Buckhead Reporter - March 2021

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MARCH 2021 • VOL. 15 — NO. 3

Buckhead Reporter COMMENTARY

Lessons learned as pandemic anniversary arrives

SUMMER CAMPS P25 through 28 1


Beautiful Chaos

City housing plan draws local criticism and concerns BY JOHN RUCH

al and a Blue Heron board member. Another is a well-known aide to an Atlanta City Council member who is offering independent advice on the park expansion possibilities. The dual roles and sticky situation at 1 Emma Lane have led to accusations of misleading information from all sides and triggered official statements of

A new package of city housing policy proposals aimed at increasing density and affordability is being greeted in Buckhead with fear, skepticism, confusion -- and even a few ideas at least as radical as those of planning officials. The “Atlanta City Design Housing” document, released in December, “calls for bold zoning reform to allow more affordable housing types and stronger neighborhoods to address issues of inequality exacerbated by the city’s zoning code,” according to its introduction. Among roughly a dozen policy proposals, the plan calls for allowing small apartment buildings in neighborhoods near transit stations, and additional or accessory dwelling units -- like basement apartments or rear-yard houses -- in all single-family zones. Those ideas -- which could become formally proposed zoning ordinances within a couple of months -- have drawn formal criticisms from local Neighborhood Planning Units and the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods. At the January meeting of Buckhead’s NPU B, the reactions ranged from thoughtful to visceral. Nancy Bliwise, the NPU’s chair, said she had read “The Color of Law,” a 2017 history of how racist zoning helped to create segregation in American cities, a book that informed the city’s plan. She said she understands “historical issues of injustice and how that’s led to income inequality issues.” But, she added, the city has not taken into account how increased density would affect streets, schools and trees, and she questioned whether the proposals real-

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Inside an authentic Cuban sandwich shop P8


Hear DIY songs named for local towns


Buckhead artist Anderson Smith blends art and advertising imagery in collages that have gained the attention of local galleries. Read more about his life and work in our story, p. 21.

Subdivision plan ignites debate over density, Blue Heron expansion



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A proposal to redevelop an estate on a Buckhead cul-de-sac into a 10-house subdivision is, depending on who you ask, a threat to the neighborhood’s character or an opportunity to expand the adjacent Blue Heron Nature Preserve. The tricky thing is, one of the people to ask is both the leading critic of the propos-


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2 | Community

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Cityhood group conducts opinion poll, responds to critics BY JOHN RUCH

In a virtual meeting in January, BEC members asked the public for $10,000 to

The group advocating for separate cityhood for Buckhead says it has raised enough money to conduct opinion polling and has responded to the stinging criticism of such officials as Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms with some zingers of its own. And in the quest for cityhood, the group suggested, it is even willing to give up the Buckhead name. Sam Lenaeus, a real estate agent who is president and CEO of the Buckhead Exploratory Committee, declined an interview request, but agreed to answer questions in writing. Along with the answers, he added some snapshots of long-unfilled potholes on local streets. “The city of Atlanta has gotten too big to take care of all of us,” Lenaeus said. “We believe it’s time for us to have our own police department and a closer government.” BEC emerged last year among conSPECIAL

Sam Lenaeus, president and CEO of the Buckhead Exploratory Committee.

cern about crime and uneven city services. While advocating for cityhood, the group says it is also open to annexation

into such adjacent cities as Brookhaven and Sandy Springs, or simply issuing complaints to Bottoms. BEC’s members long operated anonymously, but its website at becnow.com now identifies some key officials. Besides Lenaeus, they include Ryan Manthey, vice president and treasurer; Leila Laniado, secretary; and Bill White, vice president of fundraising.

$15,000 in donations so it could conduct opinion polling to see if people agreed with the cityhood advocacy. “Thanks to initial donations, we are proceeding with the poll as planned,” Lenaeus said. Results were expected in late February as the Reporter went to press. BEC in February registered two government lobbyists with the state. They are Cynthia P. Garst and John G. Garst, according to state registration records, and they are tasked with lobbying for a “potential cityhood effort.” The law firm where they are registered did not return a phone call. Asked what the lobbyists are doing, Lenaeus said only, “At this time, we are consulting with multiple experts on the subject. If we do this together, we will hire the best people in the field.” BEC’s effort has been strongly criticized by Bottoms and Buckhead’s major business community organizations as divisive at a time when they are working on social, economic and racial unity. Jim Durrett, who heads the Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Community Improvement District, has likened the effort to a child ceasing to share toys with others and warned that separate cityhood could bankrupt Atlanta. Responding to those criticisms, Lenaeus referred to the notorious killing of

“The city of Atlanta has gotten too big to take care of all of us, we believe it’s time for us to have our own police department and a closer government.” Sam Lenaeus Buckhead Exploratory Committee

7-year-old Kennedy Maxie in an apparE TH

ently random shooting near the Phipps


Plaza mall in December. “In terms of Mayor Bottoms’ efforts, we commend any existing focus on social, economic and racial unity. Those are serious issues that deserved to be tackled,” Lenaeus said. “However, we also consider safety a basic right for every resident, regardless of race. No 7-year-old should get shot. Not in Buckhead, not anywhere.” He wrote those last two sentences in boldface. “In terms of Jim Durrett, does he actually live in Buckhead?” Lenaeus continued. “We don’t think he has been a victim of a violent crime in Buckhead or that his business has to decide whether to close doors or move away. He would feel different if he did. Issues aside, we hope to work with all Buckhead organizations, as each has valuable knowledge and something to bring to the table.” On the idea of separate cityhood taking away an anchor of Atlanta’s tax base, Lenaeus pointed to a recent Department of City Planning housing report, which provides statistics about significant, ongoing population increase, as a sign of a broadening revenue base. And Buckhead’s problems are driving taxpayers out to other cities, he said. “Based on that [city report], tax revenue will continue to go up. There are plenty of new neighborhoods improving the city’s skyline,” said Lenaeus. “The way we see it, the city would have had to reassess our taxes anyway.”


Among the practical hurdles to separate cityhood for Buckhead is the existing city of that name in Morgan County. Already irritated by the identical names, locals in the Morgan County Buckhead are said to be responding poorly to BEC’s effort.

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Lenaeus indicated that the name Buckhead is not a hill BEC would die on.



“We are very respectful of Morgan County citizens, and we know they are very proud of their heritage. We would never take that away from them,” said Lenaeus. “There are plenty of options when it comes to names.”

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Community | 3

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City Council race roundup: Norwood runs, Shook may have challenger BY JOHN RUCH November’s Atlanta City Council election campaigns may be off to an early start in Buckhead districts. Mary Norwood, the chair of the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods and former mayoral candidate, has announced a run for what will be a vacant District 8 seat in the western neighborhoods. And incumbent Howard Shook may have a challenger in North Buckhead’s District 7.

District 7 Shook, who has held the District 7 seat since 2001, said in January that he intends to run for re-election on the Nov. 2 ballot. According to campaign finance filings with the Atlanta Municipal Clerk’s office, he may have a challenger. Jamie Christy, a Buckhead Forest resident filed to run for the District 7 seat. Christy did not return a phone call. While city races are nonpartisan, Christy checked a box indicating a Republican Party affiliation. Another potential challenger is out of the picture. Rebecca King, a North Buckhead resident who unsuccessfully challenged Shook in 2017, said she considered a rematch but will not follow through. “I am considering other options,” King said in a phone interview. “But at this point I am not going to run for the District 7 City Council seat.” Those other options could include a run for another elected office, she said.

District 8 In District 8, one-term incumbent J.P. Matzigkeit announced in January that he will not run for re-election.

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Norwood quickly threw her hat in the ring to replace him. She is a former threeterm City Council member who held the Post 2 At-Large seat now held by Matt Westmoreland. She lost two close mayoral elections — to Kasim Reed in 2009 and to incumbent Keisha Lance Bottoms in 2017 — and is continuing a political comeback that began with her taking on the leadership of the BCN in 2019. “I am running because there are many challenges facing our city and now, more than ever, we need leadership, vision and courage in our elected representatives,” Norwood said in a written statement. “…It has been my pleasure to have served our city on the Atlanta City Council for three terms, and I would like to continue my ser-

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vice for the upcoming term.” Norwood runs the BCN much like a city council, producing policy “resolutions” on such issues as crime, transportation and tree protection, and has forged closer ties between her group’s neighborhood associations and the local business organizations. In her statement, Norwood said she will run on similar issues. “One of the most important issues that must be addressed is public safety,” Norwood wrote. “We must treat violent crime as a crisis. We must protect our neighborhoods, families and businesses with more police officers on the street, a recruitment plan that brings in the best and the brightest, and improve morale with new


APD [Atlanta Police Department] leadership. “We must improve city services and fix our streets, roads and sidewalks,” she continued. “We must address our zoning and development codes so that our neighborhoods and quality [of] life are protected, which includes protections for our tree canopy.” Following on the often bitter 2017 mayoral race, she has also sometimes butted heads with the Bottoms administrations on such issues as the city jail. Both on the council and in recent years, Norwood has been closer to City Council President Felicia Moore, who is now challenging Bottoms for the Mayor’s Office.


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4 | Public Safety

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Drones may police Lenox Square as part of ‘Buckhead Security Plan’ BY JOHN RUCH Drones may be used to police Lenox Square mall in an experimental program coming out of the new “Buckhead Security Plan,” according to an update from an official leading the effort. Speaking at a Feb. 4 meeting of the Buckhead Business Association, Jim Durrett added that Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has privately expressed support for the “Buckhead Security Plan” and may speak about crime at an upcoming meeting of a community organization like the BBA. Durrett is coordinating the multi-organization “Security Plan” in his dual role as head of the Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Community Improvement District. He gave an update on the roughly $750,000 raised or dedicated so far for the plan’s $1.625 million program, including more off-duty patrols, cameras and youth center money. Durrett later clarified in an email that the drone program is not “definite or imminent” at this point, but was part of discussions with mall owner Simon Property Group. “A few months ago, in a conversa-

tion with Simon … representatives in Indianapolis, we had a discussion about technology that Simon was considering employing at their properties, including drones,” Durrett said. “It was a wide-ranging discussion about how Simon was exploring new technology that could be deployed to deter criminal activity, and we agreed that Lenox Square might be a good location to pilot new technology, including drones.” Robin Suggs, the general manager of Lenox Square, declined to comment on the record about the drone program. However, she discussed several other aspects of the mall’s security, which includes metal detectors, gun-sniffing dogs and an Atlanta Police Department mini precinct that at times has more officers on-site than are patrolling in all of Buckhead. She also revealed that the mall’s system of 200 surveillance cameras, which are tied into an APD system, are using firearm-recognition technology to automatically trigger law enforcement and security responses. In his BBA comments, Durrett also took a more conciliatory tone than the plan’s political criticisms of Bottoms — whom it calls on to personally denounce crime in

public — and the Black Lives Matter protest movement. And he turned down the heat on neighborhood crime fears that, among other reactions, has helped to fuel a separate cityhood movement he oppos-

Jim Durrett.


es. Durrett praised Bottoms and acknowledged that crime is a citywide issue that is less severe in Buckhead than in many other areas and for which the neighborhood will offer citywide resources. “I’m here to tell you we met with the mayor… and she is very supportive of what we’re doing…,” Durrett said. “I’m con-









