Preliminary Concepts for the Virginia-Highland Master Plan Open for Comment

By: Jess Windham and Jenifer Keenan, Co-Chairs, Master Plan Steering CommitteeDSC_0037

Since the Master Plan process began in August, there’s been a great deal of conversation about what makes Virginia-Highland a great place to live. It’s the Master Plan’s goal to capture neighborhood consensus on those features that make the neighborhood such a successful and vibrant community and to outline a path for continued success.

Importance of Master Plan in Future Funding

The Master Plan will be a key document in securing funding from the City of Atlanta for neighborhood improvements and projects. As part of the City of Atlanta, Virginia-Highland’s transportation infrastructure, economic development, zoning laws, urban design, education options and environmental regulations are shaped by that municipality, as well as by Fulton County and the state. Having a Virginia-Highland Master Plan provides a formal avenue for citizen and neighborhood goals to be identified and clearly expressed.

Additionally, the Master Plan will knit together elements from existing and sometimes overlapping plans and policies that already address parts of Virginia-Highland. Currently, parts of the Connect Atlanta Plan, the Atlanta BeltLine Overlay District regulations, Cycle Atlanta: Phase 1.0, and the Ponce de Leon Corridor Plan all contain plans for parts of Virginia-Highland. Understanding these plans is a considerable task and becomes an even greater challenge when considering the likely impacts of future development that existing zoning already assumes. The neighborhood can engage in those initiatives to shape them to our mutual benefit, or alternatively wait for changes and new projects to move forward without Virginia-Highland input.

Creating this Master Plan provides an opportunity to be involved in initiatives that the City has already begun – some of them well underway. It also gives the neighborhood a platform on which to prepare for future projects, including those that may be contemplated in next year’s anticipated bond referendum. Changes are inevitable; this is a grand chance to inform and shape these changes. The choice broadly is to sit back and wait, or try to use these opportunities to identify and meet the neighborhood’s needs.

Where We Are in the Process

Planning consultants Market + Main lead the Master Plan process alongside a volunteer steering committee of residents from a variety of backgrounds. The process has three broad and overlapping parts: discovery, design, and documentation. While we still have a long way to go, the end result will be a final Master Plan document voted on by Atlanta City Council around April 2014 to help guide future project and funding decisions.

The discovery phase has been extensive, and it continues as Market + Main begins to create design options based on existing input. During the first two months of the process, a Master Plan online survey and interactive map were available 24 hours a day so people could provide input for the master plan, whether at 2 PM or 2 AM. It gathered over 150 comments each to both the survey and map comments. In addition, an all-day and evening design charrette was hosted to get ideas and have discussions in person. Also, in the last two months we have hosted volunteer focus groups and will continue to do so through January. All of this has been done with the intent of ensuring that everyone who wants to provide input has ample opportunity to do so over the many months that this process is ongoing.

Provide Your Input on Preliminary Concepts

Using these discussions and various avenues for feedback, Market + Main has shaped some preliminary concepts for the Virginia-Highland Master Plan that are now available for comment. Preliminary concepts will be available for comment on the website now through January 3, 2014. A public meeting in late January will further explore these concepts, incorporating feedback from the website, and continuing to leverage community involvement to shape the Master Plan document.

Check out the preliminary concepts and comment at http://www.vahimasterplan.org/preliminary-concepts.html.

Click here to view a video of Market + Main’s evening presentation at the design charrette.

The Master Plan is sponsored by the Virginia-Highland Civic Association. Updates are provided monthly at the scheduled VHCA board meetings, as well as at vahi.org and in The Voice e-newsletter.

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