MAY 2019 • VOL. 13 — NO. 5
Sandy Sprin gs
Business: PCIDs turns 20 ►Q+A with local couple behind Atlanta’s big anime convention
LOCAL COU PLE BRINGS ANI ME, GAMING EVE NT TO ATLANTA
Spr ing 20 19
The PCID of shapings marks 20 years Perimeter C enter
NATURE AND THEATER MER AT DUNWOO GE DY’S PLAY-READ ING SERIES PAGE 26
| Where brick-a
nd-mortar reta il still BY JOHN RUC
johnruch@re porternewsp apers.net
After 20 years of a popu increasingly jammed highw lation boom, scraper-sprouti ays and skyit may soun ng mega-developm ents, d quaint that about Perim people worr eter Mall traffi ied 1999. c way back in But the Perim eter Comm provement unity ImDistricts, the self-t of business property owne axing groups out of those rs that form concerns, are ed sons the local among the reawhy the traffi boom has happened and c to Perimeter isn’t even worse. If you Center today go get there via , you may well one of the PCIDs push big projects ed – like the the Hammond ramps on Drive Ga. woody Road 400 or the Ashford-Du ndiverging change at diamond interI-285 – and you’l touches they’ re responsibl l see smaller scaping and e for, like landrush-hour traffic cops. “They had one, cleaning a reputation for, num ber things up, provi those cosm ding some etic of used to,” said amenities we’ve all becom Ann Hanlon, e the CIDs form who watched as a longt resident and ime Dunw oody now serves as their execu director. “At the tive lutionary, that time, that was pretty revoa private group to pay for those was willing amenities.” Back in 1999, the three cities day cover that toPerim en, Dunwoody eter Center – Broo khavnot yet exist. and Sandy Springs – did As the PCID its next 20 s looks ahea years d to sion on trans , it has refocused its misportation, leaving previ proposals such ous ies. Transporta as park-building to the cittion these erything from days mean s evtrail networks helping to build mult iuse toll lanes and to shaping the futur e of transit on Ga. That’s in addit 400 and I-285. ion to some PCIDs curre of the basic s the ntly like sidewalks provides or coordinate and crosswalk s, shuttles, traffi s, commuter c rimeter Conn signal timing and the Peects comm vice. uter advic e serAn increasing part of Perim ly residential secto r is eter Cente r’s future, with
Is this the gun that killed Buckhead’s namesake deer?
Main photo , the SPECIA at Ashford-Dudiverging diamond interchang L nwoody Road e looked short ly after open and I-285 as it ing in 2012. Inset, the Ham mond Drive FILE Ga. 400 short interc ly after it open hange with ed in 2011.
Holy Spirit plan spurs talk of agreement, lawsuits
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Left, John Beach, president of the Buckhead Heritage Society, holds the “Buckhead Gun,” which reputedly killed the neighborhood’s namesake deer in 1838. Right, James Whitley holds what is said to be the same firearm in an undated photo. (John Ruch/Special)
After 45 years, a nonprofit launches a review of NPU citizen input system
BY JOHN RUCH
The Buckhead Reporter is mail delivered to homes on selected carrier routes in ZIPs 30305, 30327 and 30342 For information: email@example.com
The Neighborhood Planning Unit system that reviews planning, zoning and other big issues for Atlanta city government is getting a review of its own. A downtown nonprofit called the Center for Civic Innovation has begun a quiet, but
potentially influential, series of meetings and surveys that aims to have reform recommendations for the 45-year-old system on the table by March 2020. “There are things about [the NPU system] that are amazing, and things that we need to have a lot more conversation about,” said CCI Executive Director Rohit See AFTER on page 14
BY JOHN RUCH firstname.lastname@example.org
The wooden stock is beige and battered with age. The metal plate above the trigger is decorated with a pair of birds. The barrel is long, heavy and octagonal. It’s an old muzzleloading firearm, for sure. It might even be the one that killed the deer that gave Buckhead its curious name in 1838. John Beach, president of the Buckhead Heritage Society, is still For more on trying to figure that out, partly by tracking John Beach, see the tales surrounding Around Town, page 20. another little-known piece of area history – an 1842 log cabin that quietly survived destruction by being moved to a Buckhead back yard. In the meantime, Beach gave the Reporter an exclusive closeSee IS on page 22