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vinced now that we have a good partner in the city of Atlanta.” “The mayor said, ‘I welcome the opportunity to speak directly to Buckhead. Help me identify the best ways of doing that,’” added Durrett. The Mayor’s Office did not respond to a comment request. Buckhead has seen its share of a nationwide spike in violent crime. But Durrett offered some context and blamed social media for fueling disproportionate crime fears. Echoing Atlanta Police Department commanders’ public comments and the Reporter’s recent review of police statistics, Durrett said that Buckhead’s largest crime problem is thefts involving vehicles left unlocked or running — something the “Security Plan” also addresses with an educational campaign. One of the Buckhead CID’s off-duty patrols recently found a vehicle left running with a dog inside while the driver patronized a gas station on Pharr Road, one of the current crime hot spots, Durrett said. “Our part of Atlanta is not the worst part of Atlanta in terms of the number of crimes that are committed,” Durrett said. “… What we have a lot of in Buckhead is larcenies related to automobiles as well as stolen automobiles. … An unbelievably large percentage of those crimes is because people have been irresponsible with their vehicles.” Durrett also noted that the causes of crime are complex and the current spike is still partly unexplained. “It’s a combination of COVID [and] it’s the number of guns that are out there,” he said. “It’s the gap that we have in the city of Atlanta between those who have and those who have not, including having not the hope that their condition can improve.” Several of the “Security Plan” programs are, or are intended to be, deployed citywide, Durrett said, “so we are not perceived as just protecting ourselves” in Buckhead. That includes funding surveillance cameras outside the neighborhood and giving money to the Atlanta Police Foundation’s youth and community center programs, “none of which are in Buckhead.” The plan’s organizers also have given an extra $50,000 to the Crime Stoppers of Greater Atlanta reward fund for those who provide tips about suspects. The “Security Plan” is a list of many policies, programs and ideas, some already existing, some theoretical. Durrett gave an update on the progress of some of the items since the plan’s release in December. BH

Public Safety | 5

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Sandy Springs adopts version of Atlanta’s controversial street-racing law BY BOB PEPALIS

The city of Sandy Springs has joined Atlanta, Brookhaven and other municipalities in beefing up penalties on street racing. The ordinance includes a car-impounding provision that Atlanta officials have acknowledged conflicts with state law and that legislation would be required to legalize. Mirroring an ordinance approved by the Atlanta City Council last year, the new Sandy Springs law imposes state-maximum penalties of a $1,000 fine and jail time of up to six months for drivers, organizers and other street racing participants who are convicted in municipal court. And like the Atlanta ordinance, the Sandy Springs law calls for the impounding of street-racing vehicles for up to 30 days. But Atlanta city attorneys told their City Council at the time that the maximum period allowed by state law is always less than 30 days and cannot legally continue through the court process. Impounding can only be done for immediate safety reasons, such as the arrest of the driver, and the vehicle can be picked up at any time by any legally authorized driver, the attorneys said. Atlanta councilmembers quietly added a qualification to the impounding clause saying it could be up to the maximum under state law, essentially retaining the appearance of a threat when in fact the penalty cannot be imposed. Sgt. Salvador Ortega Atlanta officials later acknowledged Sandy Springs Police Department that the 30-day impounding is not legal and began efforts to legalize it through state legislation. The Atlanta ordinance caused widespread confusion, including among police officials. Sandy Springs is having the same issue. Sandy Springs Police Chief Ken DeSimone said at the Feb. 16 council meeting where the local ordinance was approved that a key purpose was to impound vehicles as a deterrent. Asked later why Sandy Springs adopted language that Atlanta acknowledged is in conflict with state law, city spokesperson Sharon Kraun referred to existing laws that allow for property like cars to be confiscated as evidence of a crime. But confiscation of evidence is a different legal subject than impounding and relates to investigation, not punishment. Brookhaven also copied Atlanta’s ordinance last year with the same impounding provision. At least two bills under consideration in the Georgia General Assembly would allow for the special impounding or seizure of the vehicles of people accused in street racing. Gov. Brain Kemp introduced HB 534 in the House of Representatives with sponsoring legislators on Feb. 18. The bill stiffens penalties for street racing, making a third offense a felony. A third offense also would lead to forfeiture of the vehicle used for street racing. Metro Atlanta has experienced increased instances of illegal street racing, usually at night. Sandy Springs hasn’t matched that level of street racing, but it has increased in the city. DeSimone said the city has only had three street racing cases, but they want to get ahead of the problem. He said one large incident happened Jan. 22 at Whole Foods at 5930 Roswell Road. “We had over 100 vehicles doing donuts and laying drags within the parking lot,” said Sgt. Salvador Ortega, Sandy Springs Police Department spokesperson. As officers arrived all the vehicles fled. A few arrests were made and some vehicles were impounded.

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6 | Education

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Atlanta Public Schools will have in-person graduation ceremony for Class of 2021 BY JOHN RUCH Atlanta Public Schools will have an inperson graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021, Superintendent Lisa Herring told a North Atlanta Cluster parents group in one of the few solid decisions about the immediate future of pandemic-era education. “We will have a face-to-face graduation for the Class of 2021. … There is a team executing that,” Herring said in a Feb. 17 virtual meeting of North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools, adding ceremonies will be held in a yet-to-be determined “venue that allows us to safely come together.” Last year’s ceremonies became a combination of virtual and long-delayed outdoor events. Herring spoke the day after APS completed the final stage of a phased-in return of optional face-to-face classes, with roughly 35% of the student population choosing to do so. On Feb. 17, APS launched a new round of “intent-to-return” declaration forms where families again choose a virtual or in-person option for the final nine-week quarter of the school year. The declaration period runs through March 8. For the form and more information, see the APS website. Herring told NAPPS that the intent-

to-return results also will inform APS’s thinking about some of the short- and long-term decisions on if and how to operate virtually. The ideal goal, she said, remains a full return to in-person learning.

Virtual options for fall

Asked about virtual options in the works for the start of the 2021-2022 school year, Herring said that the Atlanta Virtual Academy online school, which predates the pandemic, is the one certainty. Up in the air are such practices as so-called simultaneous teaching, where teachers perform the “Herculean task” of instructing students virtually and online at the same time. “I hope not,” Herring said of the continuation of simultaneous teaching, adding that conversations with principals and others have yet to happen. “I am very much a supporter of ‘anytime, anywhere’ learning,” said Herring. “But the truth is, there are other opportunities [for how to conduct it]… We have not had time to pause and take a deep dive into that conversation, but we’re about to.” Also undecided is the future of “asynchronous Wednesdays,” a day set aside for students to work on their own, typically by digital methods. Herring said the day is important right now so that teachers get

considering making mandatory for three years as a way to mitigate the lost learning from pandemic shutdowns and virtual schooling. Herring emphasized that no decisions have been made about mandatory summer school — “I just want to control that narrative,” she said — but also offered more details about the current state of brainstorming. She said the summer school SPECIAL program would now include Atlanta Public Schools Superintendent Lisa Herring. “intervention for reading and math as a priority”; social and time off from the stress of simultaneous teaching, the district gets time to respond psychological support; and “some fun,” to pandemic-related issues like testing, which could mean arts, technology or and students can get specialized support. sports-type activities. But that emergency tactic is not intended Summer school could be attended eito last forever. ther in-person or virtually, Herring said. “I would dare not tie us to saying we When a NAPSS parent asked why virtuare having asynchronous Wednesday for al summer school would be expected to fall,” Herring said. The final round of inremediate lost learning from virtual nortent-to-return declarations will influence mal school, Herring said APS had the that decision, she said. same concern. Thus, some face-to-face attendance might be required in summer Summer school ideas school “because we believe it is necessary,” The biggest short-term decision is what to do with summer school, which APS is she said.


Arts & Entertainment | 7

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Events You Don’t Want to Miss in March The City Springs Theatre Company will present the musical “Let’s Hang On,” described as a “celebration of the meteoric rise of female voices out from the shadows of the male pop and doo-wop groups of the 1960s that dominated the industry.” It will stream on-demand March 19-28. cityspringstheatre.com

The Buckhead Heritage Society will have author Jonah McDonald talking about his book “More Secrets of Atlanta” on March 4 at 7 p.m. via Zoom, as part of its Speaker Series. It’s a free event. buckheadheritage.com

The Atlanta Science Festival will run March 13-27, 2021 with more than 80 virtual, selfguided, and outdoor events for children and adults. Topics include environmental science, climate, healthcare, and COVID-19, with hands-on experiments, scavenger hunts, self-guided “discovery walks,” an exploration of local organisms, and other interactive adventures. View the full lineup at 2021.atlantasciencefestival.org

The Dunwoody Nature Center is offering adult classes on health, wellness, and nature. The spring series of OWLS (Outdoor Wiser Lifelong Studies) takes place on Fridays in March and on April 2. Health screenings and temperature checks will be conducted upon arrival for each class, and social distancing and masks will be required for all participants. 5343 Roberts Drive. dunwoodynature.org The Daffodil Dash is being held virtually this year. Proceeds from the annual fundraiser benefit Am Yisrael Chai, an organization in Sandy Springs created in remembrance of 1.5 million children who perished during the Holocaust. Additionally, funds will help plant 1.5 million daffodils worldwide in their honor. March 19 to April 18. amyisraelchaiatlanta.org

Georgia Audubon has organized a series of webinars for bird lovers during the month of March, covering subjects such as raptor identification, birding by ear, and equity in birding. Audubon is also hosting virtual field trips on March 12 and 26 with staff exploring their yards or “nearby birdy patches” to discuss what they’re seeing. All dates, details, and prices are at georgiaaudubon.org

▲The Atlanta History Center is hosting the finals of the Georgia Poetry Out Loud competition on March 13 starting at 1 p.m. Finalists then get to compete in a national event in Washington DC. atlantahistorycenter.com

►The Latin American Association is holding its sixth annual Latina Empowerment Conference as a virtual event on March 31, featuring motivational speakers, business workshops and educational resources. Thelaa.org

◄The Oglethorpe University Museum of Art will show the work of Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo in the online presentation “Textures Of Our Lives” on March 14 at 5 p.m. The OUMA website says Tamayo “found inspiration for his work in a traditional vision of Mexico and his own Zapotec heritage.” museum.oglethorpe.edu

8 | Food & Drink

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Food for Thought Cuban sandwiches find a home in Sandy Springs BY KEVIN C. MADIGAN Ozzy Llanes was born in Cuba in 1982 and came to the States in 1995, at the age of 13. Living in Miami first, he moved to Atlanta in 2010 with his parents and his wife Susan Dykstra, who is the CEO of Van Michael Salon. In August 2020 they opened Cubanos ATL, a to-go Cuban sandwich shop in Sandy Springs that was an instant success. Like many such restaurants in Cuba and Miami, Cubanos ATL operates from a custom-designed, house-like building with a window for customers, set up in the parking lot of a shopping center at 6450 Roswell Road . Llanes’s focus on ingredients includes buying bread from Florida’s La Segunda Central Bakery, in operation since 1915. For more information, see cubanosatl.com. Cubanos ATL is in a house that you built yourself, right? We just had this little house we were serving out of, with its own kitchen, but we’ve been going so fast that we had to get another, bigger kitchen. It’s almost two miles north on Roswell Road. My office is there. We had no choice but to open a bigger kitchen area because now we’re doing 150 to 200 sandwiches a day. How’s it been so far? It’s been incredible, since day one. We have the best neighbors in the best community in the world. The first day we opened was a Saturday which was a huge mistake. People were just ready to go. The first 40 minutes we sold 225 sandwiches. We were completely sold out, and from there it’s just been steady, so from that aspect it’s been really cool. You’ve partnered with the oldest Cuban bakery in the counSPECIAL try. Ozzy Llanes, co-owner of Cubanos ATL. Yes. The bread is so important for the Cuban sandwich. We have three sandwiches on the menu and just to keep it consistent and fresh for each is hard. We make everything in one spot so I can control who is making the sandwiches on a daily basis. There’s no playing around with those things. If we need 300 sandwiches or a thousand we can figure it out, but we can make those a thousand times the same way, every day. We have the platform now, so we can do that. You’ll be adding other items to the menu? Sandwiches are our number one thing. We don’t want to do rice yet, which people ask for, or croquetas or pastelitos… It’s important for me that we don’t drop the ball with what we have now. Have you ever tried the Cuban steak sandwich, the palomilla? You put shoestring fries with it. It’s one of my favorite sandwiches but we would need to have a hood to be able to sear the steak, so we’ll do that when we’re ready. I don’t want to push it. Those are things we want to add in the future. You have a flan on the menu -- the Llanes Family Caramel Flan. It’s the same way both my mom and my grandmother used to make it in Cuba. Flan is a weird dessert in that you can make it so many different ways. Adding half an egg changes the whole the whole way [it comes out]. There is no wrong way, which is awesome. It’s just the consistency. I had one the other day -- it was Mexican-style flan and I couldn’t finish it. The taste was unbelievably good but it was all soft and that just freaks me out. What about your coffee? It’s authentic Cuban coffee. A lot of people are doing cortaditos but using the wrong

Food & Drink | 9

MARCH 2021 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net

coffee. They use Italian-style coffee beans, and it’s not going to taste the same. I don’t care if you make it exactly the same way, it doesn’t have the same feel. We’re definitely doing pretty good with the coffee. Do you get Cubans coming in? Yes, we’ve got a pretty large Cuban community. They tend to come more on the weekends. My everyday clientele is from this area -- a mix of everybody. We’ve been going really fast but everything is working out. What music are you currently playing in your kitchen? “Buena Vista Social Club.” Cuban artists from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s reunited in 1999 and did a world tour. If you haven’t seen it, I strongly recommend watching the documentary.


