Voice – August 2012 – A New Garbage Can Today; A More Beautiful Neighborhood Tomorrow

New Volunteer Group To Focus on Upkeep of VaHi’s Commercial Areas

By: John Becker
A shiny new garbage can made its debut last week on the southwest corner of North Highland and St. Charles avenues. The new receptacle – provided by Keep Atlanta Beautiful and paid for by Atlanta-based UPS – is the first tangible byproduct of the efforts of a new neighborhood group that seeks to spruce up VaHi’s commercial nodes.

According to its mission statement, Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful is an informal group of volunteers committed to keeping VaHi an inviting and well-maintained neighborhood that residents, business associates and visitors enjoy – and criminals avoid. Specifically, the group plans to make sustainable improvements to litter control and weed removal around the neighborhood’s commercial districts.

Peggy Denby, Executive Director of Keep Atlanta Beautiful, (l) and John Wolfinger, Keep Virginia-Highland Beautiful member, apply a decal to the new garbage can at N. Highland and St. Charles avenues.

While it’s working loosely with the VHCA’s Public Safety Committee chaired by John Wolfinger, the group currently has no formal ties to the civic association. Wolfinger explains why the group formed.

“Many of the businesses and property owners in the commercial areas along North Highland do an excellent job of maintaining their property – not just the storefront, but all the way to the street. They keep litter picked up, sweep their sidewalks and curbs, maintain plantings, remove illegal handbills from poles, and more. Sadly, some owners do not share this focus.”

Wolfinger says the inconsistency creates a poor public image and contributes to the “broken window” theory that says poorly maintained properties send an inviting message to criminals. Wolfinger points out that, while a few dedicated residents have taken it upon themselves to periodically clean up problem areas to supplement the efforts of many business owners, a more sustainable solution is needed.

“Our goal is to expand the regularly scheduled clean-up services that occur in certain commercial areas to include all commercial properties in the neighborhood, including those where upkeep is lacking,” says committee member Kay Stephenson. “We plan to hold special resident and merchant cleanup days and will be contacting property owners – including owners of a few foreclosed storefronts that have become unsightly – to request help. We also hope to develop a kit of resources so that each property or business owner can easily maintain their part of the streetscape.”

Stephenson points out that the group is just getting started and cautions not to expect dramatic change overnight.

“Informally we’re looking first at the St. Charles node,” Stephenson says, “but over time we intend to address all the commercial areas throughout the neighborhood.”

Anyone who shares the committee’s vision of creating a more sustainably beautiful Virginia-Highland is encouraged to get involved. Send an email to Stephenson at kay.stephenson@gmail.com or committee member Tim Langan at t_langan@hotmail.com and you’ll be kept up to date on group activities. If you have thoughts about how the committee can accomplish its goals, Stephenson says, include them in your email.

VOICE tips its hat to the committee for checking the first item off its to-do list with placement of the new garbage can at N. Highland and St. Charles. We look forward to seeing more improvements in the weeks and months ahead.

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