What the Inman Middle School Crossing Guard Saw

We regret that the original version of this article had a racially-offensive characterization. This in no way represents the values that we aspire to in this community or association.

One of the many things that makes Virginia-Highland great is our diversity. We celebrate that diversity and want everyone to feel welcome in our neighborhood and valued by the civic association.

It takes just one time…

Wed March 29, 2017

Inman Middle School has four morning crossing guard posts in the morning, two staffed by APS employees and two by neighborhood volunteers. One volunteer position is on the corner in front of the Field of Dreams; the other at the Clemont-Cooledge crossing.

There have been days when the Field of Dreams position has been unguarded because there simply are not enough volunteers. It’s usually the last one filled. Still, there is a light there to get kids across—it’s not as terrifying as crossing Virginia right in front of the school, where there are buses stopped, and westbound cars coming down Virginia turning right onto Park, and eastbound cars turning left on to Ponce de Leon Place, and stopped traffic obscuring views.

Sometimes I have worked the Field of Dreams position thinking how quiet it was for the most part.

But not today.

This morning I responded to a last-minute call to staff the Field of Dreams position and I am so glad I did because of what I helped prevent.

A freak situation

The sun was really bright this morning, and it had risen pretty much to eye level, so that cars and pedestrians heading east on Virginia could hardly see anything. In fact, one student I escorted across Ponce de Leon Place toward the church crossing screwed up her eyes so tightly they were barely open.

At the height of the morning arrival to the school, a fire truck suddenly roared up Virginia from the west, sirens blaring. I made sure the children did not attempt to cross Ponce De Leon Terrace (especially since the pedestrian light was red anyway!). As the fire truck sped up Virginia past the school, its siren still blaring, the pedestrian light changed. Presumably safe now to cross, on multiple counts.

Not so.

No one heard another, smaller emergency vehicle racing up Virginia, its siren blending in with the one that had just passed. The children, and the drivers coming  up Virginia, were all blinded by the sun. As the children started to step into the crosswalk, I gave one last glance down Virginia, just in time to see the second emergency vehicle, which was going very fast, start to turn right onto Ponce de Leon Terrace, its siren drowned by that of the receding fire truck. I urgently blocked the children’s path until the vehicle had turned. All happened in just seconds.

What if I had not been there? The children could not see properly. The pedestrian light was green. The emergency vehicle barely slowed down to turn right, if at all. I think it would have been a disaster.

I have seen children crossing there in the morning when there was no guard—I can see down there when I am standing at Clemont. It always looks quite routine.

It just takes one freak situation. Or one irresponsible driver coming through at just the wrong time.

How to volunteer
If you would like to help out as a crossing guard, email transportation@inmanmiddleschool.org. They really need more. You can do it as often or as seldom as you like. You simply sign up for a morning any time you feel like it.  Each morning shift is from 8:30 – 9:05. Some do it once a month, others 2 or 3 times a week. It’s up to you.

Charming sights

The children can be quite charming. There was one boy this morning who came up the Virginia sidewalk from the west on his skateboard. A very colorful skateboard, indeed. He clearly loves it. He told me that he skates all the way along the BeltLine from Irwin Street.

And there are cyclists. And musicians carrying their instruments. And children carrying in phantasmographic artwork and outlandish cutouts.

It’s fun being a crossing guard, and it’s important.
For more information: http://inmanmiddleschool.org/crosswalk-parents/.

Inman Middle School Jazz Band Gives Visitors an Unexpected Treat

 

Visitors to the Inman lobby were given a treat early on Friday, March 31, when they were unexpectedly arrested by a glorious sound that filled the whole area. It was a pop-up concert by the Inman Middle Jazz Band.

The sound was astonishing. Was it the skill of the young players, the irresistible cascading score, the last day of school, or the beautiful spring day that raised those children to such heights? Maybe all of those. The surprisingly polished sound from players so young was truly a treat. And there was so much joy and enthusiasm coming from the ensemble.

What they were playing was a piece called “Cold Duck Time” by Eddie Harris. The crescendo toward its grand conclusion was lots of fun—reminded me, in a way, of the ending of Ravel’s Bolero in the way it built and hypnotized its way to the end.

Inman Middle Band Director Arneesa Woods (pictured) is clearly an inspiration to those musicians. You could see it in the way she conducted and the way in which they responded.

She told me afterwards that she has been Inman band director for 16 years. She obviously loves it, and she even had a former student, now an adult, assisting her today.