And here’s another example of my roots: “Hubo Un Lugar” (“There Was A Place”) by Diego El Cigala and Bebo Valdez. As you know, most Cuban people are a mix of Spanish and African heritage. The pianist is Valdez, one of the top Cuban pianists in the world. The singer, Diego El Cigala, is from Spain. They did a documentary called “Lagrimas Negras” (“Black Tears”). It’s one of my favorites as well. I feel they really express the Cuban passion and flavor though this collaboration.

Quick Bites | Restaurant openings and news The Red Phone Booth and Amalfi Pizza will be coming to 3242 Peachtree Road in Buckhead in the spring as a dual concept location, according to Stephen de Haan, co-owner of both places. With a 1920s speakeasy vibe, The Red Phone Booth features a walk-in humidor and a private event space known as the Mafia Kitchen. “Guests will be amazed at the great lengths we have taken for air quality and purification so they can enjoy our awardwinning craft cocktail and cigar experience,” De Haan said in a statement. Amalfi Pizza is a traditional Neapolitan pizzeria plus a retail market selling “fresh mozzarella, pasta, single serve dishes, Italian wines, aged meats and other imported items.” redphonebooth.com and amalfipizzaatl.com ►Scoville Hot Chicken joins the chicken sandwich race with a new location at 4969 Roswell Road in Sandy Springs, following their opening in Athens, Ga. The eatery is named after

an early 20th century scientist, Wilbur Scoville, who devised a system for measuring the relative heat of chili peppers. scovillechicken.com Toast On Lenox has opened its doors in the space that previously housed Adobo Tacos & Tapas in Buckhead’s Lenox Village at 2770 Lenox Road. Virgil Harper, the chef behind Roc South Cuisine and Cocktail, is in charge of the new breakfast and lunch spot. toastonlenoxatl.com

The Betty opened on Feb. 10 as part of the new Kimpton Sylvan Hotel at 374 East Paces Ferry Road in Buckhead. The menu is described on its website as “American cuisine with a continental flair,” and the ambience “channels old Hollywood glamour.” The chef is Brandon Chavannes, whose career includes stints at Bar Boulud and the Russian Tea Room in New York, and Ford Fry’s St. CeA sandwich from Scoville Hot Chicken, cilia in Atlanta. thewhich opened a Sandy Springs location. bettyatl.com

A shrimp dish at The Betty, a restaurant in Buckhead’s new Kimpton Sylvan Hotel.

Snooze, a Denver-based breakfast chain, made its Georgia debut on Feb. 17 in Sandy Springs at 4600 Roswell Road. “We’re serving up a twist on breakfast by starting with responsibly sourced ingredients and bringing them together in unexpected ways,” the owners explained on their website. “We want everything that goes into our breakfast to have a positive impact on people and the planet.” snoozeeatery.com

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10 | Arts & Entertainment

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From Buckhead Shaman to ‘Roswell Road,’ local towns show up in Bandcamp’s DIY tunes BY ERIC DAVIDSON

During the COVID crisis especially, Bandcamp’s “Free Fridays” -- where the company waives its cut and bands often offer all sales to a particular cause -- have come across as a kind of digital benefit concert where much of the monies raised come from fans of the band’s hometown. So here are some Bandcamp discoveries who were directly -- or misdirectly -- inspired by local towns.

The borderless terrain of the internet has decimated lots of the ol’ charming regionalism of American pop music. The days of the Standells having a local Boston hit with “Dirty Water” before it became a national smash, or Prince dropping details about Minneapolis, are seemingly long gone. If your implied audience lives everywhere, you may be inclined to leave geography out. Who wants to write a song called “The Devil Went Down to Domain Name?” But that doesn’t mean artists have completely given up on highlighting their home base sometimes. We scoured the music site Bandcamp for songs and albums whose titles refer to local north metro towns. Then we checked with the artists about their motivations for writing a nod to someplace listeners way out in digital space may never visit. Bandcamp itself, in its own unique way, has been able to retain some of the regional flavor of the old townie musical habits. Unlike the somewhat faceless interface of Soundcloud, or the ubiquitous (and perceived shady) corporate enormity of Spotify, the clunky-fun homepages that artists create on Bandcamp often have the vibe of old album liner notes, with sidebar highlights of where they’re from, contact links, thank-yous to other local bands, and generally are chock-a-block with personal and recording info.

about my life at that time. I was in high school then. Roswell Road is a long road that passes through Sandy Springs.” ‘Buckhead Heist’ | Ian Deaton Atlanta (2013) A fizzy, techno-rock, DeLorean race of an instrumental that might’ve been floating out of one of Buckhead’s malls in 1987. “I’ve lived in Atlanta on and off since 1997, and I love crime cinema and fiction. I wrote the song ‘Buckhead Heist’ as part of a fake crime film soundtrack called ‘Atlanta Crime Wave,’” says Deaton. “I was dreaming a lot about a nonexistent 1980s action film set in Atlanta, so I wrote an album’s worth of Herbie Hancock/Harold Faltermeyer synthesizer music. ‘Buckhead Heist’ would be the scene in the film where a group of thieves steal a haul of diamonds from a high-end Buckhead jeweler and escape by helicopter.”

‘Sandy Springs’ | Al Carmichael Detroit, Michigan (2016) This nice, slide-guitarled stroll musically demonstrates this acoustic strummer’s pre-Rust Belt existence in Georgia, as his drawl and mood sure don’t feel like the Motor City. Indeed, Carmichael was a member of Radar, a band of Atlanta’s 1960s and ’70 progressive rock scene. “’Sandy Springs’ was part of my CD called ‘Roswell Road,’” said Carmichael. “The entire record is about my formative years living in Georgia. Sandy Springs was my hometown. This song was inspired by revisiting Sandy Springs and reminiscing

‘Dunwoody’ | The Well Wishers San Francisco, California (2013) This singer-songwriter, Jeff Shelton, unknowingly named a whole EP after the local town. And while he admits on his page that he has “since discovered” the existence of Dunwoody, Georgia, he somehow gathered enough of an impression to “chronicle the imaginary lives of those trapped in Southeastern suburban bliss,” via his lilting, Big Star-like jangle rock.

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‘Buckhead Betty’ | The Coathangers Atlanta (2007) A dainty, handclapped singalong respite from the Atlanta punk stalwarts’ otherwise itchy art-punk on their debut album. “‘Buckhead Betty’ was on our first LP, where we held no opinions back,” says Coathangers drummer/singer Stephanie Luke. “A Buckhead Betty was/is a term that refers to privileged women in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Think ‘Real Housewives’-meets-Karens of the world. The type of woman who judges others ‘below’ them in status, yet are themselves miserable, pill-popping ladies.” ‘Buckhead Georgia’ | Cecil Null War, West Virginia (1963 ) We’d ask Mr. Null -- a one-time writer of country hits like “I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know” -why he chose to write a tune about Buckhead, but he passed away in 2001. It’s a good bet he knew that part of town was way different and closer to the rural autoharp amble of Null’s minor fame than the upwardly mobile locale it is today. Then again, it could be named for the rival city of Buckhead in Morgan County. ‘SandySprings GA”’ | Silverfoxx ETO Atlanta (2016) The airy, electro drone of this tune sounds more like background for the image of the spaceship floating at the top of his Bandcamp page than anything that might honk or lawnmower its way through Sandy Springs. ‘Poor People’ | Buckhead Shaman Atlanta (2020) To catch up with this locally named mystery figure, we checked out “Poor People,” a slightly trippy, angelic electroyearner with a breezy gleam that matches the sheen of his artistic nomenclature, if not the song title. Mr. Shaman turned out to be a musician named Tyler Hobbs. “Buckhead Shaman was originally an online persona delivering facetious health, wellness and spiritual guidance,” said Hobbs. “I started making music, and realized it matched well with the shaman character. It started as very tonguein-cheek -- poking fun at Buckhead’s consumerism and pseudo-spiritual residents obsessed with their health. Buckhead Shaman is a total brand whore with a heart -- a beacon of healing -- repping a part of town believed to be a cut above the rest.” — John Ruch contributed

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Hospital gives Confederate-praising monument to anonymous new owner BY JOHN RUCH Making good on a promise to rid its Buckhead campus of a Confederate-praising Civil War monument, Piedmont Atlanta Hospital has given the massive stone block to an anonymous owner.


The monument dedicated to soldiers on both sides of the Civil War’s Battle of Peachtree Creek that stood on the grounds of Piedmont Atlanta Hospital.

“Piedmont transferred ownership of the monument in the fall to an owner who was willing to preserve it,” said John Manasso, a spokesperson for Piedmont Healthcare, the hospital’s parent organization. Asked why the new owner is not being identified and whether it is an individu-


al or an institution, Manasso only said, “For the time being, we are not going to provide any additional information.” Erected in 1944 on the hospital grounds at 1968 Peachtree Road, the monument refers to the Battle of Peachtree Creek, which took place in that area as the Union fought to seize Atlanta. The language on the memorial praises the “American valor” of both sides in the war. The monument was put in storage in 2017 during construction on a new tower and other facilities. Despite growing controversy over Confederate-honoring memorials, Piedmont initially said the monument would be returned to the campus in 2020 following construction. But after last year’s Black Lives Matter protests, Piedmont said the memorial was gone for good — though its exact fate was to be determined. “Out of respect to our employees and the communities we serve, we have no intention of reinstalling the monument,” Manasso said at the time. The monument was erected by the Atlanta Historical Society, which is now the Buckhead-based Atlanta History Center. And the History Center has a different view of such monuments today, saying they are part of the “Lost Cause” myth that downplays the role of slavery as a cause for the Civil War. The notion, the History Center says, dates to the post-war “Reconciliation” period when Northern and Southern groups emphasized national unity while allowing segregation and related racist laws. The monument, like most of its kind, dates to the “Jim Crow” segregation period of 1877 through the 1950s, when they were part of an effort to emphasize White supremacy, the History Center says in a “Confederate Monument Interpretation Guide” it issued in 2015 in the wake of a racist mass murder at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. Claire Haley, a History Center spokesperson, said in an email that the museum is not the new owner of the Piedmont monument and is not in possession of it. The History Center “has not acquired any Confederate-related monuments/memorials following last year’s controversies,” Haley said.

