Major Changes on the Way for Grady Cluster

David T Howard School Opening in July, 2020 to replace Inman Middle School; many other cluster changes coming, too, including new athletic complex

By Matt Westmoreland, District 3 Representative, Atlanta Board of Education

Last month, APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen met with the Grady Cluster to update the community about the district’s plans to address capacity challenges within the cluster.

Over the next five years, the Grady Cluster will see $113 million capital investment from the school system— a $52 million renovation and addition at the David T. Howard building to become the cluster’s new middle school, a $33 million renovation and addition at Grady High, an $8 million investment for additional field space, and a $20 million renovation of Morningside Elementary.

New athletic complex
In addition, a sorely needed new athletic complex will provide practice fields primarily for Inman and Grady. Design for that project started in January 2017 and will finish in June 2017. Field construction will be from October 2017 to June 2018.

There will be an interchangeable softball/baseball field, a football/lacrosse/soccer field, locker rooms, public bathrooms, a concession stand, and a parking lot. Inman and Grady will always have first priority. After that, it would be open to other APS schools.

Funding
All of the projects above will be funded through the next Education Special Purpose Local Options Sales Tax, which will start in July 2017. Once that funding was secured through a vote by Atlanta residents last summer, the school system was able to move forward with its various planning processes.

Transformation of Howard
The district has initiated “pre-design activities” at the Howard site on John Wesley Dobbs Ave to prepare for the design phase. APS initiated a site survey and environmental assessment and began removing hazardous materials from the site. At the same time, the district has been working to select an architect for the project and has identified Stevens & Wilkinson/Lord Aeck Sargent with whom to execute a design contract. Under current plans, construction is scheduled to start in August 2018 and be completed by July 2020. Once completed, the building will have a capacity of 1,450. Current Inman enrollment sits just below 1,100.

Renovations at Grady High School
While work is taking place at Howard, the Grady campus will also undergo an $11 million renovation and see the construction of a new $22 million wing that will include 18 classrooms, 3 science labs, and a new administrative suite.  The expected completion date is July 2021

Temporary relocation of Morningside Elementary School
After the middle school moves to Howard in July 2020, Inman will house Morningside Elementary during that building’s two-year renovation. During that time period, the district will help lead a conversation within the cluster about how best to use the Inman building for additional elementary capacity.

Groups spearheading the changes
As with all projects, a design committee – composed of the school principal, architect, PTA representative, GO Team representative, faculty representative, school board representative, community member, and other district staff – will be commissioned for the Howard, Grady, and Morningside projects.

For more information
Visit http://www.atlantapublicschools.us/schoolchanges and click “Grady Cluster”. Or feel free to e-mail me at mwestmoreland@atlanta.k12.ga.us or call at 404.408.0980

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Police Reveal Cool Camera Features at VHCA Safety Meeting

And body cameras modify behavior on both sides of the lens

On Saturday, March 4th at Church of Our Saviour, a good turnout of VaHi safety captains and other interested residents gathered for the annual Safety Captains’ meeting. In attendance were police experts to explain how they are using cameras to fight crime. There was also a discussion led by the VHCA Safety Committee about what residents and businesses can do within our neighborhood to reduce crime.

Street Cameras and Tag Readers

There are now 9 street cameras installed in VaHi, including 3 purchased by VHCA with financial support from Alex Wan. These cameras are the ones that show the blue lights, and they run all the time. There is also a plan to have cameras and lighting all up and down the Beltline.

The Police Foundation’s Video Integration Center has computer monitors that pull up streaming video from street cameras. The purpose is to support first responders and investigations. When there is a 911 call, the 4 closest street cameras are instantly activated. Two can be rewound 5 minutes to help begin an investigation. The real-time ones show what is happening right now—for example, a victim on the ground.

The Atlanta Police Foundation’s Video Integration Center

There are also 200 tag readers city-wide. They ping if a suspect car passes them, so police can head over there. These have been very successful and are pretty cool: they snap pictures of tags, transform them to data, upload them to the cloud, and check to see if the owner is wanted. According to the police experts in attendance, there has been a 40% reduction in crime where cameras and tag readers are installed. Blue lights and signs serve to warn would-be criminals that they are under surveillance.

Business and resident cameras

In addition to using the police street cameras, the police Video Integration Center (VIC) can take advantage of business cameras if they are integrated into the system. (This has already happened at Lenox Mall.) Therefore:

  • VHCA plans to do a survey of all businesses in the neighborhood to see who has cameras, and what type, to see if they are compatible with the VIC. If not compatible with the VIC, they would be eligible for our registry (see below).
  • We will also reach out to residents to see if they are willing to identify theirs—those would not be integrated because of privacy and because home cameras have lower quality than police cameras. But they could be a useful resource, and in some cases already have been.
  • Accordingly, VHCA has started a registry (both residential and business) of who already has cameras in the neighborhood. This is a voluntary program: You are not obligated to turn video to police. But they may contact you using the registry if there is an incident near your location.

Anyone interested in helping with this project, or who has a camera, can get in touch with Safety Committee Members Kay Stephenson and Eleanor Barrineau by emailing safety@vahi.org.

Body Cameras

Officer Joseph Mercado of the APD gave a demo of police body cameras

Officer Joseph Mercado of the APD led a discussion and demo of police body cameras, which have now been rolled out in Zone 6. Body cams not only provide transparency, but they serve as a behavior modifier for both ends. Police are able to see how they interact with the public and learn how they could have interacted differently. Also when a person realizes they’re being recorded, it tends to improve the tone of that person when talking to the police.

Zone 6 has had their cameras since the beginning of January. By summer, all officers who answer 911 calls will have body cameras. Officers wear them their entire shift and if they are working off duty (like FBAC) they wear them then as well.

How the body cam video is used. If there is an incident, officers can later enter information into the recording about the incident, which goes into a database that can be part of a wider query later. The hope is to get better prosecution. Video can show the judge that the person has done something multiple times. The judge can see the actual video, not just a report, and this has more impact. Footage cannot be deleted by the officer. The recordings are also encrypted—they only work on supervisors’ docks. So no one can download to their computer. There is an automatic audit trail of who viewed a video and that audit trail can’t be deleted.

A body cam records exactly what the officer sees, so his perspective is what can be demonstrated. If the officer is looking into headlight glare, then that’s what the camera sees, too. There are no filters, by design. It’s a critical part of fairness to show exactly what the officer was seeing. Officers have guidelines on when to turn the body cam on. When an officer activates a body cam, it automatically includes the prior 30 seconds in the recording. In addition, the Police Foundation is currently working with the manufacturer to possibly create a trigger—for example, turning on the police car blue lights could automatically start the camera.

Safety Committee Tips

In the second part of the meeting, the VHCA Safety Chair Eleanor Barrineau led a discussion on Safety Committee Initiatives that we want all residents to be aware of:

1. Lighting.  We want to be sure that bikers, pedestrians and people getting in and out of cars are safe. So we are looking to improve lighting in dark areas. On your own street, keep porch lights on. We recommend dusk-to-dawn light bulbs (Home Depot has them—they look like regular light bulbs and screw into a regular light fixture, but they automatically come on at dusk and off at dawn. No timers, no special wiring!).  We also encourage you to have driveway lights.

2. Graffiti. If you see any, send to graffiti@vahi.org. Include a picture if possible. Dept of Corrections crews work on those under the supervision of an APD officer. These crews can remove debris as well, such as sometimes appears on Maiden Lane.

3. Event impact. To let neighbors know when events are coming up that affect traffic and parking, the vahi.org calendar at the bottom right of the home page has been expanded to include many different events that could affect traffic. You might even want to participate, knowing an event is going on. In addition, the VHCA safety committee is working to make sure traffic and parking guidelines are enforced during events.

4. Homeowner cameras. Email safety@vahi.org to let them know you have a camera. The Safety Committee can then include these on a registry that police can use.

5. When to call 911 and when to call 311. For any crime, call 911. 311 is very effective for things about which you don’t need immediate police action, such as potholes, leaks in street, street services. You can get a ticket number and their follow-up seems to be good.

About the Police Foundation

Our meeting was attended both by APD and Police Foundation representatives. The Atlanta Police Foundation supports police. It’s a private-public relationship, like the Piedmont Park Conservancy and City of Atlanta- owned Piedmont Park. The Police Foundation runs the Video Integration Center described above, among other initiatives like the Crime Stoppers Program. One of its initiatives is to evaluate police cameras before they are purchased, and help determine how they are used.

Thank You

Our thanks to Michael Faughnan, Sgt. Julio Reyes, and Officers Mercado and Evans of the  Atlanta Police Department, and to Marlon Trone, VP of Programs for the Atlanta Police Foundation, who helped make the meeting a success.

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VHCA Unanimously Votes to Support the Monroe Road Diet

Renew Atlanta extends deadline for comments to March 29.

On Monday, March 14th, the VCHA Board unanimously voted to support the Monroe Road Diet and to submit a letter to Renew Atlanta and City Council in support of the Road Diet.

Meanwhile, Renew Atlanta has extended to March 29 the deadline to submit comments on the plan. The deadline was originally March 15. Comments can be submitted two ways: at www.RenewAtlantaBond.com or by emailing RenewAtlanta@AtlantaGa.gov.

During the Board discussion ahead of the vote, VHCA President Jenifer Keenan issued the following statement in support of the Monroe Road Diet:

The safety of citizens who live on and use Monroe has been a primary concern of the VHCA and the City of Atlanta over the last five years.  The high number of traffic wrecks, including two fatalities in less than a year, have made the conditions along this road a major neighborhood focus.  

The Connect Atlanta Plan and the BeltLine Subarea 6 Plan both supported a road diet for Monroe.  The consultants who examined traffic data for the Virginia-Highland’s Master Plan recommended a Complete Streets approach to Monroe that also included (among other features) a road diet. All these plans were formally adopted by the Atlanta City Council.

Renew Atlanta’s recently completed study proposes the same idea and estimates a 29% reduction in car accidents with a road diet and a much safer set of conditions for vehicles and other users.  Furthermore, the traffic circle at Park and Monroe, which is only feasible if there is a Road Diet, will result in a 60% reduction of injuries at that intersection. The road diet comes with a cost, though – significantly higher PM peak travel times for drivers on Monroe between the freeway and Yorkshire Drive.

It would be nice if we had a Monroe Drive that behaves like it did when the number of cars was far smaller.  But that’s not an option – those days are not coming back.  While the road’s traffic count dropped by 20% in the recession of the mid-2000’s (and may be somewhat variable in the future), the dangerous conditions on Monroe are constant.  We can’t eliminate traffic on Monroe, but we can certainly make the road safer.  

With or without a road diet, some levels of growth are likely.  But the road diet offers a far safer Monroe, one that is slower and safer for drivers, pedestrians, Grady students, BeltLine users and cyclists – and far more compatible with its residential character.

The Road Diet is the best way to improve safety on Monroe. Its design will reduce speed and left-turn blind spots 24 hours a day regardless of volume, and it will promote and safeguard the viability of single-family homes along Monroe.  We all regret the delays, but the safety of all the users of Monroe trumps the convenience of slower trips and should be the top priority for the City.  