And why the pop-up concert? They are preparing for their spring concert at Grady, and to build confidence under a little more pressure, Arneesa decided they should play in the open lobby for anyone who walked by. They clearly rose to the occasion. So glad I stumbled into it.

Welcome to Our Newest Store, Vernacular

by Kay Stephenson, VHCA Vice President

In language, vernacular means “spoken as one’s mother tongue”. In architecture, it means “concerned with domestic and functional rather than monumental buildings”. For Chelsea and Kris, owners of the newest shop in the neighborhood, the name is synonymous with “east coast casual with a west coast vibe”.

The shop, which hosted its grand opening over the weekend, offers mostly casual women’s apparel and accessories, with a curated mix of gifts and home décor items as well. It also offers functional items that are different and fun – like the copper-accented french press for your coffee.

When Chelsea and Kris saw that Stanton Home Furnishings was moving out, they jumped at the chance to open a shop in this vibrant section of Virginia-Highland. A short two months later, and they are open for business at 1044 N. Highland Ave. Monday – Thursday 11 – 7, Friday and Saturday 11 – 8, and Sunday 11 – 6.

Kris said he asked property owner Stuart Meddin about the other open spaces in the strip (Dakota J’s former space and the recently vacant Half-Moon store) but both were already spoken for. No hints though. We will just have to wait and see what pops up.

Chelsea said they don’t have a specific target demographic, and I saw all ages in the shop – they have something for everyone, and at prices that don’t break the bank. They even offer the couple-friendly partner couch, which is nice for an after-brunch catch-up on email while others shop.

Stop in to Vernacular soon and welcome Chelsea & Kris, along with Carol, their full-time store manager, and Miah, the assistant manager. We couldn’t be happier to have them in the neighborhood, and I didn’t make it out of the store without a purchase!

Lovely things from truly nice people.

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

VHCA Unanimously Votes to Support the Monroe Road Diet

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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.  

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.

 

 

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

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

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.

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

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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.

Have You Heard of C.A.U.T.I.O.N. or Road Busters?

Learn More at Pickets, Protests, and a Parkway

By Kay Stephenson, Vice President, VHCA

This never-realized 1970 map shows the proposed I-485 & Stone Mountain Highway cutting through Inman Park, Virginia Highland, Poncey-Highland, Morningside, & Candler Park

Inman Park residents Cristy Lenz and Sandi Parker want us to know about the 30-year battle to stop a proposed 8-lane raised interstate. It would have cut through the heart of several intown neighborhoods including Virginia-Highland. Some in our neighbors have heard the story and some lived it. Still others have no idea that John Howell park stands as a monument to that battle, and to the people who started with grassroots protests but showed the state that their activism couldn’t be ignored.

C.A.U.T.I.O.N. was the legal arm of the battle while Road Busters was the protest arm. In the end, they managed to elect 54 people who were opposed to the Georgia Department of Transportation’s plan. Finally, they couldn’t be ignored.

Experience the history of this success through a pop-up history exhibit featuring memorabilia of the fight. Take the opportunity to hear from, and speak with, the original organizers of C.A.U.T.I.O.N. “It’s a great reminder in these times that grassroots activism can make a difference”, said Lenz. She and Parker want to remind and educate residents about their activist roots. In addition, representatives of a diverse group of organizations will share information and offer opportunities to get involved in current issues.

The event will be held in the same building as King of Pops in Inman Park (337 Elizabeth Street). Walk past the pops walk-up window on Bernina Avenue and turn right down the alley. A kick-off party will be held Friday February 24th from 6 – 10 pm and will include words from BeltLine visionary Ryan Gravel and Cathy Bradshaw, founder of C.A.U.T.I.O.N. Other members of C.A.U.T.I.O.N.  and Road Busters will also be on hand. On Saturday February 25th, the exhibit will be open from 11 – 5 pm and includes a panel discussion on Saturday afternoon. Both days are open to the public.

More information is available on the event website and Facebook page. And if anyone has any pictures or memorabilia that they would like to put in the exhibit please contact Cristy (cristy@foodtoursatlanta.com) or Sandi (sparker@indigo-collective.comby Friday February 17th.

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.

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!

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.

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.

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.

 

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

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.

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)

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!

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.

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

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

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

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

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

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

Hope to see you on the 29th!

