: Virginia-Highland Security Patrol

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Vice President and Safety Committee Member

Do you know about our neighborhood patrol also known as Fight Back Against Crime (FBAC)? This member-supported private security patrol was established over 25 years ago and is one of the longest running neighborhood patrols in the city.

Investigator Chip Cook with two neighborhood trick-or-treaters at Halloween

Investigator Chip Cook with two neighborhood trick-or-treaters at Halloween

Staffed by off-duty Atlanta Police Department officers who patrol in uniform and with full policing powers, the greatest benefit of the program is the increased police presence on our streets. An alarm system is a great way to notify police of a problem after it has occurred. But, alarms are essentially a reactive tool.

Most of an APD beat officer’s on-duty time is spent responding to 911 calls. They don’t have the time to do much proactive policing. This stands in contrast to our patrol where the primary focus is to proactively work to prevent crime.

FBAC officers not only patrol in vehicles but also get out of the vehicle and walk the streets. They engage and get to know residents and business owners, and they know the offenders who target Virginia-Highland. They question people walking in unlikely places at odd hours to determine their business. In this way, individuals with outstanding warrants and who have no proper business in our neighborhood can be stopped before they offend again. The FBAC patrol officer is the replacement for the beat cop of earlier times.

Benefits for single family home members include access to officers while on duty via cellphone; a monthly newsletter with crime reports, safety tips and the schedule for the upcoming month; home checks while you are on vacation; a yard sign and window decal to let criminals know you are protected; a home security evaluation with one of our officers; and a safe ride home when officers are on duty. Officers are patrolling the most likely crime areas of the neighborhood by car and on foot to spot potential criminal activity before it happens.

There are also options for individuals living in condominiums or apartment complexes and businesses. You can find more information and sign up to become a member at fbacvahi.com.


New VHCA Board Wants to Hear from You


By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President and Cindy Kaufman, VHCA Communications Chair

As the newly-elected board is getting settled into our roles, we are anxious to connect with the residents of Virginia-Highland, and make ourselves available to you for all your questions, comments, concerns, or other ideas that you may have to share. With that in mind, please note that there is a new “ASK VHCA” button on the VHCA website home page where you can contact us about any such questions! Just click on the button and fill out the form that pops up. You may select the committee you wish to direct your question to, or if you are unsure about where to direct your question, that’s an option as well. An email will be sent with your contact information and message, and you will receive a note back as soon as the committee chair can respond.

The new board wants your engagement! We want to hear from you regularly and often, and want to know what’s on your mind. We also want to be available to answer questions and concerns that you have. Please feel free to use this handy tool to reach out. Hope to hear from you soon!

Also, the VHCA elves are hard at work preparing a survey that will be sent out to all association members (anyone over 18 who owns a home or rents in VaHi) to get your thoughts on a variety of topics, so stay tuned. As soon as we are ready we will make announcements on Nextdoor, VHList, VHCA website, Facebook page, Twitter and through the Voice with all the details.


VaHi Residents Turn Out for Firefest

Marco’s Pizza knows how to throw a party!  A big thank you to Robb and Melanie Wallace! There was something for everyone—pizza, caricature artists, face painting, a balloon artist, a photo booth, music, the chance to test your throwing arm and dunk your favorite fireman, and a friendly rivalry between the firefighters and Marco’s staff in tug-o-war.  The firemen also showed off their other talents as they line danced and played games with the attendees.  Even our dogs were made welcome with their own treats and activities.

Fireman Mike poses with the specialty pie that now bears his name.

Fireman Mike poses with the specialty pie that now bears his name.

In addition to a range in types of pizza provided, there was a special pizza sample of the winning Fireman’s pizza–Fireman Mike’s Pizza (cheese, spinach, pepperoni, crumbled sausage, bacon, onions and garlic butter crust). 

Any way you look at it, Firefest was a great success. Approximately 600 people joined in the festivities held in N Highland Park on Sept 24 to celebrate the opening of Marco’s Pizza, and raise money to help fund the restoration of Fire Station 19.  The total collected was $4,910!   

As with any successful endeavor, there are many who contributed their resources to make it seem so seamless for everyone else just enjoying the day.  Thanks to the following organizations and businesses for their contributions, most of which were raffle prizes.  Kris Colluro Smith was the winner in the drawing of the 5-year pizza contest.

  • Atlanta Police Department
  • Bill Hallman Boutique
  • Google fiber
  • Havoline Express Lube
  • Highland Woodwork
  • Home Depot – Ponce De Leon Avenue
  • Intown Ace Hardware
  • Lionheart Framing
  • Marco’s Pizza
  • Mister Car Wash
  • Paw Palace
  • Sweet Peach Wax & Sugaring – North Highland Avenue
  • Van Michael Salon – North Highland Avenue
  • Wells Fargo – Virginia Avenue
Tug-of-war was one of the day's most popular activities.

Tug-of-war was one of the day’s most popular activities.

Be sure to drop by and thank the participating businesses when you get a chance.  Marco’s Pizza is located at 798 North Highland Avenue Suite B.

The design phase of the restoration project is in its initial start-up phase.  Updates will be provided as the project progresses.  Our next fundraising event for the Fire Station 19 restoration is Santathon on Dec. 10.  We hope to see everyone there!


Take Your Leftover Halloween Candy to Worthmore Jewelers

The name Worthmore Jewelers may be familiar to you after their recent anniversary celebration a few months ago that resulted in a $1,000 donation to the Fire Station 19 restoration project. They are also a repeat sponsor this year of our annual Tour of Homes.

candy-crawl_paper_sourceEach November, Worthmore Jewelers also supports Operation Stars and Stripes with its Halloween candy drive. OSS is a not for profit organization that supplies care packages to deployed service men and women who will be away from their homes and families during the holiday season.  Please take your leftover Halloween candy to their Midtown location, where it will be sorted it out and sent to OSS. For the last five years, Worthmore’s midtown and Decatur locations have been competing to see which neighborhood can donate the most candy. MIDTOWN is the undisputed five-time heavyweight champion.

Last year, between the two stores over 1,000 pounds of candy were collected!

candy_crawl_outside_fire_stationWorthmore Jewelers’ involvement with Operation Stars and Stripes started 8 years ago when Harris and Geri’s daughter Molli needed a service project and wanted to focus on an organization that works with our deployed troops. After a search to find the perfect volunteer opportunity for their young daughter the family decided on OSS and have supported the organization ever since.

Everyone who drops off candy in either location can register to win a $50 Worthmore gift card. One winner from each store will be chosen at the close of business on Sunday, November 8.  You can drop off candy starting Sunday, November 1 (they are closed Monday and Tuesday) and Wednesday the 4th through Sunday the 8thWorthmore Jewelers is located at 500-L3 Amsterdam Walk.

If you would like to help OSS but candy isn’t your thing, you can visit them online at www.operationstarsandstripes.org where they regularly post a list of items they currently need.

By the way, Worthmore Jewelers is also a 2016 Tour of Homes sponsor and will be giving away a $25 gift card in a drawing as part of their sponsorship. Stop by the store anytime after November 1 to enter.


Tour of Homes Giveaways from Local Businesses

by Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

2016 TOHDo you follow the Tour of Homes on Facebook? Many people have discovered a wonderful facet of the Tour that’s been growing in popularity since its inception two years ago–giveaways from many of our sponsors.

Free tickets for the Tour, and a number of gift certificates for local businesses, are now being given away via the Tour’s Facebook page – right up until the weekend of the Tour.

Restaurant Giveaways

These include gift certificates from Atkins Park, Pea Ridge, Orpheus Brewing, Tapa Tapa, Press & Grind, Marlow’s Tavern, Park Tavern, Arden’s Garden, Highland Bakery, Taco Cowboy, Apres Diem, Alon’s Bakery & Market, Fontaine’s,Yeah! Burger, and Highland Tap.

Free Tour Tickets

Don’t miss out on a chance to win two free Tour tickets (a $50 to $60 value) from Engel & Volkers Intown Atlanta, Google Fiber, Traditions in Tile and Stone, Keller Knapp Realty, and Ferguson Bath, Kitchen & Lighting Gallery. 

Free Gift Certificates

Win gift certificates to local businesses that include Ten Thousand Villages, Judith Bright, The Cooks Warehouse, Worthmore Jewelers. Bla Bla Kid, Moore Farms and Friends, Savory Spice Shop, and The Great Frame Up.

Here’s a link to the entire giveaway schedule—the sooner you starting following along, the more chances you have to win!

Where to Claim Your Giveaway

Lucky winners will be announced on our Facebook page and by private message and can pick up their gift certificates at Will Call in John Howell Park on Virginia Avenue the weekend of the tour.

Virginia-Highland History Tour

wp_20161028_08_34_37_proRemember we’ve added a docent-led historical tour of the neighborhood to this year’s Tour. The authors of Images of America: Virginia-Highland have planned this special tour.  Virginia-Highland is on the National Register of Historic Places and filled with great architecture and stories. Don’t miss this special opportunity to learn about its development and those who made it such a treasure. Advance ticket purchase required for the history tour.

Oh – and look who’s flocking to the neighborhood for the Tour of Homes! You may see some of these flocks in various gardens around the neighborhood! Hopefully, you’ll enjoy our bit of whimsy as we remind everyone tour time is approaching.

Please visit our Tour of Homes website for more detailed information on the times, the homes, the sponsors and the restaurants. Click here for information on purchasing tickets.


Volunteers Still Needed for 2016 VaHi Tour of Homes

by Eleanor Barrineau, VaHi Tour of Homes Volunteer Coordinator

2016 TOH

The 2016 Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes is only a few weeks away and we still need volunteers!

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

Please show your support for the Tour and our neighborhood by signing up for a volunteer shift.  Volunteers are especially needed for the afternoon shift on Sunday.  You can sign up quickly and easily by going to www.vahitourofhomes.org/volunteer and clicking on the green button (once you get to our site at SignUp.com, scroll down to find open shifts).  We couldn’t put on the Tour without our wonderful volunteers!


Carolers from Grady High School volunteer at a recent Tour of Homes

Each volunteer receives two free tickets to the Tour – up to a $60 value.  What a great opportunity to save $$$ while also helping out your neighborhood!

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


First-Ever Candy Crawl – “This is What a Neighborhood Should Feel Like”

By Stephen Cohen, VHCA Communications Committee Member

candy_crawl_flyerIt was a wonderful family experience. On October 26, the Virginia-Highland business district had its first-ever Candy Crawl. Families gathered at the Fire Station at 5:30 and set out to trick-or-treat, walking all the way down Virginia-Highland to St. Charles, stopping at businesses marked by orange balloons. Over 35 businesses participated.

The idea originated with Doria Roberts from Tipple and Rose, who had done something similar at her sandwich shop in East Atlanta. She was excited about its first-year success here in VaHi.

“Based on my past experience, this was a great turnout for the first year!” said Doria. “I heard several parents say something to the effect that this is what a neighborhood should feel like.”


There were a lot of unknowns coming in. How many would come? How could all the pedestrians be kept safe in rush hour?  To that end, the Virginia-Highland Business Association asked the VaHi Civic Association to organize 6 crossing guards. The guards used safety vests and stop signs kindly provided by Joel Markwell, an Inman Middle School parent who coordinates their crossing guard program.

One of our crossing guards was Kay Stephenson. “I noticed several kids who were mesmerized by our big hand-held stop signs. They appeared to be pondering how that thing that is usually on a post ended up in a person’s hand!

candy_crawl_setting_off“And there were smiles on the faces of many drivers, perhaps charmed by the children into not minding that their commute was being delayed. Several parents mentioned that this made a great dry run for Monday night to see what was working with costumes. One adorable told me, “I’m a raccoon, but I couldn’t wear the mask because it’s too itchy”!

Every participating business had two bags of candy donated by Sysco.  And kids in costume even got to eat free at Atkins Park restaurant.

Truly, not only was this an evening of family fun, but it was an opportunity for parents to visit local stores they may never previously have been aware of.

candy-crawl_paper_source“Everyone was so upbeat and the beautiful weather was definitely a plus,” said crossing guard volunteer Margaret Ross, who was stationed in Atkins Park. “Kristi, from The Warren, interacted with all the kids at her stop; they loved having their character recognized, and were quite polite. All in all, a wonderful neighborhood experience for the participants and onlookers alike. “

candy_crawl_wolfIn fact, many business owners enjoyed it and talked with the parents & kids at their stops. Commented business owner Lynn DeWitt: “EVERYONE enjoyed this event!  Kids loved the candy.  Parents had a terrific time walking with their families, browsing the shops and restaurants.  Stores were buzzing with business. Streets were crowded but safe. Atkins Park Tavern had happy and hungry customers for dinner. Let’s repeat this next Halloween.”

Concluded a very happy Doria: “Next year we hope to add costume contests (for kids, adults and pets) and maybe a pumpkin-carving contest.”

So if you missed the first-ever Virginia-Highland Candy Crawl, be on the lookout for the second one next year!


Kids Candy Crawl Set for October 26

The Virginia-Highland Business Association has announced they’ll hold a Kids Candy Crawl on October 26.