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San Francisco Roasting Company Hosts Coffee with a Cop

On Wednesday, March 8th, residents were treated to lively discussion with representatives from the Atlanta Police Department. Deputy Chief Tim Quiller, Community Services Division Commander and Major Marisha Shepherd, Community Oriented Policing Section Commander, were joined by Majors Timothy Peek and James Shaw who command Zone 6 and Zone 2 respectively. Also represented were the Video Integration Center, Special Operations, 911 call center and other units. We even spoke with a few officers from Dekalb County PD.

Special thanks to San Francisco Coffee Roasting for graciously hosting the event and for being such a great part of our community.

Residents from all over Zone 2 and Zone 6 chatted about public safety concerns, and showed the men and women of law enforcement some appreciation. City Council District 6 Representative, Alex Wan was on hand to advocate on the behalf of neighborhoods for more video cameras and other tools and services that contribute to our safety.

 

 

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The Very Last Morningside Mile.…Ever

by Robin Ragland

The last-ever Morningside Mile will be run at noon on Sunday, March 26. Help make it the fundraiser that pushes the fundraising campaign over the finish line! We are $15,000 from reaching our goal of $120,000for the restoration of our Fire Station 19. The finish line is in sight, but we can’t get there alone. Please register to run (or walk), spread the word, and encourage others to join you. 100% of race profits are donated for the safety of our neighborhood heroes, and to help keep it in service for future generations.

Not able to participate in the race? Head straight to the Block Park at Morningside Village (1424 N Highland Ave) to meet your neighborhood firefighters and enjoy family fun for all ages! The party is from noon – 2:00 pm.

Invite your friends & family to cheer you on & enjoy the festivities. Neighbors are encouraged to “go green” and walk or bike to the event.

More information and the link for registration may be found here. Check back regularly for an updated list of festivities. You can also visit the Morningside Mile Facebook page.

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John Howell Park Work Day March 11th

by David Brandenberger, VHCA Board Member and Chair of the Parks Committee

The VHCA Parks Committee is happy to announce that our next volunteer work day for Parks will happen the morning of Saturday, March 11th at 9:00 am at John Howell Park.

The goal will be to do general debris clean-up and routine maintenance–with a particular focus on further repair of the soil erosion that has occurred on the slope near DeLeon Street so that vegetation can be planted there later this spring.

Any and all are encouraged to ‘pitch-in’ as workloads should be fairly light. Gloves, shovels, rakes/brooms and other such implements are welcome. We’ll kick off around 9am–weather permitting–and expect to be there around 2-3 hours.

Please reach out to Parks@vahi.org with any questions and to notify us if you plan on being able to help. Thanks in advance.

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Shout it from the Rooftops!

by Kay Stephenson, VHCA Vice President

Do you have something to share with the Virginia-Highland Community? We want the VHCA web page and our other media platforms to be Information Central for the neighborhood and beyond.

You might have noticed that recently we have been adding many more events to the VHCA Calendar on the right-hand side of the Home page – making it more of a community calendar – and including notices about festivals and races that are of interest to, or have an impact upon, residents. We could use your help to identify what else should be on the calendar or shared in the neighborhood.

If you have a story to tell (or just a story idea), an event to promote, or a neat photograph to share, we want to hear from you. Topics and events should be directly related to the Virginia-Highland neighborhood and of interest to our residents. And we will handle the promotion of commercial enterprises through paid advertisements unless there is a clear benefit to the community.

Submit your information all in one place and the VHCA Communications Committee will handle the rest. Whether you want to place something on the website, in the VOICE e-newsletter, on our Facebook page, Instagram, or all of the above, follow the link to share. Or look for this box on the home page.

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Intown Ten: The Only 10K Race that Starts and Ends in VaHi

By Rob Glancy

The Sixth Annual Intown Ten 10K and 5K Road Races are coming up on Sunday March 5, 2017. New this year we have added a USATF certified 5K that will start one hour before the 10K.  We like to call it the Intown Ten “Lite”.

I started the Intown Ten for similar reasons that I led the 2004 reboot of the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes. I had enjoyed attending Home Tours, but there was not a tour in VAHI.  Similarly, my wife and I enjoyed running 10K’s, but at the time there were none that were local and even the 10Ks we liked had crummy shirts.  So, I created the Intown Ten, a local 10K with awesome shirts that people actually wear. A year later we started offering an upgraded thermal shirt. We are the only race that does this.

The race starts and finishes near John Howell Park, which allows for families to gather and root-on the runners and maybe shoot some baskets courtesy of the Hawks; enjoy snacks from Whole Foods; or get some shoe advice from running partners Phidippides and Highland Runners.

Race proceeds benefit local causes including the YWCA of Greater Atlanta and Trees Atlanta.

Six years later, the Intown Ten is still the only 10K that starts and finishes in VAHi.  With the addition of the 5K, our goal is to expand the event to not only competitive elite runners, but to people of all ages who are building up to longer distances or are simply looking for a fun, health-oriented event. Despite some of the challenges of the course, many participants use their Intown Ten times when registering for the Peachtree Road Race.

We have a large corps of intown runners who come back year after year, but more striking are the many runners who travel from Suwanee, Buford and beyond, year after year, to attend the race. It might be sunny, it might snow or rain, but come back they do. Reasons we have heard include the beautiful setting of the neighborhood, the great shirts, and just the overall experience of running a more intimate, well-executed 10K with predictably great snacks at the finish and a warm neighborhood feel for those involved.

We look forward to the 6th running of the Intown Ten.  Regular, well-attended neighborhood events are symbols of a vibrant community. They bring neighbors together, and events such as the Intown Ten mesh with the vision of the neighborhood master plan of Healthy Living.

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Neighborhood Watch and Safety Meeting March 4th

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Safety Chair

Atlanta Video Integration Center. Photo courtesy Aftermath News.

Public safety continues to be a high priority for Virginia-Highland residents. On Saturday, March 4th at 10 am at Church of Our Saviour (N. Highland at Los Angeles), come and hear from experts about how the Atlanta Police Department (APD) is using cameras to fight crime, and participate in a discussion about what we can do within our neighborhood to reduce crime.

Experts will describe how the city’s Video Integration Center (VIC) uses information from thousands of cameras to track potential crimes in progress and for subsequent investigations.  Then APD officers will demonstrate the bodycams that are now being used.

After these presentations, discussions will include:
1) Maximizing the effectiveness of our VaHi Neighborhood Watch Program, including discussion of best practices/challenges from our Street Leads/Street Captains;
2) Private security cameras and how they can assist the police with their investigations;
3) How lighting or other environmental factors that reduce crime can be improved.
All interested residents are encourage to attend!

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70% Approval Rate for Monroe Road Diet at Renew Atlanta Meeting

Submit Comments Online To Show Your Support for The Road Diet

by Jenifer Keenan, President of VHCA

“My daughter would not have died if there had been a road diet on Monroe.”  Those were the sobering words from the father of Alexa Hyneman, the Grady student who was killed in February 2016 when she was struck by a car on Monroe while riding her bike home from Grady, at the February 28th Renew Atlanta Meeting on the Monroe Complete Streets Project.  Alexa’s father explained to the more than 300 people in attendance at the meeting that Alexa was struck by a car that was changing lanes to avoid the left turn queue – a maneuver that would not have occurred if there had been a dedicated left turn lane as called for by the road diet.

Incredibly, the latest fatality on Monroe – one that happened this past January, less than a year after Alexa’s death, occurred under very similar circumstances.  The victim, who was riding on a motor cycle, was reportedly stuck by a car that was changing lanes to avoid the left turn queue at Monroe and Park.  As with Alexa’s death, this death would not have occurred if the road diet, with its dedicated turn lane, were in place.

It is irrefutable that road diets make roads safer by reducing speeding, eliminating lane jockeying to avoid the left turn queue, and eliminating the left turn blind spot that is caused when left turning cars must cross two lanes of traffic instead of one.  Renew Atlanta confirmed this and showed that a road diet on Monroe would reduce crashes by 29% and, in conjunction with the proposed traffic circle at Park and Monroe, would lead to a 60% reduction in injury crashes at that intersection.

In addition to the dramatic safety improvements, however, the Renew Atlanta team indicated that under current conditions, a road diet on Monroe could lead to moderate increases in am peak north bound travel time and significant increases (up to 140%) in pm peak travel time. (The number provided at the meeting was an increase of up to 140% in 2026, a number that is presumably based on 2026 traffic levels, which are nearly impossible to predict in 2017).  But even after presenting this increase in travel time, the 300+ attendees at the meeting still overwhelming supported the road diet, with almost 70% voting “yes” for the road diet during the instant online polling conducted during the meeting.

No one wants to have increased travel times on Monroe, but it is important to put this into perspective.  Peak am and pm travel times will impact 12% of the time while the benefits of the dramatic safety improvements from the road diet will cover 100% of the time.

Although the majority of people at the Renew Atlanta meeting support the Road Diet, and a road diet is called for in the Virginia-Highland Master Plan and Beltline Subarea 6 plan, there are still those who oppose the road diet.  Rather than opposing the road diet, however, people who are skeptical or even opposed should focus on how to make it a success.  One of the most dramatic ways to reduce vehicular traffic on Monroe is to convert Piedmont from one way between 14th and Ponce (or even just 14th to 10th) to two way.  Having a second north/south route from Piedmont to Ponce (or 10th) will give commuters who now use Monroe another – and better – option for their north/south Commute.  There are other tools as well. For example, with the realignment of the bike lane proposed for 10th and Monroe, there can be a dedicated right turn arrow from southbound Monroe to westbound 10th when there is the dedicated left turn arrow from westbound 10th to northbound Monroe.  And for those who are concerned about cut-through traffic and speeding on side streets, there are tools to help with those issues as well.  The Virginia-Highland Civic Association is committed to lobbying for all of these necessary changes and working to find other improvements as well.

There are also significant changes happening between now and 2026 that will also reduce traffic on Monroe.  By 2026, there will be transit on the BeltLine, and MARTA will have implemented its enhanced bus service, including its proposed service for smaller buses that will serve shorter, residential routes.  These significant improvements to transit will undoubtedly reduce the number of cars on Monroe and make an estimate for 2026 based on current conditions and a road diet rather meaningless.

We must insist that the City make the changes needed to reduce increases to travel time that may come with the road diet.  It would be very shortsighted to abandon the desperately needed 24/hour a day safety improvements to Monroe over concerns about increased travel times during a few hours a day.  But even if the projected 2026 increase in peak pm travel time comes to fruition, we have to put a line in the sand and make safety our top priority.  Alexa’s dad said it best:  “A 140% increase in travel time is a small price to pay to prevent another fatality on Monroe.”

Now is the time for action.  We must show the Renew Atlanta team that we support the road diet.  You can voice your support for the road diet and submit additional comments on the Complete Streets project via email to:  renewatlanta@atlantaga.gov   The attached comment card, which was distributed at the 2/28 meeting, can also be sent in via email.  Comments must be submitted by March 15, 2017.