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2 | Community
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Community Briefs WEST WIEUCA ROAD IN CHASTAIN PARK COULD BE RENAMED West Wieuca Road N.W. could see a name change to Chastain Park Avenue, a nod to the park it runs through, in a proposal under consideration by an Atlanta City Council committee. The idea is reducing confusion over similarly named streets with an eye on public safety response. The local NPU-A says it backs the renaming – and even would like it extended to part of West Wieuca Road N.E. The City Council ordinance proposing the renaming cites at least three unspecified incidents last summer where public safety responses to the park’s pool were “delayed or misdirected.” West Wieuca takes a winding path and a subtle name change in its roughly 1.5-mile course through North Buckhead. At its eastern end, the street splits off from namesake Wieuca Road as West Wieuca Road N.E. The two streets run roughly parallel, less than 500 feet apart, and both cross Roswell Road. Despite the name, West Wieuca sits to the north of Wieuca, though it indeed continues farther to the west. Wieuca dead-ends to the west of Roswell Road, but West Wieuca N.E. continues to Lake Forrest Drive. At that point, it becomes West Wieuca Road N.W. — a subtle compass-point distinction from N.E. to N.W. — and runs through Chastain Park to Powers Ferry Road. West Wieuca Road N.E. and Wieuca Road, to the east of Chastain Park, as they appear on a Fulton County property records map.
The walking program offers prizes to individual and team participants who log the longest distances during the month of May. Participation is free, but walkers have to register and be tracked by the fitness technology company Wellable. Among the prizes are restaurant gift cards, a one-night stay at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead hotel and tickets to the Buckhead Theatre. During the month, there will be special walkingoriented events, including a “happy hour” cocktail stop and a scavenger hunt. The June 1 5K run is open to all ages and will take runners around central Buckhead and along the PATH400 multiuse trail, whose construction Livable Buckhead is overseeing. The run’s course will start at Lenox Square mall, continue along Peachtree Road to PATH400, and circle through North Buckhead before returning to the mall. Registration is $30 until May 15 and $35 after. For registration and more information, see livablebuckhead.org.
SKYSCRAPER PROJECT TWEAKED TO SUIT PARK OVER GA. 400
L I VA BLE BUC K H EA D DEBUTS NEW 5 K RUN , WA LK I N G P ROGR AM
Livable Buckhead aims to get residents on their feet with a new 5K run on June 1 and a month-long walking program in May that offers prizes to participants willing to sign up with a private fitness-tracking service. The events are dubbed “buckheadRUN!” and “buckheadWALKS!”
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An illustration of the plaza that could connect to Ga. 400 at the future skyscraper at 3354 Peachtree Road.
A parking capping Ga. 400 between Peachtree and Lenox roads is still just a concept. But a major skyscraper proposed for Buckhead’s business district has already had its design tweaked to plug into the future park as an amenity. In a March presentation to the Special Interest District 12 zoning Design Review Committee, developers of the mixed-use skyscraper at 3354 Peachtree Road showed an updated design that shifts buildings around to create a “plaza” – a combined driveway and pedestrian way – that gives walking access to the adjacent park. The plan, by a team that includes Buckhead-based Regent Partners, is the first to formally include the park over 400 as a design element. That’s exciting for Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, which is funding the design stage of the park. Durrett recently joined the board of a separate nonprofit that is raising funds for the $200 million to $250 million park and made a pitch to the Buckhead Business Association for its support at an April 4 breakfast. He said the nonprofit, known as POG 400, is raising funds to hire a director and lay the groundwork for a major capital campaign for the park itself.