Meet at 5:30 pm at Fire Station #19 (corner of N. Highland and Los Angeles). Stroll down N. Highland looking for orange balloons. When you see one, stop and get a free treat from one of your local businesses. The Crawl continues down N. Highland to St. Charles, right on St. Charles and then into the alleyway off St. Charles to Knock.

After filling your bags with goodies, head on over to Atkins Park for dinner. All kids in a costume will get a free kids menu meal.

Want to volunteer? Volunteers are needed to make VaHi’s crosswalks safe for the Krawl. Contact Stephen Cohen at scohen49@gmail.com if you’re interested.


Volunteers Needed for 2016 Tour of Homes

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Volunteer Coordinator

Organizers man the volunteer check-in table during last year's Tour of Homes.

Organizers man the volunteer check-in table during a recent Tour of Homes.

One of the most helpful things you can do for your neighborhood is to volunteer at the Tour of Homes. It benefits you, too. You get two free Tour of Homes tickets for working one shift in one of our beautiful neighborhood homes. And it’s also a great opportunity to meet other neighbors who will be working along with you.

This year’s Tour of Homes is coming up on December 3rd and 4th. Signing up to volunteer is easy. Just go to vahitourofhomes.org/volunteer and click on the green “Click here to sign up” button. We especially need volunteers for the afternoon shifts and for Sunday. Volunteers working later shifts can pick up their tickets at John Howell Park anytime during tour hours Saturday and Sunday and can go on the tour before their shift.

If you can’t volunteer, be sure to buy tickets and encourage your friends and neighbors to do so.  Our combination of wonderful homes and delicious food tastings is unique!  Tickets are available at www.vahitourofhomes.org/tickets.


It’s Almost Time to Tour!

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

2016 TOHYES! 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 2016 Tour of Homes is set for the first weekend in December, Saturday and Sunday the 3rd and 4th. Our committee has been working hard all year to ensure the success of this year’s tour.

Eight beautiful properties will be featured on this year’s tour. Although different in style and design, they are all equally representative of the Neighborhood’s character. This year’s line-up includes a custom modern home with beautiful gardens and rooftop deck, a recently renovated California-style bungalow, a charming 1925 cottage with recent updates, a classic 1917 bungalow with beautiful indoor and outdoor living spaces, and a quintessential 1909 bungalow in which a recent renovation both restored original features and created modern living spaces for the current owners. The tour includes three other fabulous historic homes transformed for the modern world.

949 Virginia Circle is one of the homes on this year's tour.

949 Virginia Circle is one of the homes on this year’s tour.

Local restaurants will provide food tastings at each of the Tour homes. Local favorites Highland Tap, Atkins Park, The Cook’s Warehouse, Fontaine’s Oyster House, and Marlow’s Tavern will once again serve up delicious bites. We are thrilled to have the following restaurants new to the tour join in 2016: Highland Bakery, Press & Grind, Taco Cowboy, Tapa Tapa, Après Diem, Pea Ridge and DBA Barbecue.

Each year the Tour just keeps getting bigger and better. This year, we hope you will enjoy taking a docent history tour of the neighborhood. We are very fortunate to have a number of talented historians in the neighborhood who have crafted a delightful tour. Virginia-Highland is on the National Register of Historic Places, and filled with great architecture and stories. Don’t miss this special opportunity to learn about its development and those who made it such a treasure. Tours will depart hourly from John Howell Park beginning at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday. The last tour departs at 2:00 p.m. Purchase bundled tickets for the home and history tours for $30 in advance.

660 Elkmont is one of the homes on this year's tour.

660 Elkmont is one of the homes on this year’s tour.

So many people make this fundraising event possible in order to improve the quality of life in our community. The funds raised by the Tour of Homes go to support various projects in our neighborhood, including playground/park improvements, sidewalks, safety, traffic concerns, planning and preservation and other community efforts. Hopefully, Mother Nature will provide clear skies and perfect temps to bring out tour goers. We know businesses and residents will give them a warm welcome.

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

964 N. Highland Avenue is one of the homes on this year's tour.

964 N. Highland Avenue is one of the homes on this year’s tour.

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

Hope to see you all out & about!


Agenda Posted for Tomorrow Night’s VHCA Monthly Board and General Meeting

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECHThe agenda for tomorrow night’s monthly general meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association is posted below.

As a reminder, tomorrow night’s meeting will be held at Church of our Saviour, corner of N. Highland and Los Angeles Avenues, starting at 7 PM. The meeting will be held in Pettway Hall which is accessed off of Los Angeles. We hope to see many residents at the meeting, which will be the first held under the newly elected board of directors.

Here is the agenda for tomorrow night’s meeting:

  • Election of VHCA Board Officers – Kevin Cronin
  • Reports from City Department Representatives
  • Comments from Elected Officials
  • Guest Presentations
  • Secretary Report
  • Treasurer Report
  • Committee Reports
  • Planning – Jess Windham
  • Variance Application(s)
    • V-16-260; 797 Greenwood Ave. NE. RG-2; BL OL
    • Applicant Kelly Reilly of Wright Gardner Architect (on behalf of owner Michael Jenkins) seeks variances to (A) reduce the required front yard setback from 40 feet to 18 feet 10 inches (pre-existing); (B) reduce the required half-depth front yard (on Bonaventure) from 20 feet to 7 feet 11 inches; and (C) reduce the
    • V-16-266; 560 Cresthill Ave. NE; R-4
    • Applicants Earl Jackson and Susan Johnson of Metro Atlanta Permits (for owner David Taylor-Klaus) seek a variance to reduce the required western side yard setback from 7 feet to 2.9 feet (existing on rear deck) to add second story addition in the existing footprint to a single-family dwelling and to expand the rear deck entirely over an existing patio.
    • V-16-224. 695 Cooledge Ave. NE; R-4 – Withdrawn
    • V-16-232; 834 Clemont Dr. NE; R-4 – Deferred until November
    • V-16-239; 1079 North Highland Ave. NE; R-4 – Deferred until November
    • V-16-242; 866 Arlington Pl. NE; R-4 – Deferred until January
  • Monroe Drive Complete Streets Update
  • Fire Station 19 Update
  • Fundraising
  • Summerfest – Paige Hewell
  • Tour of Homes – Robin Ragland
  • Parks – David Brandenberger
  • Safety – Eleanor Barrineau
  • President Report
  • Unfinished Business
  • Todd Memorial and Lawsuit
  • New Business
  • Proposal for Survey of Association Members – Kay Stephenson
  • Adjournment

Cub Scouts and VHCA Partner to Raise Awareness for Protecting Our Waterways

By Jess Windham and Jack White

Water quality starts in our own backyards, an important fact that Cub Scout Pack 17 learned more about on Saturday, October 1, 2016. Informed by our Virginia-Highland Master Plan project #1.7, VHCA teamed up with the Department of Watershed Management (DWM) and an energetic group of Scouts and Webelos to install stormwater medallions on the drains closest to our most visible indicators of our watersheds: Orme Creek at Orme Park and a tributary to South Fork Peachtree Creek at Lenox-Wildwood Park Garden Park in Morningside. Many thanks to the pack and wonderful parents who came out to support the initiative.

img_6542 drain_lr overhead_2_lr

The timing is ironic, as recently Orme Creek was polluted from a source at a higher elevation in the watershed. A diligent crew from the City’s DWM investigated the matter, including walking in the culvert that runs under Brookridge and spending many hours finding the cause of a stinky situation. For the full story, you can read more here (link https://vahi.org/orme-creek-fouled-by-grease-citys-stormwater-recon-crew-responds/)

Why does it matter what gets into our local creeks?

The answer goes beyond the beauty and enjoyment that many local citizens derive from being near those streams. All natural systems are inter-related; the macroinvertebrates in the creek, the fish, the insects, the birds, the mammals – their mutual health depends on one another.

These tributaries and creeks flow far beyond our borders, carrying with them all our accumulated impacts. This is especially prescient as you consider that water isn’t created from scratch. Energy-intensive industrial processes are required to clean water so into a potable, drinkable form we all appreciate.    

img_6565 img_6548 img_6555

VaHi’s Subwatersheds

Virginia-Highland has two sub-watersheds, Rock Creek and Clear Creek; both eventually flow to Peachtree Creek and on to the Chattahoochee River and the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola Bay. Appropriately-named North ‘High-land’ Avenue is broadly the boundary between them. 

Rainfall to the east of Highland flows (either underground or via several patches of surface streams) into Rock Creek, which heads north into South Peachtree in Johnson-Taylor Park in Morningside. The very top of Rock Creek is visible behind the east side of Arlington Place and – more obviously – at Amsterdam Avenue and McLynn.

img_6552 img_6564 img_6545

Orme Creek starts to the west of Highland, as rainfall flows downhill to the west. However most of it is channeled underground, with only a few sections – like Orme Park – above ground.  The water then flows into Clear Creek, which itself emerges onto the surface at the northern edge of Piedmont Park on its way to Ansley Mall and the Golf Course, under I-85, along the border of Brookwood, and into Peachtree Creek west of the Piedmont Road bridge near Lindberg Drive. A trip to the South Fork Confluence Trail is truly worth the trip to see it firsthand.

Inside its namesake park, Orme Creek is easy to observe and approach. Its surface life (low volume, like Rock Creek) begins behind houses between LA Avenue (on the south) and Glen Arden (on the north.)  It collects some water from underground storm drains throughout the immediate neighborhood.


Shine a Light on Homelessness

Shine a Light on HomelessnessGrab your lantern, your flashlight, or your blinking hat – if it lights up, it qualifies – and join Journey Men’s Shelter on Sunday, October 2 from 7:00-9:30 p.m. for a kick-off event to their year-long campaign, “Shine a Light on Homelessness.”  The kick-off event includes a 1-mile lighted walk starting at the shelter and ends with a reception at the historic Highland Inn ballroom for drinks, coffee, and dessert.

You can participate in the walk only, the reception only, or both. The goal is to come together to show support for reducing the homeless population within our community by raising money for the critical programs offered by Journey.

Journey Men’s Shelter is located in Virginia-Highland at 1026 Ponce de Leon Ave, NE, behind Druid Hills Presbyterian Church and has been providing services to homeless men for more than 30 years.

You can learn more or register for the event on our website.

And please share with your friends and neighbors. We hope to see many lights shining for this worthy cause.


Virginia-Highland Church Annual Yard Sale

Proceeds to benefit church’s The River program for the homeless

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair

The RiverOn Saturday, October 1st, the Virginia-Highland Church will hold its annual yard sale beginning at 8:00 a.m. The church is located at the corner of Virginia Avenue and Ponce de Leon Pl.  All proceeds go to care for homeless citizens here in Atlanta via The River program.

The River is Virginia-Highland Church’s unique ministry for addressing homelessness in its immediate neighborhood and across Atlanta. The name comes from a story about a group of people who are horrified to see babies floating down the river in their village. Some begin rescuing the babies, but others run upstream to find out who is throwing the babies into the river. In Virginia-Highland Church’s version, members of the church have visited with and become friends with a group of homeless folks. They strive to meet the immediate needs of their friends, whether it be food, clothes, or assistance in finding medical care, job training, or housing. In forging relationships with homeless people, the church members are better able to understand the root causes of homelessness and the barriers that homeless people face. With this first-hand perspective, the church can then be an advocate on behalf of the homeless with legislators, city officials, and policy makers.

Residents of the Virginia-Highland neighborhood are also invited to hold their own yard sale on that Saturday and donate the proceeds for our homeless neighbors. You might get together with others and create your own party that day, or donate items directly to the church. This is a great opportunity to make some room in our lives in the hope that someday everyone in Atlanta will have a “room” of their own. 100% of the proceeds will go to The River, Virginia-Highland Church’s homeless program.

If you would like to donate items directly to the church, please contact Jean Miller, Church Administrator, at jean@vhchurch.org for details about items that will be accepted and drop-off times.

Below are images of some of those involved with The River and a few of the homeless folks they now call friends.

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Looking Back – and Ahead – at the Todd Cemetery Memorial

By Jack White, outgoing VHCA Board President

The homeowners who destroyed the Todd Cemetery Memorial filed responses last week to the legal assertions that VHCA and the Todd family made in our lawsuit. You may read our filing here.

These responses are public and filed under oath; you may read them here. Their responses are numerical and do not show the assertions to which they are responding, so fans of this will have to open both and go one by one.

As you would expect, they have no comment on many assertions; others they contest or label irrelevant.  And they filed a motion for dismissal and an assertion that we had trespassed by walking up the driveway that has been in use since the house was first built there.  Neither claim has merit; some form of both were anticipated.


About the actual content of the suit – the easement, the fence, the destruction – there is no need to debate or wonder any longer about the following points:

VHCA asserted – and they acknowledge – that a public easement exists on the property.  (As our attorney pointed out and offered to share with them a year ago, it’s referenced on the signed plat in the Fulton County property records.)

VHCA asserted – and they do not contest – that the homeowners erected a new fence that blocked public access to the memorial.

VHCA asserted – and they acknowledge – that they made an agreement to place a sign on the fence inviting visitors to enter through their gate during daylight hours to visit the memorial and to be respectful of the property owners.

