Bob Coomes: A Life Well-Lived

Bob Headshot for ObitBy John Becker

Editor’s Note: John Becker is a former VHCA board member and Voice editor who recently moved to Poncey-Highland. John remains involved in the neighborhood and is a close friend of the Coomes family.

Longtime Virginia-Highland resident Bob Coomes passed away recently, finally succumbing to the cancer monster he fought for an incredible seventeen years.

Bob was that rare individual who always had a smile on his face and never met a person he didn’t like – and the feeling was almost always mutual. His constantly upbeat spirit and can-do attitude were infectious and an inspiration to many who stood by him during his long and often difficult battle with the disease that ultimately took his life.

Bob, who would have been 64 in October, shared his love of people with his undying love for dogs. He could often be seen walking his chocolate lab mix Fudge along the sidewalks of VaHi. After a successful professional career that included a 27-year stint with AT&T, Bob and his wife Nancy formed a business around their creation of LickALots, a healthy frozen treat for dogs. LickALots was as much a labor of love for Bob and Nancy as it was a business.

4434_86331041772_4641705_nBob had a sense of community and was always willing to roll up his sleeves and get involved. In addition to volunteering for seventeen years with Meals on Wheels, Bob served several years on the VHCA board, was at one time editor of The Voice newsletter and volunteered with Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful. In recent years Bob and his wife Nancy devoted their time and talents to making the Saturday morning Tot Trot one of Summerfest’s most anticipated events. Bob was the consummate Tot Trot master of ceremonies.

No description of Bob would be complete without mentioning that he was a passionate and knowledgeable sports fan. The Atlanta Braves and Louisville Cardinals lost some major fan mojo with Bob’s passing.

A service in Bob’s memory will be held at Morningside Presbyterian Church (1411 N. Morningside Dr.) at 3 PM on Thursday, September 10th. Anyone wishing to celebrate the life of Bob Coomes is welcome to attend.

Bob Coomes’ full obituary follows.

473504_10150598685126773_1227160640_oBob (Robert T.) Coomes, with his bright smile, enthusiasm, and optimistic spirit is in heaven now.  His 17 year battle with renal cell carcinoma (kidney cancer) was epic. As he had wished, Bob was at his home in Atlanta when he died on August 17, 2015.  He was 63.

The Service to give thanks and celebrate Bob’s life will be held on Thursday, September 10, 2015, at 3:00 p.m. at Morningside Presbyterian Church.  The Church is located at 1411 N. Morningside Dr. NE in Atlanta, GA 30306 (www.morningsidepc.org).  A reception at the Church will follow the service.

Bob loved dearly his father, Thomas Coomes (deceased), his mother, Agnes Coomes, his wife, Nancy Phillips Coomes, his daughter, Chelsea Coomes, and his siblings, Barbara Coomes(Jim Johnson), Rick Coomes (Sally), Pat Coomes (Nanci) and their families, as well as his sister-by-marriage, Gena (Demaree) Jones.  Throughout his life he was surrounded and sustained by the strong bonds of a large extended family, many dear and supportive friends and neighbors and a strong church family.  He treasured being known as “Bobby”, “Brother Bob”, “Dad”, “Uncle Bob”, “Cousin Bob”, “Neighbor Bob”, “Friend Bob” and “Beer Rat Bob”.   To Nancy, he was “Puffy”.  To his beloved dogs, Kisses (deceased), Fudge and Chris, with whom he had a close and special bond, he was “Daddy Bob”.

Bob was a proud native of Louisville, Kentucky and lived there until 1988 when he relocated to Atlanta.  He held a masters degree in electrical engineering from the University of Louisville and was a loyal supporter of the school throughout his life.  His professional career included 27 years as a manager with AT&T.   In more recent years, he partnered with Nancy to create a healthy treat for dogs called LickALots.  That business was sold to King of Pops in 2010.  The product continues to be manufactured, sold and enjoyed by dogs throughout the Eastern United States.

Bob volunteered his time to the Meals on Wheels program for 17 years. He not only delivered food to the seniors he served, he brought them cheer with his sincere interest in their lives.  He formed friendships and lasting bonds that were very important to him.

Bob and JohnBob participated as a volunteer for programs sponsored by the Virginia Highland Civic Association in an effort to give back to the community he called home.

In his battle with kidney cancer, Bob focused on being Empowered, Educated and Engaged.  He studied in great detail the development and availability of new treatments, their side effects, and potential benefit.   He worked in close partnership with his physicians and care-giving teams to select and follow treatment plans that had the greatest potential efficacy for him.

He joined the M.D. Anderson Network for patient and caregiver support in 2002.  This group of volunteers, who are current and former cancer patients, are available to talk with someone with cancer who has had a similar diagnosis or treatment as the volunteer. Bob spoke with dozens of patients in an effort to help them and their loved ones make the transition from diagnosis to survivorship.

In 2004, Bob became a patient advocate for one of the National Cancer Institute’s Cooperative Groups that develop and implement cancer clinical trials.  Patient advocates include survivors who provide input to the cancer clinical research process.  They remain current on new treatment research and ultimately ensure that the patients’ perspectives and needs are at the center of clinical trial decisions. 

Those wishing to honor Bob via donations can send checks made payable to First Presbyterian Church Atlanta with the designation that the money is for the “Meals on Wheels Program in memory of Bob Coomes”.  Envelopes should be addressed to:

First Presbyterian Church of Atlanta

Attn: Meals on Wheels Program

1328 Peachtree St.

Atlanta, GA 30309-3209

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It’s Time to Summerfest!

SummerfestWho’s ready for some Summerfest?

The 32nd edition of VaHi’s summertime celebration of art, music and food is just days away. Here’s the 411 on this year’s event:

Friday

It all gets kicked-off Friday June 5 with resident-only events, starting with the Community Parade (this year’s theme is “Rock Stars and Divas”) which kicks off from Intown ACE Hardware at 7 PM. Parade participants should arrive no later than 6:30 PM. If you have not yet registered for the parade and would like to do so, click here and complete the form at the bottom of the page. On-site registration will also be available.

DSC_0036For those cheering on the participants, the parade will proceed down Drewry, turn right on Barnett and end up on the eastern side of John Howell Park where the community dinner and movie will be held this year. Please note that this event has been moved from the Inman Middle School ball field where it has been held in recent years. The dinner starts at 7:30 PM, and the movie will start around dusk (usually around 8:45 PM). Admission to the dinner/movie is free to VaHi residents with an ID. Non-resident guests (date, houseguest, babysitter, etc.) are welcome when accompanied by a resident. Cost for guests: $10 for adults, $5 for children. If space is available, non-resident neighbors may enter the area after dinner (around 8:15 PM) to watch the movie. This year’s movie is Big Hero 6.

DSC_0103There will also be live music on the Acoustic Stage at the intersection of Virginia and N. Highland Ave.’s on Friday night from 8-11 PM.

Saturday

DSC03397Don’t stay out too late Friday night because the popular Summerfest 5K Road Race gets going at 8 AM Saturday June 6. For more information on the race or to sign up to participate, click here. On-site registration will also be available this year. If you have aspiring runners too young for the road race (ages 5 and younger), bring ’em over to the eastern section of John Howell Park following the 5K’s conclusion (around 9:15 AM) for this year’s Tot Trot. Click here to pre-register for Tot Trot or you can register on-site.

Summerfest 2015 officially opens at 10 AM Saturday. Festival-goers can choose from events like the Artist Market and Kidsfest (please note Kidsfest ends at 3 PM and the Artist Market closes at 6:30 PM on Saturday).

DSC05195The Music Stage gets going at Noon Saturday with a performance from Sans Abri. Here’s the rest of Saturday’s music lineup:

Please note that this year’s Music Stage will be located on the eastern side of John Howell Park and not on the Inman Middle School ball field.

And after Southern Gothic wraps things up on the main Music Stage, the Acoustic Stage at Virginia and N. Highland Ave.’s will be the place to be again Saturday night with entertainment provided from 9-11 PM.

Sunday

IMG_0716Get ready to do it all over again on Sunday June 7 when Summerfest reopens at 10 AM. Before you hit the festival, though, why not participate in the 2015 Warren Bruno Summerfest Celebration Bike Ride? The ride starts at 8 AM at North Highland Park (corner of St. Charles and N. Highland) and you can choose to ride a 9.5 mile loop (once or twice) or a 20-mile loop. Cyclists of all ages and levels are welcome. For more information or to register, click here.

DSC01436If you’re up for a little music on Sunday morning, grab your coffee and bagel and head over to the Acoustic Stage where the spotlight will be on two fun and unique groups featuring young performers from our area:

  • 10:00 AM: Performers from Eclectic Music
  • 11:00 AM: Irish Dancing with Burke Connolly Dance

The Music Stage gets going Sunday at 12:15 PM with Taylor & Ciara performing. The rest of Sunday’s music lineup:

DSC01429And, since you probably didn’t have enough time to enjoy all the activities on Saturday, be sure to stop by the Artist Market and Kidsfest area on Sunday. Kidsfest closes at 3 PM Sunday and the Artist Market closes at 6 PM.

Just a reminder that Summerfest’s Artist Market is a juried show of gallery-quality art featuring 230+ of the Southeast’s finest artists. You’ll find artists specializing in painting, sculpture, jewelery, textiles/fiber arts, photography, clay, wood, metal, graphics and mixed media (click here to view a list of exhibiting artists). Please be sure to visit the Artist Market and support the 2015 Summerfest artists by making a purchase or two.