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Development plan for Buckhead Place parking lot ditches hotel, tweaks apartments

A photo illustration showing the site of the Buckhead Place apartment redevelopment in blue, from a city project filing.

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BY JOHN RUCH A long-planned redevelopment concept for a parking lot in Piedmont Road’s Buckhead Place shopping center is getting a revamp that ditches a hotel and tweaks an apartment building. Buckhead-based Wood Partners’ plan focuses on the lot at 3314 Piedmont Road, next to a Hampton Inn & Suites hotel and in front of an L.A. Fitness. The plan, still in a preliminary form, was vetted Feb. 3 by the Development Review Committee of Special Public Interest District 9, a local zoning area. The plan calls for a 290-unit apartment building fronting on Piedmont. Standing roughly 90 feet tall, the S-shaped building would have five residential levels and three parking levels, one of them partly below-grade. The garage would have 527 parking spaces, including replacement of the existing 150 surface spaces. The preliminary plan shows a unit breakdown of 35 studios, 185 one-bedrooms, 55 twobedrooms and 15 three-bedrooms. The development team said there is no provision for “affordable” units, though they would be open to a program of subsidized rents for police officers and firefighters offered by the Buckhead Community Improvement District and Livable Buckhead, whose executive director, Denise Starling, is a DRC member. The Piedmont streetfront would include a two-story, glassy leasing and lobby area. The development would have a main driveway on Piedmont and a “motor court” for ride-share and similar services. The service entrance would be in the rear, off a private section of Maple Drive. DRC members spotted that as a likely issue, because city code requires “active uses” on any groundfloor part of such a building that faces a street. Starling suggested the DRC would support a variation request for that service use if the developers added a mural or similar feature to the street-facing wall, which project architect Ben Hudgins said might work. Hudgins also was receptive to Starling’s idea of placing some type of sculpture in the lobby area where it could be seen from the street. Public art is among the DRC’s priorities. The project came before the DRC because it would require a special administrative permit due to the location within SPI-9, among other public review processes.

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Lindbergh-Armour Master Plan is delayed BY JOHN RUCH

west, and Sidney Marcus Boulevard to the north. It also includes Miami Circle, southern Buford Highway to the Brookhaven border, and part of the Cheshire Bridge Road corridor. Trail plans snaking through those areas are a major subject for the plan to tackle. PATH400 already exists within that area. Atlanta BeltLine Inc. is working on a concept for a prospective route for its Northeast Trail path and transit segment to run through the Armour area to the MARTA Station. Last year, the South Fork Conservancy installed a bridge over Peachtree Creek to connect its trail system to PATH400 on Adina Lane. Then there’s MARTA, the 800-pound development gorilla of Lindbergh, whose headquarters is at the station. About 20 years ago, MARTA began executing a massive plan for transit-oriented redevelopment around the station. Acres of mixed-use buildings and two apartment complexes were built, but they are less transit-oriented than MARTA envisioned, and other phases of the plan have stalled. And now MARTA has a longterm plan to build a new rail line called the Clifton Corridor between Lindbergh Center and the Emory University area. The basics of the planning process are outlined on a website at bit.ly/lindbergharmour.

A master plan for Buckhead’s Lindbergh/Morosgo and Armour neighborhoods, jointly sponsored by the city and MARTA, has been delayed by at least months. Announced in October 2020, the Lindbergh-Armour Master Plan was anticipated to begin with an immediate round of public meetings and a goal of getting a final draft to the Atlanta City Council by July. But the process has not materialized and the city now says it is giving lead consultant Stantec more time to perform a study. “We’ve not been on hold per se but [are] giving our consultant time to work on analysis of the study area. We’re aiming to re-engage the public early this spring,” said Paula Owens, a spokesperson for the Department of City Planning. “...There’s no definitive date for completion, but I was told we are pushing for fall.” ARTA’s unfinished vision for transit-oriented development at Lindbergh Center Station lies at the core of the Lindbergh-Armour Master Plan, and a bevy of new multiuse trails — including a future Atlanta BeltLine segment — also inspired the study. The study area centers on the Piedmont Road corridor roughly bordered by Ga. 400/ I-85 to the east, the Armour area to the south, the Northfolk Southern rail line to the

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Photo gallery aims to move across a Buckhead Village street BY JOHN RUCH

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A prestigious photography gallery plans to make a very short move across East Shadowlawn Avenue from one house-style building to another, according to a snapshot of a design presented in a recent community meeting. Jackson Fine Art is currently housed in a Buckhead Village building at 3115 East Shadowlawn that dates to 1934, according to Fulton County property records. The gallery and collector-advising business was started 30 years ago by Jane Jackson, who later sold the business to become director of superstar musician Elton John’s enormous artphotograph collection. According to its website, Jackson Fine Art’s clients now include such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago and New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, and such corporations as Delta Air Lines and the Coca-Cola Company. Now the gallery aims to move into a new building at 3122 East Shadowlawn made in a similar, house-like style. The plan, which SPECIAL An architectural drawing of the front and rear would require some city zoning perof the new Jackson Fine Art building planned at mission, was presented at a Feb. 3 3122 East Shadowlawn Ave. as filed with the city. meeting of the Development Review Committee of Special Public Interest District 9, a local zoning area. No one from the gallery attended the SPI-9 meeting and there was no discussion of the reason for the short move. In response to questions after the meeting, someone at the gallery replied in an email, “Thank you for your interest. We are excited to let the community know about our plans when the timing is more appropriate, but are not interested at this time.” However, property records show that the gallery is a tenant in its current space -- owned by the large real estate firm Selig Enterprises -- while designers of the new project say the gallery would own it. The 3122 East Shadowlawn property currently contains a one-story, mixed residential and commercial building dating to 1930, according to property records. That existing structure is “an eyesore for the street” and saving it is “not an option… It needs to go,” said project architect Mike Hopkins at the SPI-9 meeting. Replacing it would be a two-story, wood-frame building faced with brick and roofed with cedar shakes. Five parking spaces would be located in the rear -- fewer than the 10 allowed under zoning, according to the project team. A bicycle rack is also in the plan. The team is seeking an administrative variance to reduce the window-surface requirement on the front of the building from 65% to 37%. “Since this is an art gallery, we’re trying to control light,” Hopkins told the DRC. There was some confusion as to which streetscape and sidewalk standards applied under zoning, but Hopkins and other team members said they are open to building whatever is required and would fit best with the rest of the street. The DRC had no objections to the project, which now enters the city zoning review process with no specific timeline. — Kevin C. Madigan contributed


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16 | Commentary

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Commentary / Less traffic, more green space: Lessons from a pandemic year What a year! Everything got turned on its ear, to be sure, but That’s where we all need to shift our attention at this point. the creativity that has come out of life in a pandemic has been Employers need to plan their return to the office in a way that inspiring. Livable Buckhead has embodied that creativity since locks in the benefits of telework while minimizing its drawMarch 2020, stepping up to support employer partners as they backs. Workers have saved thousands of dollars, not to mention scrambled to set up telework programs, moving our in-person hundreds of hours, by teleworking during the past year. They’ve walk challenge events to a virtual format, and making countalso remained productive despite multi-tasking as full-time emless other adjustments throughout the year to match the needs ployees and part-time virtual school instructors. In fact, one reof the moment. Two of our major program areas -- green space cent report from the online survey company Typeform showed and alternative commute options -- became more relevant to life that 81% of workers report being at least as productive at home in Buckhead than they had ever been. as they were in the office. How much time have you spent outdoors during the past On the flip side, employers have struggled with effectively year? I can honestly say that I enjoyed more onboarding new employees and maintaining hours outside in 2020 than in any previous year company culture, while employees have had of my adult life, and anecdotal evidence indidifficulty staying energized amid days filled cates that is true for many of us. In Buckhead, with Zoom meetings. we saw noticeable increases in the number of So how can we maximize the positives and people on PATH400, even on a section of the minimize the negatives? Be strategic. After a trail that wasn’t quite complete. In a pandemyear of working remotely, it is apparent which ic, there’s nothing more inviting than a beautiportions of a job can be done from home and ful new trail at your back door. which are better accomplished in person. LikeAcross the city, public parks and trails have wise, some employees may have demonstratbeen more than just venues for outdoor exered they are better suited for work in the office cise or relaxation. They have become our places while others have thrived from home. Employto safely meet friends, to maintain some sense ers should use that data to structure a program of a normal social life, and to reconnect to nathat meets everyone’s needs. ture. They’ve been especially important in AtWe surveyed Buckhead residents and comlanta’s more commercial areas where public muters to find out how often they would like parks are the only readily accessible option for to telework after the pandemic. Over half of Denise Starling is executive director of Livable Buckhead, a getting outdoors. The city is poised to build on the respondents said they want to telework bethe newfound enthusiasm for parks through its nonprofit organization focused on tween one and four days each week, and 22% sustainability efforts, including ActivateATL master planning effort, and I hope want to be remote full-time. In the “new norparks and trails, alternative that the people who have gained new apprecimal,” companies would be smart to structure commuting, long-range planning efforts and community events. ation for parks and trails will continue to suptheir workplaces for in-person communicaport them in the future. tion and culture-building complemented by Just as parks and trails were our lifelines regular teleworking. to sanity during the pandemic, effective teleworking strategies One last bit of advice: use the “broken habit” of driving alone were the key to keeping business running in a work-from-home as an opportunity to create new commute patterns. The panworld. I’ve been part of a region-wide effort to encourage teledemic has made it easy to see the traffic impact of having a sigworking for almost 20 years, and even I was surprised by some nificant reduction in the number of cars on local roads. We of the benefits and challenges of working from home full-time should all aim to keep as much of that reduction in place as posfor an extended period. sible, while recognizing that a return to “normal” requires opThe Livable Buckhead staff has learned a lot from our pantions beyond teleworking. Livable Buckhead is working with demic work experiences and from the ways our employer partemployers on flexible workplace strategies that integrate multiners have adapted to remote work. The companies that investple options -- telework, transit, carpooling -- and incentives to reed years ago in technological and human resources to support duce the number of people who drive alone to work. a distributed workforce continued operations with very little Wouldn’t it be great if one of the lasting impacts of the pandisruption. Others stumbled a bit at the outset, but have since demic -- in addition to better hand hygiene -- was far fewer cars found their footing and are now looking ahead to what comes on the roads? Let’s make it happen. next.