VHCA asserted – and they admit – that they hired a contractor who destroyed the monument in December of last year.

VHCA asserted – and they acknowledge – that they were not truthful when they claimed that “vandals” were responsible for the destruction.

The destruction of the memorial presented itself as a series of questions that had to be answered.

Let’s look at the how the 2015-16 VHCA board analyzed them.

  1. Was the monument worth preserving?  What was its place in the history of VaHi?
  2. Was there a significant underlying principle at play here that compelled our attention? 
  3. Was there another entity that realistically could have taken on the issue?
  4. Does being a resident of VaHi immunize you from legal action by VHCA?
  5. Did the Civic Association have the resources to make this legal objection?  Would the fight ruin existing programs or compromise our Associations’ ability to meet its legal obviations?
  6. Did we rush into this without trying every reasonable alternative before filing suit?

Was the monument worth preserving?

The monument honors the family of the settlers who moved here after the state bought the land from the Creek Indians and sold it in an 1821 lottery.  This monument’s lot and its adjacent one to the west were the last pieces of a much larger Todd tract that were historic family burial sites.  The monument was created as part of a court agreement that permitted the development of these last two lots in the late 1980’s.

The (now destroyed ) physical monument consisted of an historic marker placed on the cemetery site in the late 1920s to honor the original settlers, Richard and Martha Todd. That memorial marker was surrounded by a wrought iron fence set atop several courses of brick.

Both nearby neighbors and the Virginia-Highland Civic Association were participants in the process that created and accepted the agreement.  VaHi residents Craig Strain and Gail Nowak wrote about it in The Voice in 1980 and 1984 and organized a site cleanup in the latter years, before the monument’s establishment. Former Ponce de Leon Terrace resident Carl Hartrampf chaired a VHCA Todd Cemetery Committee in the spring of 1986; he, Jerry Bright, and other nearby residents advocated for very specific conditions and outcomes in detailed letters and reports they exchanged with Sam Dickson, who developed the easement.  Noted Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett visited the site.

It has a documented record of citizen and Association involvement from that period, and several local historians of the last two decades have written about it as well, including in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America: Virginia-Highland, which came out five years ago.

Whether one thinks history or preservation matters or not, it is clear that the 2105-16 Board was hardly alone in valuing the monument.


Other than the historic value, was there a significant underlying principle at play here that compelled out attention?

The deliberate destruction of the monument created a completely different issue.  The Board considered it an affront to the community and found it impossible to ignore or accept on many levels. Aside from the plain ugliness of the act, it places the question of the rule of law on the table. Condoning it would have made a mockery of our efforts to demand that other citizens – developers or residents – have to obey the law. The Civic Association is – and has to be – a group that believes in order, lawful process, and good will among our citizens.

Was there another entity that realistically should or could have credibly taken on the issue?

Given the unusual circumstances of this case – the destruction of a significant public monument on private property and absent a police report – APD saw no option other than a civil remedy. We asked several preservation nonprofits, all of whom were astonished at the act but also had full plates of their own.  We contacted and spoke with family members; as one would have expected, they were angry and disappointed and supported this battle in many ways – emotionally, financially, and by their presence at the mediation.

We would have loved someone to swoop in and take this on.  As no one could identify who that might be, the simple choice that this Board faced was to act or to walk away.

It was a monument in our neighborhood and with a history created by our citizens over three decades, and it was our battle.  We embraced it.

Does being a resident of VaHi immunize you from legal action by VHCA?

The Board has faced off with residents in court proceedings before. It hasn’t happened often, but the Board has been in court several times with local business owners – several of them quite familiar – who were residents.

It seems silly on its face to suggest that VHCA should vigilantly demand compliance with a formal agreement that a business basement be used only for storage or that a warming device be excluded from  a yogurt shop, but ignore the (admitted) destruction of a cemetery memorial.  (All examples are real, and VHCA has fought for all these points in the last five years.)


Did the Civic Association have the resources to mount a legal objection?  Can the Association meet its obligations?

We did and we are confident it can and will.  The Association has paid all its bills, matched Councilmember Wan’s matching offer of $19,000 for security cameras, handed out another year of supporting grants to community organizations, and ends the Board year with its customary six-figure reserve.  Record Tour of Homes revenues await only half-decent weather.

We have formally asserted a demand – and believe that simple justice, logic, and law compel – the recovery of our legal fees expended since the destruction of the monument.  If ever a set of facts and behaviors supported such an outcome, these are the ones.

Did we rush into this? Did we try every reasonable alternative before filing suit?

We took at face value their claim that no easement existed and paid for our own lawyer to verify its existence and offer his case material to them, along with evidence of court rulings validating such easements.  Our lawyer negotiated at our expense a good-faith solution that included our paying for a sign reminding visitors to be courteous and respectful. (No one has ever reported any other sorts of behaviors, as it happens.)  We considered that money well spent; these are our neighbors.

When we were faced with the memorial’s destruction and the homeowners’ denial of responsibility, we slowly gathered facts and reports and continued to try to negotiate.  When they asserted that we were harassing them (absent any evidence) and twice threatened to sue us personally, we countered with an offer of  mediation.

The legal and financial logic for their pursuing a settlement was overwhelming, as was pointed out to us repeatedly.  It took their walking away from the mediation process to convince us to sue.  Whatever this board was, it wasn’t rash or rushed.

Their persistent refusal to admit that they were responsible (until they had to write under oath) pushed our legal costs toward the maximums described by our attorney and mocked our assumption and belief that our acting in executive session would increase the probability of their settling privately rather than being embarrassed publicly. Whatever their motivations, they have delayed and stalled for six months.

Paying for this made us shake our heads; we can all think of great things to do with the money.  That’s why we are determined to see it returned by those who knew what they had done and ran the bills up; our lawyer will do everything possible toward that end.

But if it isn’t – and we like our chances – we believe the battle had to be fought.  This neighborhood association has acted on principle since its founding.  We love trees and green spaces but we don’t just plant them; we fight for policy that protects them. We appreciate improved homes, but we’re not afraid to take on improper development.  We love having new citizens in our neighborhood, but we also like to protect our historic structures.

We’ve always fought battles that were based on principle, and I hope we always will.  It’s a key part of what has made this neighborhood a unique place.


Community Grants Awarded at VHCA 2016 Annual General Meeting

The annual general meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association was held September 22 at Inman Middle School. As always, the Spark Choir – led by Music Director Brianne Turgeon – warmed our hearts with a few songs to kick off the meeting.

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Along with electing a new slate of board members, VHCA awarded $25,525 in grants to local schools and non-profits who serve our Virginia-Highland residents. Included in our grant awards was Open Door Community who will be leaving Virginia-Highland after 35 years of service to the homeless community in our area. They will be missed.

Scroll down to review a list of this year’s grant recipients.  You can view a video of the entire meeting here.



Atlanta Streets Alive Returns to VaHi

Atlanta-Streets-Alive-200x200Atlanta Streets Alive welcomes you to walk, bike, roll, run and play in the streets from 2:00pm to 6:00pm, September 25, on N Highland Ave., Highland Ave. and Boulevard! This event is organized by the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. For more information, please visit AtlantaStreetsAlive.com/sept_25_route .

The street closure for the September 25 Atlanta Streets Alive on N Highland, Highland and Boulevard will begin at 12:30pm and streets will reopen by 7:30pm. Atlanta Streets Alive welcomes you to walk, bike, roll, run and play in the streets from 2:00pm to 6:00pm. 

Volunteers are still needed to support the event. To volunteer in advance or on the day of the September 25 Atlanta Streets route, please visit AtlantaStreetsAlive.com/volunteer_opportunities_sep_2016_route.

Scroll down to view a few photos from last year’s Atlanta Streets Alive in VaHi.

Here are some additional links you may find useful if you wish to follow this event.

Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/156656048076943/

Facebook page: @ATLStreetsAlive

Twitter: @ATLStreetsAlive

Instagram: @AtlantaBike #AtlantaStreetsAlive


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Firefest in the Park to Benefit FS #19

What: Firefest in the Park, an event to benefit Fire Station #19

When: Saturday, September 24, 2016, 1:00 – 5:00 p.m.

Where: North Highland Park (corner of N. Highland and St. Charles)

Atlanta Fire Station #19 is an icon in the Virginia-Highland neighborhood.  Dating back to 1925, it’s the oldest continuously operated fire station in the city. The Virginia-Highland Civic Association is taking the lead in renovating the station in partnership with the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department, and Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects.  Firefest in the Park is a community event to help raise the needed dollars to preserve this beloved community treasure. 


Marco’s Pizza, recently opened on N. Highland near Greenwood, is partnering with the Virginia-Highland Civic Association to throw a party for us all, which will feature great food, entertainment, and activities involving the crew at Fire Station #19. The event will include:

  • Free Slices of Pizza
  • Firefighter Challenges, including a Dunk Tank!
  • Fire Truck Display
  • Caricaturists and Balloon Artists
  • Live Music
  • Enter to Win Free Pizza for Five Years

In addition, there will be a pizza eating contest between Atlanta Firefighters and our Zone 6 police officers – come show your support and cheer on all competitors! Google Fiber is another partner host, and will provide a face painter and complimentary water.

We hope to see everyone at the park next Saturday to enjoy a fun afternoon and raise as much money as we can for the Fire Station #19 restoration project.


New VHCA Board of Directors Elected

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECHCongratulations to the following Virginia-Highland residents who were elected to the VHCA Board of Directors at last night’s annual general meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association on Sept. 22:

  • David Brandenberger
  • Robin Ragland
  • Jess Windham
  • Paige Hewell
  • Eleanor Barrineau
  • Kay Stephenson
  • Cindy Kaufman
  • Jenifer Keenan
  • Debbie Skopczynski
  • George Zirkel
  • Steve Messner (alternate)

The following officers were elected at the October VHCA Board Meeting. 

President:  Jenifer Keenan

Vice President:  Kay Stephenson

Treasurer:  George Zirkel

Secretary:  Jess Windham


VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers


The Virginia-Highland Civic Association Annual General Meeting will be held September 22 at the Inman Middle School Cafeteria from 6:30 – 9:00pm. Grants will be awarded and the 2016/2017 Board of Directors will be elected. 

The Springdale Park Elementary Advanced Chorus, led by Music Director Brianne Turgeon, will kick off the meeting again this year, so be sure to arrive early to hear them! They will start at 7:00pm.

Please submit your grant applications to board@vahi.org. Applications can be found here. The association has given out grants to local non-profits, schools and other organizations doing work that benefits our membership right here in Virginia-Highland.

The nominating committee (Lola Carlisle, Kevin Cronin and Jess Windham) will be accepting bios from those interested in running for the Board. Please reach out to the Board with questions and review the activities and the mission of the association on our website. The Committees page and Strategic Goals from prior years are particularly informative. 

To be included on the printed and published ballot, please email your bio to jlwindham@gmail.com, lola@tailfin.com, and cronink@me.com by September 6. Please include a paragraph on your experiences in the neighborhood and goals for serving on the 2016/2017 VHCA Board. You can see bios of current board members here.


VHCA Responds to Questions Regarding Todd Cemetery Memorial

Following our initial article on the topic, several questions emerged regarding the VHCA’s effort to restore the Todd Cemetery Memorial. The following sequence of events seeks to answer many of these questions. Photos at the bottom of the article show the Todd Cemetery Memorial under construction in the late 1980s. The Memorial Stone shown in the images was placed on the site of the Todd Cemetery in the late 1920s

  • The Todd Cemetery Memorial marker (featuring a stone grave marker from the 1920’s) has been in place on private land with a public easement since 1989. The VHCA was part of a larger group that created it to honor the Todd family.  Prior owners had lived peacefully with the monument and honored the public easement without incident or conflict since its creation.
  • The current homeowners erected a fence blocking access to the memorial. Two separate visitors to the memorial stopped at the fence and later contacted the VHCA asking for help gaining access to the memorial. 
  • The VHCA spoke to the homeowners, who represented that they did not believe they had any legal obligation to allow public access. (Spring 2015)
  • VHCA asked our lawyer, a Virginia-Highland resident, to examine the legality of the easement. He verified it, informed the owners of his findings, recommended they secure an independent evaluation, and offered to share his information with another lawyer of their choosing.  (Summer 2015)
  • Our lawyer negotiated an agreement with them: the fence would stay, and VHCA would pay for a new sign that would welcome daytime visitors and remind them to be courteous and respectful of the homeowners. VHCA announced the agreement.  (Fall 2015)
  • Shortly after the agreement was reached, just before Christmas, neighbors reported that the homeowners hired a contractor to destroy and remove the monument and wrought iron fence surrounding it.
  • VHCA board members visited the site and confirmed the report of the damage.  (Christmas, 2015)
  • Contacted by our attorney, the homeowners attributed the damage to “vandals,” a claim they subsequently repeated.  Assuming that an invasion of private property by vandals would have generated a call to authorities, the VHCA searched for a police report and found none.  (January 2016)
  • The VHCA notified the Todd family, and our attorney formally asked the homeowners to rebuild the monument. We consulted with the Atlanta Police Department, who recommended a course of civil action.  (January 2106)
  • The VHCA Board reviewed the issue with a second attorney whose sole practice is property law.  His study and view of the relevant facts and law mirrored what we had already learned.   (Winter and Spring 2016)
  • Rather than negotiate, the homeowners twice threatened to sue members of the VHCA board personally if we did not “leave them alone.” (Spring 2016)
  • VHCA offered formal mediation as a solution to the dispute. The homeowners accepted and attended one mediation session with their attorney, the VHCA attorney, a Todd family member, and members of the VHCA board. At the mediation session, they did not deny responsibility for the destruction and suggested relocating a rebuilt monument to the front of their property, which was acceptable to the family and the VHCA. The VHCA, our attorney, and the Todd family member left optimistic that a solution might be forthcoming, and an additional mediation session was scheduled.  (April-June 2016)
  • The homeowners canceled the next mediation meeting and made no effort to reschedule it.  After VHCA’s lawyer made repeated unsuccessful attempts to reschedule, the VHCA board voted to take legal action with the Todd family against the homeowners.  A suit was filed, asking the court to order the monument’s restoration, affirm the easement, and have the owners pay our legal fees from the destruction forward. (July –August 2016)
  • The VHCA worked in good faith for over a year and a half to try to settle this issue in a neighborly fashion with respect for the privacy of all the parties responsible. At each stage, we believed a settlement was both logical and probable.
  • After these good-faith efforts failed – and with no alternative ever identified or proposed other than walking away from and accepting the memorial’s destruction –  the VHCA (along with members of the Todd Family), after great care and deliberation, moved forward with the lawsuit.
  • This historic monument was created with the support of this association, it honors the founders of our neighborhood, and its destruction is a public affront that diminishes the historic fabric of our community.
  • Ignoring the destruction of the monument would have been wrong on the merits and inconsistent with the history of this association and its response to such challenges. This association has always argued that no one is above the law, and no one can take it into their own hands without consequence. This is the logical basis of all our approaches to zoning, planning, safety, and preservation.  