VHCA Summerfest Store

11080256_978523362211018_332461056547736383_oThis year we’re making it even more convenient to buy your commemorative Summerfest t-shirt and help support the neighborhood. We’ll be selling Summerfest t-shirts at Friday night’s Community Cookout & Movie and at the Acoustic Street Party. Ladies, you’ll have three designs from which to choose: two in a fashionable ladies-cut and another in a traditional unisex t-shirt cut. Guys, you’re sure to enjoy the 2015 Summerfest design. T-shirts are available in sizes S thru XXL. Get one before they’re gone! And if you’re unable to join Friday’s resident-only events, or you lost sleep regretting not having purchased a t–shirt, be sure to stop by one of the two Summerfest stores during the festival on Saturday or Sunday.

11165072_978523358877685_1823068065588305904_oIn addition to the always popular Summerfest t-shirts, we’ll also be carrying Virginia-Highland branded car tags, address plaques, framed neighborhood posters and signed copies of History of Virginia-Highland, written by VaHi residents Karri Hobson-Pape and Lola Carlisle. The store will also display samples of several Virginia-Highland branded items now available for purchase at the VHCA’s’s Zazzle store.

Free Bike Valet at Summerfest

imageAnd don’t forget that you can help alleviate Summerfest traffic congestion by cycling to the festival. We’ve made that easier to do by partnering with Atlanta Bicycle Coalition to provide free bike valet parking during festival hours. This year the ABC bike corral will be located at the “Field of Dreams” on the southwest corner of Virginia Ave. and Ponce de Leon Pl. (adjacent to the festival’s western entrance).

For more information on Summerfest, click here.

We look forward to seeing everyone this weekend at Summerfest 2015!

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Spice Up Your Summer at Red Pepper Taquería 

_MG_0496Who isn’t a fan of Mexican cuisine? These days, it seems like there’s a new taco stand opening on every corner, and with so many options it can be difficult finding those with any real hint of creativity or originality. Then, there are those that far exceed expectation, like Red Pepper Taquería. With two locations in Atlanta, Red Pepper makes its mark as one of the city’s top destinations for Mexican cuisine.

IMG_6810A far cry from the average “Tex-Mex” cuisine one may expect, Red Pepper’s menu features a wide range of options and has something for every palate. In addition to fajitas, enchiladas, and other familiar south of the border menu items, a variety of ceviches, oysters (both raw and cooked), and “addictive” taco combinations are just a few things that make Chef Mimmo Alboumeh’s menu at Red Pepper worth exploring. Truly impressive, Chef Alboumeh adds a signature Spanish flair to the menu with standout specialty dishes – like the mussels in a spicy morita cream sauce – that are enough to excite even the stiffest of critics.

IMG_1672Let’s not forget the drinks. Those familiar with the ‘order two drinks at once because it will take forever to get a second round later’ act will find a refreshing change of pace at Red Pepper’s Briarcliff location. Why? Because of the P.Y.O.B (Pour Your Own Beer) program, which puts guests in control by allowing them the option to pour as they please at one of several available draft tables. Draft tables are equipped with between two and six built-in beer taps, featuring an assortment of craft and domestic options for the ultimate customer service experience.

_MG_0585Not a beer fan? Aside from the traditional lime variety, Red Pepper offers several flavor options to allow guests a truly customized margarita experience, including watermelon, blood orange, mixed berries and prickly pear. But flavored margaritas aren’t the only star on the drink menu; unique cocktails like the El Maestro – made with Maestro Dobel, lime juice and Cointreau – also make an appearance.

_MG_0554Food and drink aside, local live music performances on the weekend help set the vibe at Red Pepper, which can be described as the perfect blend of upbeat and carefree. Additionally, several flat screens with surround sound inside and out help make Red Pepper the ultimate game day destination, as sports fans cheer their favorite teams to victory with an assortment of delicious snacking options.

While their “addicted to tacos” tag line is displayed throughout, there’s plenty more to be addicted to at Red Pepper. With great times, delicious food, creative cocktails, exceptional service, and a top-notch game day viewing experience Red Pepper is nothing short of a home run.

Red Pepper Taquería is located in Decatur at 2149 Briarcliff Rd NE, Atlanta, GA 30329 and in Buckhead at 3135 Piedmont Road Atlanta, GA 30305. P.Y.O.B options are available exclusively at Red Pepper’s Decatur location. To learn more, visit them online at www.eatredpepper.com and follow them on Twitter and Instagram at @RedPepperATL and Facebook.com/RedPepperAtlanta.

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Reptile and Amphibian ‘Critter Camp’ at Friends School this Summer

Those of us who were there will never forget the look of wonder on the faces of the children who witnessed the release of the five baby snapping turtles into the Orme DSC_0272Park creek this spring. The turtles were five out of thirty who survived against the steepest of odds, thanks to the efforts of Mark Mandica, Amphibian Conservation Coordinator at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, who cared for the rescued hatchlings until they could be released back into the creek.

Now there is another chance for children to be enchanted, only on a much larger scale. Mark is offering a summer camp at the Friends School of Atlanta this summer — it’s called Critter Camp.

The camp is geared towards campers ages 6-12 (though 13-year-old children are also welcome). Mark writes that “Critter Camp is a fun, science-based exploration into the world of reptiles and amphibians. Over one hundred extraordinary animals are available to illustrate aspects of biology, ecology and conservation — a safe and truly hands-on experience for our critter campers (ages 6-12+).”

Mark also notes that the camp will, indeed, include snacritter-camp_media_squarepping turtle appreciation and importance!

For more information, visit www.critter-camp.org, email ribbit@critter-camp.org or call 678 783 FROG (3764).

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Final Commemorative Bricks at North Highland Park Go on Sale

DSC06114Dedicated in 2013, North Highland Park has quickly become one of our neighborhood’s most popular features. Residents and visitors alike can be seen enjoying the wonderful green space – reading a book, relaxing under the trees, walking a dog, or eating lunch at one of the picnic tables along North Highland Avenue. Click here to read more about the park and how it came to be.

One of the ways we’ve raised money to maintain the park and pay down the debt owed on the mortgage is by selling commemorative bricks. There are already several sections of bricks installed along St. Charles Pl. but we still need to sell 37 more before we can engrave and install the bricks in the last section. Several residents who have already purchased bricks have been waiting more than a year for these final bricks to be sold. You can help us complete the project.  

Please consider showing your support for the park by purchasing one of the last bricks to be sold. A tax deductible $100 donation gets you the brick and up to three lines (up to 14 characters per line) to inscribe as you see fit. Leave your own legacy in North Highland Park and/or give an inscribed brick as a gift (each comes with a certificate suitable for gift-giving).

So, act now and be one of the last to buy a brick at North Highland Park. Click here to order yours today.

Thanks so much for your support of Virginia-Highland’s newest green space!

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Bon Voyage (Sort Of), John Becker!

By Jack White (on behalf of the VHCA BoD)

This is an article that could have been written a few weeks ago, but wasn’t for a specific reason – no one was very happy about the subject matter. John Becker – long-time VHCA Board member, Communications Chair, and Voice editor – sold his home in VaHi recently and has moved a mere 500 feet past the neighborhood’s borders into a BeltLine condo in Poncey-Highland. As one must be a resident of Virginia-Highland to serve on the Board, John has stepped down from his seat and is in the process of wrapping up his communication and other duties with the VHCA. Though he hasn’t moved far away – and has already been spotted back at Taco Mac on more than one occasion since the move – the Board, the Association and the neighborhood must face the fact that we will miss him greatly.  

DSC06460A bit of history is in order. As recently as four years ago – it seems like another era altogether – the Voice was still being printed and mailed to residents. It had many attributes then (among them the fact that John was its editor); an online tour of the old copies provides a lively flavor of the community’s comings, goings, struggles, and successes. But timely and contemporary it wasn’t. By the time articles were written, edited, mailed and received, the events they described were often well in the rear view mirror. Pam Papner, winding up her time as VHCA President, wanted to transition to an online version, but the challenges seemed formidable. The mailing list of residents was rudimentary, and the process of creating a new advertising and distribution infrastructure seemed imposing to an all-volunteer organization. There was considerable skepticism about whether it would work.

Enter Board member Brian Gross, who was confident that an electronic version of The Voice would be a vast improvement – less costly to produce, much more timely, with greater outreach potential and capable of generating good ad support. In six months Brian created a proposal, designed the site, sold ads, and convinced (an ever-dwindling group of) skeptical residents that the concept was sound and solid and that our newsletter would reach more people than ever before. Responding to arguments that not enough citizens were wired in, Brian found studies and stats that showed that 90+% of citizens in communities like ours were online. Out of an abundance of caution, the Board offered to print and mail copies to anyone not online; not one such request was ever received.

DSC_0058Brian himself moved about a year later (he still owns property here and – like many former residents – still subscribes to The Voice), by which point the online version was firmly established. The new format was an incredible success from the start. Three years later, the whole topic seems quaint, but Brian’s contributions cannot be underestimated.

When Brian left, John Becker took over again as editor and made a good thing even better. He did a fantastic job of managing ads, writing and gathering content, nudging board members and others to write stories, and suggesting topics for coverage.