B U SINESS, CIV I C G R O UP S FR O M B UC KHEA D, M ID TO WN AND DO W NTO WN TA L K M UTUA L IS S UES
Leaders of business and civic organizations in Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown met April 24 in a “roundtable conversation” of mutual issues, according to the Buckhead Coalition. The Buckhead Coalition and its president, Sam Massell, played host at its regular monthly meeting to the roundtable, which included Jim Durrett, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District; Kevin Green, president and CEO of the Midtown Alliance; and A.J. Robinson, president of Central Atlanta Progress. According to the coalition, the group leaders discussed a wide variety of issues, but specifically considered mutual work on the following topics: Maintaining early closing times for nightlife-oriented businesses; “Systematically mapping mass pothole repairs”; Regulating and enforcing safety measures for electric scooters, bicycles and mopeds, including limiting their speeds to those of wheelchairs. BH
Community | 3
Next Council of Neighborhoods effort: ‘Let Buckhead Breathe’ on traffic BY JOHN RUCH email@example.com
“Let Buckhead Breathe” instead of “suffocating” on commuter traffic is the next big agenda item for the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods, which is proposing transportation and housing policies. “Single-occupant commuter traffic is suffocating BCN’s neighborhoods,” says a mission statement provided by BCN Chair Mary Norwood, which was scheduled to be presented at a May 2 meeting, after the Reporter’s deadline. “These commuters are imposing huge costs on Buckhead’s infrastructure, health and quality of life. BCN is marshalling ideas and support to let Buckhead breathe.” The initiative will include three broad goals, which Norwood said will be addressed by “task forces” of the BCN membership: “Enhance transit options”; “Protect neighborhoods”; and “Provide affordable workforce housing.” Among the ideas expected to be discussed are everything from tweaking local street designs to congestion pricing and parking taxes. Congestion pricing refers to charg-
ing the drivers of certain types of vehicles to drive into downtown areas. London has had a form of congestion pricing for many years. New York City is currently studying a congestion pricing system for lower Manhattan, triggering discussions of similar systems across the country. Talk on the Atlanta City Council about the concept has involved the possibility of somehow metering commuter traffic in such areas as Buckhead and Midtown as well. “It’s something other cities are starting to look at and I think Atlanta certainly needs to look at it here,” Norwood said in an interview. A train rail line between Cobb County and Buckhead is another transportation concept Norwood revived last year. Ferdinand Levy, a retired Georgia Tech economics professor and Buckhead resident, said he believes he knows a way to help pay for it: airport funds. Levy, 88, said he worked as a consultant on many airport projects around the nation, including John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City. He said he was involved in a 1990s effort to create a rail connection between the airport and
Manhattan, and proposed using airport funds, which by regulation must be spent on airport facilities. The AirTrain JFK rail system, which opened in 2003, was partly funded by those funds with Federal Aviation Ad-
ministration approval. Levy said he believes a Cobb-Buckhead rail line could receive similar funding due to its effect of connecting passengers to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
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BCN members roll back some judicial system complaints BY JOHN RUCH
plaints about the complaint room,” he added. Leake’s one concern about the complaint room was its use of old technology, such as fax machines. District Attorney Paul Howard said in a written statement that it was a “real pleasure and a great experience” to host the BCN representatives. It is always my preference to meet face-to-face when citizens have questions or concerns about the criminal justice system,” he said. The pair’s April visit to a Fulton courtroom also went well. “Both of us were quite impressed with the way the judge worked and the way the process worked,” said Poe, adding that none of the judge’s decisions appeared to be flawed or outrageous. They still had concerns with general reports from the DA’s office that repeat offenders often get bail or probation, including those already serving probation from other cases. Poe called it a “disturbing” contrast with assumptions citizens get from crime TV shows. “You watch ‘CSI’ or anything like that, they catch someone who’s on probation, they go to jail,” he said. “The problem is, you can’t lock everybody up. We don’t have the room for that,” said Leake, adding another large factor is that prison appears to do a poor job of reforming convicts. “Probably like everything else, you need to throw more money at it to make it better, and there’s not more money to throw at it.” As a result of Poe and Leake’s review, Norwood delayed the crime resolution and adjusted it to remove the complaint room critique before circulation to member neighborhood associations. The BCN had previously deleted a resolution item regarding cash bail for city offenses after City Councilmember Matt Westmoreland explained it applied only to people accused of petty crimes.