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New Security Cameras Funded by VHCA and Councilmember Wan

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

IMG_1261Earlier this year Councilmember Alex Wan offered to match any neighborhood association’s contribution of up to $20K for new public police security cameras. In July, VHCA appropriated $19K for the Atlanta Police Foundation, who selects camera locations and supervises their installation for the city.  These cameras – and several hundred others in the city, with more planned – are monitored 24/7 by the Atlanta Police Department. The cameras look like the white one in the image to the right.

We met twice with the Foundation, first with our Safety Committee and the second time with Morningside/Lenox Park (who are also considering the offer) and Poncey-Highland, our neighbors across Ponce de Leon.  Alas for the latter, they are not in Alex’s district and have no offer from their own councilmember, whose financial assistance both we and Poncey-Highland would have appreciated.

We enjoyed both meetings with the Foundation, represented each time by Jessica Masters.  After examining the locations of existing cameras and pending plans for others, they selected three sites along Ponce de Leon Avenue, chosen for its role as a busy east-west thoroughfare.   The cameras should be installed soon, visible at corners westward from Frederica and Ponce.

The thoughtful Ms. Masters also reported that the Foundation was conducting some studies to examine the specific effectiveness of the cameras as a crime-fighting tool.  We look forward to sharing those results with you.

We thank her and Councilmember Wan for their support and interest in this topic.  As always, Councilmember Wan was very effective in finding tangible ways to support his communities.


Briarcliff Terrace Apartments Redevelopment Plans on Hold

Briarcliff Ter Apt signThe developerrs at Briarcliff Terrace Apartments Place have communicated (attorney to attorney) that they will not be introducing ‘at this time’ a proposal to redevelop their site from its existing designation of RG2 to either RG3 or to a PDH (Planned Development Housing) zoning category.

(This site is located downhill below the Highland CVS, bounded by Rosedale Drive on the north, Rosedale Road on the east, Briarcliff Place on the south, and Arlington Place on the west. It contains about 145 one, two, and three-bedroom units, plus two small homes, all built in the 1960’s. One small street bisects the property north-south, which for many years has been a quiet and stable home to a group of mostly Latino residents, including many children.)

This decision does not mean that the owners or developers won’t change their mind in the future, even the near future. One can always ask to change the zoning or land use, as they were contemplating. Or they might choose to redevelop it within existing density guidelines, which was and is a readily available option. (More on that in a moment.)

Some form of redevelopment here has seemed certain for years, and the zoning and land use were reviewed during our Master Plan Process. No changes in either category were suggested then, and no compelling reasons for new ones have been identified since.

Looking at how this process played out offers a chance to see how the VHCA Board and Planning Committee have approached issues of this type over the last few years.

Briarcliff Ter Apt 2

The ownership and development group met several times with VHCA and its zoning and planning consultants. The VHCA Planning Committee has made such meetings standard in the last five years; they are a useful way to understand goals. After the first meeting, we immediately checked in with our councilmember to make sure that he had the same understanding that we did (many developers meet first with the local councilmember on issues like this), and we did the same with the NPU Planning Chair, who had also met with them. And we carefully looked at the physical features of the site.

The applicants emphasized that while their plans were not final, they anticipated increasing the amount of developed space – the density, defined in the code as FAR, Floor Area Ratio – by about 50%, even though the number of units would be about the same. (Obviously – and as one might expect – the new units were going to be a lot larger.) The use of Planned Development Housing as a design tool was mentioned.

PDH is a useful concept, and it can be employed in any zoning category. It offers architects the chance of creating unique and innovative plans that can protect natural resources (perhaps voluntarily save trees or protect riparian areas), maximize green spaces, and (conceivably) avoid boxlike designs.

But the City of Atlanta has a long-standing policy that controls PDH rezonings that limits the allowable density to the level already in place on a property. This property’s density was RG2; in this case, the City support of a rezoning to PDH would remain capped at the RG2 density, which is .348

Their proposal – at least as presented – had a much higher level: a FAR of about .57

As we examined this with our consultants, an even more fundamental concern with the proposed new density emerged. This particular site represents a small fraction of the total amount of property within the Virginia-Highland neighborhood that is zoned RG2. While many of them are smaller, these properties have much in common with Briarcliff Terrace: they are inside the neighborhood (not fronting along major thoroughfares), are surrounded by single-family residential, and are historically small-scale walk-up apartment types of buildings. There are over 60 acres of “other” RG2-zoned land in the neighborhood, in addition to this 7-acre site.

Briarcliff Ter Apt

The outcome of a rezoning application here would set a precedent for those remaining properties in the neighborhood. Planner Aaron Fortner summed it up thusly: What determinative arguments would support the re-zoning of this site from RG2 to RG3 that wouldn’t also apply to the other similarly zoned properties? He concluded that there were no standards or criteria utilized by the City of Atlanta that would meaningfully distinguish this site from the others.

And rezonings are not variances. We take variances seriously and visit every site in an effort to ensure that new proposals will not improperly diminish the value of adjacent properties, but variances are common and are not precedents. Zoning changes are, and they’re tracked carefully by those in the business.

Because what is done on this RG2 property (of 7 acres) would set a precedent for what can happen on the other RG2 properties (60+ acres), a rezoning here would be a powerful tool for supporting similar changes on the other properties.

Nor were there any persuasive arguments offered as to why this property should be rezoned, other than the desire to get more density on it. It certainly has value as an RG2 property. If the existing buildings were removed, the current RG2 zoning would allow about 108,000 s.f. of new development on the site (approximately 10% more than is there now), which could include one or more combinations of the following development types:

Approximately 100+ units of apartments (assumes 1,000 sq. ft/unit);

Approximately 50+ units of townhomes (assumes 2,000 sq. ft/unit);

Approximately 35+ units of single-family houses (assumes 3,000 sq. ft/unit).

There is one last consideration. The NPU-F Comprehensive Development Plan acknowledges that many nonconforming properties are in place and can remain (or be redeveloped at the existing density), but this site’s underlying land use is single-family – a designation that reflects the fact that 100% of the surrounding properties are just that: single-family. Increasing the density (as was being contemplated) would require a land-use challenge to the CDP, an issue that the NPU and all its neighborhoods – including VaHi – take very seriously. Two separate attempts of that type have been rebuffed in NPU-F the last two years. (We wrote about them in the Voice and hosted one large NPU meeting and vote at the VaHi Church.)

This NPU also successfully opposed a similar attempt at Monroe and 10th in 2009. Planning according to the tenets and themes of our Master Plan and the CDP has been a principle for us and NPU-F.

Among our consultants’ goals was investigating whether the City Planning Department was considering changing their own policy to allow a PDH use here that increased density. Once we were confident that the policy was firmly in place and knowing that Councilmember Wan was steadfast in his support of following the existing guidelines, we were hopeful that the developers might rethink their plans, even after they made an unusual private presentation to adjacent neighbors that omitted some key points.

Let’s be clear: Attempts can be made to rezone even in these conditions. But it’s easier for us to make an effective and strong case when we make plausible planning arguments year after year, are consistent and logical in our reasoning, synched with local and city plans, and supported by our local councilmember. Those aren’t guarantees, but those factors matter a lot.

It appears that – for at least the time being – this plan will not be pursued. Of course, that could change, and a new plan could be presented. We’ll be glad to work with the owners and help evaluate it if that happens.

Some of these theoretically public processes tend to be opaque. Hence this article, which aspires to make clearer the sorts of rationales and approaches we use to analyze significant changes in zoning or land use. Having the assistance of knowledgeable planners and land use attorneys costs money, but when it helps the neighborhood evaluate proposals in an orderly fashion according to known principles, it’s money well spent.

(The developers are spending a lot of money, too. Of course, they often stand to get a lot more back.)

A final thought: Employing the Master Plan and CDP and doing methodical systematic reviews of city processes benefits the whole community, not just the closest neighbors. Nearby citizens are often wisely engaged – they would bear the brunt of changes in traffic and noise, and we appreciate hearing from many of them here – but it’s everyone’s battle. The impacts of such projects extend way past the adjacent streets, just as will the outcomes at 10th & Monroe/Cresthill. These are issues that require unblinking attention and real vigilance.

We again salute and thank councilmember Wan for his consistent and supportive stand on issues like this. Many a community has had decent plans but only defended them in a crisis (“Here comes the Big Box Mart”), and many communities have not been consistently supported at the council level. Alex has been a stalwart and a strong advocate for public planning, and it has made his neighborhoods a much better place to live in and encouraged and rewarded citizen involvement.

It’s a long article, and if you’ve read this far, you may be ready to join the Planning Committee. But understanding and identifying the constituent parts have helped us understand this a lot better. It’s an issue (like many) that can for a long time seem like it doesn’t matter much – until suddenly it does, and then it matters a lot.

Your comments and questions are welcome. We frequently discuss these matters at the Planning Committee and Board meetings; those schedules are listed on our calendar at vahi.org.


VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers

2016-17 BOD Candidates Announced, Candidate Bios and Absentee Ballot Available

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association Annual General Meeting will be held September 22 at the Inman Middle School Cafeteria from 7:00pm – 9:00pm. Please try to arrive at 6:30 to sign in. Grants will be awarded and the 2016-17 Board of Directors will be elected.

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The SPARK Advanced Chorus will perform before the annual general meeting, as they have the past few years.

The Springdale Park Elementary Advanced Chorus, led by Music Director Brianne Turgeon, will kick off the meeting again this year, so be sure to arrive early to hear them! They will start at 7:00pm.

Candidates for the 2016-17 VHCA Board of Directors

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

(I) indicates incumbent

Eleanor Barrineau
Peggy Berg (I)
David Brandenberger (I)
Lola Carlisle (I)
Emily Gilbert (I)
Paige Hewell (I)
Cindy Kaufman
Jenifer Keenan
Catherine Lewis (I)
Steve Messner
Robin Ragland (I)
Debbie Skopczynski
Kay Stephenson
Jack White (I)
Jess Windham (I)
George Zirkel

Brief biographies of candidates for this year’s BOD can be reviewed here.

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 22, 2016 at the Inman Middle School Cafeteria starting at 6:30pm to allow time for signing in. In order to vote, please bring a copy of a valid ID (GA driver’s license, e.g.) or a utility bill issued within 60 days of the meeting and showing your name and address.

Absentee Ballot

Members may also vote by absentee ballot. Your ballot along with a copy of one of the forms of identification mentioned above may be delivered to the offices of Tailfin Marketing (1246 Virginia Ave.) by noon on September 22 or to the Annual Meeting by its start time at 7:00pm. 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.

You can download a copy of the absentee ballot here.

We look forward to hearing from you and seeing you at the Annual Meeting!

Jess Windham, Kevin Cronin and Lola Carlisle serve on the Nominating Committee. Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle are current VHCA board members.


VHCA 2016-17 Board of Directors Bios

Following are bios for the 2016-17 VHCA Board of Directors:

Eleanor photoEleanor Barrineau

Eleanor moved to her current home in Virginia-Highland in 1983 with her husband Stephen Cohen and raised two children here.  She retired last year from her career with the Social Security Administration and has enjoyed having more time to devote to her interests and her volunteer work, including her work for our neighborhood.  She is in her 6th year as volunteer coordinator for the Tour of Homes and was one of the original Street Captains for our safety program.  She has served for many years as the Street Captain coordinator.  She loves meeting and working with the great neighbors we have in Virginia-Highland.