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

By Sue G. Collins

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

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

Blanche Reynolds

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

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

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

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

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

Survey Reveals VaHi Residents’ Key Concerns, Sources of Contentment

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

Two New Members Join VHCA Board of Directors

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

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

Micah Stringer

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

Troy Murray

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

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

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

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

Local Police Officers Will Soon Be Wearing Bodycams

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Board and Safety Committee Chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Undecking the Halls – Weather Update – Snowball Fight Anyone?

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

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

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

  

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

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

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

By Robin Ragland, 2016 VHCA Tour of Homes Chair

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

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

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

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

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

Virginia-Highland Supports Police Christmas Party for Kids

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Board and Safety Committee Member

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

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

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

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

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

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

President’s Message and Goals for 2017

By Jenifer Keenan, VHCA Board President

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety Camera Update

By Sterling Eaves, VHCA Safety Committee Member

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Tis the Season for Giving

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

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

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

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

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

marcos-check-at-fs-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Relay Bikes Coming to Virginia-Highland

By George Zirkel, VHCA Treasurer

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

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

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

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

Pedal on Virginia-Highland!

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

Tour of Homes – Another Great Celebration of VaHi

By Robin Ragland

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

Tour of Homes headquarters at John Howell Park

Tour of Homes headquarters at John Howell Park

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

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

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

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

Carolers from Grady High School entertained tour-goers.

Carolers from Grady High School entertained tour-goers.

Looking ahead to the 2017 Tour of Homes

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

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

Photos by Robin Ragland

Santa Speedo Run Set for December 10

By VHCA Board Member and Treasurer George Zirkel

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

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

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

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

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

Wear a little, give a lot. 

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

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

By Lola Carlisle, VHCA Planning and Preservation Committee member

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

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

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

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

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

Santathon_2015_1

Fire Station 19 Santathon Set for December 10

By Lola Carlisle, VHCA History and Preservation Committee Member

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

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

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

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

In Search of a Christmas Miracle for Ten Thousand Villages

By Bryan Hendrix, Virginia-Highland Resident

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

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

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

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

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

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

Safety Subjects: Holiday Safety Tips

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Agenda Posted for December VHCA Board of Directors Meeting

Monthly Meeting of the Board of Directors

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

Proposed Agenda

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

Call to Order and Adoption of Agenda

APD – Recognized upon arrival

Other Public Officials & Municipal Representatives

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

Regan Hammond, Renew Atlanta

Update on Monroe Drive Complete Streets Project

Planning Committee

  • Variances
    • V-16-320 1165 Monroe Drive

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

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

History and Preservation Committee

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

Budget Committee/Treasurer’s Report

Parks Committee

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

Fundraising Committee

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

Safety Committee

Communications Committee:

  • Update on Online Survey – Kay Stephenson and Cindy Kaufman

Calendar: (All meetings are public)

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

New Business

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

Adjournment

Atlanta BeltLine Schedules Fourth Quarterly Briefing of 2016

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

Fourth Quarterly Briefing of 2016

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

Fulton County Government Center, Board of Commissioners Auditorium

141 Pryor Street SW

Atlanta, GA, 30303

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

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

Please see the flyer below for more details

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City Bazaar: Globally Rooted, Locally Made

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

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

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

14th Annual Breakfast with Santa Set for December 3

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

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

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

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

Virginia-Highland Civic Association Survey

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

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

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

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

Trees Atlanta, Many Volunteers Plant 90+ Trees in VaHi

By Stephanie Coffin and Lola Carlisle; Photos courtesy Lola Carlisle

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

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

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

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

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

img_1489       img_1491

VHCA, American Roadhouse bring First Responders Thanksgiving Cheer

By Eleanor Barrineau, VHCA Safety Committee Chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Tis the Weekend to Eat, Shop & Tour!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cub Scout Pack 17 Selling Mistletoe to Raise Funds

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

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

The Scouts thank you for your support!

Annual Trees Atlanta VaHi Tree Planting Set for November 12

By Stephanie Coffin and Lola Carlisle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the planting, everyone!

trees-atlanta-list_10_18-v2

Hearts of Gold Redbud

Hearts of Gold Redbud

Crape myrtle

Crape myrtle

Ostrya-Hophornbeam

Ostrya-Hophornbeam

Kousa dogwood

Kousa dogwood

Trident maple

Trident maple

American fringe tree

American fringe tree

Silverbell

Silverbell

Parrotia

Parrotia

Create a Circle of Leaves

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Catching Up with the Atlanta City Design Project

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Board Vice President

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlanta City Studio

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

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

The Big Number – 1.3 Million

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

img_20161103_183213

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

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

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

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

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

An Aspiration

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

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

You can learn more from Gravel’s full presentation.