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Around Town

Joe Earle is editorat-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at joeearle@ reporternewspapers.net

As Abe Schear tells it, his introduction to major league baseball bears the classic marks of a 1950s boyhood. Schear grew up in a small Ohio city and cheered the Cincinnati Reds. He collected baseball and put extra cards into the spokes of his bike wheels to create that special rattle and roar as he rolled along. He read about baseball every day in his hometown newspapers and stayed up at night listening to games on a transistor radio he’d snuck into bed. “I was listening to games when I was supposed to be asleep, with the radio under my pillow,” Schear recalled recently. “Baseball took me to faraway cities. Baseball was my view into the rest of the world when I was a little boy.” Schear, now 69, is a real estate lawyer with the Atlanta firm of Arnall Golden Gregory. After graduating from Emory University and its law school, he stayed in Atlanta, where he discovered, and got interested in, a new and different kind of baseball story. For the past two decades, he’s recorded Atlanta’s baseball history through a series of one-on-one interviews with players, politicians, league officials and fans. He circulates them in a newsletter called “Baseball Digest.” During many of the years Schear was listening to ball games on that radio beneath his pillow, Atlanta was a minor-league town. The Atlanta Crackers (and the Black Crackers) played at Ponce de Leon Stadium, a romantic old ballpark across from the huge Sears, Roebuck & Co. building (now Ponce City Market). Freight trains rolled past (on tracks where people now stroll the BeltLine). A magnolia tree grew in the outfield. (Although the park is gone, the tree’s still there.) Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, Atlanta, like a base-stealer headed to second, kicked it into a higher gear and raced to become a new kind of city. Atlanta didn’t just get bigger, it got better known and became a place people wanted to be. Sports played a big part in Atlanta’s new image. In the middle 1960s, the football Falcons and basketball Hawks set up shop in Atlanta. The Braves moved to town (after years in Boston and Milwaukee) and in 1966 played their first game in a Abe Schear, the author of the new stadium that the city’s pro“Baseball Digest” newsletter. moters had dreamed up to lure a team. Things didn’t end there. In 1970, Mohammad Ali made his comeback in Atlanta after years of boxing exile. The Braves showcased Henry Aaron, one of the greatest players of all time and who, in 1974, would break Babe Ruth’s homerun record during a game in Atlanta. In the years since, Atlanta has hosted Super Bowls, the World Series, Major League Baseball’s and the NBA’s all-star games, and the NCAA’s Final Four. In 1996, the Olympics raised its flag over the town. Atlanta’s evolution into a big city wasn’t an accident. As Schear and others have written, the city’s changes followed a plan conjured by local boosters who sought to raise the city’s business profile internationally. Sports played a big part. Those early boosters wanted to lure major league teams to Atlanta so their city’s name would appear every day in the sports sections of other cities’ newspapers. Schear thought it would make an interesting project to learn about and record Atlanta’s baseball history. “I knew that my friends would much rather read about baseball than about real estate leasing,” he wrote recently in what he says may be among his last articles. Over two decades, he interviewed about 80 local community and baseball leaders. He shared his Q-and-A’s with friends and law partners and self-published a book containing about 30 pieces called “I Remember When: A Collection of Memories from Baseball’s Biggest Fans.” Some articles are posted on law firm webpage at agg. BH

A baseball fan’s newsletter recalls how Atlanta became a major league city com/professionals/abe-schear. His subjects ranged from Atlanta business and political leaders such as Jimmy Carter, John Lewis, Judge Griffin Bell and Herman Russell, to great ballplayers such as Phil Niekro and Tom Glavine. “The story of baseball in Atlanta is told by so many people. You come up with so many answers,” Schear said. “I’ll never forget that when I asked President Carter what was the best thing about going to see the Crackers, he said the best thing was going to Sears after the game to buy something. In Plains, you could only get stuff in the mail.” Big-league baseball is set to return April 1. Last season, of course, we fans were stuck at home because of the pandemic and watched and listened from our couches as our major league teams took us to faraway cities. And we bought stuff online that was delivered to our doorsteps. Perhaps, unlike Atlanta, some things really haven’t changed all that much.

“I was listening to games when I was supposed to be asleep, with the radio under my pillow. Baseball took me to faraway cities. Baseball was my view into the rest of the world when I was a little boy.” Abe Schear University of Georgia

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Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-Sandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the DunwoodySandy Springs line and writes about people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

The storefront of the THRIFTique thrift store on Miami Circle.

With Atlanta unemployment at a historically low 2.8 percent, 1 out of 5 residents in 2019 still lived below the federal poverty line of $26,172 annual income for a four-person household, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even with at least one adult employed full-time, these families struggled to cover rent, food, utilities and other basic expenses. Then came COVID-19. On March 13, 2020, the economy shut down. Families already struggling were clobbered. And even as the economy showed signs of recovery at the end of 2020, those living in poverty remained in crisis. But they were not abandoned, thanks to a number of concerned nonprofits. One of them was Buckhead Christian Ministry, whose mission is to “keep people from becoming homeless and work to elevate their possibilities for economic empowerment.” “These families were already stressed out before the pandemic, working for wages insufficient to meet their expenses,” said BCM President and CEO Keeva Kase. “The pandemic complicated every-

How shopping can help to prevent homelessness in the pandemic crisis prehensive, lasting 12 to 18 months during which time families build a foundation for economic stability by finding more appropriate housing and receiving weekly case management, bi-weekly coaching on key issues, money-management education, debt remediation and savings matches of up to $1,000. And, of course, there’s the issue of simply making more money. “Warehouses need forklift drivers, HVAC needs repair people, and there are many customer-assistance positions available,” said Kase. “So, we pay for professional training for people to do these higher-wage jobs. We also teach resume writing and interviewing skills.” For BCM, like all of us, surviving the pandemic required major changes. Everyone immediately began working remotely, but with less disruption than expected thanks to already having moved many functions online. The totally renovated and expanded thrift store closed just two months after its grand reopening. The food pantry closed. And the scramble began for funding to meet the growing need. According to Kase, some of these changes have had unexpectedly positive consequences.

thing for them.” It also complicated everything for the non-profits that help them. In the year leading up to the shutdown, BCM spent $902,134 on direct client benefit. A year later, that number is $2,567,859 -- requiring more funding during a time when major fundraisers are not happening. In response, BCM has streamlined its services to focus on the greatest need and offers both one-time emergency financial assistance and longer-term support and education. Some of the clothing on sale Emergency assistance at the THRIFTique store. helps families with the sudden inability to pay rent, “We recognized that what we do best mortgage or utilities because of illness is direct financial assistance,” he said. or death in the family, loss of job, reduc“So, we closed our food pantry and dotion in work hours or pay, or major unnated 5,000 pounds of food to anothexpected expenses. er nonprofit. Now we focus entirely on Longer-term assistance is more com-

rent, mortgages and utilities.” And by interviewing applicants virtually rather than in person, BCM case managers can handle significantly more appointments a day. “We were already overwhelmed before the pandemic,” said Kase. “Now we’re spending more money than ever in our history by a factor of three.” The good news is that the nonprofits that are helping people are also helping one another. “It’s a truism [that] we can’t do this alone. We’re coming together while we’re apart,” said Kase. When I asked him what our readers could do to help besides donating money, he replied simply: “Shop.” He was referring to BCM’s now-reopened thrift store called Buckhead THRIFTique. To see for myself, I visited THRIFTique, where Director of Retail Operations Michelle Krompegal gave me a tour. What I saw looked more like a highend consignment store than a thrift store. The front section was full of quality furniture, lamps, china, silver and crystal, plus jewelry and an ample book section. Beyond that was an expanse of clothing for men, women and children -- with business suits for men, copious amounts of denim and all manner of other garments displayed by style and color. My biggest surprise was the selection of dreamy, likenew wedding dresses -- a definite wow. “We have great donors,” said Krompegal, who accepts only the best items and sells or donates the rest to other charities. THRIFTique is located at 800 Miami Circle, Suite 160, in Buckhead. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. The store follows strict Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pandemic safety guidelines, accepts credit cards, and provides delivery for a fee. For information, call 404365-8811 or go to buckheadchristianministry.org/thriftique.


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63-unit townhome project may replace Brookhaven hospice center BY SAMMIE PURCELL

“They will have a view direct to my bed,” he said. “It means that I will never be able to wake up anymore without having my shades down. This is a direct impact on my privacy.” The Brookhaven City Council has approved zoning for a 63-unit townhome development, Davison said designs for the development have been presented to many of the surroundwhich sits close to the Buckhead border at 1234 and 1244 Park Vista Drive, the site of the foring neighborhoods to make sure the developer’s plans are in line with residents’ desires. mer Hospice Atlanta. “I think we’ve accommodated most people,” Davison said. “Perhaps not all, but I think The council followed the advice of the Planning Commission, who unanimously recomwe’ve accommodated most things. mended zoning approval for the project at a Feb. 3 meeting. However, the council approved The developer asked for approval for two variances, one changing the street setback the zoning without a recommended amendment from the Planning Commission. from 50 to 35 feet and one waiving design requireAt its Feb. 3 meeting, the commission discussed the ments for garages at the front of the homes and possibility of adding more interior sidewalks to the deminimum distances between driveways. The development so that both sides of the street have walksign requirements ordinance was approved as is ways for residents. Commissioner Michael Diaz sugby the council, but the street setback variance was gested an amendment to recommend the inclusion of changed to 31.5 feet instead of 35. sidewalks on both sides of the street within the devel“That’s based on some of the recommendations opment. The amendment was approved by a 3-2 vote. that came from the Planning Commision and the Brian Davison, managing partner for the developapplicant’s ability to fit the parking spaces in,” said er Minerva USA, said adding sidewalks to one side of Community Development Director Patrice Ruffin. the road would force the townhomes on that side closOne of the conditions added by the Planning er to the property line, which would compromise the Commission which was approved by the City privacy of abutting neighborhoods, such as BrookhavCouncil was a suggestion to restripe and improve SPECIAL en Woods to the north. A design concept for the townhome development proposed to the intersection of Park Vista Drive and Lenox Park “The request from the Planning Commission … was be built at 1234 and 1244 Park Vista Drive in Brookhaven. Boulevard, subject to approval by the Brookhaven to see if we could do sidewalks on both sides of the Public Works Department. street,” Davison said. “We would have to pick up the extra 10 feet of the sidewalks if we put During the Feb. 3 meeting, Davison said one issue that came up was the walkability of them in.” the area and proposed a realignment of the intersection at Park Vista Drive and Lenox Park During the public comment section of the meeting, Brookhaven Woods resident Sharon Boulevard to make crossing the street easier and to ease congestion. Safriet said the addition of the sidewalk amendment would put Brookhaven Woods home“I think whether or not you approve our plan, I think this is probably a wise thing to do owners in a “fishbowl.” at this intersection anyway,” Davison said. “It will negate weeks of negotiations between Minerva and Brookhaven Woods,” she said. The Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 3 was the last for Commissioner John Funny, “We feel that they will be a good neighbor. We’re going to hold them to what they said they who served as vice chair. Funny is stepping down to focus on serving as the chairman of the would do to keep our privacy and make it as good as it can be … but the sidewalk amendment Social Justice, Race and Equity Commission for the city of Brookhaven. The Planning Comwould negate all that.” mission voted for Commissioner Conor Sen, who is also an investment advisor and opinBrookhaven Woods resident Paulo Pereira said the proposed amendment from the Planion columnist for Bloomberg News, to serve as the new vice chair, and re-elected Stan Sening Commission would allow homeowners in the new development to see into his bedgal as chair. room.


470-602-9693 Grace.Battle@evrealestate.com


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Pandemic Anniversary: Musicians, teleworks and evangelists take stock BY JOHN RUCH AND SAMMIE PURCELL The month of March brings a very unhappy birthday for the COVID-19 pandemic in Georgia. March 2, 2020 bore the discovery, in Fulton County, of the state’s first known COVID cases. By March 12, governments and school districts were shutting down. By March 23, Georgia was fully in the grip of the pandemic, with Gov. Kemp issuing the first stay-at-home order. Deadly to thousands, life-changing to millions, the apocalyptic pandemic has been transformative more than most locals guessed in those early days. To mark the grim anniversary, the Reporter caught up with some local figures who we interviewed at the pandemic’s start and others who are feeling unanticipated impacts.


Joe Gransden, one of Atlanta’s busiest and most popular jazz musicians, predicted

Jazz musician Joe Gransden.


in mid-March 2020 that the pandemic shutdowns would have a “very scary” impact on the arts economy. How right he was. “It’s extremely brutal out there,” Gransden said in a recent interview. “Some of the larger bands in town have folded, just disbanded.” For jazz and other arts that rely on smaller venues, the acts often “just can’t get people to come out and feel safe.” Granden said he was out of gigs until late August or early September, when some outdoor shows resumed and live-stream concerts became a phenomenon. Incorporated as a one-person limited liability company, Gransden was able to get loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the federal Paycheck Protection Program. But, he said, his family is still relying on the salary of his wife Charissa Gransden, an assistant director of fine arts at The Lovett School. “If I was single, I probably wouldn’t make it,” he said. With cold weather and indoor shows, Gransden said he has his own health concerns, as there are “very few really safe places to play.” One whose precautions he is comfortable with and playing at weekly is Ray’s on the River, a Sandy Springs restaurant, where the band can get a large distance away from the patrons. While the novelty of live-stream concerts seems to have worn off, Gransden said, the many fans still enjoying them should remember to take advantage of another huge convenience of the technology.