If elected to the board, she would like to include safety and the Tour of Homes in her areas of focus, to look for new ways to engage the community, and overall to work with other board members and Va-Hi residents to maintain and improve our great quality of life here in Virginia-Highland. 

David_BrandenbergerDavid Brandenberger (I)

I have been a homeowner in Virginia-Highland on Rosedale Road since 1999. I have been on the VHCA Board for the past three years, serving both on the Planning Committee and – for the last two years – as Chair of the Parks Committee.

In that role, I lead a group of volunteers and professionals who sustain and improve both city-owned spaces – John Howell, Orme, and the Triangle at N Highland and Virginia – and one that belongs to the Civic Association, North Highland Park at St. Charles and N Highland. They each present different challenges and opportunities.

VHCA owns North Highland Park and we are responsible for its upkeep, an often challenging task given the diverse usage it gets.  The effort I led – with Atlanta Celebrates Photography – to create a display of local photographers’ photos at that site (still on display) was part of an ongoing strategy to promote both the Park and the Atkins Park business district.  It’s been successful; more projects like that are important, both for the park space and to work with Councilmember Wan on Renew Atlanta improvements for the street.

John Howell Park is a very diverse and successful park, really several parks in one. The Park Pride matching grant we wrote, won and are now administering is heavily focused on improving functionality of the park – installing a new sitting granite wall along Virginia to control erosion, completion of the brick walkways for safety, planting of new perennial foliage and installation of several rain gardens to reduce stormwater runoff. (A related outcome of this work will be new knee-high fencing to mitigate pedestrian intrusion into the Triangle at Virginia and N Highland.)  I was happy to lead the application process that wrote and won this most recent grant to further improve John Howell, and I look forward to completing its’ implementation this fall and winter.

Our plans are then to move to our next target: which will be addressing some challenges in Orme Park, especially on the hillsides under Brookridge Drive, which are full of extraordinary trees and spaces that are hard to access yet easy to under-appreciate. The 2009-10 playground project at Orme (started and funded by neighbors, VHCA, and Park Pride) has been extraordinarily successful, and several neighbors (two of them go to Inman Middle) have now proposed a cool additional usage on the playground side of Orme Park that we are now working with our landscape architect and the Parks Department to make happen.

Our neighborhood public parks depend on elements of public support (the city’s increasingly productive Parks Department) and private enhancement whose efforts the City Parks Department has approved. Coordinating these requires a lot of communication and attention.  Our strategy has been to leverage our effectiveness by partnering with Park Pride and Trees Atlanta whenever possible and not missing the unglamorous longer-range challenges – erosion, stormwater runoff and functionality – that are hard for the city to keep up with.   Public spaces whose design preserves their resources are both more enjoyable and easier to sustain in the long run and that is ultimately our goal with the Parks Committee.

Like all board members, I work very hard on fundraising efforts to create the funding that we need for all of the work we do, both in and outside of our parks and public spaces. To that point, and like all VHCA Board members this year, I supported the decision to challenge the destruction of the Todd Historic Monument and believe it is in the public interest to keep this important part of our neighborhood intact and accessible to all.

I’d appreciate your vote for the Board.

Keenan-jeniferJenifer Keenan

I am a mom, wife, lawyer, and community activist who has lived in Virginia-Highland for over thirteen 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 was a member of the VHCA Board for several years. My service as NPU Secretary and on the VHCA Board 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 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!

At various points over the past four years, I have served on VHCA’s Planning, Safety, Summerfest and Tour of Homes committees, and was the co-chair of the VHCA Master Plan subcommittee. In my role as the Co-Chair of the VHCA Safety Committee in 2016, I helped spearhead the effort to get funding for additional police video surveillance cameras and coordinated with the City on street and sidewalk safety issues in our neighborhood. 

I would like to make VHCA a more inclusive and transparent organization.  In particular, I would like to increase community input on projects that are funded by VHCA.  Virginia-Highland is a wonderful neighborhood.  If elected to the VHCA board in 2016-2017, I will work hard to help make it an even better place to live, work, and play.    


Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 4.44.27 PMSteve Messner moved to Virginia-Highland in the summer of 2007 with his partner of 19 years, Chris. He has been involved in cleanup efforts on the Beltline and with graffiti removal and takes pride in his home’s and the neighborhood’s appearance. When he’s not tending to the needs of his young patients as a pediatrician, Steve is often out biking and running on the Beltline and catching up with neighbors. If elected to the VHCA board, Steve will work to make Virginia-Highland an even more vibrant, safe and beautiful neighborhood through thoughtful planning and use of resources.



Troy Murray is a 19-year resident of Atlanta and a 13-year loft owner at Greenwood Lofts in Virginia-Highland.   Originally from Nashville, Troy moved to Atlanta after earning a bachelor’s degree in Logistics and Transportation with a minor in Geography from the University of Tennessee.  Troy is a project manager for United Parcel Service, Inc.  (UPS), and has a passion for transportation and a strong interest in infrastructure growth and sustainability.   With a balcony view overlooking the Beltline and Ponce City Market, Troy has seen many changes in the neighborhood.

Troy has been involved with several organizations in Atlanta including:  UPS LGBTA Business Resource Group (2014 – current); AIDS Walk Atlanta (Team UPS captain, 2015 & 2016); Out & Equal Atlanta (board member, 2008 – 2013); United Way (UPS team leader, 2006 – 2008); Greenwood Lofts HOA (secretary 2005 – 2008); and Open Hand volunteer (1998 – 2005).

As an avid runner and dog owner, Troy can be seen daily either walking Jesse along Greenwood Avenue or running on the beltline. When not out an about with Jesse, he will bring his extensive non-profit and transportation expertise to our transportation and safety issues.


RBR-VHCARobin Ragland (I)

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!  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 organized a tree lighting event last December in N Highland Park, which was jointly hosted by VHCA and VHBA to raise money for Fire Station 19, and the APD Zone 6 Toy Drive.  We had a wonderful evening, and raffled off over $2,000 in donated gifts from our local businesses.

I joined the Tour of Homes committee in 2013 and 2014, chairing the sponsorship sub-committee; we raised over $30,000 each year.  I co-chaired the 2015 tour committee–we had record gross proceeds of $75,000 ($40,000 in sponsorships).  We also had fun adding a docent-led history tour of VaHi, and providing a shuttle service.  I am chair of the 2016 tour committee, and we’re in the midst of preparing for a great tour. Pledged sponsorships currently exceed $46,000. I’ve been successful over the last several years raising money for the neighborhood, and look forward continuing such efforts in 2017.

Debbie SDebbie Skopczynski

I have been a resident on Rupley Drive with my husband, Tom Budlong, and my 3 furry kids since 1991. For more years that I can remember, I have volunteered for Summerfest and the Tour of Homes  and have actively participated, advocated or opposed many zoning, variance and tree preservation issues. Currently, I am completing my second term as chair of NPU-F and represent the NPU on the Atlanta Planning and Advisory Board (APAB) and the Outdoor Events Quality of Life Working Group initiated by Council members Alex Wan and Kwanza Hall. Previously, I served as a member of the VaHi Board in the early 90’s, NPU F Zoning Chair (2010 to 2014), NPU Chair (1996-97), and the BZA (1997-2000). Now retired, I have worked in the HR departments of The Coca-Cola Company and BellSouth/Cingular/AT&T, specializing in workforce compensation and salary analysis.

Virginia-Highland is a terrific place to live, work and play, much due to the efforts of previous VaHi boards, neighbors and business owners.  Next year, I plan to focus on sustaining what makes us great by leveraging my associations in City Hall and throughout the city on planning and development issues (especially along the Beltline),  as well as tackle the proliferation of outdoor events which are always fun, but sometimes sacrifice quality of life. In addition, I’d like to harness the tremendous amount of hidden talent available to take on VaHi projects and committees so that we have a steady stream of leaders ready to take on the future challenges of the neighborhood.

Kay_HeadShotKay Stephenson moved to Virginia-Highland in 1996 with her husband Mark Gilliland. After more than 25 years in sales, product management and marketing for tech companies, she now devotes her time to quilt design, writing, and many volunteer causes focused on parks, trees, the Beltline, pet rescue, and public safety. 

Since 2009 Kay has served as a street captain for our neighborhood watch program and handles communication for both neighborhood watch and FBAC (Virginia-Highland Security Patrol).  She has a close relationship with law enforcement and the criminal justice system and was named the 2016 CourtWatcher of the Year for Fulton County.

In addition to public safety I will focus on increasing resident and business engagement with VHCA so that we know we are investing in the projects that are most important to residents, and that yield the greatest benefit. 

Virginia-Highland is a great neighborhood. With a strong and transparent board, and with the full support of the community, we can make it even better.

Micah Stringer and his family have been Virginia Highland residents for almost two years.  Micah is originally from Syracuse, New York and his wife Kara is an Atlanta native.  They live in Atkins Park and both daughters attend SPARK elementary.  Micah is currently President of Atkins Park Neighborhood Association, a Division Vice President for a regional bank and graduate of the College of Charleston, SC.  Since moving to the neighborhood, the Stringer family has been very involved in local volunteer initiatives, VH Tour of Homes, SPARK and youth sports.  Micah has a strong interest in parks, planning and helping to revitalize the VaHi business district.





GeorgeZirkel_WebRes_007George Zirkel 

George moved to Atlanta from New York in 2009 and lives on Rosedale Drive with his husband JD Garcia.  Prior to recently joining Transaction Network Services (TNS) as Senior Vice President and Head of Global Payment Strategy, he worked at TabbedOut, a start-up advancing hospitality mobile payments.  When he’s not exploring one of the many new restaurants or attractions in Atlanta or tending his garden, he enjoys collecting Tibetan and Himalayan art and has amassed an enviable treasure trove of unique, historic pieces. George shared these additional comments about why he’s running for the VHCA board:

A Neighborhood Association is founded on transparency, empathy and a solid representation of the broad variety of views and voices in a community.  The Association exists to listen to and serve the neighborhood in advancing the many important causes of the community.  

My goals, if elected to the VHCA Board, are to continue to work to make it a more progressive, inclusive and transparent organization.  We can do so much to build on the wonderful neighborhood we have created and the VHCA is a great vehicle from which to do that.  

First and foremost, we should solicit feedback from the community to confirm what residents view as the right priorities for the VHCA.  We can strive to improve public safety by working with and assisting the neighborhood watch system and our off-duty patrol group.  We can modernize our community and communication within Virginia-Highland using technology and social platforms that fit more easily into the busy lives our residents lead.  We can create strategies to increase community input on projects that are funded by VHCA.  We can help revitalize and strengthen the Commercial Districts and the community’s relationships with local business owners.  And while we do all of this hard work, we can make sure we have fun and create new memories with our neighbors.  

We live in Virginia-Highland because we know what a special place it is and so I would like to join the VHCA Board to help our special piece of Atlanta be the place everyone wants to live, work and play.


Fire Station No. 19 Renovation About to Begin, Final Funds Needed

Community-wide collaboration should position one of VaHi’s most important historical treasures well for the future

By VHCA Board Member Dr. Catherine Lewis

After years of planning and fundraising and months of hard work vetting contracts, the VHCA is pleased to announce that the city is about to start the contracting process for the renovation of the No. 19 Fire Station.

Fire Station #19 illustration by Steve Spetz

Fire Station #19 illustration by Steve Spetz

Fire Station No. 19 is Atlanta’s oldest continuously operating station. Located at 1063 N. Highland Avenue in the heart of the historic Virginia-Highland neighborhood, the station has been a neighborhood landmark for more than 90 years. 

All preliminary inspections have found that No. 19’s building is structurally sound but needs repair and modernization to support a diverse firefighting force. The goal of this effort is to keep No. 19 operating in a safe and efficient manner for at least another 50 years, while addressing important issues related to historic preservation and stormwater.

The project team—comprised of members of the VHCA board, the Virginia-Highland Conservation League, the Atlanta Fire and Rescue Department, the City of Atlanta’s Office of Enterprise Management and Legal Department, Attorney’s Office, and the Urban Design Commission, and City Councilman Alex Wan’s office – vetted four architectural firms and selected Surber Barber Choate + Hertlein Architects, best known for their work on Ponce City Market. Tom Little, the director of historic preservation for the firm, has been a very strong partner and will help ensure that the renovation meets all of the AFRD’s operational needs while attending to the unique challenges of renovating a historic building.

No. 19 with DogThis has been such a collaborative effort, there are almost too many people to thank. I begin with the men and women at No. 19 and the AFRD. They love the station and care for it each day. I also want to recognize local attorney Bob Zoeckler (who helped with the donor agreement), Chip Bullock (an architect in the neighborhood and member of the VHCA Planning Committee), Rich Chey (owner Doc Chey’s, Osteria, and Dragon Bowl who has been a stalwart fundraising partner), Harris Botnick (owner of Worthmore Jewelers), and Melanie and Robb Wallace (owners of Marco’s Pizza), Yeah! Burger, and Lola Carlisle and Greg Abel (owners of Tailfin Marketing). Countless individuals have contributed financially as have all the volunteers who are part of VHCA’s fundraising efforts which include the Tour of Homes and Summerfest.