Those who know John in any of his many roles – as a Rosedale Road neighbor, as a Taco Mac denizen, as a supporter of all things Auburn, as an inveterate dog lover and walker, as a huge fan of John Howell Park (for years John has kept up with the community’s insatiable consumption of doggie poop bags at JHP), as a faithful friend of the Triangle, or as volunteer coordinator for the past three Summerfests – will immediately know why he was so good in those roles. He has been involved firsthand in so many aspects of this community’s daily life that he was a perfect candidate to coordinate a written and photographic narrative of it online. His background as a journalist and his considerable photography skills were on display from the start. When he wasn’t a part of the story (when an Inman student left a menacing book bag at the Triangle and the APD bomb squad closed the intersection, John was among those cleared out – not the first or last time algebra has threatened us) he was recording them for posterity, as he did with countless APS, Master Plan, and VHCA Board meetings.

triangle_volunteers_265hAnd because John knew so many people in so many contexts, he had a great read on the pulse of our neighborhood – on topics both serious and silly. There were few people better able than John to gauge the concerns that residents expressed in multiple forms and formats, and few who were more instinctively knew which topics needed responses and which needed to play themselves out on their own.

Selfishly, we will miss John for many other reasons, too. He has a fine sense of humor, one of the most important parts of any volunteer activity. He measured his friends on the board and residents (their attributes, personalities, motives, and contradictions) in a kind but realistic fashion that served us very well, and often left us laughing at ourselves and others. We will all miss those parts of dealing with John on a regular basis.

Champion LeadershipOf course, like most stories, this one has a silver lining. John is starting a new job that is well-aligned with his considerable talents. He has a new home just yards from the BeltLine about which he is so passionate, and not much further from his old neighborhood. By the way, if Virginia-Highland ever gets an army, that’s the area we’ll annex; the empty fields between us and John are lightly defended. Until then, Poncey-Highland is fortunate to have him. Meanwhile, we will see John at Summerfest both this year and – we very much hope – in the future.

And John is leaving us in good hands. As Brian did with him, John is closely involved in training his replacement, who – we are delighted to report – is longtime VaHi resident Stephen Cohen. Stephen and his wife Eleanor (who has herself been involved with the Tour of Homes and the street captain network for many years) have lived here for over 40 years. Stephen is anything but a neophyte on communication; he is the founder of the neighborhood’s first and longest-lasting community blog, the Yahoo Group VHList. Stephen is quite capable and also has a deft touch with people; he will do a fine job. Like Brian and John, Stephen will no doubt put his own stamp on all parts of the job; he will introduce himself here soon.

Meanwhile, bon voyage John Becker, and many thanks for everything you’ve done for VaHi.

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Inman Middle School Expansion Meeting Set for May 5

DSC_0004What: Inman Middle School Expansion Meeting

When: Tuesday, May 5, 2015, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm

Where: Inman MS Auditorium, 774 Virginia Ave., NE, Atlanta, GA 30306

April 16, 2015

Dear Inman Middle School Family,

In February, we met as a community to discuss the space and enrollment issues at Inman Middle School.  We had good dialogue about the current situation, potential scenarios for addressing our issues and explored new ideas (many from you) for solutions.

A big part of our discussion also included weighing the effect that the potential annexation of the Druid Hills community would have on the enrollment zone.  The annexation proposal did not pass the legislature, and now our planning will turn solely to developing solutions within the existing Grady Cluster.

We have scheduled another Community Meeting from 6-7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 5, in the Inman auditorium to continue these discussions.

We appreciate your energy and continued support as we work to develop a long-term plan for meeting the enrollment growth projected.

Along with our superintendent and area Board of Education members, I look forward to seeing you.

Sincerely,

Betsy Bockman, Ph.D., Principal

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APD Officials Listen and Respond to Resident Safety Concerns

IMG_0560The first portion of this month’s regular meeting of the VHCA held on April 13th was devoted to a special discussion of neighborhood safety.  District 6 Councilperson Alex Wan (who organized the meeting and arranged the speakers), APD Asst. Chief Shawn Jones, Deputy Chief Joseph Spillane, Zone 6 Commander Timothy Peek, and other officers made presentations, listened to resident concerns, and spent over an hour answering a wide range of questions.

While acknowledging the well-publicized instances of violent crime in and around Beat 601 that have caught everyone’s attention, the presenters pointed out that violent crime – murders, rapes, robberies and burglaries – is down in our beat when compared with last year, which itself had low numbers.  What is not down is the level of vehicle break-ins; officers encouraged residents and visitors to remove anything of value from parked cars and pointed out that among the items stolen from cars recently were seven handguns.

IMG_0563One resident pointed out that her knowledge of crime came at least in part from social media and asked about actual statistics. VHCA Safety Chair Peggy Berg and Board member Jess Windham graphed the last six years of stats for Beat 601 (solely and entirely composed of VaHi) and prepared and distributed a handout of those numbers at the meeting.  (They may be viewed here on our website, and we will update them monthly as we receive new data from APD.)

The officials thanked residents who told stories of calling 911 when they saw something suspicious, and encouraged everyone in attendance to do the same if they find themselves in a similar situation.  They explained the priority system that governs response to calls and provided average response times for all categories.  They reminded, urged, and pled with citizens not to intervene in crimes being committed, but to call APD.

IMG_0561Officials also commented that common traits of neighborhoods that effectively fight crime are neighborhood watches like the two-decade old one in VaHi. If you are not currently connected with your local Street Captain, please contact safety@vahi.org.

Several speakers were critical of the county role in dealing with juvenile offenders and thought sentences were too light.  Another viewed the problem of keeping criminals off the street as a multifaceted one.  Police, prosecutors, judges, and the state (which runs prisons) all have a role in ensuring that the most dangerous and predatory of criminals are successfully caught, prosecuted, and incarcerated.

What was abundantly clear is that APD is highly informed as to the location and frequency of crimes, with data coming in and being analyzed constantly. The department’s ability and willingness to respond and shift resources around on an hourly and daily basis was impressive.

We appreciate the time and energy that the whole department expends on this effort, and the presentation ended with a warm ovation from neighbors.  We thank all those at APD and Councilmember Wan for the work they do and for making the evening possible.

Click here to view a video of the meeting in its entirety.

Click here for information on participating in the CourtWatch program.

Click here for a link to the Christian Science Monitor article on the Atlanta Police Department referenced by a resident who spoke at the meeting.

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Local Teen Wins Second National Writing Award

clarissa-mulligIn May 2013 we posted this article about VaHi resident and then 8th grader Clarissa Mullig who had just won a Gold Medal in the national Scholastic Arts & Writing Awards, the largest and longest-running recognition program for creative teens in the U.S.

Well, Clarissa obviously isn’t one to rest on her laurels as she was recently awarded her second National Medal in a completely different writing category. Click here to read a Grady High School Facebook post about Clarissa’s accomplishment.

Congratulations, Clarissa, on being the only Georgia student in the past six years to win two National Medals across all writing categories!

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Ten Thousand Villages

stroefrontVirginia-Highland’s Fair Trade Retailer for 20 Years

Ten Thousand Villages has been a Virginia-Highland staple since 1993. Located at 1056 St. Charles Avenue, the neighborhood shop has seen the ebb and flow of the local business community and, at one time, was the only open storefront on their side of St. Charles for nearly a year. Selling handcrafted items from nearly three dozen countries around the world, the locally run, non-profit store is committed to providing fair wages and steady employment to thousands of artisans through the sales of their products. The forty or more volunteers who give their time to helping customers and supporting fair trade love the local community and, while they hail from all over Atlanta, many of them live in Virginia-Highland and most live in surrounding intown neighborhoods.

childrens cornerThe staff and volunteers at Ten Thousand Villages enjoy being part of such a vibrant and special community.  There’s always a water dish for neighborhood dogs outside the shop and the staff is committed to keeping Virginia-Highland beautiful with seasonal plantings in their tree bed and regular sidewalk cleanup of theirs and neighboring storefronts. Ten Thousand Villages sales associates love to help customers shop for just the right gift, home décor accent, or piece of jewelry and are accommodating to all shoppers. There’s even a little nook where children can play, color and read while their parents shop.

spring trendWhether you are a long-time customer, have never visited, or it’s been a while since you’ve stopped by, the staff at Ten Thousand Villages would like to welcome you in for a visit. There’s always something new going on at the shop and this spring is no exception. There is a new collection of jewelry and accessories on trend for Spring 2015.  Planters, bird houses, wind chimes, and other garden décor are featured, and Mother’s Day shopping is made easier with thoughtful gifts, personalized assistance, and gift wrapping. With all of the online shopping these days it’s truly a pleasure to enter a brick and motor store that knows how to give a multi-sensory shopping experience: fragrant soaps and candles calm the senses, natural materials like stone and intricately carved wood beg to be touched, unique and vibrant color palettes draw your eyes to goods from Colombia to Kenya, global music often incites toe-tapping and hand-clapping, and samples of fair trade coffee and chocolate tickle the taste buds.

blue fountainFind out about upcoming sales and events at atlanta.tenthousandvillages.com, on Facebook or visit the store during regular business hours Tuesday-Saturday 11-6 and Sunday 1-5.