“It’s really easy from your home to throw a dollar in the kitty, or five bucks or 25 bucks,” he said. “If everybody put in a dollar to tip, those artists are going to do well again.” For opera singer Kelsey Fredriksen, the last 12 months has been a virtual adjustment as well. In April 2020, the Chamblee resident led a virtual sing-along of the national anthem organized by the city of Brookhaven as part of a “Brookhaven Strong” pandemic unity event. That was just the beginning. “I’ve only been doing virtual,” Frederiksen said about her performances over the past year. “I’m pretty cautious about staying in quarantine, and so I haven’t been taking any risks to go out.” Close to this time last year, Fredriksen was waiting “on pins and needles” to hear how the Atlanta Opera would choose to move forward with its May production of “Madame Butterfly.” Eventually, the company canceled the performance. Since then, some companies have performed outdoors, including the Atlanta Opera, which staged performances in an open-sided tent at Brookhaven’s Oglethorpe University. Frederiksen said she has been too concerned about possible spread of the virus to participate. “There’s a lot of evidence that singing spews more germs farther, and the louder you sing, the further it goes,” she said. “It’s kind of depressing.” But in the virtual world, she has remained employed as a staff singer at her church in Decatur, where individually recorded parts are put together, and she has shifted her business of piano and voice lessons online as well. In some cases, Fredriksen said, her students are even learning at a faster pace than they were during in-person lessons. “Some of the kids nowadays, they’re just so attuned to the internet,” she said. “A couple of my students, they are just so good with a computer and just melding into it, that they just roll with the punches. Some of them are 5 years old and it’s just reality -this is how it goes. They don’t have much to compare it to.”


Just a few weeks into the pandemic, Johann Weber said in a Reporter commentary that there could be a silver lining for those fortunate enough to be off the front


Opera singer Kelsey Fredriksen.

lines and able to telework. Weber, who manages the “Perimeter Connects” alternative commuting program for the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, predicted that the time- and money-saving aspects would make telework stick around for good. “The reality of work in 2021 may be something to celebrate,” he wrote at the time. While it remains to be seen what postpandemic work will be like, Weber said in a Feb. 8 presentation to the Dunwoody City Council that surveys show most workers have an appetite to continue with a permanent mix of in-person and remote work, and many large employers are planning for it. Weber said Perimeter Connects recently got survey responses from 33 businesses representing about 24,000 office employees in Perimeter Center. About 66% of employers said they would have more remote work post-pandemic. Only 3% said there would be no remote work once things return to normal. About 45% of the employers surveyed said they would have more work-from-home opportunities in the future, but did not have any formal policies or plans in place. Perimeter Connects also synthesized about 40 different global studies on remote work from over the past year, surveying responses from 175,000 respondents. According to the synthesized studies, many workers are ready to be back in an office, but 60% to 80% of employees want to work remote one or more days a week after the pandemic is over. “[Offices] serve a very social function, as well as the actual productive work function,” Weber said of the urge to an in-person return. “You don’t necessarily have to be in the same place to do your core work, but you would choose to be around people doing the same work, even if you had no need to coordinate with them.” One piece of Perimeter Connects advice that the locally surveyed companies are often not following is to create a formal teleworking plan. “[Employers] are not directly addressing how that work is expected to be done,” Weber said, which may indicate they are still thinking of teleworking as a temporary tactic.


“Did you know that the Bible foretold that soon we can look forward to a world that is free of sickness, health [issues], crime and death?” reads the handwritten note recently mailed to a Sandy Springs address. It’s a message that once would have been delivered in person by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their famous door-knocking ministry, but now is being done by snail-mail as the Christian denomination continues its complete pandemic shutdown. The suspension of the door-to-door ministry was “earth-shattering for Jehovah’s Witnesses,” says Robert Hendriks, the organization’s U.S. spokesperson. The group’s name literally means spreading the word of God, and it has fought decades of battles against religious discrimination laws worldwide for the right to conduct the door-knocking.

Johann Weber, director of Perimeter Connects.


“Now, all of sudden, it wasn’t a government telling us to stop… Now it was the organization saying, ‘You need to stop from going to door to door,’” said Hendriks. While some churches and synagogues fought for the right of exemption from shutdowns, Jehovah’s Witnesses shut down all in-person gatherings and activities early and have stayed remote. Hendriks said that is based on two principles: the sanctity of life and Jesus’s biblical command to love your neighbor. “Life is sacred. And why would you risk even one life because you have a personal preference to meet together in person?” he asks. Beyond health risks, he said, “it’s how our neighbor feels about our coming to his door now. And that -- we don’t know when that will change… If they’re not comfortable, we’re not comfortable. We’re not going to force ourselves on anyone and nor should we.” Like many secular organizations, the Jehovah’s Witnesses find the pandemic’s enforced distancing is accelerating some changes already underway and bringing some unexpected benefits. The organization’s door-knocking efforts already found fewer people at home in a mobile age, leading to experiments in telephone and letterwriting ministries that are now the highly organized new normal. Virtual meetings are often drawing more attendees than in-person versions, Hendriks said, especially for those with physical challenges. “You just wonder where this is going,” Hendricks said. “We could never have imagined a year ago being where we are, and I have a suspicion that one year from now, we also will be amazed.” For Jehovah’s Witnesses, that includes a possibility far more amazing than, say, whether teleworking will keep more people home to respond to door-knocking. The organization believes “this [pandemic] is not the work of God,” Hendriks said, but could be a sign of the return of Jesus predicted in the Bible’s book of Revelation, which comes after a rampage by the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse,” whose members include a personification of Pestilence. “We’ll see,” said Hendriks. “We don’t pretend to be prophets.” BH

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Beautiful Chaos

The collage works of artist Anderson Smith provoke and empower


Anderson Smith in his studio space at Buckhead Art & Co. in Buckhead Village.

BY ISADORA PENNINGTON At the intersection of art and advertisement, the collage works of artist Anderson Smith embrace sexuality and provoke the viewer’s ideas of fashion, luxury brands, advertising, and the human form. A fashion and product photographer by trade, Smith is well acquainted with commercial brands that often utilize sexuality and the female form to sell their goods. Inundated by advertisements in fashion magazines and inspired by a love for the narrative of classic cinema, he has developed a body of mixed media work that has captured the attention of celebrities and earned him representation at several local galleries. One piece on display features words cut out from magazines that command and empower their audience. “People love whatever you do, own your content. Look at me now boss,” it says. Surrounding these words are an array of body parts. An oversized woman’s face with eyes covered by metal sits atop a seated nude figure. Four legs sprout beneath the body, each sporting high heels. Peeking out behind the head is a portion of the Statue of Liberty’s green crown. “It’s beautiful chaos,” Smith says when asked what inspires his work. “There is chaos in beauty and there is beauty in chaos. And that’s the world we live in.” His collages embody a degree of controlled wildness in the way they incorporate images that were intended to depict refined culture and style. Smith’s pieces are composed not just of paper, but also acrylic paint, spray paint, pigments, resin, and gel mediums. Another piece laying nearby features a young Michael Jackson peeking out from inside a denim pocket while a nude woman’s figure opposite appears to be gazing BH

up at the scene. The piece is mostly dark with splashes of color that shine through. Across the image are a variety of spray painted Louis Vuitton logos. “I was really never a safe photographer and I’m really not a safe artist,” Smith explains. ‘If you look at fashion labels like Louis Vuitton there is a lot of provocation

ized features, he asks the viewer to consider a deeper message behind the characters put forth in fashion and advertising. While the composition of many of Smith’s collages may at first look appear to be arranged at random, his creative process is actually much more methodical. “It’s very intentional, very methodical. It’s

in their brand and how they display their products.” He says his goal is to spark conversation for his audience and asserts that it is not for him to interpret his art, rather for his viewers to render a judgment about what the message might be. His works embrace the looseness of sexuality in European art and media while touching on the consumable quality of nudity and how it is used in fashion and marketing. These pieces bring to the forefront elements that are often intended to be used subtly. By combining different figures and blocking out body parts like eyes or exaggerating certain sexual-

like putting together a puzzle. It can start with just one image, and that image just starts the whole idea,” he says. The large scale pieces offer not only composition from afar, but also hidden messages, words, and plays on words that draw you in for a closer look. The perceptive viewer can also find certain recurring celebrity characters in the mix, such as Marilyn Monroe, David Bowie, Fred Astaire, Karl Lagerfeld, and Grace Jones. Originally from the South Side neighborhood of Chicago, Smith moved to Atlanta 21 years ago. He has lived in Buckhead for the last 11 years. His father was a pho-

tographer but the arts never really interested Smith as a young man, instead focusing on athletics. It was ultimately his love of cinema that inspired him to pick up a camera, make films, and later begin his photography career. Known for his fashion and product photography, his client work often brings him to places like Miami where he photographs perfectly composed images highlighting swimsuits and chic poolside scenes. In contrast to the energy seen in his collage work, these photographs embody a stillness and symmetry that lends itself well to the products on display. It was around 10 years ago that Smith first started exhibiting his collage work, which originated as a hobby he did in his spare time. In the years since he has garnered attention, gallery representation, and even landed some of his pieces in local rapper T.I.’s home. Smith and the rapper had been at many of the same events, including one at the Clermont Hotel in 2019 which included some of Smith’s collages on display. Ultimately, it was interactions through Instagram that put the two in touch and facilitated the conversation and eventual purchase of several works. Today, Smith can often be found working in the Buckhead Art & Company Studio in Buckhead Village. He has been represented by Buckhead Art & Company for several years, and says it feels like he found a home there with owner Katie Jones. Behind the plate glass windows and in the shadow of a multitude of works by other renowned artists, Smith diligently works on his compositions. Surrounded by stacks of magazines, buckets of paint, blades and brushes, he creates his cheeky and provocative collages.