A final caveat – Although the road diet is certainly the most critical piece of the Complete Streets project, the project proposes other street improvements as well, including intersection improvements to 10th and Monroe, a realignment of Virginia and Monroe, a proposed traffic circle or alternative intersection improvement at Park and Monroe, and other modest intersection improvements.  All of the proposed street improvements are online on the Renew Atlanta website (click here). Additional changes, such as improved lighting and landscaping and light synchronization, will also be part of the Complete Streets project.

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More Relay Bike Stations Coming to Our Neighborhood

By Stephen Cohen

We’ve seen them around, those bright blue bikes with the basket on front. I saw a young couple the other day, each wheeling their blue bike from the Trader Joe’s parking lot onto the BeltLine, and each with a Trader Joe grocery bag in their front basket. They lived in Midtown and told me they had rented a relay bike on Piedmont Road and ridden over to TJ to do their grocery shopping.

We’re going to be seeing a lot more of those bikes. From the one relay station near the corner of 10th and Piedmont, we are going to be seeing as many as eight more stations in Virginia-Highland, Atkins Park, and Poncey-Highland. (The attached flyer shows the upcoming locations. These are subject to approval and zoning review).

What is Bike Share?

Page 2 of the flyer shows proposed locations for new bike relay stations

Bike Share is touted as a fun, affordable way to get around Atlanta. Hundreds of public bikes are available to rent for short rides. You can lock a Relay Bike at one of their hub stations or at any public bike rack. Cost is $8 an hour, or $15 a month with 60 minutes’ daily usage, or $20 a month with 90 minutes’ daily usage, or $25 a semester with 60 minutes’ daily usage for students. Unused minutes roll over. So if you rent for an hour and only use 40 minutes, you have 20 minutes left to use another time.

You can use them for commuting, for errands, or to enable visiting friends and family to join you in toodling through Piedmont Park, onto the BeltLine, and around our pretty streets.

For more information, visit www.relaybikeshare.com.

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What’s Your Gusto? The Changing Face of Ponce in VaHi

From Football to the Restaurant Business

By Kay Stephenson

Nate Hybl (yes that Nate Hybl – Oklahoma Sooner quarterback, 2002 Rose Bowl MVP, and on the teams for the Cleveland Browns and Jacksonville Jaguars) is in the restaurant business. But not the type of restaurant you might usually associate with a former pro football player. You won’t find him sitting at the bar entertaining his drinking buddies. You might find him taking your order, or bagging up some fabulous sweet potato chips. In fact, you might find him doing anything that needs to be done in a bustling family friendly restaurant that offers fast fresh food.

gusto! Means Bold Flavors and American Dreams

A self-described foodie and entrepreneur, when Nate was growing up in Hazlehurst, Georgia, there wasn’t a lot of exposure to exotic and bold flavors. But about five years ago, that started to change. He set out to learn the restaurant business and worked every job he could find. In his spare time, he was experimenting in his own kitchen and trying out his creations on friends and family.

Inspired by the likes of Dale Carnegie and the best of Americana, Nate opened his first restaurant, named gusto! for those bold flavors and this quote –

“Today is life. The only life you are sure of… Get interested in something. Shake yourself awake. Let the winds of enthusiasm sweep through you. Live today with gusto.”

That first restaurant opened in 2015 on Peachtree across from Piedmont Hospital. The second opened at 782 Ponce De Leon Ave in Virginia-Highland this past Summer.

Why Here? Why Now?

When asked why Virginia-Highland and why Ponce, Nate told me that he really likes the diverse culture of the area. He describes it as, “part family, part street, and somewhat in transition.” The transition is clear as we see more people out walking and the major renovation happening across the street at the Clermont Hotel. He also notes the importance of Ponce to the landscape of the city. He located his first restaurant on Peachtree, the primary north/south thoroughfare in Atlanta. Many view Ponce as the primary east/west corridor.

How does a Restaurant Build Community?

As the team was finalizing the build-out of the Ponce store, they decided the building needed a tattoo! OK, a mural. They invited local artists to submit designs, and then invited the neighborhood to a Paint Party on Ponce. Participants made temporary art on big sheets hung on the building and voted on the top three artist submissions. The winner was Lee Arnett with his bold geometric design.

In the short time the restaurant has been open the team behind gusto has already sponsored spirit nights for Springdale Elementary, Inman Middle, and Grady High School and they are actively working with the Virginia-Highland Civic Association to identify other partnership opportunities.

What’s Your gusto?

Nate and his team hope that the neighborhood will come to enjoy stopping in for a quick meal or carry-out order, or to hang out in the spacious dining area and outdoor patio. The food offers “better for you” options like salad and rice bowls or wraps topped with lean protein and a wide array of sauces and toppings that make for a unique and delicious taste experience. And they continue the family-friendly theme with a special menu for kids. Not to suggest that there isn’t plenty to interest adults, including a good selection of local beers.

Ingredients are all fresh and even the sauces are made in-house. I was there on a recent morning when they were frying up huge batches of their signature sweet potato chips, which are “straight out of the dirt” as Nate likes to say. And at only 85 kcal per bag, it’s OK that they come with every order.

The exceptionally friendly staff is encouraged to learn your name and spell it right. In fact, don’t be surprised if they are quick to remember your regular order. This fresh new alternative to conventional fast food is a real positive addition to the neighborhood. Go soon and find out for yourself.

Here is their website: http://www.whatsyourgusto.com/

P.S. Don’t say I didn’t warn you about those chips!

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One Man Involved with Summerfest 5K From the Start

by Kay Stephenson

This race has been run in Virginia-Highland for at least 30 years – we are a little fuzzy on the date, but it was sometime between 1985 and 1987. Ed Williams, who has managed our race for many years, started the Virginia-Highland Track Club in 1984. That group organized a few St. Patrick’s Day races, and used their equipment to help with the early Summerfest races.

Neighborhood Races

Back then there were only a few neighborhood races. Buckhead had a few, and Olympian Jeff Galloway directed a couple near Colony Square. Ed ran in most of those races, but they all faded away many years ago. Unlike those, Virginia-Highland’s Summerfest 5K is still going strong and growing.

A Laid-Back Crowd

Ed tells us he loves this race because it is a pleasant mix of runners from the neighborhood, around the Atlanta area, and out of state. There are a small percentage of competitive runners mixed with casual runners and walkers. “It’s not a big-time competitive race where runners get mad if we start two minutes late – a nice, laid-back crowd”.

Benefiting the Neighborhood

Sometimes it seems like there is a race in the neighborhood every week-end. Unlike many that benefit a variety or regional and national causes, all proceeds of the Summerfest 5K benefit the Virginia-Highland community. Another unique twist – after the 5K we have a very special race for youngsters called the Tot Trot.  In addition, runners love the opportunity to get an early look at our juried artist market.

Sign Up Early

The race, a USA Track & Field certified Peachtree Road Race qualifier, happens Saturday June 3rd at 8:00 a.m. and you can find all the details on the Summerfest page at RunGeorgia.com. Registration closes at 1600 participants or May 19th, whichever comes first. This race often sells out, and there is no race day registration, so sign up early on Active.com.

Plan a Porch Party

Is this the 30th anniversary of the race? If you have proof positive, let us know. Not a runner? Plan a breakfast porch party along the race route to cheer on your neighbors. Ham biscuits and a Bloody Mary, anyone?

Photos by Kay Stephenson

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For Primed Performance Training, Beltline Means More Than Fitness: It’s About Community

When David Mauer opened his first gym back in 1999, he knew he wanted to contribute to the community but he had no idea where that journey might take him. After 18 years of building on the successes of the fitness businesses he’s founded such as P.E. Midtown, Urban Body Fitness, and Urban Body Studios, he’s applying his fine-tuned approach to create a special spot named Primed Performance Training.

Primed Performance Training (PPT) is a personalized fitness studio located on the Atlanta Beltine, just off Ponce de Leon Place. David Mauer and his staff of trainers provide small-group and personal training serving clients of all abilities. The PPT team is dedicated to helping each client achieve his or her individual fitness goals, whether it’s recovering from an injury, setting an example for one’s children, excelling in a particular sport, or pursuing a healthier lifestyle. Mauer’s approach is science based and focuses on sport-specific and functional fitness. The atmosphere is laid-back, friendly and refreshingly attitude-free.

Mauer laughs, “From a location perspective, the journey has not been very far. I’ve been on the Beltline or the old train tracks my entire career!”

David says he loves being part of the Virginia-Highland neighborhood. “It’s such an amazingly supportive community. Owning a business on the Beltline is really incredible and it’s been awesome to witness the tremendous impact that it has made on bringing the community together and inspiring people to exercise. At Primed, a big part of the beauty of what we do is the community we create through encouragement, commitment and mutual respect. This location makes perfect sense on so many levels.“

Primed is located in Urban Body Studios (which Mauer co-founded) at 730 Ponce de Leon Place. Primed welcomes new clients and encourages them to try a free introductory session. Currently there is a special introductory offer — 3 small group sessions for $20. Visit their website at primedpt.com, call 404-216-8601 or email david@primedpt.com for more information.

Photos courtesy Primed Performance Training

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Parties Reach Settlement in Todd Memorial Litigation

By Jenifer Keenan

I am very happy to report that the parties have reached a settlement in the Todd Memorial Litigation.  A copy of the settlement agreement can be viewed here.

Under the terms of the settlement agreement, the defendants will pay $25,000 and VHCA’s insurers will contribute an additional $5,000.  The settlement proceeds will be used for “the re-construction of the Monument on property located off and separate from the Property [defendants’ residence], reimbursement of Plaintiffs’ legal expenses related to the Lawsuit, as well as an application for construction of a Georgia Historical Society historical marker or other sign for the Property [defendant’s residence].”

The Todd/Liddell family are taking the lead on the design of the new memorial and application for an official Georgia Historical Society marker on the property where the original monument was located.  Additional information on the location of the new memorial will be provided in the coming months.

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Make Monroe Safe – Come to the 2/28 Meeting and Support the Monroe Road Diet

by Jenifer Keenan, VHCA President

The dangerous conditions on Monroe have led to two fatalities on the quarter mile section of the street in VaHi the last year. That is two deaths too many. The best way for each of us to improve the safety on Monroe is to attend the February 28th Renew Atlanta Meeting on the Monroe Complete Streets Project and demand that a road diet be implemented on Monroe from 10th to Piedmont.  (Tuesday, 2/28 6:00 – 8:00 Big Bethel AME Church, 220 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30303).

What is a Road Diet?

To be clear, a road diet does not mean fewer cars. It’s a restriping done in such a way that traffic flow is improved, with cars moving more evenly, and it therefore makes the road safer and more efficient. In a nutshell, the “road diet” on Monroe will restripe the lanes and reduce it from 4 lanes (two in each direction) to three lanes (one in each direction with a dedicated turn lane). These diagrams from the Virginia-Highland Master Plan illustrate the concept:

How will a Road Diet improve conditions on Monroe?