Ten Thousand Villages

1056 St. Charles Avenue

404-892-5307

atlanta.tenthousandvillages.com

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Support Fire Station #19 at 5th Annual Morningside Mile

mmlogo300pixelsmmraceThe Morningside Mile is a 1-mile race and block party hosted by Doc Chey’s. 100% of race profits will be donated to the fund to renovate Fire Station #19 to help keep it in service. This year’s event – the fifth annual – is scheduled for Sunday, March 29th, 12noon-2pm.

Registered runners get a technical race shirt, free SweetWater beer and other swag. Cash prizes will be awarded for fastest runners. This is a very family-friendly race so all ages, runner levels and walkers are encouraged to participate.

The post-race block party includes music, food and family fun with the FS19 firefighters on hand to join in the fun.

Register ($25) to run at www.morningsidemile.com or in-store at Doc Chey’s, Highland Runners, Phidippides Ansley, or Podium Multisport.  Advance race registration is required.

Visit www.morningsidemile.com or https://www.facebook.com/morningsidemile for more information.

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VaHi Safety Team Report: March 28, 2015

By John Wolfinger

I know, I know that I am way behind in getting a new report out to you – but life events got in the way with the death of my mother in Ohio and I was gone for quite a while. Nice to know though, that FBAC and my neighbors were watching my house while I was away. This report contains the crime stats for five weeks from 2/15 to 3/21 – so keep this time span in mind when reading about the incidents.Lawn Equipment Thefts

Lawn Equipment Thefts

Officer Reddick from Morningside has asked me for you to alert your lawn and tree care crews to keep all of their equipment locked up when not being used, as there have already been several of these thefts in the past few weeks. Probably a lot of these firms are small and can ill afford to lose the tools they need for their livelihood. Allow them to park in your driveway, off the street, if you have such space.

Gas Station Thefts

Stay alert even while pumping gas.  http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/woman-robbed-while-filling-gas-station/nkKMj/

The 3/10 Parking Lot Murder

Since I am sure that by now everyone knows the story about this cold, senseless murder of Joshua Richey in the BeltLine Kroger parking lot on 3/10, which resulted in the 3/26 arrest of suspect Demarius Thompson. A fund has been set up for the victim’s family – http://www.ajc.com/news/news/fund-set-to-help-family-of-worker-killed-outside-a/nkS4T/. Thanks to the Kroger Company for donating $25.000 to CrimeStoppers which resulted in useful tips.

There was a similar sort of incident scenario in Grant Park on 2/25 where the victim was wakened by his growling dog. He looked out the window to see his truck being stolen.  His wife called 911 and the victim went outside with his wife’s gun to chase the truck. The perps then jumped out fleeing on foot – one of them turned around and fired three times at the victim who then returned fire two times. No one was hit.

Even though you would have a strong urge to protect your hard-earned property if you saw it being taken – our Zone 6 Commander, Major Peek, warns against confronting the suspects, as there is no way to know if they are desperate and armed.

The following reports are taken from our APD Zone 6 (http://atlantapd.org/Zone6.aspx) VaHi Beat 601 reported incidents for the 2015 weeks 8,9,10,11 and 12 (2/15-3/21). These reports are not meant to scare anyone, but to let you know what happens around us every day – so you can be alert and aware.

Aggravated Assault: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Auto Theft: Vehicles were taken from – Adair Avenue (2003 Jeep Liberty), Barnett Street (this was a failed attempt that left a broken door lock and popped ignition), Bonaventure Avenue (2004 Nissan Sentra which was recovered on Somerset Terrace), PDL Avenue (2000 Jeep Cherokee, which had also been stolen in January with a popped ignition and had never been repaired), and on North Highland Avenue (2013 Subaru).

Commercial Burglary: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Residential Burglary: A Kentucky Avenue residence was entered after the nanny left, setting the burglar alarm, but forgetting to lock the door.  A purse and contents were taken.

Commercial Robbery: During business hours on 2/27, the Virginia Avenue Wells Fargo Bank was brazenly robbed by three armed masked males who shouted “this is a stickup” to the employees and patrons. Two of the males went behind the counter and cleaned out the cash drawers and became agitated when the safe could not be opened. They were followed down Todd Road by a witness who got their tag number.  The money bag had a tracking device in it and the money was recovered in Clayton County after the robbers ditched the bag.

Residential Robbery: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Pedestrian Robbery: On 3/14, a male and female couple, who were walking home from the Dark Horse around 2:30 a.m. were pistol whipped and robbed at gunpoint by three young black males who took their wallets and cellphones. The suspects fled in a white Ford F-150 pickup truck. This incident took place near the corner of North Highland and Los Angeles Avenues at the Episcopal Church. The victims reported a shot being fired in the chaos, but no one was hit and no spent bullet was found. The victims refused EMT treatment.

Larceny From Vehicle: PDL Avenue (GPS and gift cards), North Highland Avenue (laptop), PDL Avenue (I-pad), Virginia Avenue (a witness saw 2 males looking into cars, 911 was called and they were detained – one took flight and was caught on the BeltLine), PDL Place (backpack, 2 laptops, prescription drugs and 2 watches), Greenwood Avenue (clothing and suitcase), PDL Avenue (2 vehicles – duffle bag, 3 laptops, I-pad), and Highland Lane (leaf blower).

At the Oakland Cemetery parking lot, the victims stated they were approached by a panhandler and said they had left her wallet in the car, so no money to give. Yep – you guessed it, the panhandler entered their car and got the wallet and some other items.

In this period of time – there were 5 more handguns added to what is already on the streets, and a taser and an ammo clip were also taken.

Larceny Other: Late night behind the Druid Hills Presbyterian Church, an intoxicated female victim lost her cell phone and debit card to a snatch and run thief. On Rosewood Drive, a beagle dog and dog bowl were taken. On 3/10 in daylight, at the bike rack in front of Diesel on North Highland Avenue – the victim saw a suspect quickly cut the bike lock and ride away on his bike on Drewry Street. The victim gave chase, but lost sight of him.

A nice honor was given to our VaHi Safety Team neighborhood watch initiative in the current Creative Loafing issue. We all owe a debt of thanks to all of our Street Captains and all others who make this program successful at fighting crime and getting folks to know their neighbors.  http://clatl.com/atlanta/atl-neighborhood-mvps/Content?oid=13816897.

Spring is on the way – stay alert and enjoy!!

Also – please remember the Clean Car Campaign which states ALL parked cars are to be clean at ALL times.  We would not have the guys wandering our streets in the middle of the night if there was nothing here to steal from cars.

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Lighting and Plumbing Improvements Continue at John Howell Park

20150307_122713The progress that the City of Atlanta Parks Department has made at restoring the lighting in John Howell Park is increasingly visible (pun intended). The park’s interior lights have been substantively rewired and many globes have been replaced, so the odd amalgam of three different bulb styles is now almost uniform. Remaining on the to-do list are several park lamps along Virginia Avenue, where street lights offer some help in the meantime.

Each fixture has displayed any (and sometimes several) different challenges, but Parks Department electricians – like those pictured here – have worked through them systematically.

20150212_153120Fans of the perpetually leaky faucet along Virginia Avenue (there are some, and your Parks Committee is grateful for your vigilance; it takes a village of eyes…) will notice that the supply pipes and faucet there have been dug up and replaced, and new concrete footing has been poured.

We appreciate all the department’s work to keep our park safe and available for our use.

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“Hotter Than Wasabi™” in Virginia-Highland

By Denise Romeo

Tiger Shrimp

Tiger Shrimp

That’s the motto of Genki, Virginia-Highland’s favorite sushi restaurant that offers fresh, creatively presented sushi rolls and generous noodle bowls. Since opening in Atlanta in 1996, Genki has not only expanded from its original Buckhead location to two other restaurants, but has also become the sushi purveyor for the Georgia Dome, Philips Arena and the World Congress Center. Genki recently added a food truck to their inventory as well with the idea that they would like to reach every neighborhood in Atlanta.

I ♥ Sushi Roll

I ♥ Sushi Roll

For its location in Virginia-Highland – which owner Reid Zeising feels is “the best true neighborhood in Atlanta” – Zeising strived to create a warm, welcoming environment for residents by combining 100-year-old reclaimed wood with high ceilings, and hanging original artwork influenced by his childhood in Tokyo on the brick walls that came with the historic space. In the true spirit of the menu, the TV’s are frequently tuned to NatGeo’s “Wicked Tuna.” The restaurant lives up to its name, which means “energetic, and full of life” in Japanese, with an enthusiastic wait staff and lively clientele.

Virginia-Highland Roll

Virginia-Highland Roll

Virginia-Highland also serves as Genki’s home office and is the name of one of the most popular sushi rolls on their menu. The Virginia Highland Roll is made with spicy tuna and mango topped with escolar, avocado, fresh jalapeño and Masago. The plate is beautifully garnished with fresh oranges and spiraled beets. You can literally taste the freshness of the ingredients in each bite-sized creation. All dishes are hand made at each location and because each piece is sliced a bit thinner than the typical ½-inch roll, each morsel is perfectly bite-sized so that you taste all of the complementary components in one mouthful. The I ♥ Sushi Roll with shrimp tempura and cream cheese, topped with tuna, avocado, sweet and spicy chili sauce, and wasabi cream is equally spectacular with its unsurpassed flavor and texture combinations.