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Amid a spike in burglaries and thefts, the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods in March issued a crime-fighting resolution calling for citizens to watch the courts. Now that some have indeed watched closely, they say they’re learning parts of the system are pretty good, causing the council to roll back some of its stronger critiques. At the request of BCN Chair Mary Norwood, local attorneys Nolan Leake and Sadler Poe took a closer look at parts of Fulton County’s judicial system, including a “complaint room” where prosecutors vet felony cases and a court session where bail decisions were made. Both say they were generally impressed favorably, and where problems remain, there’s “not one easy solution,” Leake says. “Everybody says the problem is somebody else,” Leake said, summing up the finger-pointing among police, prosecutors, judges and citizens. “But in reality, everybody is contributing something to making it not work as smoothly as it could.” The BCN’s original resolution called for eliminating the complaint room in favor of full court hearings on evidence. Leake and Poe – who are not criminal attorneys, but are versed in the law -- visited the complaint room on March 25. “From our perspective, it seems like that worked pretty well,” Poe said, adding the District Attorney’s office said it prosecutes about 95 percent of the police cases that come through the room. He said he also communicated with Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields about the process, and reported that she said she preferred hearings where officers are present to answer questions. “But she didn’t really say she had any com-
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Community | 5
Wins, losses and culture wars in the General Assembly BY EVELYN ANDREWS, DYANA BAGBY AND JOHN RUCH
CONNOR.CAREY VIA ENGLISH WIKIPEDIA
The General Assembly session came to a close on April 2 with a dramatic debate about the passage of the “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions in cases where a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The Reporter asked local legislators about their wins and losses this session,
legislation would have provided immunity for anyone rescuing an animal from a hot car by breaking a window if they call 911. The mood in the General Assembly: Kirkpatrick said her job is to review every piece of legislation and do what is best for her constituents, which is why she voted against the abortion restrictions. “I think things like [abortion] are very divisive and tend to polarize people and draw extremes,” she said. “People like me are definitely in jeopardy and I think it’s important we have people who are thoughtful.”
vide new coordination between schools and law enforcement. The legislation came out of recommendations from a task force Albers chaired.
Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs)
Win: HB 424, which changed criminal law to add sex trafficking to gang activity definition and loosened the rules on some rape case testimony and investigations; combined with legislation that tightens rules on elder abuse. Loss: HB 158, which would have al-
Rep. Josh McLaurin
Kitchen Fronts of Georgia
and the culture-war climate of the legislature in the wake of the abortion bill. Two legislators did not respond: state Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Atlanta), who testified in the U.S. Senate against a federal abortion restriction bill amid national attention for her speech against the “heartbeat bill,” and state Rep. Erik Allen (D-Smyrna).
Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-Sandy Springs)
Win: Kirkpatrick, who had a 30-year healthcare career, said passing several pieces of legislation on that industry was the big success, including certificate-ofneed reform, HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention, and insurance waivers. Loss: Kirkpatrick counts her one big loss as the failure of her hot car bill. The
Win: McLaurin said his successes were passing a bill he co-sponsored that allows “citizens to use lawsuits to hold the government accountable.” Loss: McLaurin said the passage of abortion restrictions was the worst loss. He said Georgia is one of the last in the county for maternity mortality rates and he believes the new rules could make it worse.“You would think it would be impossible to take a step back, but we did,” he said. The mood in the General Assembly: He said he believes divisive social issues remain a focus of Republican leaders because they are afraid of losing control and are trying to please polarized voters.“I feel let down because this legislature doubled down on social issues rather than moving Georgia forward in a more sane direction,” McLaurin said.