It may seem counter-intuitive that reducing lanes could make a street better, but there are real-life examples from throughout the country that show that road diets not only reduce crashes by up to 47%, but also improve traffic flow.  Indeed, a study on the Ponce de Leon road diet found that after the road diet was implemented, there was a 25% decrease in overall crashes, with morning travel times decreasing by almost a minute and afternoon travel times increasing by only a bit more than a minute.

A road diet for Monroe isn’t a new concept – it has been part of the BeltLine Plan, the Connect Atlanta Plan, and the Virginia-Highland Master Plan. And although the Monroe Road Diet has been a part of these comprehensive plans, and is a proven way to improve safety and traffic flow, there are still skeptics. Some are fearful that it will lead to cut-through traffic. Cut-through traffic, however, is a problem now. Keeping Monroe as-is will not improve cut-through traffic. Improving traffic flow on Monroe and eliminating the conditions that have led to fatal crashes should actually help with cut-through traffic, not make it worse.

Others have insisted that temporary measures such as increased police enforcement, or measures that may reduce speed such as speed humps, will be sufficient. That is simply not the case, because even if speed is reduced, the weaving in and out to avoid the left-turn queue still creates dangerous conditions for both vehicles and pedestrians. The road diet is the best and only solution that will provide 24-hour-a-day improvements to safety on Monroe by slowing traffic, eliminating weaving in and out to avoid the left turn queue (and thereby improve traffic flow), eliminating the left-turn blind spot caused by the lack of a dedicated left-turn lane, allowing pedestrians to safely cross three lanes of traffic instead of four with a “safe haven” in the middle provided by the dedicated turn lane, allowing bikes to travel in dedicated bike lanes away from traffic, and making sidewalks safer by having them bordered by bike lanes instead of speeding cars. Neither increased police ticketing nor speed humps can provide 24-hour-a-day improvements to all these safety issues.

What if the Road Diet doesn’t work?

In December, the project manager for the Monroe Complete Streets Project attended the Virginia-Highland monthly meeting and announced that the traffic counts for Monroe were within the acceptable limits for a road diet. Thus, there is no reason for there not to be a road diet on Monroe. Nevertheless, if the Monroe road diet is somehow different from the hundreds of other successful road diets that have been implemented throughout the country and does not improve the dangerous conditions on the street, the “diet” can be undone by simply re-striping Monroe and converting it back to four lanes.

What Can I Do To Improve Safety on Monroe?

The best way to improve conditions on Monroe is come to the February 28th meeting and show your strong support a road diet on Monroe.  We must stand together and demand the proven and permanent safety improvements of road diet for Monroe. We as a community cannot tolerate any more fatalities on this broken street. The Road Diet is a key component of the Complete Street project.

What Is a “Complete Street”?

The full name of the Monroe project is actually the Monroe/Boulevard Complete Streets Project.  The project is being funded by the Renew Atlanta Infrastructure Bond that was approved by city voters in 2015.  “Complete Streets” are designed to enable safe access for all users – pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit users. Complete Street projects implement comprehensive design changes including light synchronization, intersection realignments, and landscaping, lighting, and crosswalk improvements. They often also include traffic calming measures and design changes to make streets safer.

The Virginia-Highland Master Plan

The Master Plan contains more details, and pages 81 on are especially pertinent for the Road Diet. Note: This is a large file and may take a little while to load.

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New Chief Says Key to Crime Reduction is Arresting the Right People – Violent Repeat Offenders

APD Chief Erika Shields addresses attendees at the Safety Forum

By Kay Stephenson, Vice President, VHCA

Residents of Morningside/Lenox Park and Virginia-Highland attended a public forum with representatives of Atlanta Police Department on Monday February 6th at Haygood United Methodist Church.

In attendance were new APD Chief Erika Shields, Deputy Chief Jeffery Glazier, Major Marisha Shepherd, Major Timothy Peek and Captain Neil Klotzer from Zone Six, and Major James Shaw and Captain Michael Butler from Zone Two.

District Six Councilman Alex Wan and City Council President Ceasar Mitchell also attended along with former District Six and Council President Cathy Woolard. The meeting was facilitated by MLPA Vice President, Charlie Nalbone and VHCA President, Jenifer Keenan. The APD representatives made brief statements and then responded to questions from attendees.

Recent Robberies

Major Peek talked about the recent robberies in Virginia-Highland. This is an ongoing investigation and it has been linked to crimes in other neighborhoods. To prevent and catch the suspects, plain clothes officers are surveilling the area – even Major Peek is coming out and driving around and conducting surveillance. They also are working with a centralized robbery unit that is connecting the dots citywide. As we know, the people committing crimes in our neighborhood are likely not living here. He also told us that they were working with Crime Stoppers and have some good sketches of suspects. Finally, they are working with property owners of multi-family residences in the area.

Gaps in the Criminal Justice System

Chief Shields was asked about the reason that the judges are releasing violent and repeat offenders. She acknowledged that there are gaps in the criminal justice system. Officers need to make quality arrests, write reports that will stand up in court, and show up in court. Prosecutors need to fight for convictions on the top charge and not plead down to lesser charges. Some judges are excessively lenient, but also their hands are tied by the presence of mental health and drug problems of defendants. Some of those issues need to be addressed legislatively. And finally, Fulton County needs to build a new jail because there is insufficient room to house all the criminals who should be detained.

Technology

Chief Shields responded to a question about the use facial recognition. She told us the first step is to install cameras that are integrated and monitored. Then other technologies such as facial recognition and shot spotter can be layered on top. The Atlanta Police Foundation has been instrumental in identifying and evaluating technology and in raising the funds for the Video Integration Center (VIC) and body cameras for officers.

Captain Klotzer (former commander of the VIC) told us that there are currently about 8000 cameras installed in the city and integrated. Only a small percentage of these are owned by the city of Atlanta. The rest are corporately owned and integrated and monitored by APD. This innovative public/private partnership is a model now being emulated by other cities.

In addition to the video cameras, APD has deployed approximately 130 License Plate Readers (LPR) with 120 more on the way. When a car is used in a crime, these LPRs can track the license plate as the vehicle moves around the city and allow officers to intercept the vehicle and make an arrest.

Residential cameras are not being integrated. However, cameras that are pointed toward the street, front porches and driveways can be very helpful. Residents with cameras are encouraged to register them by providing name, street address, email and phone to safety@vahi.org. The Safety Committee will maintain a listing of available cameras.

When asked what APD needs to be successful, the top of the list is more officers. However, Deputy Chief Glazier explained that for every 200 officers who are hired to enter the academy, they go through 8,000 to 9,000 applicants. Given that challenge, technology must be implemented to fill the gaps. Pay is a part of the equation. Atlanta is a difficult place to be an officer, and given the trust gap between the community and the police, it is a difficult job anywhere in the country. He referenced a “social media tsunami” as a contributor to that trust gap.

Traffic Enforcement
One person asked about traffic enforcement, citing excessive speed on neighborhood streets, near school bus stops, etc. Resources are available within the department to address day-to-day traffic issues. If there are consistent traffic problems including speeding, stop sign violations, etc. the first step is to call the precinct and speak with the zone commander. The zone has flexibility to deploy officers to address these issues.

A resident also asked about the portable speeding signs that alert drivers when they are exceeding the limit for that street. The department does have access to these types of signs and they can be deployed. Cameras to catch speeders are not being used.

Property Crimes

Asked what residents can do to prevent auto break-ins, Major Shepherd reminded attendees of the clean car campaign. Auto break-ins are a crime of opportunity and anything in plain sight, from a phone charger, to change or an old sweater will be enough reason for a criminal to break a window.

Regarding package thefts, APD admits that there is little they can do to prevent this type of crime. If a package is left on a porch while residents are at work, it is an easy target for criminals. The best solution is to have packages shipped to a work address or to a neighbor who is home during the day. In Virginia-Highland a safe package delivery program is in place. More information is available here.

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Asked whether APD was using CPTED, Major Shepherd responded that there are currently four officers trained and more are scheduled to be trained. These officers are available to conduct assessments make recommendations. Environmental elements such as lighting and landscaping should be designed in a way to make it more difficult for criminals to avoid detection.

Neighborhood Initiatives

Following the session with APD, Virginia-Highland safety volunteers met with VaHi residents. VHCA board members Jenifer Keenan, Eleanor Barrineau, Kay Stephenson and Debbie Skopczynski, along with safety committee member John Wolfinger and FBAC volunteers Nan Safay and Charles Zimmer spoke about Neighborhood Watch, CourtWatch, FBAC, and a variety of safety initiatives. These include a lighting survey to improve lighting in areas where pedestrian crimes are more common and working with businesses to install (or connect existing) cameras to the VIC.

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Come to the Neighborhood Watch/Safety Meeting March 4th

Atlanta Video Integration Center. Photo courtesy Aftermath News.

by Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Safety Chair

Public safety was the #1 issue for Virginia-Highland residents who completed a recent survey.  On Saturday, March 4th at 10 am at Church of Our Saviour (N. Highland at Los Angeles), come and hear from experts about how the Atlanta Police Department (APD) is using cameras to fight crime, and participate in a discussion about what we can do within our neighborhood to reduce crime.

Experts will describe how the city’s Video Integration Center (VIC) uses information from thousands of cameras to track potential crimes in progress and for subsequent investigations.  Then APD officers will demonstrate the bodycams that are now being used.

After these presentations, discussions will include:

1) Maximizing the effectiveness of our VaHi Neighborhood Watch Program, including discussion of best practices/challenges from our Street Leads/Street Captains;
2) Private security cameras and how they can assist the police with their investigations;
3) How lighting or other environmental factors that reduce crime can be improved.

All interested residents are encourage to attend!

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Last Call for Bricks – Only 9 Available!

by Pamela Papner

If you were considering the purchase of a brick in North Highland Park (to be installed this spring), time is running out – we have just 9 left!  An engraved brick makes a unique gift or remembrance for you, your family or someone special! You can engrave the brick with up to 3 lines of text, 14 characters per line. The cost of $100 goes toward paying off the mortgage for North Highland Park, and your donation is tax deductible. If you buy now, you also get a certificate suitable for gift-giving and a “Park Patron” t-shirt.

For details and to mail in your order, print the order form, or you can order online.

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Summerfest 2017 – June 3 & 4 – Save the Date!

By Pamela Papner, Summerfest Co-Chair

Mark your calendars and be sure to attend Summerfest 2017 on June 3rd and 4th!  The community dinner, movie and parade will be held Friday, June 2nd in John Howell Park.  Details will be posted online as plans are finalized, at vahi.org/summerfest.

Presented by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association and organized by neighborhood volunteers, Summerfest celebrates the arts with a juried Artist Market featuring more than 250 artists from the Southeast displaying works in an variety of traditional media and representing numerous price ranges to appeal to any level of collector.

For 2017, Summerfest will offer a re-vitalized Kidsfest, sure to please families with many fun, educational and artistic activities – many free! The Local Market, a popular new feature last year, will be expanded and will feature local Georgia vendors who produce hand-made products like soaps, honey, baked goods, gourmet food and other unique items. The 2017 music line-up promises to be the best ever, and the 5K road race is back (sign up today here). The tot trot will be held Saturday at John Howell Park, with all registrations on-site this year.