Yakisoba

Yakisoba

In addition to amazing sushi, Genki also serves an array of appetizers including Tiger shrimp sautéed in spicy garlic chili sauce, served over house made guacamole with wonton chips – a fun play on guacamole and chips with a spicy shrimp accompaniment. And, what Japanese-style restaurant would be complete without a selection of noodle bowls? Yakisoba is the most popular street food in Japan and Genki’s version is proof of its status with stir-fried ramen noodles topped with super thinly sliced grilled beef and shredded cabbage, sprinkled with nori and served with red ginger and a side of Japanese mayonnaise.

Tiger Shrimp

Tiger Shrimp

Genki is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week with daily specials like “Tokyo Tuesdays” with deals on sushi, sake and beer, or Sundays when children eat free with the purchase of a parent’s entrée. Their Monday night “Genki Gives” program allows charitable organizations to earn 10% of each dedicated check. Genki also has a wide range of catering options for corporate functions and weddings.

Genki Noodles and Sushi

1040 N. Highland Ave. NE (Virginia-Highland Location)

404.853.3315

www.genkiatl.com

Local food blogger Denise Romeo has lived in the Virginia-Highland area for 25 years. She and her husband, Dom, enjoy spending time together cooking and entertaining. You can read more from Denise on her award winning blog at We Like To Cook!

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Traffic Alert: Intown 10K Passing Through VaHi on March 1

2015intowntenredmanlogo1-300x300The Intown Ten 10K Road Race will take place one week from today, Sunday, March 1, 2015 starting at at 9:00 AM. There will be no street closings, only “rolling closures” as the racers pass through intersections. Click here for more information on the Intown 10K Road Race.

Here’s a turn-by-turn of the race route:

  1. Start – 900 block of Virginia Circle near Todd Avenue—westbound
  2. Go west on Virginia Circle
  3. CROSS Barnett Street
  4. Turn RIGHT on Arcadia
  5. Turn RIGHT on Virginia Avenue
  6. Turn RIGHT on Barnett Street
  7. Turn RIGHT on Greenwood Avenue
  8. Turn RIGHT on Ponce de Leon Place
  9. Turn LEFT on Virginia Avenue
  10. Turn RIGHT on Kanuga ( 1st Water Stop on the Right)
  11. Turn RIGHT on Monroe Drive
  12. Turn RIGHT on Sherwood Road
  13. Turn RIGHT on N. Morningside Drive
  14. Turn RIGHT on North Highland
  15. Turn RIGHT on Courtenay (2nd Water stop on the right)
  16. Courtenay changes to Amsterdam Avenue
  17. Turn RIGHT on Brookridge Drive
  18. Bear RIGHT across the Orme Park bridge
  19. Turn LEFT at Brookridge/ Orme Circle (signs are confusing)
  20. Turn or bear RIGHT on Elkmont Drive
  21. Turn LEFT on Park Drive
  22. CROSS Virginia Avenue
  23. Turn LEFT on St. Charles Avenue
  24. Turn LEFT on Barnett Street
  25. Finish on Barnett Street between Adair and Virginia Circle on the right side of Barnett
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Walk to Your Doc: New Practice Opens in VaHi

Va Hi primary care ad The Voice rev FINAL 022415Those who live or work in Virginia-Highland now have another convenient option for health care.

Atlanta Medical Center Primary Care Physicians at Virginia Highland has opened in Amsterdam Walk, in the former Supplement Warehouse location. Same-day appointments are available.

Dr. Lekeshia Jarrett, a board-certified family medicine physician, is accepting new patients. She enjoys caring for the whole patient and the whole family, realizing that both physical and mental health are important in achieving an optimal quality of life. Dr. Jarrett cares for patients as young as newborns all the way to 100 years of age. Dr. Jarrett encourages a healthy lifestyle as the first step for any health plan.

Jarrett_Lekeshia_MD_labcoat_4x6A native of Mississippi, Dr. Jarrett earned her medical degree from University of Mississippi School of Medicine. She completed a residency in Family Practice and Community Medicine at the University of South Alabama. A wife and mother, she lives in nearby Grant Park.

Dr. Jarrett is a member of the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Medical Association, Society of Teachers of Family Medicine and National Medical Association.

Services include:

  • Preventive screenings and complete physical exams
  • Sports participation physical exams
  • Well-child checks and well-woman exams
  • Chronic disease management
  • Prenatal care
  • Acute illness management
  • In-office procedures

The practice offers free parking and is designed to be convenient for people who live or work in Virginia-Highland.

Atlanta Medical Center Primary Care Physicians at Virginia Highland is located at 560-D Amsterdam Avenue, Atlanta, GA 30306. Hours: Monday – Thursday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.; Friday, 8 a.m. – noon. The office is closed for lunch from 11:45 a.m. – 1 p.m. Most insurance is accepted, including Medicaid and Medicare. To make an appointment, call (404) 479-5708.

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APS Officials Hold Community Meeting to Discuss Inman Expansion

DSC_0004Officials from Atlanta Public Schools – including Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and board member Matt Westmoreland – met with residents on February 19 to discuss options for addressing overcrowding at Inman Middle School. If you were unable to attend, here’s a link to a video of the meeting.

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APS Puts Hold on Inman Expansion Project

DSC_0004By Jack White, VHCA Board President

Yesterday, Matt Westmoreland responded to ongoing queries about the status of the Inman expansion with a note saying the Board had decided to defer confirming the pending construction contract. In a letter released last night, APS Superintendent Meria Carstarphen confirmed this action, based on APS’ new estimates that project a 2015-16 school year enrollment greater than Inman could accommodate even if expanded (a process projected to take about two years).

Carstarphen’s letter grimly proposes even more portables at Inman while the school board looks at the challenge the cluster faces. The exact status of the expansion plans is unclear; it is possible that some improvements – a revamped gym and lobby, new science labs, and school bus lanes – could be made even without the classroom additions.

VHCA is investing considerable effort in following this process and will have further comments in the near future. It’s time to calmly put all the challenges and options on the table and openly consider them in a thoughtful atmosphere of respect and cordiality. VHCA is committed to meeting that standard ourselves; we expect that everyone else involved in the process will be, as well.

Meanwhile, the Superintendent, Matt Westmoreland, and other APS personnel will review the expansion dilemma at a public meeting in the Inman Auditorium at 6:30 on Thursday, February 19th. Interested residents are encouraged to attend.

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Support Fire Station #19 at Yeah! Burger on February 17

No. 19 StationOn Tuesday February 17 from 6PM – 10PM, Yeah! Burger at 1017 N. Highland Ave. will donate 10% of sales to the Virginia-Highland Conservation League (VHCL) in support of efforts to restore the neighborhood’s historic Fire Station #19. Please consider supporting this worthwhile cause by patronizing Yeah! Burger during the dine-out.

Click here to read more about VHCA/VHCL efforts to protect this neighborhood treasure from an uncertain future.

Feel Good Tuesday Flyer

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North Highland Park Update

Over Half of Debt Retired

By Pamela Papner, Virginia-Highland Conservation League

DSC06195

Anyone new to the neighborhood might not know that in December of 2008, the Virginia-Highland Civic Association, Inc. (VHCA) closed on the purchase of two lots at 1076 and 1082 St. Charles Place, at the corner of St. Charles Place and North Highland Avenue. Formerly the site of a public library, these lots had remained vacant and often overgrown for more than ten years. Financing for the acquisition came through the Georgia Land Conservation Program (GLCP). VHCA was the first non-profit in the state to be approved for funding under this program.

The association raised almost $160,000 (including a $50,000 grant from Park Pride), and the two lots were developed as an environmentally-friendly, passive park for the community’s residents and visitors. The park opened on March 16, 2013.

In contrast to city-owned and maintained parks, North Highland Park is privately-owned by our neighborhood through VHCA. The park is not only a respite from asphalt and noise; it is also a bio-retention project for stormwater management. A rainwater garden and a large selection of native foliage capture and hold rainfall on site instead of sending it to the city’s stormwater system. Soil and plants naturally remove pollutants from stormwater. This park is also a major element in the future of the Atkins Park commercial area, the rejuvenation of which was one of the many focus points of the Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

DSC06182

VHCA pays the debt on the park through proceeds raised by our major fundraising efforts – Summerfest and the Tour of Homes – and additional  events sponsored by the Association’s fundraising arm, the Virginia-Highland Conservation League, Inc. (VHCL). Our goal is to pay off the mortgage as soon as possible to ensure the park remains ours forever. To that end, VHCA has made several additional payments over the past two years to further reduce the principal balance on the loan.

We are excited to report that one neighbor who is passionate about the park recently gave us an extremely generous donation of $27,000! We are very excited about this gift and will be adding funds to pay down the mortgage by an additional $35,000. We thank this generous benefactor – who wishes to remain anonymous – so much!

By April 1, 2015 the remaining balance on the loan will be ~$432,000, which means we will have retired over half of the initial debt in just over 6 years of the 15-year GLCP loan term. While we are very happy about that, we still have more money to rise, and we have not lost sight of the end goal of retiring the debt completely. Plans are already underway for this year’s Summerfest, which has been a solid money-maker for our community. If any residents wish to spearhead fundraising ideas, please contact me at ppapner@earthlink.net.

DSC06114Buy a Brick to Support North Highland Park

Residents who have followed this project know that a significant amount of revenue for the park’s construction came from the sale of engraved bricks that are installed along the sidewalk that runs along St. Charles Place. Brick sales brought in more than $38,000 – one brick/one $100 donation at a time. After park construction was completed, we realized we still had space for more bricks. The excitement surrounding the opening of the new park enabled us to sell 24 more bricks; however, we need to sell another 37 before it’s economically feasible for us to engrave and install the final group of bricks.