Continued on page 6
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Sen. John Albers (R-Sandy Springs)
Win: Albers’ big win was passing the “Keeping Georgia’s Schools Safe Act” which would address offenses for minors in possession of a firearm; require school safety plans, including performing threat assessments, drills and education prevention and reporting; and pro-
lowed people with HIV and AIDS who use Medicaid to get access to the same drugs used by others in the Georgia AIDS Drug Assistance Program. “I definitely think this is needed, because we’re the number state in the country with outbreaks of AIDS.” The mood in the General Assembly: She attributes the tensions to new state leadership that doesn’t know each other yet, and she believes the abortion bill was unconstitutional. “I’m very hopeful things are going to calm down.”
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6 | Community
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Wins, losses and culture wars in the General Assembly Continued from page 5
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Win: Bills that increased educational opportunities, including HB 218, which will extend the time students can utilize the HOPE Scholarship to 10 years after graduation and with active military service not counting. Also covered requiring recess in elementary school; more resources for students with dyslexia; and raises for teachers. Loss: The failure of the hate crimes bill and Medicaid expansion, and passage of Confederate monuments protection bill and the abortion bill. The mood in the General Assembly: “While many good pieces of legislation involved bipartisan efforts, there were many ‘culture war’ bills that divided the chamber. During the last month of session, we walked past protesters almost every day.” She has hope of working with other newly elected Democrats next time.
Sen. Sally Harrell (D-Dunwoody)
Win: Defeat of the school voucher bill that would have allowed the state to pay for private school tuition. “That surprised me,” she said. “I was surprised how many Republicans [opposed] the bill and stood in solid support of public schools. This was definitely a bipartisan win.”
Loss: Failure to pass Medicaid expansion. The legislature did pass a bill giving Gov. Brian Kemp the authority to study options on Medicaid waivers, which Harrell said is not enough. The mood in the General Assembly: At the beginning of the session, Harrell said she saw many Republicans wanting to work with Democrats because of the number of seats Democrats flipped. But when Gov. Kemp settled into office and the “heartbeat bill” to essentially ban abortion was introduced, the mood shifted significantly to a much more conservative tone, she said. “The right wing of the Republican Party knows if they can get a bill to the floor, the moderates have to vote for it.”
Rep. Scott Holcomb (D-Brookhaven)
Win: Holcomb’s bill requiring police to keep rape kits and evidence gathered from sexual assaults for up to 50 years passed unanimously in the House and Senate. Before, evidence only had to be preserved for 10 years. Loss: Holcomb introduced several bills to address elections and voting, including bills to allow for hand marked paper ballots, same-day voter registration and the creation of an independent redistricting commission. None of the bills got hearings. The mood in the General Assembly: The most controversial bill, the “heartbeat bill” that bans abortion, was a curious bill to introduce because Republican
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Community | 7
majorities were much greater in previous sessions, he said. “If I wanted to be really cynical ... I’d say this was nothing but political theater because it will be struck down,” he said.
Rep. Mike Wilensky (D-Dunwoody)
Win: Wilensky passed his first bill to revise the criteria tax assessors use to determine fair market value of real property, which he said will benefit Dunwoody business owners. Loss: The failure of the hate crimes bill. The mood in the General Assembly: Wilensky said the bitter state of politics in Washington, D.C., affected the current tone of Georgia’s politics, especially with the passage of the anti-abortion bill.
Rep. Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven)
Win: Wilson is one of five openly LGBTQ legislators at the General Assembly and this year introduced a bill to
ban conversion therapy, the practice of trying to change a person’s sexual orientation from gay or bisexual to heterosexual. The bill got a hearing in the Regulated Industries Committee and Wilson said his intention is to educate legislators on the issue this year with plans for a House vote next year. Loss: The state approved an overhaul of the DeKalb County ethics code, but Wilson voted against it. He said the bill does not go far enough to give the ethics officer authority to hold county officials accountable. The mood in the General Assembly: Wilson said he senses a growing divide between the far-right and more moderate Republicans, or, to put it simply, between rural and metro Atlanta Republicans. “The far-right conservatives’ strategy on how to maintain their majority is to dig in and serve up legislation that takes away rights from Georgians they don’t represent,” Wilson said. “Then you saw moderate Republicans fighting to advance legislation on HIV treatment and prevention and on hate crimes. Ultimately voters will decide who will be on the right side of history.”