This neighborhood-city partnership promises to serve as a model for other communities, and we are proud to do the heavy lifting to make that a reality.

The hard work is still ahead of us, but I wanted to commend the 2015-2016 VHCA board for their assistance, wisdom, and foresight. They have been very strong advocates for this and so many other neighborhood projects. I look forward to continuing this work with my fellow board members who have turned vision into reality.

The fundraising effort is not yet complete, so look out for additional fundraising efforts. On September 24, from 1-4 p.m. Marco’s Pizza will host a community festival to raise funds for No. 19. Please contact me at clewis1@kennesaw.edu if you would like to volunteer to help with the project or make a financial contribution. We still have about $15,000 to raise, so any and all help is appreciated.


City Council District 6 Newsletter

wan_190Atlanta City Councilmember Alex Wan’s current e-newsletter for District 6 includes important updates on the following:

  • Monroe Dr / Boulevard Complete Street Next Steps
  • Important Voter Information
  • Music Midtown 2016
  • Atlanta Streets Alive on Sunday, September 25th
  • Labor Day Solid Waste / Recycling Collection Reminder

You can read the e-newsletter in its entirety here.


Public Works Marking Crew Installs New Crosswalks in VaHi

By David Brandenberger, VHCA Parks Committee Chair

We have all observed a spate of sidewalk and ADA corner ramp improvements in the neighborhood recently.  As we understand it, it is now city policy to install appropriate crosswalk markings wherever such improvements are made.


VHCA Board President Jack White and I encountered the Department of Public Works Marking Crew at work on this project on Virginia Circle and De Leon. For the curious, the material is thermoplastic colored white for visibility that is mixed on the spot at 500 degrees, applied to the street, and sprayed immediately with water to help it set.  Crosswalks need new treatment about every five years on side streets and – obviously – much more often on major thoroughfares. Peachtree Street crosswalks require an almost annual renewal, the crew suggests. Read this article to learn more about thermoplastic road markings.

Given the volume of sidewalk and road repairs we’ve experienced, Virginia-Highland clearly has a lot more new and re-markings coming.  Almost every intersection along Barnett meets the criteria.  If you know of a locale that needs treatment (or re-treatment), feel free to forward the location to safety@vahi.com, and we’ll do our best to make sure it is on Public Works’ list.

Posing in the photo below are Marking Crew members (L-R): Jonny Daniels, Kantrell Hays, Oscar Maddox, Dante Wheeler, and Leonard Sims.



Worthmore Anniversary Celebration to Support Fire Station #19

No. 19 StationCome celebrate Worthmore Jewelers 23rd anniversary on Saturday, August 27, 10:00 am – 6:00 pm and help support the No. 19 Fire Station.

Drinks and treats will be available all day at the Midtown Store in Amsterdam Walk, 500 L-3 Amsterdam Avenue. A special lunch will be served from Noon to 1:00 pm. Enter a raffle to win a women’s or men’s Shinola watch, and celebrate that the raffle and the day’s proceeds will also support the fire station. You can purchase raffle tickets in advance of the event.

Come and celebrate with a great community partner. See the flyer below for more information.

August Event Flyer 1-up 


Todd Cemetery Memorial Destruction and Restoration

Photo of Todd Cemetery Memorial taken by Andrew Wood in 2008.

Photo of Todd Cemetery Memorial taken by Andrew Wood in 2008.

by Jack White, for the VHCA Board

In December of 2014 the Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) Board was notified that new homeowners had installed a fence that blocked free access to the Todd Cemetery Memorial. (VHCA is no stranger to this topic; the Association was active in promoting the memorials’ creation in the late 80s.) After much effort – including validating the legality of the easement that leads to the monument – we negotiated an agreement with the homeowners: a small sign to be placed on the fence that acknowledged the monument and reminded visitors to be respectful of the residents’ privacy and property.

Shortly thereafter – just before Christmas in 2015 – the Todd Cemetery Memorial was deliberately destroyed.

Since that event, the Board and descendants of the Todd family have tried in a private and quiet manner to negotiate the monument’s rebuilding and secure the public’s access to it. This has included further efforts by our attorney, as well as formal mediation. While those processes have eliminated certain fictions about the how the monument was destroyed and who was responsible, our hope and faith that a solution could be reached without filing a formal lawsuit have vanished.

The board discussed this issue in open session for the first time at the August 2016 board meeting and voted unanimously to file suit in Fulton County Superior Court to compel the monument’s restoration, restore public access to it, and remunerate VHCA for many of its legal costs.

We have spent a lot of time and a lot of money on this issue – about $25,000. The money certainly matters a lot; we all know and appreciate the effort that residents and volunteers in this community put into fundraising. The prospect of recovering some fees in court, understanding that future costs are capped, and offers by citizens to donate specifically toward these expenses mitigates that only a little.

The most visible and obvious motivation was the critical importance of preserving a unique and irreplaceable piece of history, a point that a number of citizens strongly asserted at the board meeting.

The history matters a great deal, but there is an even more important issue here: the rule of law.

In our day-to-day efforts on the Board and on committees, we spend a huge amount of time trying to find acceptable and workable solutions to the application of laws and regulations, often as intermediaries between citizens and government. The principle tactic is negotiation; when those are unsuccessful, asking the court to apply the law is the next step.

The lawsuit is a public record; you can see the complaint that was filed here.

Within the context of this being a matter before the court, we will try to answer as many questions about the facts of the case as we can.

A few articles on the Todd family history for your reference:


Meeting to Discuss Monroe Dr. Complete Street Project Set for August 23

Based on previous community planning studies, the corridor will be transformed into a complete street that is safe and efficient for all users and modes of transportation. 

The City of Atlanta and City Councilmembers Kwanza Hall, Alex Wan and Natalyn Archibong will host a community engagement meeting next month to discuss the upcoming Monroe Dr./Bouevard Dr. Complete Street Project.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 6-8 pm, at Grady High School. See flyer below for details.

RenewATL_Monroe_Blvd Flyer.pdf


It’s Time to Fix Monroe!

The City of Atlanta and City Councilmembers Kwanza Hall, Alex Wan and Natalyn Archibong will host a community engagement meeting next week to discuss the upcoming Monroe Dr./Bouevard Dr. Complete Street Project.

The meeting will be held Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 6-8 pm, at Grady High School. See or click on the flyer at the bottom of this article for details.

Following are comments from Jenifer Keenan, co-chair of the VHCA Safety Committee, regarding the proposed Complete Streets improvements for Monroe Dr.

Monroe is broken. It is above the state average in total crashes, fatalities and injuries for streets its size. It is unsafe, speeding is an issue, and at rush hour, traffic comes to a standstill. Fortunately, the City finally has a plan to address these issues. That plan is known as the Monroe Drive Complete Streets Project.

The Complete Streets Plan will convert Monroe from two lanes in each direction to one lane in each direction with a dedicated turn lane in the middle. This part of the plan is known as a “road diet.” People may assume that removing a lane of traffic will make things worse on Monroe, but traffic engineering data and real life examples of road diets from throughout the country (including Atlanta) show that is not the case. Having a dedicated turn lane will prevent cars jockeying around drivers making left turns – and thereby allow traffic on the dedicated travel lane to move more smoothly – which can actually lead to a reduction in actual travel time along the street. Having traffic move more smoothly, as opposed to the stop and go that is caused by the lack of a dedicated turn lane, will also reduce cut through traffic on surrounding streets. In addition, road diets have been shown to significantly reduce collisions.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Here is what the U.S. Department of Transportation has to say about Road Diets:

The resulting benefits [or road diets] include a crash reduction of 19 to 47 percent, reduced vehicle speed differential, improved mobility and access by all road users, and integration of the roadway into surrounding uses that results in an enhanced quality of life. A key feature of a Road Diet is that it allows reclaimed space to be allocated for other uses, such as turn lanes, bus lanes, pedestrian refuge islands, bike lanes, sidewalks, bus shelters, parking or landscaping.

Although many people are just now hearing about the Monroe Complete Streets project, the plan is not new. The City’s major transportation plans, including the BeltLine plan and the Connect Atlanta Plan, have called for a road diet for Monroe. The road diet was also supported in the Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

Conventional wisdom is that road diets are most effective if streets carry less than 25,000 cars per day.  Traffic studies have shown that the car volume on Monroe ranges from 19,000 – 22,000 cars per day.

It is time to fix Monroe. The road diet, and other parts of the Complete Streets plan, are the best and most effective way to fix this broken street.


Celebrating the Life of Diamond Lil

There will be a night of singing, good food and good times in honor of Diamond Lil tomorrow night (Tuesday, August 16) from 8-12 pm at the Virginia-Highland Church. There will be a potluck supper and an open mic. The public is invited to come share a story and a song in memory of the Atlanta legend and icon.

See flyer below for additional details. Here’s a link to a Georgia Voice article on Diamond Lil’s recent demise.



Opportunity for Event Planning With Atlanta Streets Alive

By Jess Windham, VHCA Board Vice President

DSC_0022Atlanta Bicycle Coalition (ABC) hosts another Atlanta Streets Alive this fall on the North Highland corridor through Virginia-Highland, Poncey-Highland, Inman Park and Old Fourth Ward. On September 25th, the street will be closed to cars and opened to people on foot or bicycle to explore the community in a safer, healthier and more livable way. 

To spark and guide local neighborhood participation, Atlanta Bicycle Coalition asks each neighborhood to provide an ambassador. This person engages with ABC in the weeks leading up to the event, meeting for an hour or two every few weeks. You’ll learn the game plan for the event and spread the word to the community about the event through any and all effective channels. 

More information on the event can be found here.

If you’re interested in having fun as VaHi’s Atlanta Streets Alive ambassador, please contact Haydee M Santana at Haydee@AtlantaBike.org and cc me at jlwindham@gmail.com


Reaction to Resident Comments on Briarcliff Terrace

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

A few residents have asked what the Planning Committee’s reaction might be to the concepts they heard at the meeting the potential developers of Briarcliff Terrace held.  No specific plan has been submitted, and we weren’t at the meeting, both large qualifiers. But perhaps some thoughts about to approach such issues may be helpful.

The owners have shared a couple of plans with the neighborhood association, a courtesy that we appreciate.  We respect their right to re-develop their property, and we hope that we can work with them to mitigate the impacts that this will have on the existing residents, who include many school-age children. Not uprooting them in the middle of a school year would be a great outcome.

Redevelopment of the apartment complex on Briarcliff Terrace has been discussed, but no specific plan has been put forth.

Redevelopment of the apartment complex on Briarcliff Terrace has been discussed, but no specific plan has been put forth.

Their lawyer and architects and our planner and attorney have looked very hard for an approach that is consistent with the city’s zoning and principle planning documents, among them NPU-F’s Comprehensive Development Plan (the CDP) and VaHi’s Master Plan.  A key concern is trying to forecast what impacts a given plan might have for the neighborhood , both on the site under consideration and (long range) on similar parcels in the community.

We can understand the owners’ and developer’s desire to build more than what is there now.  Under its current zoning, perhaps a ten percent increase in volume can be constructed than what now is on the site now. And we are always open to innovative approaches that are consistent with existing planning principles.  The use of PDH (Planned Development Housing) zoning was reported.  PDH is a useful category in the right circumstances and can be applied to many different types of housing styles, but the city’s policy has always been that it shall not be used to increase density.

Density in Atlanta is (logically enough) not measured by the total number of units but by the total floor area ratio (FAR). (FAR may be more simply described as the amount of allowable buildable space on a given property.)  It is directly related to zoning – another reason that zoning matters so much. As you would expect, larger FAR can quickly add up to far more density even if the unit count stays the same or decreases.

Good starting points for evaluating projects that require zoning and land use changes include learning the perspective of the local councilmember (especially when she or he is an experienced veteran), the view of the City’s Planning Department, how the local NPU has reacted both historically and recently to recent similar proposals, and whether or not the neighborhood’s Master Plan (if one exists) is up to date and has recently considered the concepts in question.

It’s not a big surprise to see early designs featuring extensive perimeter drives, narrow buffers, and the loss of many large trees; if nothing else; such drawings can make subsequent versions feel like a huge improvement.   A key design focus should be the project’s density; when that’s kept at an appropriate level, the concerns just iterated become a lot easier for architects and planners to improve.

All changes to zoning and land use law require several layers of public hearings and are examined closely by both VHCA and NPU-F.

A good place to go for answers is the VHCA Planning Committee, which meets at the Church of Our Saviour at 7 PM on the Wednesday before the monthly board meeting.   All meetings ar public; you and your concerns are welcome there.




APD Zone 6 Commander Pens Letter to Residents

City_of_Atlanta_Police1Atlanta Police Department Zone 6 Commander Lt. Timothy D. Peek wrote the following letter this week to Zone 6 residents:

Dear Zone Six Communities:

In recent times, our nation has experienced some very trying times as it relates to the relationships between law enforcement agencies and the communities for which they serve.  Communities throughout the country voiced their concerns through many different avenues which included protests and demonstrations.  The City of Atlanta was not exempt from these experiences.  Although stressful, the officers of the Atlanta Police Department rose to the occasion and served all of our citizens with dignity and respect.  We took an oath to serve our citizens and we look forward to our continued and committed service.