Best of all, proceeds from the event go directly back into our neighborhood, enabling the VHCA to lead and support planning and zoning initiatives, support/maintenance of North Highland Park, along with other neighborhood initiatives such as recent improvements to John Howell Park, sidewalks, safety, lighting and crime prevention programs. The VHCA also provides financial support to local schools, public library, historic firehouse and other organizations serving Virginia-Highland residents.

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Dude, It’s Only a Mile…

Run The Morningside Mile on Mar 26 – We’re So Close Now to Saving our Fire Station – Help Push Us Over the Finish Line!

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member

Since we moved to Virginia-Highland in 2006, I’ve been hearing about the need to raise funds for critical improvements to our local Fire Station. Now, after many Breakfasts with Santa, Santathons, Morningside Miles, last year’s Firefest, selling Fire Station 19 t-shirts, and personal donations, we’re only ~$15,000 away from reaching the community’s $120,000 fundraising goal!!

For those of you who are new to Virginia-Highland, Fire Station 19 is Atlanta’s oldest continuously operating station. Located in the heart of Virginia-Highland, it has been a local landmark for more than 90 years.

The Race

Rick Chey (owner of the Osteria 832 and Doc Chey restaurants) is once again hosting this year’s 7th annual Morningside Mile on March 26–and it’s a lot of fun. In addition to being Atlanta’s only competitive one-mile run, it has cash prizes and a killer post-race party.  Runners of all levels, from competitive runners to moms with jog strollers and kids, are welcome.  Register here for this year’s race.

Here’s a sneak peak at the prizes:

  • Overall Top 3 Male & Female Winners: $200/$100/$50 cash & gift cards
  • Masters Top 3 Male & Female Winners: $100/$50/$25 cash & gift cards
  • Age Group Winners: $25 local merchant gift card to top male & female finisher in each age group: under 6, 7-9, 10-14, 15-19, 20-29, 30-39, 40-49, 50-59, 60+.
  • SweetWater 420 Challenge: runner with closest time to 4:20 wins a deluxe SweetWater prize pack including 4 tickets to the brewery & tasting, SweetWater apparel & other goodies.

The first 500 registrants will receive a commemorative premium athletic T-shirt, a $60 value.  All runners can show their race number at the block party to get a free SweetWater beer at Doc Chey’s, OR a free treat at Alon’s.

Keep up-to-date during the countdown to the race on Facebook.

The Block Party: Noon – 2pm

Doc Chey’s Noodle Eating Contest!

Whether you run the race or not, plan to show up at the finish line for a neighborhood Block Party at Morningside Village (1424 N. Highland Ave). Invite your friends and family to cheer you on, meet your neighborhood firefighters, and enjoy the festivities planned for all ages!  Neighbors are encouraged to “go green” and walk or bike to the event.

There will be music, food by Doc Chey’s (don’t forget to bring cash!), and other festivities hosted by local firefighters and merchants. Sign up early to compete in the kids’ or adults’ Doc Chey’s Noodle Eating Contest that occurs at 1:30.  Fastest adult speed eater wins a $100 gift card, and the kid winner gets a $25 gift card.

Be sure to check the Morningside Mile website regularly for an updated list of festivities.

Fun Facts

“Dude–It’s only a mile!”  Some fun facts from the morningsidemile.com website.  How long is a mile?
* 1,760 yards
* 5,280 feet
* 63,360 inches
* 1,609 meters
* 1,609,344 millimeters
* 14,762,889 dollar bills stacked
* 5,280 Osteria pizzas laid side-by-side
* 7,920 Doc Chey’s noodle bowls
* 21,120 Doc Chey’s basil rolls laid end-to-end

Can’t make it to the race?  Donate here to help reach the $120,000 goal.

 

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The Training Room – “The Swiss Army Knife of Fitness”

The Atlanta Beltline has been coined a living, breathing part of the fabric of Atlanta. If you find yourself using the Beltline that cuts through Virginia-Highland and Piedmont Park, chances are you’ve seen people running, pushing, pulling, throwing, and lifting in the parking lot that leads up to the main gym of The Training Room ATL.

Owner and head trainer Amber Goppert (pictured) says the most interesting feature of the gym’s location in Virginia-Highland is the diversity the residents lend to the gym. “We have people from every walk of life, with an endless variety of goals,” she says.

Aspirations vary as widely as competitive powerlifting, to ultra-marathons, to the weekend warrior just looking for a leg-up, or someone new to fitness beginning their wellness journey.

“I wanted to create a gym where, whether you’ve been an athlete since birth or you’ve never broken a sweat in your life, you have a place here. “

The facility, which Amber established in 2013, has two levels totaling 15,000 square feet of training space filled with every piece of practical training equipment one could ever need.  Amber has gone to great lengths to recruit some of the best and brightest minds Atlanta has to offer, while constantly innovating the training methodology.

She believes that this multi-faceted facility is unlike any other. “My philosophy from the start,” she says, “was that I wanted to field a team of competent trainers and coaches from all backgrounds. There are no two trainers alike and, as a result, I feel we can exceed the needs of any individual who walks through the door.”

That team includes former collegiate athletes, a Pilates instructor, a former NBA strength coach, and a certified Physical Therapist. Certifications range from kettlebells to Olympic lifting to postural restoration.

“My team is the Swiss Army Knife of the fitness industry, adept for all of our clienteles’ needs,” says Amber proudly.

The Training Room, located at 742 Ponce de Leon Place, offers group classes, with varying focuses and skill levels, and personal/small group training for more specific needs and goals.

Visit The Training Room’s website here: http://www.thetrainingroomatl.com

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Joint VaHi-Morningside Security Forum with APD Coming Up on Feb 6

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

APD Command staff from Zone 2 and Zone 6 and the office of the Chief of Police will give brief presentations and answer questions at a Security Forum hosted by MLPA and VHCA on February 6th from 7:00 – 8:30 pm at Haygood Memorial United Methodist Church 1015 East Rock Springs Road.

Originally organized by MLPA for residents of Morningside and Lenox Park,  upon the suggestion of Councilman Alex Wan, I contacted MLPA President Sally Bayless about VHCA joining in the forum, and she graciously agreed.  With two neighborhoods participating in the forum, Councilman Wan has been able to secure the attendance of Police Chief Shields and Deputy Chief Glazier.  This will be a wonderful opportunity to hear from APD leadership and express concerns about crime in our neighborhood.  Thanks to MLPA for organizing this event and Councilman Wan for his continued leadership and advocacy for District 6.

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Improved Maintenance of North Highland Triangle

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA President

VHCA is happy to announce that it has retained Evergreen Landscape (landscape.evergreen@gmail.com) to do regular maintenance and plantings for the North Highland Triangle.

Evergreen, which is owned by longtime VaHi Resident Anthony DeVingo, has been providing landscaping services at North Highland Park for years, and has added on the maintenance of the Triangle at a greatly reduced rate.

Stuart Meddin, owner/property manager of most of the commercial property on the north side of the Virginia/North Highland Commercial District, has made a generous donation to cover over half of the cost of the maintenance, and has agreed to match donations by other commercial property owners up to a total of $500.

Thank you to David Brandenberger, VHCA Board Member and Chair of the Parks Committee, as well as Stuart and Anthony, for bringing this great improvement to the neighborhood.

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Promote Safety on Your Street: Be a Street Lead!

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Safety Chair

There has lately been rising anxiety in our neighborhood about crime. Much as we depend on the efforts of our police and FBAC, there is a third component to make us all safer.

Awareness

It is a point worth making that crime around the neighborhood might be less likely to occur if more residents were aware of what has been happening and therefore were more on their guard.

So how do we make awareness happen?

Answer: A Street Lead on every street who passes on safety information to other residents on that street. Good news is that some streets are already covered; however, many streets still do not have a lead. In this electronic age, it’s very easy: As a Street Lead (also known as a street captain) you would:

  • Receive monthly VaHi safety reports that include updates from APD, FBAC and the Safety Committee, and simply pass them on to your street, block, or apt/condo bldg.
  • Facilitate communication between residents and the safety committee when incidents occur (for example, the pedestrian robbery on Greenwood recently).

Minimal time, maximum impact to help keep you and your neighbors safe!

If you live on one of the streets listed below, please contact us at safety@vahi.org and let us know you are interested in being a street lead.

If your street already has a lead but you can help with safety, contact us at safety@vahi.org as we have several other initiatives needing volunteers.

Thanks!

Streets needing a representative:
Amsterdam Av (Monroe to Beltline)
Bellevue Dr
Bonaventure Av
Briarcliff Ct
Briarcliff Pl (Barring condo bldg.)
Briarcliff Rd (Ponce to Virginia)
Briarcliff Ter
Monroe Dr
N. Highland (Virginia to CVS)
Park Dr (West of Monroe)
Stillwood Dr (Los Angeles to Rosedale)
Virginia Av (N Highland to Rosedale)
Virginia Av (Rosedale to Briarcliff)

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Making Virginia-Highland into a Model for Healthy Living

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Communications Committee Chair

In the many years I have lived here, I have seen the Virginia-Highland neighborhood move ever more toward the vision stated in the 2014 VaHi Master Plan: Become a model for modern urban living by demonstrating the potential to live in a healthy and sustainable way.

Healthy living is our theme during the month of February, and will, in fact, be a recurring theme throughout the year, as we explore how these options contribute to the neighborhood we aspire to be.

The Master Plan plan identifies a broad range of factors that affect healthy living, including environmental sustainability, active lifestyles, healthy food and nutrition, and opportunities for people of all ages, incomes and stages of life. Think about active lifestyles in transportation and play, and a wide variety businesses that support a healthy lifestyle – from shops that sell sports equipment to yoga studios and restaurants with healthy food choices.

The opportunities for healthy living are many and varied to meet the needs of all ages and interests. Start with the very low impact opportunity to walk around the neighborhood. We have a very picturesque neighborhood with many tree-lined streets, and commercial corridors with interesting shops.

To improve this experience, the civic association is working with city government to add sidewalks where there are none, and through complete streets initiatives, to improve streetscapes for better safety of all. If you have a dog to walk with, all the better. Walk to the dog park at Piedmont Park to toss the ball and get exercise for your four-legged friend as well.

If you want to move even faster, there are numerous running clubs and race opportunities. Just a few to investigate include:

Highland Runners weekly group run. This group is appropriate for all levels and offers both a three mile and a five+ mile group. They meet on Tuesday evenings at 6:30. Check out their website for more information.

The VaHi Runners is a long-standing group that meets on Wednesdays in front of George’s on North highland at 7:00 pm. More information can be found at their meetup page.

Races range from the Intown Ten (one of the few Peachtree Road Race qualifiers) coming up in early March–see following article; the very short Morningside Mile – tagline “dude it’s only a mile” – at the end of March; and the Summerfest 5K the first weekend in June.

Then there is cycling with Atlanta Bike Coalition and other neighborhood groups, and new Relay Bike Share stations coming to the neighborhood this spring. Read more about the program here. It now appears that we are in line for three bike share stations within Virginia-Highland. Details are being worked through now by the VHCA parks committee. Walking and biking tours are also offered on the Atlanta BeltLine running adjacent to Virginia-Highland.