We are asking the community to help us sell those final 37 bricks! Please consider ordering one so that we can complete this final wave.  If you order a brick, you can have it engraved with up to 3 lines (14 characters, including spaces). Please consider doing so! You can purchase a brick online – or simply contribute to the park – at https://vahi.org/parks/contribute.  If you order a brick as a gift, you will receive a certificate suitable for gift-giving.

Thank you and we hope to see you in North Highland Park soon!

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VaHi Safety Team Report: February 10, 2015

By John Wolfinger

The following reports are taken from our APD Zone 6 VaHi Beat 601 reported incidents for the 2015 weeks 4 and 5 (1/18-1/31). http://atlantapd.org/Zone6.aspx

These reports are not meant to scare anyone, but to let you know what happens around us every day so you can be alert and aware.

Aggravated Assault: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Auto Theft: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Commercial Burglary: On 1/26 Real Chow Baby restaurant on PDL Avenue was burglarized and reported $1200 in cash taken from the manager’s office safe.  Their security cameras showed the perp opening the back door with a key, use the code to disarm the alarm and use another key to open the office door.

Residential Burglary: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Commercial Robbery: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Residential Robbery: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Pedestrian Robbery: No reported incidents from Beat 601. However, just south of us at the Edgewood Retail District – there were two more carjackings. On 1/24, 3 male suspects took a car and purse from the female victim via vocal commands along with an object that looked somewhat like a knife. This car was recovered one day later.  Then on 1/26 another such incident happened – the story at  http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/police-step-security-after-rash-edgewood-carjackin/njyy8/  This resulted in the arrest of 2 of the 3 suspects. No other such incidents at Edgewood after these arrests that I am aware of.

Larceny From Vehicle: Cars were entered on PDL Place (purse, retainer, dental nite guard), Virginia Avenue (dress, I-pod), Amsterdam Avenue (gym bag and running shoes), Highland Terrace (vehicle registration), North Highland Avenue ( Macbook, bag, watch, check book, bracelets and a scarf), Barnett Street (GPS and drill set).  These were all the incidents that were reported to APD via a 911 call – but I have a strong feeling there were several more of these intrusions, judging from reports I have gotten from some Street Captains.  No report to APD – no crime committed.

All over the Zone in this time period there were 57 reported cases resulting in one more weapon added to the arsenal on the streets, 5 catalytic converters sawed off and 3 license plates unbolted. Keep walking behind your car on a regular basis to make sure you have a license plate.

Larceny Other: A Monroe Drive male victim lost $100 in a stolen change jar by a female perp he had met on-line.  At an un-named North Highland Avenue bar the victim was handing $40 to a friend when it was snatched by the suspect who ran out and escaped on a bicycle.

Elsewhere around the Zone, at the Historic 4th Ward Skatepark a female suspect asked to borrow the male victim’s cell phone. She handed it off to a male accomplice and they drove off in a car with a stolen license plate. At the Edgewood Retail District, the victim went into 5 Guys to buy food for a panhandler and when he came out his bike and the panhandler were gone. Talk about biting the hand that was going to feed you.

In this time period all the stores at Edgewood reported 6 shoplifting incidents.

Remember the Clean Car Campaign and keep ALL parked cars cleaned out at ALL times.

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February City Council District 6 Newsletter

wan_190Click here to read the latest from City Councilmember Alex Wan’s office, including updates on:

  • 2015 Infrastructure Bond Hearings Continue
  • Park Pride Awards Grant in District 6
  • Google Fiber Coming to Atlanta
  • Municipal Court Amnesty ProgramMorningside Mile – and Yeah! Burger Dine-Out – to Benefit Fire Station #19
  • Spotlight on City of Atlant Government: APD

Please note the following from Wan on the status of Fire Station #19:

Clarification About Fire Station No. 19 Replacement Plans

Fire Station No. 19 is one of three fire stations slated for replacement in 2016. This list is generated as solely a proposal to lifecycle all stations based on such variables as age, building code, etc. However, the capital necessary for a new facility has not been budgeted, nor are there yet any viable sources, thus dramatically lessening the likelihood that this will actually happen. As a result, preliminary meetings between Atlanta Fire & Rescue and concerned residents have taken place, and plans are underway to renovate the fire station.

 

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VaHi Safety Team Report: January 27, 2015

APD Crime Story

Interesting story about the changes in crime incidents here in the city over the past few years at http://www.politifact.com/georgia/statements/2014/jan/10/atlanta-police-foundation/police-foundation-target/. I have heard many APD police folks state over the years though that a reduction in crime incidents is not of importance to someone who has just been the victim of a crime. Yes, we still have crime, as we are a big city in the middle of a very big metro area. But the lower rates help to show that APD is seeing success in using modern and innovative crime fighting techniques such as the video integration center that monitors over 3,400 public and private cameras city-wide, predictive policing software to point out hot spots for extra patrols, alarm registry to cut down on false alarm calls (have you registered your alarm system at www.crywolf.us/atlantaga?), and Google mapping for quicker response time (http://googleforwork.blogspot.com/2014/05/atlanta-police-department-makes-city.html).

Deceptive Sales Techniques for Home Alarm Systems

This video comes courtesy of an alarm system company (ADT), and I am not advocating this particular firm at all – but wanted you to see how some alarm companies try to sell their systems and services.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmwSjoufBrk.

The following reports are taken from our APD Zone 6 (http://atlantapd.org/Zone6.aspx) VaHi Beat 601 reported incidents for the 2015 weeks 2 and 3 (1/4-1/17). These reports are not meant to scare anyone, but to let you know what happens around us everyday – so you can be alert and aware.

Aggravated Assault: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Auto Theft: In the parking lot of the Briarcliff Summit – there were attempts to steal a 1998 Dodge Caravan and a 2008 Chrysler.  A witness saw 5 young males at these cars and they fled on foot west on PDL Avenue.  Both cars were damaged though.

Commercial Burglary: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Residential Burglary: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Commercial Robbery: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Residential Robbery: No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Pedestrian Robbery: No reported incidents from Beat 601. However, at the Edgewood Retail District on 1/11 there was yet another car-jacking with the victim reporting that a male appeared and pointed a pistol at her stating “give me the keys and your money”, she wisely gave him the keys and he took off with her car and her purse that was in the car.

Larceny From Vehicle: Vehicles were entered on Cooledge Ave. (GPS), PDL Avenue (book bag, pistol, laptop,I-Pod and purse), PDL Avenue (bag and contents), PDL Avenue (car battery from front seat), PDL Avenue (2 backpacks, I-Pad, computer bag,and a wifi device), Amsterdam Avenue (backpack, I-Pad, laptop,kindle and clothing), Los Angeles Avenue (book bag), Briarcliff Tr. (license plate), PDL Avenue (I-Pad, clothing, flashlight, pistol and radio speaker), PDL Place (spare tire and license plate decal).

Zone-wide for this time period there were 74 reported such incidents with 4 more hand weapons added to the arsenal on the streets.  Also – of note, there were 5 catalytic converters sawed off.  If you have a vehicle built high off the ground – be careful where you park, as you are a candidate for catalytic converter theft.

Larceny Other: An unidentified North Highland Ave. store reported $955 in deposits missing.  An entire a/c unit was taken from a Drewry Street residence. A cell phone was taken from an unwatched purse at the Drunken Unicorn club on PDL Avenue. At the Druid Hills Presbyterian Church 14 checks totaling $7100 were taken from a mailbox – 3 of these checks were cashed to unknown persons.

Stay alert and remember the Clean Car Campaign that states that ALL parked cars are to be cleaned out at ALL times.

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Fire Station #19 – Onward and Upward

No. 19 Fire Station c. 1920sBy Lola Carlisle

Since its opening in 1925, Fire Station 19 (FS19) has been a beloved institution in Virginia-Highland. The firefighters and the building have a unique place in this community. A lot of children in this neighborhood have climbed on its engines, and a good many of us have been treated by the EMT team housed there.

To no one’s surprise and everyone’s delight, FS19 – and its sister station FS27 in Piedmont Heights – have received a lot of attention and support from Councilmember Alex Wan since he took office in 2010.

No. 19 StationWhen the Councilmember and local resident Catherine Lewis discovered last fall that the station had been placed on the city’s 2016 replacement list, it caught everyone’s attention.  The first response was to organize a meeting to review the reasoning behind the announcement, the current status of fundraising, and the specific proposals and options for making needed changes to the building. The goal of that meeting was to develop a strategic plan to update and protect FS19.

Catherine assembled a diverse committee, and the meeting drew a lot of organizational support. The group agreed to schedule meetings with (then) Fire Chief Cochran, develop a comprehensive fundraising strategy, review the needed repairs, place funds raised by the community into a new 501(c)(3) conduit (the Virginia-Highland Conservation League, which has a very low administrative fee for donations), and add Catherine to that group’s board.

Ian Allum with DogCatherine has been involved in researching the subject from a lot of different angles; it is a task to which she is particularly well-suited.  Her resume includes being an Assistant Vice President for Museums, Archives & Rare Books at Kennesaw State University, Special Projects Coordinator for the Atlanta History Center, and President of Georgia Association of Museums and Galleries. It’s everyone’s good luck that she also lives in VaHi and is a member of the VHCA Preservation Committee.