During these stressful times, you (our citizens and business partners) supported our officers in many ways.  In expressions of your support, we thank you for all of the gifts that you shared with us.  We thank you for the gratitude shown through gifts of food, snacks, drinks, flowers, handshakes and hugs (just to name a few).  These gestures certainly brightened our day and filled our hearts with joy.  It is truly our pleasure to serve such fine citizens. Again, we look forward to our continued service to the communities.


Major Timothy D. Peek , on Behalf of Atlanta Police Department Zone Six Officers


Atlanta BeltLine Hosts Meeting to Discuss Eastside Trail Extension, Road Closures

The Atlanta BeltLine invites you to attend a meeting this week where an update will be given on the Eastside Trail extension project, including a review of road closures on Wylie and Irwin Streets. Information will also be shared about the BeltLine’s downpayment assistance program.

The meeting will be held this Thursday, August 4 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at Our Lady of Lourdes, 25 Boulevard, NE, Atlanta, 30312.



Orme Creek Fouled by Grease, City’s Stormwater Recon Crew Responds

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

In the week of July 11th, some local citizens observed that the water in the creek running through Orme Park was discolored – ‘milky white’ was an early description – and had a bad odor.  (The stream has no official name but is widely referred to as Orme Creek by neighbors.) The city’s Department of Stormwater Management (DWM) was notified and sent out a crew to take a water sample.  On a couple of occasions in the past few years, paint has been illegally dumped in the stream (usually via a street drain), becoming visible along the length of the park. It’s a bad – and illegal act – but it usually dissipates rapidly.

A few days later the odor was worse, and VHCA Parks Chair David Brandenberger and I pushed DWM for a report on the sample they had taken and for further investigation. An up-close look revealed a gelatinous, sticky, and smelly substance that was not dissolving in water.  (See photos 1 &2, taken by local resident George Petsch on July 13th.)  As we all know, July had little rain, and the smattering of widely-scattered thunderstorms that did occur had missed this area altogether.  Whatever was in the water was neither moving nor dissolving, and the odor was absolutely getting worse.

An unidentified, greasy sludge flows down Orme Creek. Photo by George Petsch.

An unidentified, greasy sludge flows down Orme Creek. Photo by George Petsch.

An unidentified, greasy sludge flows down Orme Creek. Photo by George Petsch.

An unidentified, greasy sludge flows down Orme Creek. Photo by George Petsch.

The persistence of the odor spurred DWM to send a crew to try to identify its source.  (The assistance of Watershed Management’s Julie Owens, who immediately grasped the issue, was very helpful in this process.)  This crew did not have the results of the sample taken a few days earlier (reason unknown), but they grimly speculated that the material was grease, usually produced in this quantity by commercial restaurants.  They diligently searched upstream, put (harmless) dyes into the stream (that clung and illuminated the grease; see photo 3, also by VaHi resident George Petsch) and storm drains to verify their assumptions about what pipes went where.  (It will be no surprise that maps of infrastructure built and revised constantly over the last century are far from perfect.)  This crew walked up the large culvert under Brookridge as far as they could from Orme Park and then called in the City Reconnaissance Crew.

Harmless dye illuminates the greasy material in Orme Creek. Photo by George Petsch.

Harmless dye illuminates the greasy material in Orme Creek. Photo by George Petsch.

Note: Scroll down to bottom of article for more photos.

Searching for the source

The Recon Crew has at their command a sophisticated camera with LED lights that – conditions permitting – can travel through stormwater and sanitary pipes and provide a great view of interior conditions. That crew arrived on Friday, confirmed the grease analysis, began the ultra-laborious tasks of validating where the upstream access manholes were located, and followed the grease upstream.  (They need the manholes for access; the camera doesn’t turn corners.)  By Friday afternoon the trail had led them to North Highland and uphill – to the south – to the rear of the southernmost residential property on Vance Avenue, next to the parking lot behind the shops on the northwest corner of Virginia & Highland.  At that point, their camera (whose lens can turn 180 degrees in two directions) had spotted from inside the pipe what appeared to be an opening cover on the surface.  But aboveground, they found no manhole – only a 4’ x 5’ slab of solid concrete.

A careful hour with a concrete saw and sledge hammer removed that obstacle, whose legal reason of installation eluded everyone.  It definitely made it impossible to visually inspect the stormwater drain from the surface, as well as preventing  the system from accepting ground flows from the yard in the back of the adjacent apartment building.

One more camera trip took them to the rear of the building on N. Highland; there the pipe contained a lot of grease amidst trash and broken bricks capable of immobilizing the camera.  The detritus was blasted out with a jet of high-pressure water. (Watching the truck maneuver in the middle the rear parking lot on Friday at 8 PM was entertaining.)

When the broken bricks were removed, the grease trail was followed under the building and across to the other side of Virginia.  Subsequent searches that continued into Sunday and Monday pinpointed the source: a faulty uncapped pipe in the crawl space under Murphy’s Restaurant that was allowing grease to spill onto the ground and into the stormwater system. 

Unlike the multi-day effort required to locate the problem, making the necessary repairs was not very  hard, owner Tom Murphy reported.

While this process was underway and to prevent any further material already in the system from reaching the creek, the crew inserted a hose into the manhole they had uncovered behind Vance and began pumping the greasy flows out to the sanitary line on that street.  Grease isn’t designed to be in the sanitary line either – it’s supposed to be carefully collected and placed in grease traps or captured by an in-line grease system and subsequently hauled away.   Pumping isn’t ideal, but the grease is better off in the sanitary lines (where it will get some treatment) than in Orme Creek, the Chattahoochee River, or Apalachicola Bay, whose fish and oysters are for sale right here in Atlanta.

Fats, Oils, & Grease – a big stinky expensive problem in Atlanta

The city’s Department of Watershed Management estimates that discharges containing high concentrations of fats, oils, and grease (FOG) from commercial food vendors – restaurants, schools, nursing homes, etc. – contribute to more than half of the blockages or overflows in the city’s collection system. Grease and food byproducts in the stormwater system and streams can interfere with the nutrient balance and affect the health of vegetation and wildlife. It’s also very difficult to mitigate the damage after grease is in a waterway.

Watershed Management’s Recon Crew

The eventual repair may have been straightforward, but the effort required to diagnose and identify the problem was huge, time-consuming, and expensive. Some comments about the work ethic and esprit de corps of the Recon Crew (some of whom are pictured) are in order.  A variety of citizens and board members spent parts of three days watching them deal with an important public health hzard in a stream.

Their work requires an unusual combination of gritty manual labor and the ability to use sophisticated and expensive equipment, plus a lot of experience and interpretation of sometimes  uncertain data.  This crew’s performance was exemplary: to a person, they were cheerful, determined, and resolute. They donned their suits and descended into cramped and smelly manholes several times while we were watching – manually pulling out some obstructions and protecting their extremely expensive camera. 

If, like most of us, you are sometimes discouraged by the quality of the municipal services you receive, an hour or two with these folks will cheer you up. They were absolutely indefatigable, and they are very well informed about their mission and its importance.  We owe them many thanks.

Why does it matter what gets into our local creeks?

The answer goes beyond the beauty and enjoyment that many local citizens derive from being near those streams.  All natural systems are inter-related; the macroinvertebrates in the creek, the fish (there are some, even here) the insects, the birds, the mammals – their mutual health depends on one another

And these creeks flow far beyond our borders, carrying with them all our accumulated impacts.

VaHi’s subwatersheds

Virginia-Highland has two sub-watersheds, Rock Creek and Clear Creek; both eventually flow to Peachtree Creek and on to the Chattahoochee River and the Gulf of Mexico at Apalachicola Bay. Appropriately-named North ‘High-land’ Avenue is broadly the boundary between them. 

Rainfall to the east of Highland flows (either underground or via several patches of surface streams) into Rock Creek, which heads north into South Peachtree in Johnson-Taylor Park in Morningside.  (The very top of Rock Creek is visible behind Arlington Place and – more obviously – on both sides of Amsterdam Avenue at McLynn.)

Clear Creek – and Orme – are to the west of Highland.  Rainfall there flows downhill to the west (again mostly underground; only a few sections like Orme Park are above) and into Clear Creek, which itself emerges onto the surface at the northern edge of Piedmont Park on its way to Ansley Mall and the Golf Course, under I-85, along the border of Brookwood, and into Peachtree Creek west of the Piedmont Road bridge near Lindberg Drive.

Inside its namesake  park , Orme Creek is easy to observe and approach. Its surface life (low volume, like Rock Creek) begins behind houses between LA Avenue (on the south) and Glen Arden (on the north.)  It collects some water from underground storm drains throughout the immediate neighborhood.

‘Combined’ sewers v. separate stormwater & sanitary systems

The system running through Orme Park is not a combined sewer system, the DWM crews report. That is, unlike much of VaHi south of Virginia Avenue, the sanitary discharges (what we flush from our homes and businesses) enter separate and distinct sanitary pipes and not the same pipes that hold stormwater from our streets and roofs. 

That modern design is vastly superior, but some of our neighborhood and much of the city (including most of Clear Creek’s watershed, whose top edge is roughly the E-W MARTA line) is “combined.”  Both ‘sanitary sewage’ from our homes and stormwater enter and flow though the same pipes. In days of yore, that was the cheapest and easiest practice.

And that’s the case for almost all of downtown and much of the near west side.  If you followed the discussion about the  leaks on the playground near Bobby Jones Golf Course this summer, a major challenge there was a faulty “combined” pipe that allowedboth stormwater and waste  to peroclate to the the surface.

Absent heavy rainfall, those combined flows go peacefully to the RM Clayton Treatment Plant, where the waste is cleaned before the water is returned to the Chattahoochee. 

While the combined pipes are big enough to handle many storm events, really big ones – or several small ones in a row – can be too large for the pipes to the treatment plant to hold.  When that happens, the excess overflows are designed to go into the huge tunnels that the city built in the last decade.  There they are lightly treated and emptied, so they can handle the next storm.   

Clear Creek’s tunnel is off Monroe Drive inside Piedmont Park.  The tunnel fills up several times a year.  (the exact number is uncertain); if the rain/stormwater is still coming when the tunnels is full, the overflow goes into Clear Creek itself. 

Those tunnels cost a fortune, and they are why we are paying the nation’s highest water bills.  It’s the tunnels, not the water, that are so costly – as are the pumps and other equipment they require, whose maintenance and replacement has caused several city council members a lot of public budget vexation.  The silt in our streams that settles in the tunnels has been a difficult problem; silt doesn’t pump well.

Specific data about water quality in Orme Creek

The Chattahoochee Riverkeeper has created a nice citizen-based network – the Neighborhood Water Watch – for volunteers who periodically collect samples from local streams and transport them to the Riverkeeper office, where they are analyzed and the results are published. The city and some other agencies also do some testing, but this initiative is a good way to get local info from a lot of spots the city doesn’t get to.

And it’s a cool and useful program that involve local citizens.  In Orme Park, Clair Ritchie and her family have been collecting samples for some time; to see results from their efforts at the park, go to: https://chattahoochee.org/our-work/water-monitoring/neighborhood-water-watch/.  Two-thirds of the way down the page, click the link entitled NNW DATA, and scroll down to ‘Orme Creek at Orme Park.’

Many thanks to the entire Ritchie family for their work in this regard. If anyone would like to volunteer to do the same for Rock Creek, please let us know.  The Riverkeeper offices are about 20 weekday afternoon minutes away near the west end of 10th street.

Here are some photos of the City’s Recon crew in action. They were something to watch, let me tell you.



VHCA Grant Application Deadline Approaching

By Peggy Berg, VHCA Board Member and Safety Chair

VHCA Grant & Community Gift Program

The Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s grant program supports not-for-profit organizations and public initiatives that benefit the Virginia-Highland community. 

Funding: In its annual budgeting process, VHCA establishes funding for the grant program. In addition, the Board may on occasion vote to provide a unique grant for a specific purpose.

Applying: Grant applications are available online at www.vahi.org and should be submitted to budget@vahi.org no later than the deadline established by the Board, which this year is August 26, 2016.

Process: VHCA grants are awarded at the discretion of the Board, which reviews all applications. Each year the budget for grants will vary based on the Board’s consideration of other VHCA commitments.

Selection Criteria: Proposed grant benefits and accomplishments should be accessible and beneficial to a wide range of citizens without regard to race, religious preference, gender, or sexual orientation. 

While exceptions may occur – permanent or long-lasting installations of publicly visible art, for example – funding is not typically considered for projects on residential or individually owned sites.

Successful applicants also meet all or some 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.

Accountability and Restrictions: Unless other arrangements are made, grant and community gift recipients are expected to report on the use of the funding by May 1st of the year following the award is announced and provide specific results and (where applicable) photos.

You can view and download a copy of the VHCA grant application here.