Healthy food options abound for both dining and retail: our local restaurants have increasingly diverse menu options.

Looking for more? We have an array of yoga, martial arts, swimming and other exercise oriented businesses, including spa and massage options when you just need to relax. Did you overdo it? We also have every service you might need from urgent care to chiropractors.

Tell us your story

Throughout 2017 we will highlight the practices, activities, and businesses that contribute to healthy living in Virginia-Highland. Do you want to be part of sharing our message? Send a note to communications@vahi.org and tell us your story, and make sure your event is on our calendar!

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Front Runners – Fun, Fitness and Socializing

By George Zirkel, VHCA Communications Committee

Every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning, you may have noticed a group gathering near the volleyball courts at John Howell Park. It’s not a street gang, just the Front Runners getting ready for their run.

Front Runners Atlanta is a running, walking and social club for gay people and friends.  Through our weekly runs and social events, our club offers opportunities for fun, fitness and socializing.  We have about 8 different running routes, all about 5-6 miles long, that radiate from John Howell and touch all of the surrounding neighborhoods. After our runs we generally have worked up an appetite and you may catch us at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurant. American Roadhouse, Yeah Burger and George’s are some of our favorites.

Our members have all different running capabilities, from those who only started running once they joined and are working towards their first-ever 5K or half marathon, to those who have completed multiple Boston Marathons. Many people join because they like the sense of community that is created around challenging yourself and doing physical activity.

Each June, Front Runners organizes Atlanta’s Pride Run 5K Run and Walk.  The event is in Piedmont Park and usually draws 300-400 runners and walkers.  The race has developed a reputation for its festive, fun atmosphere and the awesome t-shirts issued to every participant.

Front Runners is open to anyone who wants to join us. Feel free to stop by one of our runs or check out our website.

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Tuscany at Your Table – Offering More than Delicious Italian Food

By Robin Ragland, VHCA Board Member

Before we even had time to lament Toscano & Sons’ departure, lo and behold: Tuscany at Your Table swooped in to the rescue!

It’s worth dropping by just to meet the delightful chef Luigi (pictured) and his wife Meredith D’Arienzo, but before long, you’ll notice the aroma of whatever special of the day Luigi has prepared for us. When I visited, it was delicious, piping hot meatballs and spaghetti. I was sorry to have missed lasagna the day before, but grabbed up the last few servings later in the week. If panini’s are what make your taste buds water, you’ll be able choose from a variety of them each day.

In addition to the familiar pizza dough, there’s freshly-made pasta and various dry goods. There’s also a nice selection of Italian wines.

Take a cooking class

Looking for something new to do in the neighborhood–how about taking a cooking class?  Small groups of about 8 people will prepare three dishes together then enjoy the fruits of your labor. More details can be found on their website here.

Here’s a sample of the cooking-class schedule. As you can see, the classes fill up early, so don’t hesitate when you see one you want to attend!

February 7: Risotto and More (fully booked)

Risotto with asparagus and lemon, Salad with pears, gorgonzola & walnuts, Migliaccio (Neapolitan Semolina & Ricotta Cake)
February 28: Roman Cooking (fully booked)

Bruschetta, Pasta alla carbonara (Pasta with Carbonara sauce), Spinaci alla romana (Roman-style Spinach)

March 7: Tuscan Cooking Class
Pasta with Chickpeas, Asparagus, Tomato & Black Olive Salad, Tiramisù

March 29: Risotto Cooking Class
Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms, Salad with Fennel & Oranges, Chocolate Salame

Email meredith@tuscanyatyourtable.com to sign-up for a class.

Please stop by and welcome Luigi and Meredith to the neighborhood–your taste buds will thank you!

1050 North Highland Ave NE
Atlanta, GA  30306
404-205-5092

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Monroe Complete Street Meeting – Note Location Change

The second community engagement meeting on the Monroe/Boulevard Complete Street project will be held on Tuesday February 28th from 6:00 – 8:00 pm at Big Bethel AME Church, 220 Auburn Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30303 (previously announced at Ebenezer Baptist Church). The meeting is hosted by Renew Atlanta along with Council Representatives Alex Wan and Kwanza Hall. The outcome of the complete streets project will have a profound impact on the safety of all residents using the Monroe corridor. Please make time to attend and make your voice heard. More information is available in Alex Wan’s monthly newsletter.

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A Safer Monroe Drive

by Jack White and Jess Windham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To make a contribution to Ms. Hyneman’s family for funeral and medical expenses, please go here:
https://www.gofundme.com/2u6rb7gs

Jack White and Jess Windham are VHCA Board Members.

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It’s Almost Ours

by Peggy Berg

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

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

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

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

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

Photo by Stephen Cohen

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Family Music-Making Hits VaHi

By Jennifer Fargar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Bang the Drum for Tom Tom

by John Becker

Restaurants come and restaurants go.

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

Ready for some good news, VaHi?

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.myajc.com/news/entertainment/dining/restaurant-closings-marks-end-of-atlanta-empire/nnwxL/

http://buzz.blog.ajc.com/2015/11/30/exclusive-tom-catherall-is-back-in-the-atlanta-restaurant-business/

http://atlantarestaurants.blog.ajc.com/2016/02/12/tom-catherall-opens-new-tom-tom-tonight-in-virginia-highland/

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

Tom Tom logo courtesy the Tom Tom website.

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Safety in Numbers

Safety in Numbers

by Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle

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

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

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

Signs are available to order here.

Jess Windham and Lola Carlisle are VHCA Board Members.

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Upcoming Zoning Code Diagnostic Discussion

by Jess Windham

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

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

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

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

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

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Restore is Movin’ On Up

by Peggy Berg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member.

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Summerfest Committee Seeks Additional Committee Members

by John Becker

Who’s ready for some Summerfest?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Long and Winding Road to a Better Zoning Code

by Lola Carlisle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Robin Ragland

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

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

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

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

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

Community Spirit

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

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

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

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Order Custom Virginia-Highland House Number Signs

by Lola Carlisle

Signs are available to order here.

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

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

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

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

Lola Carlisle is a VHCA Board Member.

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

By Lola Carlisle

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

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

Ramona was married to Heyward Todd Liddell, Jr., a descendant of Richard Todd. Richard Todd (Todd Rd. and the Todd Cemetery Memorial) was the first white settler in this region. It is also of interest that Richard’s oldest sister Sara was the wife of Hardy Ivy (Ivy St., Hardy Ivy Park). Ivy is considered Atlanta’s first citizen – the boundaries of Atlanta had not extended out to the Virginia-Highland area yet. Ivy may have been convinced to move to the area by his wife who wanted to be near her brother, Richard. Todd Rd. originally connected the Todd farm to Ivy’s place downtown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Stephen Cohen

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

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

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

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

Stephen Cohen is Editor of the Voice.

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Recycling in a Tough Spot Right Now

by Peggy Berg

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For recycling bins and service questions, please call 311.

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member.

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VaHi and Angelika Taylor Star in Southern Weekend

by Stephen Cohen

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

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

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

Here’s the clip.

Pictured: VHCA Board Member Angelika Taylor.

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Dine Out with Contact Point

by Stephen Cohen

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

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

Who is Atlanta Con­tact­Point?

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

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

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

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

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

For more information about Atlanta Contact Point, click here.

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

Stephen Cohen is Voice Editor

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A Visit to Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit

by Peggy Berg

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

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

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

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

Peggy Berg is a VHCA Board Member.

Photo by Peggy Berg.

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Tour of Homes–Another Great Celebration of VaHi

by Robin Ragland

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

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

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

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

Successful new additions to the Tour

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

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

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

Looking ahead to the 2016 Tour of Homes

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

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

Photos by Stephen Cohen and Lola Carlisle

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Songs and Warmth at First Tree Lighting in NHP

by Robin Ragland

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

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

A salute to our local businesses

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

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

Photos by Stephen Cohen

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2015 Santathon a Huge Success

by Jess Windham

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks everyone, and Happy Holidays!

Jess Windham is a VHCA Board Member.

Photos by Lola Carlisle.

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

by Robin Ragland with Doria Roberts

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

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

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

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

Click here for more information.

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

Images courtesy Tipple&Rose Facebook page.

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

by Stephen Cohen, Voice Editor

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

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

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

http://www.healthyhappierbear.com/2014/12/23/atlanta-christmas-5k/

The photo is courtesy of Ashley’s blog.

Here are the details:

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

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

The route:

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

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

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

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VaHi Student Performs in Madeline’s Christmas

by Stephen Cohen, Voice Editor

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

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

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

Madeline’s Christmas runs December 5-31, 2015. Tickets, show times for each cast, and other information may be found at http://www.horizontheatre.com/plays/madelines-christmas/  or 404.584.7450.

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2015 VaHi Tour of Homes

The 2015 Tour of Homes is set for the first weekend in December, Saturday and Sunday the 5th and 6th.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you all out & about!

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Public Hearing on Park Atlanta at Inman on Dec 10

by Jack White

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

Origins of the contract

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

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

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

What has happened since the contract signing

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

Which comes, at last, next summer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The VHCA Board Recommendation

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

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

(Below are links to two newspaper articles on the topic, one from the AJC and one from the Atlanta Daily World.)

http://commuting.blog.ajc.com/2015/12/01/parkatlanta-contract-may-not-be-renewed/

http://atlantadailyworld.com/2015/12/01/atlanta-city-council-invites-public-to-meeting-about-about-parkatlanta-meters/   It opens with “money-grubbing parasite that vacuums away people’s hard earned money at the parking meters…”

Image courtesy of Creative Loafing via Google Images

Jack White is President of VHCA


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‘Tis the Weekend to Eat, Shop, Tour!

by Angelika Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Old Virginia-Highland Photo courtesy Tom Catron.

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

by Robin Ragland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Ragland is a VHCA Board Member.

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Get Ready for Santathon!

by Lola Carlisle

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

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

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

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

See you there!

Lola Carlisle is a VHCA Board Member.

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

by Robin Ragland with Doria Roberts

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

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

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

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

Click here for more information.

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

Images courtesy Tipple&Rose Facebook page.

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These Holiday Gifts Give Back to Virginia-Highland

by Lola Carlisle

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

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

Lola Carlisle is a VHCA Board Member.

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It’s Time for Caroling in Orme Park!

by Stephen Cohen

For several years now, neighbors have gathered around the “Christmas Critter Tree” in Orme Park on a Sunday evening to drink hot chocolate and sing carols. It’s especially magical for the children, who sit in a circle around the tree in the dusk while the adults stand behind them, and everyone sings.

The event is organized by Friends of Orme Park.

This year, the caroling is at 6:00 pm on Sunday, December 6 in Orme Park in the picnic/playground area. Bring a dessert to share. Friends of Orme Park will provide the hot chocolate.  After a short period of greeting neighbors and snacking on desserts, singing should start by 6:15.

Song Sheets
In previous years, printed song sheets have been used (which usually run out due to the growing number of attendees, and which require flashlights in the dusk). This year, however, the caroling event has gone digital! In the attached flyer, there is a link to a Google doc that will bring up the songs on your smartphone or tablet–which, of course, is backlit!