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Sewer project would put 15M-gallon tank in Ga. 400/I-85 interchange BY JOHN RUCH

North Fork, the facility would be a companion to a similar tank system that A 15-million-gallon sewage storage opened in 2014 along the South Fork on tank would be built in the heart of the Liddell Drive in Lindridge-Martin ManGa. 400/I-85 interchange in Buckhead in or. “They will work in concert together,” a city plan nearing final design that also said Stuart Jeffcoat of HDR, which joins would alter the nearby Cheshire Farm BenchMark Management and Barge DeTrail with a large water-diverting strucsign Solutions on the project. ture. Jeffcoat said the facility is part of the Part of the Atlanta Department of citywide work required by federal conWatershed Management’s governmentsent decrees and a state order. The city ordered quest to fix flooding and sewis spending over $1 billion on the “Clean age overflow problems along Peachtree Water Atlanta” program. Jeffcoat said the Creek, the approximately $135 million city must come into compliance with project could begin construction in earthose pollution-prevention orders by July ly 2022 and finish in early 2024, officials 1, 2026. said at a Feb. 15 meeting of Neighborhood The idea of the North Fork facility Planning Unit F. is to avoid sewer overflows during maSince the concept was last seen in a lojor storms by diverting some of the wacal presentation in 2018, the storage tank ter away from the creek and temporarily storing it in the tank until the system’s capacity goes back to normal. The facility would handle overflow from a sewer pipe 78 inches across that runs along the creek between DeKalb County and the Marietta Boulevard area in Northwest Atlanta, Jeffcoat said. The South Fork Conservancy’s An illustration of a proposed sewage overflow storage tank and Cheshire Farm Trail pump station facility on a Georgia Department of Transportation yard at Sidney Marcus Boulevard and the Buford-Spring Connector, runs atop that sewas shown in a Feb. 15 presentation to Neighborhood Planning Unit F. er line and along I-85 and the creek between Lindbergh Drive and Cheshire has a different site from an earlier LinBridge Road. The “diversion structure” dridge Drive spot, now proposing to use would be built on the trail in the area part of a Georgia Department of Transof the flyover ramp from Ga. 400 southportation maintenance yard. It also has bound. a construction timeline two years later The structure would send the excess and an estimated budget about $27 milwater and sewage overflow through a lion higher. tunnel under I-85 to the storage tank Aimed at flooding on the creek’s and a related pump station, which would

stand on part of a GDOT property at Sidney Marcus Boulevard and the BufordSpring Connector. That property is currently used for storing such materials as road salt and sand, Jeffcoat said, and would continue in GDOT use during and after construction. After the storm, the water and sewage would be pumped back under I-85 into the sewer line. The storage tank facility also would include a “control building” with offices, “odor control” equipment and a generator, among other features, Jeffcoat said. The diversion structure on the trail would not have odor control and should not create an additional odor, he said, because it will only move sewage, not store it. GDOT owns both the interchange site and the property under the trail, according to agency spokesperson Natalie Dale, and will allow DWM to use the land at no cost. GDOT’s use of the maintenance area will not be affected, Dale said in an email after the meeting. “Allowing them to use our property by permit is allowable by law, and is the right thing to do as a partner to local government,” she said. The pump station would force the trail to be shifted out of its current alignment. Jeffcoat said the designers have a “really strong partnership with the South Fork Conservancy on this” and intend to build many new features to mitigate the project. That includes widening the trail to 12 feet and paving it — which is also for the benefit of occasional access for DWM maintenance vehicles. An overlook, lighting and possibly security cameras are other features, along with retaining walls. The trail is part of a burgeoning network in the area whose various planners intend to eventually connect the systems of the Conservancy, PATH400, the Atlanta BeltLine and the Peachtree Creek Greenway. Kimberly Estep, the Conservancy’s executive director, said in an email after the meeting that her organization is working

with DWM on the planning and will not receive any money in the deal. “The design is being finalized by the DWM’s team, so we are still working through the final trail alignment and mitigations,” said Estep. “This trail was first put in place as mitigation for the adjacent flyovers [on Ga. 400], so it is critical that the land continues to offer the community an enjoyable and safe place to walk along the North Fork of Peachtree Creek.” “The new pump station will keep thousands of gallons of raw sewage out of the creek and I believe we can work together to meet both needs: a healthy creek and a safe and enjoyable trail,” Estep added. “We hope to work with the city of Atlanta, GDOT and DWM to make this a great opportunity to meet multiple goals.” The two-year construction work would require the shutting of the trail for various periods, Jeffcoat said. And, he said, traffic impacts could be expected on Sidney Marcus, the Buford-Spring Connector and Lindbergh Drive. The sewer would not be shut down during the work and only “short-term disruptions of water service” would be expected in the project area, Jeffcoat said. NPU F member Jack White sought the numbers of overflows in recent years and how many the facility would be expected to eliminate. Jeffcoat said he did not have that information, but that the modeling was based on reducing the likelihood of overflows during a storm of a size that occurs once every 10 years, not on targeting a specific number of overflow events. Jeffcoat said the project team expects to have a finished design ready for construction bids by the end of March. The presentation with conceptual illustrations that Jeffcoat showed to NPU F did not appear to be publicly available. He provided the link to the DWM’s website about capital projects, which has outdated information and did not include the presentation.

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www.judeatl.com Easter Sunday, April 4 7:00 am Sunrise Service, 10:00 am, and 11:30 am

7171 Glenridge Drive Sandy Springs 770-394-3896


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MJCCA Book Festival spring series to host authors virtually Microsoft founder Bill Gates was scheduled to speak about his new book “How to Avoid Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need” at the virtual series on Feb. 24, after the Reporter’s press time. The schedule includes: March 7: Mark Gerson, “The Telling” March 11: Annabelle Gurwitch, “You’re Leaving When?” March 21: Lisa Scottoline, “Eternal” March 22: Tim Shriver, “The Call to Unite” March 25: Sue Monk Kidd, “The Book of Longings” April 7: Brooke Baldwin, “Huddle”


The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta Book Festival will host a plethora of authors and guests with its virtual “In Your Living Room Series.” The “In Your Living Room” series began in February and will have virtual events through April. Among the scheduled guests are CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin, bestselling novelist Sue Monk Kidd and Special Olympics Chairman Tim Shriver.

April 11: Daniel Lee, “The S.S. Officer’s Armchair” April 15: Tovah Feldshuh, “Lilyville” April 25: Dr. Robert Lefkowitz, “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Stockholm” For more details, see the MJCCA’s website at atlantajcc.org.

WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS REQUIRED MINIMUM DISTRIBUTIONS OR MAXIMUM CONFUSION? “MAXIMUM CONFUSION?” – WHAT ARE WE TALKING ABOUT HERE? The IRS specifies Required Minimum Distributions, or “RMDs”, that you must withdraw from IRAs, 401(k)s, and other retirement accounts at certain ages. People seem to know these rules exist and that penalties for mistakes are hefty, but most don’t know the details. In 50 years of talking with families, we’ve observed that many people worry significantly about this area of their planning. WHAT KIND OF DETAILS? We hear many questions…I’m turning 72 (the new updated magic age); When must I take my first required minimum distribution? Should I delay my first distribution to year 2, as allowed by the rules? Do I have to wait until the day I’m actually 72 to start my distributions? Can I wait until I’m 72 to take distributions from an inherited IRA account? I’m still working past 72 and in a 401(k) plan – do I have to withdraw money from it? Can I roll over my RMD amount into a Roth IRA after paying the required taxes? WOW, THIS IS STARTING TO SOUND LIKE A “MINEFIELD”… It CAN be complicated. The key is to do the necessary homework, because these RMDs are just one piece of the retirement puzzle, and should be part of a well-coordinated plan. Our Wealth Planning Committee is a group of attorneys, CPAs, MBAs, and other professionals who meet regularly. They discuss and analyze how to meet RMDs while maximizing a family’s aftertax cash flow. Committee Chairman, Phillip Hamman, CFA, CFP®, likes to say, “The RMD rules ARE complicated, but they offer excellent planning

Bill Kring, MaryJane LeCroy, and Phillip Hamman discuss the importance of a well-coordinated retirement plan to navigate the rules of Required Minimum Distributions and maximize after-tax cash flow. (Left to right: Phillip Hamman, CFA, CFP®; MaryJane LeCroy, CFP®; and Bill Kring, CFP®)

opportunities.” Families unable to invest the time for homework should seek help. ANYTHING TO WATCH OUT FOR? Most important: Seek independent and unbiased advice from an advisor obligated to act as your fiduciary, rather than someone with an agenda to sell financial products. This fiduciary business model is what we follow at Linscomb & Williams. We are ready to sit down for a no-cost, no-obligation, exploratory conversation either virtually or at our office. Imagine the peace of mind from eliminating confusion about this and other important areas of your finances.

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24 | Doing Business

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Doing Business | An honor society spawns a virtual tutoring company BY JOHN RUCH



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ty and inclusion. NSHSS shares the same values.

A Brookhaven-based national honor society has launched a virtual tutoring platTell us about Knoyo Tutoring and what form that aims to broker business for colneed that was created to fill. lege students during the pandemic and Knoyo is an independent organization beyond. that was founded to give students easy The National Society of High School access to a pressure-free environment to Scholars, operating at 1936 North Druid learn, find community, and raise their GPA. Hills Road, offers an array of scholarships Knoyo tutors are college honor students and programs to “high-achieving” students from universities all across the country -selected by invitation only. Among the profrom junior colleges to the Ivy League -- to grams, according to NSHSS, is the chance to join “the festivities surrounding the Noensure that there’s a perfect tutor for each bel Prize awards in Stockholm, Sweden,” student. As the first tutoring platform built because a member of Nobel family is a soby students for students, the Knoyo space ciety co-founder. Partner organizations infosters invaluable connections among stuclude Brookhaven’s Oglethorpe Universidents as they build their skills, their netty. NSHSS charges a one-time fee of $75 for works and their dream fulifetime membership, fultures. ly or partly waivable for COVID-19 has brought those who can’t afford it. to light numerous chalFounded in 2002, lenges in the area of edNSHSS is incorporated as ucation. With the abrupt a for-profit company and switch to online learning describes itself as a “mislast spring and uncertain sion-driven, membertimes regarding how stubased social enterprise.” dents will learn moving It has a companion nonprofit foundation that forward, we realize some provides scholarships. supplementary study opNow NSHSS has tions are necessary. Knoyo spawned Knoyo, a platwas created with these form where college stuneeds specifically in mind. SPECIAL dents can hire themselves We’re all used to having James Lewis of Knoyo and out as tutors at prices meals, Ubers and supplies the National Society of they set, with the compaHigh School Scholars. delivered on-demand. ny taking a cut. For more Now you can order up the about the society, see academic help you need nshss.org, and for Knoyo, and want, exactly when you need it most. see knoyo.com. We asked James Lewis, co-founder of Virtual learning is very popular during NSHSS and president of Knoyo, to explain the pandemic. Do you think it will continhow both work. ue to be as popular afterward? We think that some version of virtual What is an honor society and what is the National Society of High School Scholars’ learning is here to stay, and that’s not necunique role in that world? essarily a bad thing. Schools, students and An honor society is an organization families have learned a lot about learning that recognizes students who excel acathis past year, and part of that has been the demically or as leaders among their peers. benefits of learning and studying on more Membership in an honor society is a repof a personalized basis. This has helped sturesentation of great achievements and an dents maximize their time and seek help indicator of future success. Students often for academic support in new ways. Knoyo belong to more than one honor society. fits perfectly within that model, offering The National Society of High School students personalized support offered onScholars is a distinguished academic hondemand. With virtual learning continuing or society, committed to recognizing and at some level, it will continue to provide serving the highest-achieving student employment for students who need and scholars in more than 26,000 high schools want to work, on their own schedule. across 170 countries. Since our founding in How does Knoyo make money from 2002 by James Lewis and Claes Nobel, the senior member of the Nobel Prize family, the tutoring service platform? And are subNSHSS has fostered a diverse and inclusive sidies available for students who might not organization of exceptional young leaders be able to afford the fees? of more than 1.7 million members spanKnoyo allows each tutor to set their ning high school to college to career. Our own rates, with a minimum of $21.99 for mission is to honor academic achievement 30-minute sessions and $39.99 for 60-minand provide unique resources and scholute sessions. A percentage of the fee is rearships that enrich educational journeys, tained by Knoyo. fuel career interests, and drive communiAt this time, we are working with stuty impact. dents who are unable to afford sessions on a case-by-case basis with the intent of creHow did NSHSS come to be based in ating a program in the future for those in Brookhaven? need. Knoyo offers affordable tutoring to NSHSS is proud to have its headquarstudents, while at the same time providing ters located in Brookhaven. Brookhaven is income opportunities for college students known for its community spirit, commitment to excellence and support of diversiin these uncertain times.