The meetings that followed with Councilmember Wan and (then) Chief Cochran were promising. Cochran indicated that the station’s replacement status was both a result of the station’s age and a perception that it needed to be expanded. The AFD confirmed that funds had not yet been designated to tear it down or replace it, but it would remain on the 2016 replacement list.  The AFD and City of Atlanta were open to listening to other alternatives and partnering with the Virginia-Highland Civic Association to consider preserving the station in its current location.

From his post as Chair of the Finance-Executive Committee, Councilmember Wan is well-positioned to keep abreast of the city’s budgeting particulars – such as funding for new fire stations – and safety planning in general. There seem to be a large number of capital needs more critical than FS19 (which is structurally sound), but there was still concern about FS19’s future.

No. 19 with DogThe firefighters themselves also pay close attention to internal developments within the Public Safety Department, and protecting the historic station became part of last year’s Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

These are not guarantees of the station’s permanence; they’re an opportunity to use the intervening time to good advantage, and that is our approach. Cochran’s unanticipated departure as chief will necessitate a new review with his eventual successor, whenever (s)he is named. Other communities have worked with the AFD and City to raise funds and help preserve older stations, effectively removing them from “replacement.”  We can do the same.

When Councilmember Wan asked VHCL to become the effort’s financial agent last year, we readily agreed. Establishing a long-range financial plan is a necessity, along with finalizing the review and costing of specific repair plans and increasing fundraising.  In the latter category are the Breakfast with Santa at Osteria 832 (organized by Rich Chey), the Santathon fundraiser (a joint effort of VHCA and Tailfin Marketing) at the station, and other upcoming events throughout the community.

As the fundraising plan develops with the new fire chief, we hope you will support it. FS19 is a landmark in Virginia-Highland, and our goal is to keep it functioning as a fire station for as long as it’s viable. To our knowledge, the Public Safety Department believes it has a lot of life left in it. Let’s make the station safe and sound for our current firefighters and for future generations.

If you’d like to help, please contact us at preservation@vahi.org.; we’d be glad to hear from you. You can also learn more and make a tax-deductible donation here.

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APS Excludes Trees Around Inman Softball Field from Removal Plan

IMG_0270New plan with reduced tree loss may be offered

By Jack White

As promised last week, APS has filed a revised plan for tree removal at Inman that excludes all the healthy trees on and around the softball field along Greencove Avenue.  They have also removed a 41” oak along Virginia Ave., the removal of which was to accommodate stormwater that this plan no longer creates.  Click here to see the revised plan.

APS’ original plan proposed removing nineteen trees that totaled 435”; the revised one proposes removing eleven trees totaling 192”. The revised plan both generates less stormwater (sparing the tree already mentioned) and makes creating a new replacement tree plan a great deal more practical.

In their note last week that addressed our concerns about removal of these trees, APS mentioned the possibility of further design efforts being undertaken with the specific goals of minimal tree loss and stormwater management. Those are worthy goals, and we will promptly share any information we receive about any new plans.

The revised plan received today still anticipates the removal of the trees around the Clemont driveway (proximal to the proposed expansion) and along Park Dr. (to accommodate new lanes for two special education busses). Those trees are included in separate appeals filed by neighbors who are understandably unhappy to see any trees go and who question whether or not the planned expansion will provide sufficient future capacity at Inman.

Our school board representative, Matt Westmoreland, has assured us throughout the process (most recently two weeks ago) that the trailers will be removed from Inman upon the completion of the addition. At a meeting with neighbors this weekend, he promised that he would review the computations of the APS demographers with this exact outcome in mind.  When we receive his report we will pass it along to residents.

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Trees Atlanta Announces Expansion of Environmental Education Programs

treesatlantalogoNew opportunities for grade schoolers and tree enthusiasts

Trees Atlanta is expanding its youth and adult education programming designed to provide opportunities for everyone to learn proper techniques for planting and caring for trees while also becoming better stewards for the urban forest. Each program stands alone, but all serve a common goal: giving members of our community the knowledge and tools necessary to successfully restore and maintain the precious natural resources that are essential to our quality of life.

Junior TreeKeepers

Trees Atlanta is, of course, eager to share the love of trees with the next generation, and is excited to expand the 2015 Junior TreeKeepers Summer Camp at the new Trees Atlanta TreeHouse!

The Junior TreeKeepers summer camp provides five (5) days each session of interactive and hands-on activities in environmental science, as well as field trips to local attractions such as Fernbank Forest, a 200-year-old forest, the Atlanta BeltLine and Atlanta Botanical Garden!

Each week-long session costs $250, and scholarships are available. Enrollment is open and middle and elementary school students are encouraged to apply now at www.treesatlanta.org.

TreeSpeakers

Trees Atlanta needs help sharing its story and is seeking the first group of energetic public speakers to complete training to lead presentations in the community about Trees Atlanta.

Volunteers are needed to present already prepared presentations approximately 30-45 minutes in length and answer questions from the audience. Preliminary interviews will take place prior to the start of training. Training will be held over two 3-hour sessions. It will include classroom instruction, review of presentation, practice, and presentation critiques. Visit www.treesatlanta.org for training information.

Do you have an upcoming meeting or event where you’d like to host a presenter to learn more about Trees Atlanta? Contact kateb@treesatlanta.org to process your request.

Youth Tree Stewards

Alliance for Community Trees (ACTrees), CSX, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America are partnering with Trees Atlanta to prepare the next generation of environmental stewards. Trees Atlanta is working with teens from George Washington Carver Boys & Girls Club on programming relating to Atlanta’s urban forest that focuses on three key themes: stewardship, leadership, and advocacy.

Youth Tree Steward environmental activities include removing invasive species from the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum and cleaning up litter around Fred Armon Toomer Elementary. At the end of seven sessions, the students will be empowered to lead local advocacy efforts that build support and awareness of the benefits trees provide to their communities.

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Trees Near Softball Field at Inman Middle School to Remain as APS Reviews Plan Design

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By Jack White

Appeals of APS postings for tree removals at Inman Middle School were filed this week by both the Virginia-Highland Civic Association and individual citizens.  Two appeals filed on Tuesday by VaHi residents included all listed trees on site (including those around the construction areas), while VHCA’s (filed Wednesday morning) addressed the large trees in the field by Greencove Ave. and a large oak along Virginia Avenue, the removal of which seemed to result from a new stormwater line there.The loss of any tree – particularly one that is otherwise healthy – is difficult on many fronts. Construction activities imperil trees in many ways: reducing (often already compromised) root zones is an obvious one, and damage from nearby construction equipment is another. Trees that are already living in perilous conditions face extreme challenges when the environment around them changes dramatically. While trees lost will be replaced, losing mature trees is a major loss; saving large healthy trees produces many ecological benefits (and also makes the applicant’s tree replacement burden a great deal more manageable.)

The loss of any tree – particularly one that is otherwise healthy – is difficult on many fronts. Construction activities imperil trees in many ways: reducing (often already compromised) root zones is an obvious one, and damage from nearby construction equipment is another. Trees that are already living in perilous conditions face extreme challenges when the environment around them changes dramatically. While trees lost will be replaced, losing mature trees is a major loss; saving large healthy trees produces many ecological benefits (and also makes the applicant’s tree replacement burden a great deal more manageable.)

In addition to the judgment provided by the city Parks Department arborist on this project, we sought evaluations (both informal and formal) from other professionals, none of whom thought that any tree around the active classroom construction areas could be legally or practically saved. However difficult such opinions were to hear, the result was we found no known logical basis or legal support for an appeal to save these trees.

The trees adjacent to the softball field were another matter. While the additions to the school building along Clemont and the new bus lane along Park had been shared and examined many months ago, no review of any field re-design had been offered for discussion or reviewed in any specific way by the Inman Expansion Committee or any other citizen group.

Our dismay with this plan was especially acute because redesigning to accommodate the field’s large trees had always been an obvious and specific goal, along with providing upgraded facilities for Inman’s softball team (at least for practice and perhaps for games, if APS would accept a reduced field size.) VHCA had offered to provide funds for landscape architecture that would incorporate common design elements found both at John Howell Park across the street and at the Georgia Power facility on Ponce Place, and for hiring the very same firms to lead the process. The design phase of this part of the project – to enhance the field for Inman students and create a more visually appealing space for the community at the same time – had been estimated by APS as more than a year away.  We anticipated and looked forward to a public approach that included citizen input into the process.

The recent abrupt tree posting led to multiple discussions with APS, City Parks arborist Chris Kallio, the Tree Conservation Commission, and several private consultants, all in search of a full understanding of what was driving this design and proposed tree removal and an understanding of viable options. (VHCA Planning Committee member Chip Bullock was especially insightful in this regard). The day before the appeal deadline – and after at least one appeal had already been filed by a local resident – we met with Facility Director Alvah Hardy and Expansion Committee Co-Chairs Tamara Jones and Gail Price and asked again that the field trees proposed for removal be stricken from the plan, pending a full review of the goals and options, and that the Expansion Committee be reconvened to review the plans.

Hardy agreed to review the design imperatives and the points we raised – specifics of the field placement, design objectives and options, the size of the space, methods for reducing and controlling stormwater, the alternatives we offered, and to engage an arborist with the specific goal of saving as many trees as possible. Some trees on the APS site will come down regardless of this process due to their ‘Dead Dying or Hazardous’ (DDH) status. He advised, however, that he could not complete any such review or react before the approaching appeal deadline; we proceeded with our appeal on the field trees, which we filed on Wednesday morning. (Click here to read the appeal document we filed; click here and here to view supporting documents.)