Here is a link to the flyer that contains the Google doc link and other information.

And here is a link for just the song sheet embedded in the flyer. Bring your smartphone, or, if you are really old-fashioned, print out the songsheet and bring it with you to read by flashlight–or to shine a light on it via a flashlight app on your smartphone.

Decorating the Critter Tree
Saturday we will decorate the Critter Tree – bring your little ones to decorate the tree with wildlife friendly ornaments from 10 to 11 am – fun crafts!

Stephen Cohen is the editor of the Voice.

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

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

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

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

For full details: https://vahi.org/?p=13982

Photo courtesy beltline.org via Googke images.

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Tour of Homes Committee Thanks 2015 Sponsors

by Robin Ragland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Volunteers Still Needed for 2015 Tour of Homes

by Eleanor Barrineau

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

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

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

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

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

Eleanor Barrineau is the VaHi Tour of Homes Volunteer Coordinator.

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NPU Vote of Importance at VaHi Church this Monday Night, Nov 16

by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association Planning Committee

Tomorrow night (Monday, November 16th), our local Neighborhood Planning Unit (NPU-F) will meet at the Virginia-Highland Church opposite Inman Middle School for a vote on a proposed rezoning off Cheshire Bridge road in the neighborhood of Lindridge/Martin Manor (LMM). The vote will be held between 8:00 and 8:30 PM.  (Try to get there at 7:30 to sign in.) We ask that you read and consider what follows and oppose this rezoning.  (Proof of residence – a government ID or local utility bill indicating your residence in Virginia-Highland – will be needed.)

WHY THIS MATTERS  (Please bear with the alphabet soup.)

What’s proposed?
This is an attempt by Pulte Homes to rezone 17 single-family residences they have under contract on Elizabeth Ann Lane, a small cul-de-sac a block off the Cheshire Bridge/Sheridan intersection. If their rezoning request is successful, they will tear those houses down and build 89 townhomes.

It’s not in our neighborhood; how can it matter?

This proposal conflicts massively with NPU-F’s Comprehensive Development Plan (the CDP), which each neighborhood creates and revises regularly.  (NPU-F’s next major review will occur next year.)

Why does the CDP matter?

NPU-F’s CDP is the city’s master zoning and land use document.  Our recently-passed Master Plan had no conflicts with the CDP. The CDP is approved by City Council and is part of the code.  It is the basic document that guides the City of Atlanta Planning Department.

Rezonings do occur from time to time; they’re typically small changes with minimal impacts and implications. This rezoning is a very large and will have large impacts well beyond this street.

Major rezoning should be accompanied by serious independent planning studies that allow the larger community to understand and prepare for overall impacts and results.

Why is the rezoning bad for Lindridge/Martin Manor?

Pulte met with the NPU-F Zoning Committee a month ago and promised to return to the NPU-F Zoning Committee with a revised proposal that addressed many of the challenges that Lindridge/Martin Manor identified.  Instead they did not return to the neighborhood and went forward in the process for approval of the existing plan.  We were at the meeting and heard their promises. This was not anticipated by anyone, and it caught Lindridge/Martin Manor by surprise.

Lindridge/Martin Manor has several very specific arguments, and they are listed in their position paper below.  The Virginia-Highland Civic Association has several other problems with the rezoning proposal.

Why is this rezoning problematic for VaHi?

This CDP has a macro component in its approach to planning issues.  It examines overall land use, transportation (automobile, cycling, walking) impacts and alternatives, development trends, and impacts on nearby neighbors – i.e., it tries to be comprehensive. No plan solves all these problems, but a good plan anticipates and minimizes them.

If the homeowners are willing to sell, why shouldn’t this go forward?

It may be a good financial deal for those homeowners. That is their decision, and anyone can appreciate a slightly higher price.  But the way this process is being handled sets a very bad precedent for this NPU and treats the CDP as a minor position paper rather than a major planning document.

We are not suggesting that major rezonings can never occur; we are saying that major rezonings require thorough independent planning evaluations that take into account the impacts to the entire neighborhood and surrounding areas.

Is there a recent parallel in the NPU?

Last fall NPU-F opposed a similar attempt to rezone the Oak Knoll Apartments, just south of Fat Matt’s on Piedmont.  Our position then was identical; major conflicts with the CDP needed to be preceded by an independent study of large issues and should not occur merely for the convenience of the developer.

(In that instance, the NPUs recommendation of denial was followed by a compromise that was acceptable to the developer and was not inconsistent with the CDP.)

Has it applied recently in VaHi?

Yes, empathically yes. The CDP was the anchor of the recent initial discussions about the contemplated re-development at Monroe and 10th.  At the landowners’ request, those discussions are on hold, but our approach there was exactly the same; large-scale changes should be accompanied by proportionate planning studies that anticipate and prepare for outcomes beyond the borders of the development.  That future discussion will be very different if the CDP is casually changed in NPU-F.  There is no precedent for that, and it is one of the most important reasons we need to recommend denial of this proposal.

Is this just blind opposition to higher-density development by a bunch of NIMBY neighbors?

It is not; higher density development is a part of the future for all.  But it should occur in the places where neighborhoods and NPU have carefully studied and approved it.  That’s because there are significant repercussions to consider with increased density. It should occur in places that have, or will have in the near future, the infrastructure to handle all that comes with density – increased traffic, stormwater concerns, implications for adjacent properties and more.

This is not an impractical or unreasonable expectation; it was the process used in the BeltLine Subarea 6 Plan.

We hope to see you at the VaHi Church tomorrow night, where this will be discussed (beginning at 7:30) and voted upon between 8 and 8:30 PM.

APPENDIX
Lindridge Martin Manor (LMM) Neighborhood Association Board of Directors statement about Z-15-050 (Sheridan Road/Elizabeth Ann Lane Rezoning):

It has been a longstanding policy of LMMNA and NPU-F to preserve and protect the single family R-4 zoned properties in our neighborhoods (4 houses to an acre).

The upzoning from the existing R-4 zoning category to MR-3 that Pulte is requesting has never occurred in LMM and NPU-F.

Equally troubling, is the assemblage of an entire single family neighborhood.  Allowing this to happen on Elizabeth Ann Lane/Sheridan Road creates enormous pressure on other areas in LMM, and NPU-F generally, and threatens the long term character and stability of our intown neighborhoods.

The City’s long term Comprehensive Development Plan calls for the Elizabeth Ann Lane area to remain at the current density ratio. It has never been contemplated that this area would be redeveloped at the higher densities proposed by Pulte.

The Sheridan Road/Cheshire Bridge Road area already suffers from extreme traffic congestion.  The redevelopment proposed by Pulte will make a bad situation far worse.

Although Pulte categorizes its proposal as “single family” because the 89 townhomes are intended to be occupied by individual families, the density of their proposal moves it far outside of the existing single-family density.

The existing Sheridan Road/Elizabeth Ann Lane neighborhood consists of 18 homes. Under the existing zoning the required minimum lot size is 9,000 square feet with a minimum street frontage of 70’ wide and a density ratio of .50 (50%).

Pulte’s proposal is for a multi-family zoning category (MR3) that permits 89 townhomes and a density ratio of .696 (approximately 70%)

There is a reasonable alternative, consistent with the existing single family density that would permit the residents of Elizabeth Ann Lane/Sheridan Road to sell, allow redevelopment of the existing housing stock and preserve the current single-family density ratio of .50 but allow up to 35 homes, nearly double the existing number.

This alternative would involve a rezoning to the PD-H category is consistent with other redevelopments and rezonings along Sheridan Road in the last several years and preserves the existing density of the neighborhood.

LMM is the most vulnerable of the four NPU-F neighborhoods to this type of assemblage and upzoning. If this proposal succeeds, it will be extremely difficult in the long term for LMM to prevent similar proposals in other areas of the neighborhood.  This will ultimately lead to the loss of significant parts of the Lindridge Martin Manor neighborhood.

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Don’t Forget VaHi Small Business Saturday on Nov 18

by Robin Ragland and Jess Windham

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robin Ragland and Jess Windham are VHCA Board Members.

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Inman Needs Volunteer Crossing Guards

by Joel Markwell

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

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

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

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

How you can help by volunteering as a crossing guard

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

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

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

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

Help us keep them safe!

Joel Markwell
transportation@inmanmiddleschool.org
404-254-6985

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

Images courtesy Google Images.

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Cliff Kuhn Passes Away at Age 63

Cliff Kuhn Passes Away at Age 63

by Jack White

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

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

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

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

Jack White is the President of VHCA.

Photo courtesy of the GSU Library via Google Images

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Tree Lighting in North Highland Park on Tues, Dec 8

by Robin Ragland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Don’t Miss the Santa Speedo Run

by Stephen Cohen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Contact: Pierce Pape – Cub Master, Cub Scout Pack 17: pack17scouting@gmail.com

Click here for further information and to sign up online.

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

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

The full newsletter is here:

http://eepurl.com/bD7BGf

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

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

Objectives:

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

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

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

Town Hall Meeting Schedule:
PARKatlanta Town Hall Meeting #1

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

City of Atlanta Council Chamber
55 Trinity Ave SW

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

 

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

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Tour of Homes Giveaways from Local Businesses

by Robin Ragland

Do 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 last year–giveaways from many of our sponsors.

Free tickets for the tour as well as a number of gift certificates for local businesses will be given away via the Tour’s Facebook page up until the weekend of the tour.  For example, win tickets or a gift certificate from Fit: To Be and Bla Bla Kids within the next couple of weeks.

Other giveaways include gift certificates to restaurants such as Murphy’s, Marlow’s Tavern, Highland Tap, Fontaine’s, and Diesel Filling Station.  Don’t miss out on a chance to win certificates to local businesses such as 310 Rosemont, Dakota J’s, The Great Frame-Up, and more! Here’s a link to the entire giveaway schedule–the sooner you starting following along, the more chances you have to win!

Virginia-Highland History Tour

Remember 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 to sign up for the 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 it’s tour time.

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

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

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Volunteers Needed for 2015 Tour of Homes

by Eleanor Barrineau

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

Our Tour is coming up on December 5th and 6th. Thanks to those neighbors who have already signed up, but we still need more volunteers.

Signing up to volunteer is easy – go to vahitourofhomes.org/volunteer and click on the blue VolunteerSpot button.  We especially need volunteers for the afternoon shifts and for Sunday.  Volunteers who are working later shifts can pick up their tickets at John Howell Park any time 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.

Eleanor Barrineau is the VaHi Tour of Homes Volunteer Coordinator.

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Residential Overlay Zoning Exploration Continues

by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association Planning Committee

The exploration of Residential Overlay Zoning for Virginia-Highland came about as a direct result of the Master Plan process. One of the top concerns of residents expressed was the impact that teardowns and rebuilds present in the redevelopment of our residential areas. You can download a copy of the Master Plan. In particular, see sections (#4.6 on page 98).

What is residential overlay zoning?

Residential overlay zoning makes existing codes more neighborhood-specific.  It is very specifically not historic district regulation. It can apply to both new construction and renovation.