Workshops

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

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

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

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

Buy A Brick – The Perfect Holiday Gift

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

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

To learn more or buy, click here.  

Shop Small!

By Cindy Kaufman, VHCA Board Member and Communications Committee Chair

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more information, check out:

https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/

https://www.facebook.com/SmallBusinessSaturday/?fref=ts

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

By Eleanor Barrineau, Tour of Homes Volunteer Chair

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

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

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

Thank you for your support, and enjoy the Tour.

Safety Subjects: Virginia-Highland Security Patrol

By Kay Stephenson, VHCA Vice President and Safety Committee Member

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New VHCA Board Wants to Hear from You

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH

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

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

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

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

VaHi Residents Turn Out for Firefest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Your Leftover Halloween Candy to Worthmore Jewelers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tour of Homes Giveaways from Local Businesses

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

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

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

Restaurant Giveaways

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

Free Tour Tickets

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

Free Gift Certificates

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

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

Where to Claim Your Giveaway

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

Virginia-Highland History Tour

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

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

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

Volunteers Still Needed for 2016 VaHi Tour of Homes

by Eleanor Barrineau, VaHi Tour of Homes Volunteer Coordinator

2016 TOH

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

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

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

DSC06097

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

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

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

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

By Stephen Cohen, VHCA Communications Committee Member

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

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

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

candy_crawl_outside_fire_station

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kids Candy Crawl Set for October 26

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

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

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

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

Volunteers Needed for 2016 Tour of Homes

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Almost Time to Tour!

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

2016 TOHYES! It’s finally Autumn in VaHi and the air is cooler, the leaves are falling AND the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes committee is in FULL SWING preparing for our neighborhood’s next big event. The 2016 Tour of Homes is set for the first weekend in December, Saturday and Sunday the 3rd and 4th. Our committee has been working hard all year to ensure the success of this year’s tour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you all out & about!

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

By Jess Windham and Jack White

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

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

Why does it matter what gets into our local creeks?

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

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

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VaHi’s Subwatersheds

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

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

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

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

Virginia-Highland Church Annual Yard Sale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Looking Back – and Ahead – at the Todd Cemetery Memorial

By Jack White, outgoing VHCA Board President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was the monument worth preserving?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

memorial-stone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Atlanta Streets Alive Returns to VaHi

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

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

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

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

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

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

Facebook page: @ATLStreetsAlive

Twitter: @ATLStreetsAlive

Instagram: @AtlantaBike #AtlantaStreetsAlive

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Firefest in the Park to Benefit FS #19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New VHCA Board of Directors Elected

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

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

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

President:  Jenifer Keenan

Vice President:  Kay Stephenson

Treasurer:  George Zirkel

Secretary:  Jess Windham

VHCA Annual General Meeting and Election of Officers

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

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

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

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

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

VHCA Responds to Questions Regarding Todd Cemetery Memorial

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

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

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VHCA 2016-17 Board of Directors – Candidate Bios

Following are brief bios from the announced candidates for the 2016-17 VHCA Board of Directors:

(I) indicates incumbent

Eleanor photoEleanor Barrineau

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

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


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Peggy Berg (I)

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

Our family is in the hotel business (we own the Hampton Inn Northlake Mall) and I have also been a partner in a consulting firm and an international CPA firm. I have a strong business background. I have chaired several industry and professional organizations and am currently on the Board of Little Creek Farm Conservancy. I have a Business degree, am a CPA, and have a Master’s degree from Georgia Tech’s School of Public Policy.

I believe that our individual involvement is what makes our neighborhood such a delightful place to live so I served on the VHCA Board in 2012 – 2015. I work on sidewalks and streets and the first project was doing 227 sidewalk improvements with the help of our residents and the City. As co-chair of the Safety Committee, I work with the City on pedestrian signs, street signs, traffic lights and other maintenance items on the streets. We generate the Safety Stats reports with Holly Lybeer and Shannon Mehl. We worked with the Atlanta Police Foundation to fund additional cameras for their program. I have been VHCA treasurer for the past several years, and would like the opportunity to continue serving the neighborhood in this capacity.


David_BrandenbergerDavid Brandenberger (I)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’d appreciate your vote for the Board.