Late Wednesday afternoon, Alvah reported that he had begun the processes we had all discussed and that the trees on the field would be taken off the list of trees to be removed pending an examination of these issues, which he hoped would not take more than a couple of weeks. In that regard, he specifically referred to a ‘temporary’ delay, awaiting the creation of a brand new design plan, which he was optimistic would result in reduced tree loss. He also noted that reducing tree loss would provide other design and project benefits.

He anticipates filing an interim revised plan that excludes removal of the field trees by the middle of next week, ideally followed by a new version of a plan for the field by the end of the following week (which is, for reference’s sake, the end of the month). We appreciate this action and have thanked him for it. This provides an opportunity to reflect on the design goals and objectives in a larger and more thoughtful context.

We understand the formal legal process as follows: the appeals that have been filed are scheduled for the Tree Conservation Committee hearing of February 18th  (6:30 PM, City Hall Committee Room 2, or an adjacent space if needed).  No tree work will occur on site pending the resolution of those appeals. APS is looking at alternatives for the field design. Unless there is a brand new decision by the school board to approach the capacity issue differently (and none are contemplated, to our knowledge), the scheduled construction will continue on its existing track this summer.

With the pending appeals in place, many citizens remain very disappointed at the prospect of any tree loss, particularly for an expansion that some believe will not sufficiently address Inman’s capacity challenges and may not result in the pledged and promised removal of the trailers when the expansion is complete. While such issues are not a formal part of the plan to remove trees, they do raise anxiety levels in several contexts.  One of them is APS’ promise that the trailers will leave the site at project completion, a topic that we have discussed several times with District 3 School Board Representative Matt Westmoreland.  He has always plainly and publicly stated – at Inman this past fall and most recently in the last two weeks – that the trailers will depart upon the completion of the new addition.

An improved field re-design does not ensure that any of us will be completely satisfied or pleased with the eventual outcome. What it should do is provide clear design goals and a chance for review and comment along the way. Such a process is not necessarily small-d democratic, nor does it threaten the primacy of school needs in the process.  It does acknowledge that schools and communities have to get along as neighbors,  understanding and considering the ways in which we impact each other and working together on solutions to mutual challenges.

How hard can that be?  We’ll keep reminding ourselves and all parties of the importance of making it happen.

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VaHi Safety Report: January 13, 2015

By John Wolfinger

Arrest and Court News

Phillip Gamble, who was arrested in a daylight take-down on Virginia Avenue (east of Lanier Boulevard) after a residential burglary on this street on 10/8/14, and who also admitted to other residential burglaries on Bellevue Drive and on 6th Street in Midtown, was in court on 1/8/15 to receive a sentence of 20 years with 5 years to serve. If he enrolls in a drug treatment program in prison and successfully completes it – he could be out in less than 2 years.

Paul Williams, a career criminal, was arrested in the Old 4th Ward on 1/7/15 charges of breaking into vehicles. He has a long history of being arrested and serving time both in our county jail and in our state prison system. I remember seeing him and his infamous burgundy Buick on Los Angeles Avenue near North Highland many years ago when he had been stopped by Zone 6 for questioning. No word as of yet as to any court dates for him on this latest arrest.

The Zone 6 Christmas Toy PartyThanx to all of the generous folks here who kept bringing toys to my front porch for me to take to the precinct – the toy party on 12/19/14 was a great success. There were a lot of happy little kids that day with their bags of toys, and also little kids who now can look to the police as friends as opposed to enemies.

Thanks to all of the generous folks here who kept bringing toys to my front porch for me to take to the precinct – the toy party on 12/19/14 was a great success. There were a lot of happy little kids that day with their bags of toys, and also little kids who now can look to the police as friends as opposed to enemies. Thanks also to Joy Ariola of Morningstar Storage on PDL Place for her support of this program and attending the party with me at the precinct office.

Coyote Sightings

I have gotten reports again of coyote sightings in the Orme Park/ Amsterdam Avenue area of the neighborhood. Just be cautious when letting your 4-legged pets outside to keep them in your view and do not leave out filled pet food bowls to attract the coyotes to your backyard. Interesting story about this subject at http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/bio…

New Neighborhood Watch Systems

Morningside and Poncey Highland are in the process of setting up Street Captain watch systems for their respective neighborhoods, emulating our successful VaHi program. I am glad to have been of some help to these folks.

The following reports are taken from our APD Zone 6 (http://atlantapd.org/Zone6.aspx) VaHi Beat 601 reported incidents for the last week of 2014 and the first week of 2015 (12/21/14 – 1/3/15). These reports are not meant to scare anyone, but to let you know what happens around us every day – so you can be alert and aware.

Aggravated Assault – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Auto Theft – A Mercedes E-32 was taken from Maiden Lane and a 2009 Mitsubishi Galant stolen from Highland Terrace.

Commercial Burglary – No reported incidents from Beat 601Residential Burglary – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Residential Burglary – No reported incidents from Beat 601Commercial Robbery – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Commercial Robbery – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Residential Robbery – No reported incidents from Beat 601.

Pedestrian Robbery – On 12/21in the late nite hours on Barnett Street, the victims were walking home when a male, wearing a bandana over his face, jumped out of a passing car – pointed a small revolver at them and demanded they take everything out of their pockets or he would shoot them. Items were thrown on the ground, the suspect gathered them up and fled in the car.

Larceny From Vehicle – Of the 80 such reported incidents all over the Zone in this time period – the following incidents were reported in Beat 601. Maiden Lane (laptop). PDL Avenue (backpack and clothing), North Highland Avenue (purse, 2 laptops, driver’s license, credit and debit cards), Virginia Avenue (change). Greenwood Avenue (backpack), Greenwood Avenue (gym bag, I-phone charger, earphones), Clemont Drive ( laptop bag), Todd Road (clothing, camera, cheeseboard, gym bag, cookbook, backpack), PDL Place ( sunglasses), PDL Avenue (GPS and music system).

Amazingly enough, there was only one weapon stolen in the Zone – a 22 caliber Glock – to be added to the arsenal on the streets.

Larceny Other – A mini bike and a wheelbarrow were taken from an Adair Avenue backyard. A wallet was taken from an unwatched purse at Neighbor’s Bar. A purse was taken from behind the d.j.’s booth at the MJQ Club. An unwatched cell phone was taken at an unnamed North Highland Avenue business.In this time

In this time period all of the stores at the Edgewood Retail District reported seven shoplifting incidents.

Happy New Year!

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Work Begins on Implementing Master Plan Recommendations

at-the-corner-of-9.5X24-MECH-01By Jess Windham & Lola Carlisle, VHCA Board

As we raised our glasses this New Year’s Eve, we paused to remember – with appreciation and gratitude – the many contributions of neighbors and volunteers during 2013-2014 on the Virginia-Highland Master Plan, which is now an official part of the City of Atlanta’s Comprehensive Development Plan. As important as its adoption was the process that created it and its rich content. Close to 100 projects were recommended for our neighborhood.

Now that we’ve had a chance to catch our breath, we’re ready to dive into the hard part: implementation. The VHCA Planning and Master Plan Steering committees have been reviewing the recommended action items, identifying the processes and agencies that can move them forward. The projects can be distinguished in several ways. Some are dependent on City of Atlanta funding initiatives (a broad topic now on the table at City Hall); some are longer range and process-intensive and will take a while to come to fruition. Some projects are already underway or can be initiated here at the local level.

In the last category are some that could use volunteer help from the community; they include storm-drain stenciling (reminders not to dump paint or commercial liquids in street drains, which in both of our sub-watersheds lead to the streams), further research on the Eco District concept (already adopted by Georgia Tech), rain barrel promotion, and the search for space for a community garden (we’ve been looking for several years; any potential ideas are welcome).

We are monitoring the City of Atlanta infrastructure bond initiative with a close eye toward improvements in our own neighborhood. So, of course, are many other communities. That process is underway, and we appreciate Councilmember Wan’s advocacy and efforts on our behalf. We’ll share what we know as this develops. Topics like the study of an Urban Design District need – and are getting – further study by the Planning Committee, a process spurred a bit by the recent wave of new construction that is pushing the legal limits on height and size. Some topics in the Master Plan are being addressed by other entities than VHCA, including the latest pedestrian improvements at SPARK. Pedestrian safety and improvements to help students get safely to school were a clear priority in the Master Plan. The new signal on Briarcliff Road has been installed and is now functional, with much credit going to Mary Stouffer, one of several Virginia-Highland residents involved in the Safe Routes to School program. We applaud the result (which we supported) and credit all the partners (including GDOT and the City) for their work.

As you may have noticed, none of this happens – or will happen – quickly or without discussion. If you have questions or are interested in helping in a particular area, please contact us at planning@vahi.org. The Planning Committee meeting is public and you are welcome to attend. Meetings are held at the Church of Our Saviour (on N. Highland across from the fire station) and start at 7 PM on the Wednesday before the monthly Board meeting (dates posted on our vahi.org calendar). This month’s meeting is January 6th. February’s and March’s are on the 4th of each of those months.

Click here to review the entire Virginia-Highland Master Plan.

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