What types of things would overlay zoning regulate?

Among the most common factors residents have identified are what designers call mass and scale, issues that often arise due to the relatively small size of this neighborhood’s R-4 (residential) lots.  This city’s current zoning was written three and a half decades ago; it was an improvement over what preceded it, but (among many challenges) it does not acknowledge the vast differences in the size of R-4 lots.  Structures that average 35’ high with 50% lot coverage can feel very different on a small lot than on a large one.  Relatively straightforward features like front porches, door placement, and garage siting (for example) can be the type of elements considered when approaching overlay zoning.

How would overlay zoning be enforced?

The process for residential overlay zoning functions much like existing zoning processes.  In some cases, it might lead to less process than what we have now. For example, many residents currently go through a variance process to create a second floor within the footprint of their existing home. While these are routinely approved by the city, the process itself can be expensive and add two to three months to the renovation process.  The residential overlay zoning could be created in a way that allows certain routinely-approved renovations wholly within the existing footprint to proceed without a variance, saving a bunch of time.

There are other less obvious examples too.  Builders of brand new homes are today rather ironically incentivized to follow the setback rules precisely to avoid the variance process, even when the result is a structure whose dimensions and placement do not resemble those of nearby houses in any way.  The purpose and importance of setbacks are obvious, and they will not be abandoned.  But can the letter of the law be written in a fashion that rewards and incentivizes renovations or new homes that fit in with existing conditions far better than they often do today?  It’s worth a look.

A variance process will always exist (as it does now) to address unusual or specific needs or hardships.

Your opinions and ideas are needed

As was the case with the Master Plan process, there will be varied and numerous opportunities for residents to help fashion and evaluate any new ideas. We want to hear from as many of you as possible. We’ve all had experiences with redevelopment, and all those unique perspectives will help us come up with new ideas and decide if they have value. As ideas begin to take shape, we’ll share them in ways that are easy to evaluate – providing graphics and rationales.

What to expect next

We want to keep moving, but the busy holiday season is upon us.  The first round of input will probably be electronic. With the help of our consultants, we’re creating a website that provides explanations, examples and a method for initial reactions.  The ideas you’ll see online are the result of resident input and recent sessions with local architects and builders. We’ll also include ways for you to provide any and all your ideas and insights on the site. There will be a number of public meetings open to all as the process proceeds.

Thanks for your interest. As always, if you have questions about development in the neighborhood please reach out to the Virginia-Highland Planning Committee at planning@vahi.org

{For more information please see previous article about the ongoing Residential Overlay Zoning exploration. As the process develops, we’ll continue to update you through the Voice and through a website the consultants are slowly putting together.}

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2015 Inman Middle Frosty 5K returns on December 12

You’re invited to run – in Virginia-Highland and along the Beltline – to benefit Inman Middle School students and teachers. Experienced runners, beginners, and families are welcome.

Early registration is $25, ‘day of’ registration is $30. Check-in and number distribution begin at 8:00 AM at Inman on Virginia Avenue.

The race begins at 9 AM at the school and goes down the Beltline from Piedmont Park to the Old Fourth Ward Skate Park and back. Click here to view a map of the course route.

Click here for more information or to register.

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It’s Almost Time to Tour!

by Angelika Taylor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you all out & about!

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

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What’s New for the 2015 Tour of Homes?

by Robin Ragland

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

Extended Tour Hours

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

New Ticket Headquarters Location

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

More Ways to Help With Fundraising

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

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

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

Shuttle Service

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

Holiday History Tour

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

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

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New Virginia-Highland House Number Signs

by Lola Carlisle and Peggy Berg

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lola Carlisle and Peggy Berg are VHCA Board Members.

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Community Grants and Spark Choir Highlight 2015 VHCA Annual General Meeting

by Jack White

The 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association was held on Thursday, September 17 at the Inman Middle School cafeteria. A variety of messages and welcomes were furnished by elected officials and their representatives, Board members were elected (you may see them and a list of officers here) and community grants were presented (more on that in a moment).

For the fourth year in a row, the evening began with a lovely and moving performance by the Springdale Park Advanced Chorus, led by Music Director Brianne Turgeon. First on the agenda and first in our hearts, the choir did a lovely presentation of half-dozen songs.  You can hear them on the meeting video here, but nothing compares to hearing them in person.  Their presence alone makes the attending the meeting worthwhile.

The business portion of the meeting may be viewed here.

Over $27,000 in community grants were presented.  Each of our three public schools got $4100 for a variety of programs – PTO support at Spark, the Girls in Engineering, Science, Math program at Inman, college counseling and theater improvements at Grady, among others.  Nonprofits and public institutions who play a major role in improving the quality of life – Trees Atlanta, PEDS, and the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition – got grants, along with a donation to the Ponce de Leon library (one of the system’s busiest), which has suffered funding cuts in the last few years.  It is a pleasure to be able to support so many people who are working for the public good in this community.

All these donations were raised through the efforts of citizens in projects organized by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association, primarily Summerfest and Tour of Homes.   A full list of this year’s grants – and those of the last decade, totaling over a quarter-million dollars – may be found here.   They are a very tangible manifestation of the extraordinary volunteer efforts in this community, one that we can all be proud of.

Jack White is a Board Member and President of VHCA. 

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Latest Safety Report

by Peggy Berg and Jack White

Here is the latest snapshot of key statistics through August, 2015.

Reports for prior months are also available here.

APD Deputy Chief Joseph Spillane and Zone 6 Commander Timothy Peek spoke extensively about crime and APD responses to it at the October VHCA meeting. They were the evening’s first speakers; you may hear them here:

October 12, 2015: Monthly Meeting Minutes Part 1, Part 2.
Peggy Berg and Jack White are VHCA Board Members.

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Briarcliff Summit’s First Annual Fall Festival

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

All photos by Briarcliff Summit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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SPARK Kids Preparing for October 30 Fun Run

by Sara Zeigler

Once a year, SPARK students solicit donations for the PTO as part of SPARK’s Fun Run. This year’s Fun Run will be held on October 30, 2015 on the Springdale Park Elementary campus. Funds raised through the Fun Run will support a number of programs and other learning enhancements, such as writing coaching, professional development opportunities for teachers, and numerous reading and math digital curriculum tools. These curriculum resources are essential to the SPARK faculty and without the PTO’s assistance, would not be available to the students. APS does not provide for the necessary curriculum resources.

There is no door-to-door selling or delivering of products with Fun Run. Students simply gather pledges from friends, family and neighbors. Sponsors will pledge a per-lap amount or a flat donation amount towards their student. Students will typically run 30 laps (2 miles) with a lap cap of 36 at the Fun Run. Per-lap pledges will be multiplied by the number of laps run by their sponsored student, typically 30 laps or $30 for each $1 pledged per-lap. SPARK is a school that focuses on Wellness.  Parents, teachers and the students love that the Fun Run promotes physical activity and makes it easy to raise critical funds for our school.

SPARK will kick off our fundraising effort seeking pledges or flat donations for the Fun Run on Friday, October 16th.  Students will be seeking pledges and we want to encourage openness/receptivity of the neighbors to students asking for their support. Maybe even a neighbor offering to sponsor their SPARK student next door!

Also, anyone who wants to just make a donation to SPARK  can click here to pledge donations for SPARK.

Please help us raise needed curriculum funds for SPARK and keep this neighborhood gem shining brightly!

Sara Zeigler is on the SPARK PTO and is leading the Fun Run event

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Trick-or-Treat in VaHi for UNICEF (Knock Music House)

by Amy Harward

As you make your Halloween plans, consider participating in Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF. It’s so easy and so rewarding, as this clip shows.

For the trick-or-treaters: Stop by Knock Music House before Halloween to pick up your Trick-or-Treat collection boxes. On Halloween, trick-or-treat for candy AND coins! Then you can either bring your donations back to Knock Music House to be submitted on your behalf, or you can submit your donation yourself. Easy!

For the candy givers: be prepared for our Intown kids by having your coins (and dollars!) waiting by your candy bowl.

Everyone: Spread the word! There will be plenty of boxes. The more kids participating, the better.

UNICEF is a great way for kids to help kids around the world. Trick-or-treating can be about more than just candy; it can be a time for us to teach our kids about charity and being good global citizens.

This Halloween, wouldn’t it be amazing if our Intown kids, armed with their UNICEF boxes, collected more than just candy? Can you imagine the good we could do?

Visit unicefusa.org/trick-or-treat for more information and resources.

Visit KnockMusicHouse.com for pick-up location and directions.

Amy Harward is a Virginia-Highland parent coordinating the UNICEF Trick-or-Treat drive for Knock Music House.

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VHCA Board and General Meeting

This is the monthly combined Board and General Meeting of the Virginia-Highland Civic Association. The public is invited to attend. Note: The October 12, 2015 meeting will be held at the Church of Our Saviour on N. Highland Ave. across from Fire Station #19 due to holiday closure of the public library.

Meetings are generally held on the second Monday of each month, 7:00 PM, at the public library located at 980 Ponce de Leon Ave. If the public library is not available, the meeting is generally relocated to the Church of Our Saviour on N. Highland Avenue, across the street from the fire house. Meeting relocations will be listed here and also communicated to the neighborhood via social media.

 

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Important Town Hall Meeting Concerning Crime & Safety

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

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

There will be a Q & A session, but if you’d like to submit your question in advance, please email zone5questions@atlantaga.gov.

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VHCA Monthly Planning Meeting

The VHCA Planning Committee meets with residents seeking zoning variance requests to discuss the impact of the variance on neighboring properties. Approval or denial recommendations are then made for consideration by the VHCA’s full board of directors.

Meetings are held at 7 PM on the Wednesday before the second Monday of every month at the Church of Our Saviour, 1068 N. Highland Ave. (across from the fire station).

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Plant Swap on Elkmont Drive

Start Planning Your Spring Garden Now: Plant Swap on Oct 3

By Alice Gepp

My next door neighbor with whom I share a driveway, Sabrina Serafin, and I are hosting a plant swap on October 3rd from 11:00 to 4:00 at 684 Elkmont Drive NE, near the west end of Orme Park.

It will a fun day and we would love to have you come by at some point during the day!  It will just be a fun community gathering and we’d love see you.

We got this idea from a neighbor’s church bulletin that had a Midtown plant swap, so we thought we’d do one here for our area.

More details here.

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Inman Middle School LSC Meeting

The Local School Council (LSC) for Inman Middle School is a collaborative group of parents, teachers, and business partners, whose purpose is to advise and make recommendations to the principal, local board of education and local school superintendent on matters relating to school improvement and student achievement.

The establishment of school councils, under Georgia’s A+ Education Reform Act of 2000, is intended to help local boards of education by bringing parents and the community together with teachers and school administrators to create better understanding and mutual respect for each other’s concerns.

The Inman LSC generally meets on the third Monday of every month at 4:15 PM in the Media Center. Meetings are open to all members of the Inman community.
You may contact the Local School Council at LSC@inmanmiddleschool.org.

 

 

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VHCA Street Captain Meeting

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

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

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