Lola CarlyleLola Carlisle (I)

I moved into Virginia-Highland in 1993. My first volunteer efforts were focused around involvement with our daughter’s activities through VHMPA, DHUMP, and at Morningside.

I’ve been a partner in a marketing firm located in VaHi for most of that time.  Our business fundraising motto is “We’re Givin’ Where We’re Livin.’” We’ve have raised nearly $10,000 for Fire Station 19 renovations over several years, including $5K at Santathon last year. Our marketing firm has enthusiastically donated countless hours of conceptual thinking and design services over the years to causes here, and I am a member of the Virginia-Highland Business Association.

My earliest planning efforts were a study of infill development trends and impacts in 2006. Out-of-scale development has been one of the top concerns in the neighborhood for years. An ideal solution has been elusive, but not for want of effort.  The VaHi Master Plan was a key achievement for this neighborhood; our longtime planning consultants on that process moved on to an examination of residential overlay type concepts based on this community’s examples.  This same consulting team is now participating in the City of Atlanta’s ongoing revision process of the entire city zoning code.  

Many intown neighborhoods are trying to find a balance between appropriate development and maintaining their historic character, and that remains a personal focus for me.  This neighborhood is as hot as ever, and being prepared for the upcoming large-scale development ventures – like those at Monroe and 10th –  is vital.  So too are all the  pieces of the Master Plan; calming Monroe Drive is critical, and we also need to prepare for more development along the Beltline between Ponce and Virginia.   

Success in such fields requires successful fundraising; it’s a very important topic for all board members.  Summerfest and Tour of Homes have been extraordinarily effective over the years.  Robin Ragland’s great idea for a 2015 Tour of Homes history driving tour gave me a chance to write the pamphlet for the event which was a sell-out. Summerfest’s historically huge numbers dropped this year, and it’s time for another careful examination of the event to maintain it as one of the top festivals in the area. 

I also serve on the Preservation & History Committee, an outgrowth of the book that Karri Hobson-Pape and I wrote on the history of the neighborhood that spurred the creation of an extensive historic archive of Virginia-Highland images and documents. We are working on a second book and continue to build and digitize the neighborhood’s archives.

There’s a rich heritage of safety initiatives here; our street captain process goes back to the 1990’s.  There are a lot of variables at play regarding crime, and often the relationship between spending and measurable results is not obvious.  It was easy for VHCA to match  Councilmember Wan’s offer to pay half of the cost ($38K total, half ours) for three safety cameras on Ponce de Leon, sites selected by the Atlanta Police Foundation.  We hope the long term study the Foundation is doing on this topic will demonstrate that they are very effective as a crime tool. I’ll be very willing to examine any other safety measures that come from a robust safety committee looking at all factors resulting in crime in our neighborhood and potential solutions.

One event made this year difficult: the destruction of the Todd Cemetery Memorial. Initially access to the memorial was blocked by a fence. Our attorney researched the issue and negotiated a seemingly simple, low impact solution – and then we were stunned to learn that the monument had been destroyed. We have worked to negotiate its restoration in good faith including official mediation approaches which, while initially constructive, unfortunately achieved no helpful results in the end. Since then the board has turned the issue over to the court system and we hope a positive solution is on the horizon. As distracting and stressful as this has been, we felt that sanctioning it by walking away and hoping that someone else would take it on was not in the best interests of this neighborhood. I am thankful to have been part of a strong Board that has acted reasonably on this in coordination with the Todd family. We hope to reach an agreement to restore the monument as soon as possible.

I’ve spent 20 years actively volunteering in VaHi. My focus will be on Planning, Fundraising, and Preservation and History. If elected, I’ll be glad to spend another year helping Virginia-Highland and its residents as we continue to grow.

In closing, I urge you to get involved. If you’re not on the board, there are plenty of places where your time is needed to work beside your neighbors. With so many committees, there’s a spot for everyone and I look forward to working with anyone who wants to make Virginia-Highland better and better.