APS Update from Matt Westmoreland

By Matt Westmoreland, APS School Board Representative for District 3

WestmorelandAs we prepare for the start of a new school year on August 3, I want to update you on a few fronts:

  • A sincere thank you to those who supported our E-SPLOST renewal on May 24. The referendum received overwhelming support from voters, and with those dollars secure APS can now move forward with our construction plans for the Grady Cluster. The design phase for the renovations and additions at both the Howard Building and Grady High can now begin as scheduled, as can plans for the cluster’s athletic complex on the Walden site.
  • On July 1, APS officially became a charter system. Newly elected governance teams at each school will work with the principal to make more decisions at the school-house level as we push autonomy and discretion to those who are closest to our kids.
  • In late July, the state released results from the 2015-16 Georgia Milestone assessments. Springdale Park Elementary and Inman Middle continued to post scores that were among the highest in the city while also showing growth from last year
  • We’re excited to welcome Terry Harness as the new principal for Springdale Park! He will join returning principals Betsy Bockman at Inman and Tim Guiney at Grady.  Inman anticipates an enrollment of just over 1100 students this fall.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help: mwestmoreland@atlanta.k12.ga.us or 404.408.0980 (cell)


Stephanie Coffin Unveils New Mosaic “The Crack of Dawn”

IMG_5449Stephanie Coffin unveiled her latest mosaic – a work titled “The Crack of Dawn” that now adorns the western-facing wall of the corner planter at Intown ACE Hardware – at a small ceremony last Sunday. The work depicts the sun rising over an inverted city horizon with a flock of birds ascending. Many of the city’s landmark building can be seen to the lower left and lower right of the rising sun.

DSC_1074Stephanie is well known for her mosaic work, much of which can be found in and around the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. She’s installed mosaics on two of the planter’s other walls, her street number mosaics can be seen in front of numerous VaHi homes and her own home is a virtual homage to the art of tile mosaic creation. You can read more about Stephenie and her mosaic work here, you can read an article about her work on one of the planter’s other walls here, and you can view an album of photos from the unveiling ceremony of “Insect Wall of Fame” here.

Intown ACE Hardware provided financial support for Stephanie’s earlier work on their planter, and they provided $500 to get Stephanie started on her most recent work. She raised an additional $500 herself in a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of the project.

We asked Stephanie the obvious question: when will work begin on the planter’s fourth wall?

“When I come up with an idea,” she replied. “And, of course, the money to get it done.”

Thanks for all you do to keep our neighborhood beautiful, Stephanie! Here’s a link to more photos of the unveiling ceremony.

DSC_1088 DSC_1073 DSC_1099



Inman, Grady Students Excel in Acedemics, Arts, Atheletics

By Susan Rose

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of The Candler Park Messenger and is reprinted with the kind permission of the author and the Candler Park Neighborhood Organization. 

As the 2015-2016 school year comes to a close, here are some highlights of student achievements since January. 

DSC_0003Inman Middle School 

The Georgia Department of Education proposed changes to the 6th grade Social Studies curriculum standards that included the elimination of the study of slavery and the Holocaust. Inman 6th grade students organized a campaign to oppose that proposal. They made posters, spoke with parents, and appeared on 11Alive news with reporter Donna Lowry. The 6th graders celebrated their efforts in April when it was announced that the study of slavery and the Holocaust would remain in the state standards.

In January, Inman Middle School principal Dr. Betsy Bockman reported that Inman was recognized for the best monthly student attendance of all APS middle schools for the previous four months.

Two 8th grade students, Jay Hammond and Issac Turner, joined Grady jazz musicians to record and release a jazz CD from which all proceeds from sales will go directly to the Inman Band program and Citizen Advocacy. The recording is available both digitally and as a physical CD.

The Inman Reading Bowl team won the APS District Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl Championship for the middle school division in February. Four students read 20 books (over 4,000 pages) and answered detailed questions to win.

Both the girls and boys basketball teams qualified for playoffs. The girls team finished the regular season with a 10 – 2 record and entered the playoffs as a top seed.  The boys squad finished the regular season 4 – 7 – 1. Both teams competed in the APS Middle School Championship at Corretta Scott King on February 6 and each team came in second place in the entire district.

The Inman Debate team won first place in the city tournament on March 5 at Emory University. The Inman Math team won the gold medal in the APS Middle School Math Competition held at King Middle School in March.

Inman 7th grader Lauren Silcock won first place in her age division in the National Carol Marsh Mystery Writing Contest for her story A Beautiful Scent which was recognized for creativity and exceptional writing.

The Inman girls track team placed 2nd in the city at a meet in early April. Nkoiva Dawson won 1st place in the long jump and the high jump.  Nikita Laye placed 2nd in the high jump. Lindsay Schroeder won 1st place in the mile and 2nd place in the 800m. Emily Sands placed 2nd in the mile, and Ameah Richardson won 2nd place in the 400m. The boys 4×4 team (Zaire Thornton, Jehdia Hosley, Jackson Sexton and Justin Wilborn) placed 2nd.  Justin Wilborn won 1st place in the 400m and the long jump.

The Inman Art team won the rain barrel art contest at the Dogwood Arts Festival in April. The Chattahoochee River Keepers who sponsored the contest awarded the team a trip on the Chattahoochee River Keepers floating classroom.

The Girls Lacrosse team finished the season with two wins against Marist and Pace, closing the season 8 – 2. The team is ranked 2nd in the South Division and is advancing to the playoffs on April 30.

The Boys Lacrosse team defeated St. Pius for the first time in almost 3 years.The Inman tennis team beat Carrollton Middle School on April 10 as the boys won 9-6 and the girls won 7-4. On April 13 the team split against Woodward Academy as the boys lost 2 – 10 and the girls won 6 – 5. The girls team won all matches against Paidea on April 14.

The Inman Golf team had a record number of players, 14, this season and included the first two girl players in recent memory. The team finished with 4 wins and 4 losses, including an 8th place finish in the Sutton Invitational, the unofficial State Middle School Golf Tournament, on April 23. The team was undefeated on its home course, Candler Park Golf Course, with tournament victories over Sutton Middle School and Drew Charter Middle School.

Henry_W_Grady_High_School_AtlantaGrady High School

Grady student Clarrissa Mullig’s play, In and Out, from last year’s Grady Writing Center playwriting workshop, was chosen out of thirty entries to be used at the Georgia Thespian Conference Playworks program.

In December, the Grady JROTC cadets won one 1st place, two 2nd place and two 3rd place trophies at the JROTC Christmas Invitational Drill Meet.

The Grady Knights swim team won the City Championship Title with a score of 1,421.6 to 1,221.5 as the regular season concluded. The girls team received the 1st place trophy with a score of 768 as they placed 1st in every event they entered. The boys team won the 2nd place trophy.

Grady sent 19 swimmers to the Georgia High School State Swimming Championships on February 5 at the Georgia Tech Aquatic Center.  Two swimmers qualified for finals. Melissa Brown placed 3rd in the 50 Free and 16th in the 100 Free. Justin Cucchi placed 15th in the 200IM and 12th in the 100 Back, which represents the highest placements in Grady history.

Congratulations to the Grady Mock Trial team on its 18th consecutive win at the Georgia State High School Mock Trial Regional Competition. Six team members won individual awards such as best witness and best attorney. The team proceeded to the state championship on March 19 and finished in the final four. Grady had not qualified for the state championship since 2013. Several team members won individual awards.

As of April 10, the Grady boys lacrosse team was undefeated with eight consecutive wins. The team has 30 players, which is the largest roster ever. Grady aims to be a “lacrosse powerhouse.” Grady Senior Mack Hodges will be recognized as one of four finalists for the 2016 Georgia Poet Laureate’s Prize. The Governor, First Lady of Georgia and the Poet Laureate will officiate a ceremony at the State Capitol on May 12. 

Seventeen Grady High School juniors have met the requirements for the 2017 National Merit Scholarship Program. These students will be recognized in the fall and have the opportunity to compete for 7,400 National Merit Scholarships to be offered in 2017. To qualify for this recognition, these students were among the 50,000 highest-scoring performers on the PSAT/NMSQT test among 1.5 million program entrants nationwide.


Grady High Announces VHCA-Supported Award Recipients

By Anna Winer, Grady High School College and Career Center Volunteer, with introduction by VHCA Board Member and Tour of Homes Chair Robin Ragland


Grady High School grant recipients Grace Hawkins, left, and Anna Pozniak

Each year, the Virginia-Highland Civic Association (VHCA) makes grant awards to a variety of community institutions and individual applicants who serve and enrich the neighborhood. Those awards are supported by funds raised at two resident-based VHCA events, Summerfest and the Tour of Homes.

Being able to make such awards is  one of the most rewarding aspects of being the Chair of the Tour of Homes Committee.  The Committee has quite a few new committee members this year, as well as eight gracious homeowners who will play host to us the first week in December.  Several of them asked me how much money we raise and what we do with it.  Many were surprised to hear that over the last decade,  the VHCA has provided just over a quarter of a million dollars in grants to our neighborhood schools, public library, parks, partner non-profits, and others.  About 45% of that total went to our local public schools.

Annual grants represent only a portion of the initiatives funded by VHCA, but they are important and make a difference to each recipient.  Anna Winer, a parent volunteer at Grady High School’s College and Career Center, shares with us (below) how their 2015 grant helped two students further their education.

VHCA congratulates these two worthy recipients for what they’ve accomplished so far in their educational careers and for what they’re sure to accomplish in the future. 

Grady High School’s College and Career Center is grateful to have received a generous grant from the VHCA this year, which we used to fund two $500 scholarships for graduating Grady seniors. The Grady CCC Founders Scholarship was established to honor the service, creativity, and passion of the three volunteers who started  the CCC in 2006. Applicants each wrote a brief essay describing how they’ve used the resources in the CCC to help them navigate their college search. Volunteers in Grady’s Writing Center evaluated the applications, and the winners were announced at Grady’s pre-graduation ceremony, Visions of the Future, on May 14th. For the past two years, we have awarded a single scholarship, but the VHCA grant allowed us to offer scholarships to two students this year.

The second-place winner was Grace Hawkins, who is headed to UCLA in the fall to study theatre, with an emphasis in directing. Grace wrote in her essay, “The best thing about the CCC is the support structure it provides. The CCC is a place where little things add up, where the path to your goals is taken one step at a time. From lunch periods spent typing essays worked on in sections, the work I accomplished bit by bit in the CCC has added up to the success I now enjoy. Looking back, I feel pride in knowing that I achieved my success myself, but not on my own.”

First-place winner Anna Pozniak immigrated to America from Russia just two years ago when her family won the Green Card Lottery.  In that short time she has had to master an unfamiliar American educational system, both high school and the often-daunting college application process. Anna credits the CCC with helping her “pick schools, decipher the paperwork, and connect with the right people,” and she says that the CCC’s “welcoming, supportive atmosphere is infectious,” and that our volunteers are “helpful, encouraging in hard times and genuinely happy with every success.” Anna will attend Purdue University in the fall, where she’ll study industrial engineering.


Spring Cleanup Day Set for May 21

KVHB Fall Cleanup Photo

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

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

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

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

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


Trees Atlanta Conducts Seminar on Atlanta Tree Ordinance

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

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

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

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

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


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

DSC_0004VHCA Board Votes to Support

By Rebecca Wells & Jack White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


City Encourages Residents to Sign Up for Recycling Perks Program

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

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

Recycling Perks


Park Pride Hosts “Pints for Parks” on May 3

By Jack White and David Brandenberger, VHCA Parks Committee

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

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

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


It’s Almost Summerfest Time!

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

Music Line-Up

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 4

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

Sunday, June 5

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

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

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

DSC_0036Community Parade

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

Local Market

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

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


BeltLine Study Group Meeting Set for May 10

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

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

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



Help Prevent Theft from Vehicles

By Jim Hardy, NPU-F Public Safety Coordinator

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

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

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

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


House Number Event Set for April 30th

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

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

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

April 30th

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

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

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

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

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


VaHi Residents, Construction Worker Rescue Baby Barred Owl

By Deborah Schwarz

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

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

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

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

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

Greg builds a new but hopefully temporary home.

Greg builds a new but hopefully temporary home.

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

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

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

The guest of honor was waiting patiently.

The guest of honor was waiting patiently.

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

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

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

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

About to be hand-delivered to faux nest.

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

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

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

Safe and ready for Mom and Dad in the treetops.

Safe and ready for Mom and Dad in the treetops.

Baby owl hiding in the ferns.

Baby owl returns – this time hiding in the ferns.

Deborah and the "rogue baby raptor"

Deborah and the “rogue baby raptor”

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

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


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

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

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

Click here to register.

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

Ten Thousand Villages Celebrates National Arbor Day

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

ACP logo with TaglineBy David Brandenberger, VHCA Board Member

Photos courtesy John Becker

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

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

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

Click here to register and submit images for the exhibition. 

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


Lionheart Framing Celebrates One Year in VaHi!

Article and photography By VHCA Board Member Robin Ragland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Briarcliff Terrace Apartments

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

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

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

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

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

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


New Pedestrian Signal Light in Place at Inman Middle School

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

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

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

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

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


Annual City of Atlanta Resident Survey Due by April 15

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

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

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

From the Office of the Mayor’s website:

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