Education | 25

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City housing plan draws local criticism and concerns Continued from page 1 ly would make property more affordable. Bill Murray, NPU B’s zoning committee chair, was blunt in criticizing the plan’s borrowings from policies in other cities, saying Atlanta’s neighborhoods are unique and the city should not “force” change on them. “If I wanted to live in Denver, I’d go live in Denver. I don’t give a [expletive],” he said. Josh Humphries, the city’s director of housing and community development, said in an interview that “Atlanta solutions to Atlanta problems” is the overall goal, not “cookie-cutter policies that are done in every comparable city.” He noted that some of the proposals, like mingling twoor four-unit apartment buildings among single-family houses, were once common in Atlanta before racist zoning laws of the 1920s. The plan specifically cites Frankie Allen Park in Buckhead, which was created for White residents in the 1940s and ’50s by demolishing the majority-Black neighborhood of Macedonia Park and displacing its residents. Part of the local confusion about the plan is which proposals will transform into actual City Council zoning legislation and when. Extremely brief overviews at recent NPU meetings by city officials who could not immediately answer detailed questions gave the impression of a process moving quickly with few details available for public vetting. Humphries said some of the proposals are developing quickly into formal legislation, including those about apartments near transit, increased accessory dwelling units, and the elimination of minimum parking requirements on new developments. But, he said, the city needs more resident input on the details, at the very least through the required process of two rounds of NPU meetings and additional conversations by request. “We’re committed to seeing legislation introduced that has a chance of passing and represents the needs and desires of people across the city,” he said. “... We’re more committed to getting it where we feel like we’re in a good place than a hard timeline.” In Buckhead, a community known for its exclusive neighborhoods, the plan drew particular concern for a recommendation worded with radical flair: “End exclusionary single-family zoning.” Widely misinterpreted as meaning the elimination of single-family zoning, it really means allowing those additional and accessory dwelling units while maintaining the overlying zoning. But that still threatens the desire to live somewhere with lower density -- or more class exclusivity. “There’s this kind of existential question we have about what kind of city we want to become,” said Humphries, noting the city must face a booming population and has a policy command to seek equity. He emBH

phasized the plan’s suggestions are aimed at “nuanced, subtle” increases in housing within existing patterns, not gigantic new developments or sweeping rezonings. “We’re not proposing that we put large apartments on West Paces Ferry Road. We’re proposing that someone who has a house there could create a situation on the second floor of their home where their mother could live… or they could rent out,” Humphries said. “My general response to that [concern about exclusivity] is, to be a participant in the future of the city and inclusivity of the city doesn’t require drastic change…,” he said. “If we grow in subtle ways, it’s a more natural growth.” In a Jan. 23 letter to the city, NPU B -which has several real estate agents among its active members -- expressed many practical and theoretical concerns with the plan. NPU members said history shows rents continue to skyrocket even where supply is increased or where accessory dwelling units are allowed, and questioned whether the banking and mortgage industry would go along with innovative financing. “The plan does not address any capacity planning, infrastructure expansion, or impact on natural resources nor the financing necessary to expand,” the letter added in another concern. But NPU B had some ideas of its own. One was “mandatory requirements for a subsidy that is either paid for by the purchasers of market units or by the apartment developers and put[ting] the funds in an affordability fund which can be distributed as housing vouchers. This would allow affordable units to succeed, enabling all working families to secure housing.”

The policy recommendations

The gist of the housing plan is that limiting vast swaths of the city to single-family, exclusionary zoning causes two problems: an artificially low supply of housing and enforced racial and economic segregation. The policy recommendations to address those issues include the following. To read the full plan, see bit.ly/acdhousing. ■ “End exclusionary single-family zoning”. That would happen by “allowing an additional dwelling unit in all existing single-family zoned areas in the city.” Those could be basement apartments, rearyard homes, garage conversions and more. ■ “Make accessory dwelling units easier to build and buy.” Accessory dwelling units are “detached structures with a housing unit, often built in backyards.” They are currently allowed only in a small amount of residentially zoned areas. The plan suggests allowing ADUs to be sold separately by permitting the creation of “flag lots,” where the property is subdivided but still falls under the zoning restrictions of the parent lot. Flag lots have a history of controversy in Buckhead redevelopment

plans. ■ “Allow small apartment buildings by-right near transit.” That means within a half-mile of MARTA stations. By “small,” the plan means three to 12 units, and that historically buildings of two to four units were common in residential neighborhoods. ■ “End minimum parking requirements citywide.” Parking requirements promote car-oriented development, drives up construction costs and increases traffic, the plan says. The recommendation includes commercial as well as residential properties. ■ “Increase density in the Growth Areas.” The reference is to parts of the city, generally along main streets like Peachtree Road, that are already pegged for denser development in the city’s urban plan. The city says 1,954 parcels, totaling 909 acres, within those areas are currently zoned either single- or two-family and could be proactively upzoned. ■ “Reduce minimum lot size requirements.” Another density-boosting proposal. ■ “Distribute dedicated affordable housing more equitably across the city.” One suggestion is placing such planned affordable housing by Atlanta Public Schools clusters. That concept would put about 16%

of the city’s affordable units in Buckhead’s North Atlanta Cluster. ■ “Expand the Urban Enterprise Zone program.” That’s a tax break program offering a 10-year abatement for any type of project where at least 20% of housing units are dedicated affordable. The expansion is already in the works on the Westside, Humphries said. ■ ”Create affordability districts near major public investment projects.” That would be an inclusionary zoning like that in the Atlanta BeltLine corridor, which requires all rental projects with more than 10 units to make 10% to 15% of all units affordable for 20 years. The program could expand to include ownership units as well. ■ “Leverage publicly owned vacant land.” In “Growth Areas,” public agencies own 259 vacant parcels totaling 363 acres, the plan says. Putting those up for housing construction is more of an internal policy effort the city could carry out. ■ “Expand the Housing Innovation Lab.” A reference to coming with site-specific experiments in affordable housing concepts through the city’s Atlanta City Studio program.

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30 | Community

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Subdivision plan ignites debate over density, Blue Heron expansion


The site plan of the proposed 1 Emma Lane redevelopment as filed by Monte Hewett Homes with the city in December. Emma Lane is the cul-de-sac at the upper left. The plan shows a cluster of 10 houses and the rest of the site undeveloped.

Continued from page 1 cautious neutrality from Blue Heron and the Conservation Fund, a nonprofit that for years has discussed paying for part of the land to join it to the park. Sandy Springs-based Monte Hewett Homes in December filed a rezoning application for the Emma Lane property, which currently includes a Blue Heron trail built on an easement. The developer’s pitch to the city: grant a Planned Development Housing rezoning that allows a similar number of houses that could be built by right, but clustered closer together, so that around 4 of the 7 acres would be untouched green space that could become part of Blue Heron. The plan includes 30 parking spaces. In an application letter to the city, the developer said that at least 11 houses could be built on the property under existing zoning, with extensive grading and tree removal. “However, the property’s proximity to the Nature Preserve creates a unique conservation opportunity,” the letter says. However, no such parkland purchase agreement exists or is guaranteed to be written in the future. That raised ques-

tions for Mark Wills, a longtime Emma Lane neighbor who is also a Blue Heron board member and, now, co-founder of the Emma Lane Community Action Group, which opposes the rezoning. He is one of two Blue Heron board members in the opposition group. “This was basically flying under the radar,” said Wills in an interview. “Blue Heron’s name has been plastered all over the application. … And the community had not been consulted. So we were flabbergasted by it.” Owned by the city but operated by the nonprofit Blue Heron board, the park consists of three distinct areas totaling around 30 acres with a main entrance at 4055 Roswell Road in North Buckhead. Blue Heron was founded 20 years ago from a similar land deal, when the developer of the Chastain Reserve townhomes donated some floodplain land for park use. The park has grown incrementally with similar land acquisitions. The 1 Emma Lane property has been eyed for such acquisition for roughly seven years. That basic information is being circulated in the neighborhood by Sally Silver, a former North Buckhead Civic Association president and former longtime zon-

ing committee chair for that organization and for Neighborhood Planning Unit B. Silver is also an aide to City Councilmember Howard Shook, but says she is acting independently and that Shook’s office has taken no position on the rezoning. “I’ve just been trying to share my experience with previous rezonings in hopes of folks making an educated decision,” she said. An email to Blue Heron’s communications director was answered by Wills, who said he oversees public relations as a board member. “I wear two hats. I do not see them as in conflict…,” he said of his role on the board and on the Community Action Group. Wearing the park hat, Wills said Blue Heron has no money for acquisition or maintenance of further green space. “To be completely frank, with the pandemic, Blue Heron is in a tight spot. … We’re trying to stay afloat now,” he said. “But don’t get me wrong. The desire to extend the footprint would be great. We just recognize right now, from a financial perspective, we are not in a position to be able to fundraise to do something like that.” Wearing the neighborhood hat, Wills said the immediate concern is denser redevelopment. Monte Hewett Homes is already generating neighborhood controversy with the Enclave at Chastain townhome redevelopment about 850 feet away on Lakemoore Drive, where 30 homes are to be clustered on roughly 2 acres. That type of development doesn’t meet the NBCA’s privately created and city-adopted development plan, Wills said. “This rezoning flies in the face of the North Buckhead Plan. That’s what has struck a nerve,” he said. The developer says in a zoning application that the Community Action Group is wrongly comparing the Emma Lane project’s “unique conservation opportunity” to the much smaller, denser Lakemoore project. And Silver says the Community Action Group is wrongly claiming Shook or the city are arranging a behind-the-scenes deal or approval. For opponents, there is some historic interest as well. A mansion on the site dates to 1939 and was the home of Wiley Moore, an oil tycoon who built the lakes in what is now Blue Heron and whose wife appears to be Emma Lane’s namesake. The Community Action Group is less confident of saving the now-vacant mansion, which is owned by the trust of a family named Nicholson. “We are not naive. We recognize there will be some type of development there,” said Wills. But his group suspects much

of the green space is unbuildable anyway due to topography and a stream, so the clustered redevelopment might be unnecessary to preserve it, Wills said. The rezoning request went to the NBCA in January but has been deferred by that group and the city amid the controversy, with the next NBCA review scheduled for March 15. “The dialogue on this project is still ongoing with several parties, so there’s a lot that’s still up in the air…,” said Jordan Edwards, the developer’s attorney. The debate has generated accusations of misinformation from all sides. Wills says the developer is selling a parkland deal that doesn’t exist. The developer says in a zoning application that the Community Action Group is wrongly comparing the Emma Lane project to the smaller, denser Lakemoore project. Silver says the Community Action Group is wrongly claiming Shook or the city are taking a stand on the matter. The executive committee of Blue Heron’s board has met twice about the issue, followed by a release of a statement of neutrality by chairman Norris Broyles. In the statement, Broyles said Blue Heron is not involved in any negotiations about the property and is unaware of any funding to acquire it. “Our organization’s board has decided that we will remain neutral on the question of whether the Emma lane property should or should not be rezoned,” Broyles said in an email. “We do have an interest in the Emma property, as a part of our trail system has a right of passage with the current owner through a small portion of it in the floodplain. We hope to be able to secure a permanent right to that passage with the new owner, whoever that may be.” The city did not respond to a comment request, but the Conservation Fund confirmed its longstanding interest. Stacy Funderburke, the Conservation Fund’s regional counsel and associate state director for Georgia and Alabama, said in a publicly circulated email to Silver that his organization has long sought to acquire all or part of the Emma Lane property for Blue Heron, but could not afford the latest price. The organization would be interested in acquiring the part of the property offered by the developer, but does not take a position on such rezoning matters, he said. “We are always open to additional green space opportunities in the city, and I’ve been aware of this property and its strategic importance to Blue Heron Nature Preserve for a long time,” said Funderburke in an email to the Reporter. “However, we do not get involved in rezoning questions and also only work in concert with the city of Atlanta parks department on whether any future park/ green space acquisition would be a priority or not.”


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