Emily_GilbertEmily Gilbert (I)

I am an attorney who graduated from Emory and Georgia State Law School and have lived in Atlanta for almost 22 years. I’ve loved Virginia-Highland since I was an undergrad and was fortunate enough to move here in December 2013. I particularly love our great mix of homes and businesses, both of which create the Virginia-Highland culture we all create and enjoy. I understand that consistent planning choices help us protect, but still appropriately evolve, our unique neighborhood. While Virginia-Highland was one of the very first intown turnaround places to be – we need to evolve as Atlanta evolves around us. I believe our board plays a vital role in managing and envisioning how Virginia-Highland can continue to cut a unique path in urban development. If we can also work with the local businesses and commercial properties proactively, we can do great things. I serve on the safety committee and think that my legal perspective can be of benefit there. I look forward to working with others in the neighborhood who have worked on safety initiatives here for years. With our diverse skill sets we should be able to propose some worthy approaches to help maintain a safe environment for all those who find themselves in Virginia-Highland – for a day’s visit or for the years it takes to raise our children here. I hope to continue to be part of the board that works to build on Virginia-Highland’s heritage to make our neighborhood better and better.


PicCivicAssoc-124x150Paige Hewell (I)

I have lived in the neighborhood on Virginia Circle for nearly two decades. A native Atlantan, I grew up in Buckhead and had little exposure to Va-Hi. I truly love our community and sometimes can’t believe how lucky I am to be a part of it.  My dog, Leon, feels the same way. 

For the past 5 years, I’ve worked on the Summerfest organizing committee – from building fences to appearing in TV promos, it has been a fun and crazy ride.  It’s through my Summerfest participation that I became involved with the board of the VHCA.  I’ve served for 2 years as a board member with some of the most passionate and dedicated folks – it has been amazing. 

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


Cindy Kaufman has been a resident of Virginia-Highland several times in her 30 years in Atlanta, finally becoming a homeowner in 2007. She served as a Tour of Homes committee member for 5 years, and has run for the VHCA board before. She is currently Director of Marketing for Interface Hospitality, and is an Interior Designer as well as experienced marketer. She is passionate about many causes, including pet rescue, access to healthy/locally-grown food, and community quality of life.


Keenan-jeniferJenifer Keenan

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

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

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

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


Catherine_LewisCatherine Lewis (I)

I have lived in Virginia-Highland since 1995, and in our house on Lanier Boulevard since 1998. I am a graduate of Emory University and have been in Atlanta since 1986. I am an incumbent, having served on the VHCA Board last year. My main role is to coordinate the renovation of the No. 19 Fire Station, which will be a key part of our activities this year. In 2015-2016, we have enjoyed a very strong board with committed leadership and there are a lot of issues that need careful, thoughtful attention. I’m happy to continue to serve with my colleagues who have done so much for our neighborhood.

In my work life, I am the Assistant Vice President of Museums, Archives & Rare Books at Kennesaw State University and the Bobby Jones Curator and Special Projects Coordinator at the Atlanta History Center.

Our family is very committed to the historic fabric of this neighborhood and hope to help it continue to grow and thrive. You will see my husband, John, and daughter, Emma on a bicycle, on foot, or on a razor scooter in the neighborhood. I would be honored to continue serve the neighborhood with this very dedicated group of friends and colleagues.


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

 


 

RBR-VHCARobin Ragland (I)

After joining my husband in retirement in 2006, we relocated to Virginia-Highland from Gwinnett County. We arrived just in time to enjoy our first Dogwood Festival as locals, relax with our new Elmwood neighbors at the annual street party, and volunteer for, as well as have a blast at our first Summerfest!  It quickly became apparent that a key component to keeping our neighborhood so vibrant is the continued contributions of volunteers organized and focused through the VHCA.

I’ve continued to volunteer for Summerfest each year in various capacities. In 2012, I began participating in fundraising for the neighborhood by creating items to sell from recycled Summerfest t-shirts. I organized a tree lighting event last December in N Highland Park, which was jointly hosted by VHCA and VHBA to raise money for Fire Station 19, and the APD Zone 6 Toy Drive.  We had a wonderful evening, and raffled off over $2,000 in donated gifts from our local businesses.

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


Debbie SDebbie Skopczynski

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

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


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

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

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

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


Jack WhiteJack White (I)

When my then preschool daughter and I moved from Midtown to Virginia-Highland in 1984, we were the two youngest people on the half-block; I am now the oldest. My particular interests are planning, parks, and public resources, particularly stormwater and stream issues, a field in which I’ve worked for several decades. Our neighborhood schools that both my kids graduated from are pretty high on the list too.

I’m grateful for the Virginia-Highland Civic Association’s role in helping shape the history of the community. If the residents of the late 60’s and early 70’s hadn’t organized and stood together with their allies to the north and south, it’s very likely that most of us wouldn’t be living in – and might not even recognize – this neighborhood today. The threat then was a huge interstate highway that would have run through Orme Park with a cloverleaf exit on top of the Inman School parking lot. It seems preposterous, but it almost happened.

Two generations later, our community’s success has brought with it challenges that then seemed unimaginable; as one planner put it, we now face the threat of being loved to death. Auto traffic wasn’t an issue then; today the volume of cars, cyclists, and pedestrians challenge us every day of the week. Three decades ago it was our wits and our determination versus longstanding political forces. We’re still determined today, and we’ve added to that the ability to use professional planners and land use lawyers to help level the playing field.

This isn’t at all an academic question. Some of the ideas we’ve heard from developers for Monroe and 10th pose grave implications for the west side of our community and beyond.

An educated and involved citizenry and the Civic Association’s organizational skills in framing issues are the most important assets we have. In tandem, they can be very effective, and we’re going to need them.

As we prepare for and address these challenges, I would appreciate the opportunity to continue to serve on the Board.


Jess at 4th and SwiftJess Windham (I)

For about the last three years – even before officially moving in – I have been active with the neighborhood Civic Association, primarily through the VHCA Planning and the Master Plan creation process. My role in that process was to keep everything on the rails: organizing and communicating the public meeting schedule, sharing information and clarifying inaccuracies, coordinating the steering committee, and feeling out consensus every step of the way. 

Since the Master Plan was adopted by council, I have been focusing on the implementation of the highest priority items outlined in the Master Plan. This has involved follow up with various city departments and nonprofits. I’m excited to be part of a vibrant urban community with a rich diversity of residents and incredible history. Currently I’m also serving as ambassador between the neighborhood and Atlanta Bicycle Coalition for the Atlanta Streets Alive event in September.

In terms of style, I have a diplomatic approach, a true desire to contribute, and would appreciate the opportunity to serve the neighborhood. I’d like to continue to be involved on the board so that I can support the neighborhood with broad initiatives, from master planning to fundraising for our parks. Having served on the Planning Committee, I understand the time, patience, and dedication needed to create positive changes that keep the neighborhood vibrant. Change is inevitable and the desirability of VaHi is only going to grow. I’d like to be on the board to ensure the character and quality of life in Virginia-Highland continues to get better each year.


GeorgeZirkel_WebRes_007George Zirkel 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

By VHCA Board Member Dr. Catherine Lewis

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

Fire Station #19 illustration by Steve Spetz

Fire Station #19 illustration by Steve Spetz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City Council District 6 Newsletter

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

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

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

Public Works Marking Crew Installs New Crosswalks in VaHi

By David Brandenberger, VHCA Parks Committee Chair

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

IMG_0227

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

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

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

IMG_0226

Todd Cemetery Memorial Destruction and Restoration

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

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

by Jack White, for the VHCA Board

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A few articles on the Todd family history for your reference:
http://historyatlanta.com/todd-family-homestead/
http://historyatlanta.com/todd-family-cemetery/
http://historyatlanta.com/todd-road/
http://historyatlanta.com/burial-site-patience-elizabeth-armistead-nee-todd/

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

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

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

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

RenewATL_Monroe_Blvd Flyer.pdf

It’s Time to Fix Monroe!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Celebrating the Life of Diamond Lil

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

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

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Opportunity for Event Planning With Atlanta Streets Alive

By Jess Windham, VHCA Board Vice President

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

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

More information on the event can be found here.

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

Reaction to Resident Comments on Briarcliff Terrace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

APD Zone 6 Commander Pens Letter to Residents

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

Dear Zone Six Communities:

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

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

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

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

By Jack White, VHCA Board President

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Searching for the source

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watershed Management’s Recon Crew

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

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

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

Why does it matter what gets into our local creeks?

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

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

VaHi’s subwatersheds

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

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

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

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

‘Combined’ sewers v. separate stormwater & sanitary systems

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Specific data about water quality in Orme Creek

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

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

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

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

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VHCA Grant Application Deadline Approaching

By Peggy Berg, VHCA Board Member and Safety Chair

VHCA Grant & Community Gift Program

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

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

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

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

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

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

Successful applicants also meet all or some of the following criteria:

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

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

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

APS Update from Matt Westmoreland

By Matt Westmoreland, APS School Board Representative for District 3

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

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

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

Stephanie Coffin Unveils New Mosaic “The Crack of Dawn”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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