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8 | Education
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Ann Culbreath, Austin Elementary Ann Culbreath, the principal of Dunwoody’s Austin Elementary School, was chosen by Auburn University College of Education as its 2019 Outstanding Educator, an award given to alumni. “I was elated and honored but felt it was surreal,” Culbreath said of winning the award. “It is so humbling to have been selected by my alma mater by other educators in the field.” The school community celebrated by declaring April 10 as Austin “War” Eagles
Austin Elementary Principal Ann Culbreath in her office.
Day. This award adds to a list of recent awards for Austin Elementary and its
leadership, including the public school’s recognition as a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence in 2018 and Platinum Award Winner from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement for four years in a row. Culbreath was also nominated for 2018 Terrel H. Bell Award for Outstanding Leadership by the U.S. Department of Education. She helped established the Austin Eagle Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps pay for curriculum materials not covered by county or state funding, and led the creation of the school’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program. Culbreath has been an educator with the DeKalb County School District since 1987 after graduating from Auburn. She has served as Austin’s principal for seven
years, and will next year lead the school into its next chapter as a new, 900-seat school expected to open in fall 2020 to relieve overcrowding. The school is being built on the former Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields less than half a mile from the existing school. Culbreath said the school is excited for the new facility, and hopes to grow the partnership with the Dunwoody Nature Center since it will be closer.
Q: What are you most looking forward
to with the new school? I am looking forward to a brand new state-of-the-art facility where students enjoy coming to school each day to engage in learning while having fun!
What major changes will the new school bring? A: The biggest change will be an increased enrollment with my students and staff. The school has the capacity to hold 950 students and our current enrollment is 680. We currently have a partnership with the Dunwoody Nature Center, but we look forward to more collaboration since we will be next-door neighbors. My hope is that our students can “play in the dirt” all the time!
Q: What keeps you going year after year? A: I always feel like there is always more to give and learn since education is al-
ways evolving. I truly believe in life-long learning!
What do you hope students learn from you? A: That hard-work and perseverance pay off. Also that you can do anything you set your mind to doing if you believe in yourself.
How has educating changed since you became an educator? A: The level of accountability has increased for everyone, as well as the level of instruction for our students. In addition to increased accountability, technology has transformed how students learn and teachers teach. Lessons are now planned integrating technology to engage students and make learning fun.
What is your favorite memory at your school? A: When students see me in the hall or in their classrooms and they tell me sweet stories about themselves or me. Most recently a student wrote me card that said, “Congratulations on your trophy! I will see you at Auburn when I get to college.” It is amazing to me how impactful I am as their principal and how the students look up to me on a daily basis.
Community | 9
Sandy Springs agrees to extend Buckhead’s PATH400 BY KATIA MARTINEZ AND EVELYN ANDREWS With a unanimous vote at the April 16 City Council meeting, Sandy Springs residents are one step closer to safely riding their bikes all the way to Krog Street Market. Sandy Springs has long-planned to build a path from Buckhead to the city, and this move nails down the funding and construction agreement. A separate, connecting piece will be built by the Georgia Department of Transportation under the I-285/Ga.400 interchange, bringing the path up Peachtree-Dunwoody Road. The council voted to enter into an agreement with the city of Atlanta to design a multiuse path that would extend Buckhead’s PATH400 trail all the way to Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs. The connection to PATH400 will allow Sandy Springs to travel all the way to the Atlanta BeltLine system. And the trail will continue through the Ga.400/I-285 interchange along PeachtreeDunwoody Road. That piece is being built by the Georgia Department of Transportation during its massive project reconstructing the interchange. But the piece in Sandy Springs may have a different name. The name will be decided after the final design is completed, city spokesperson Dan Coffer said in an email. The council authorized a design process, though funding for that phase of the project won’t be officially requested until this summer. The designs will cost approximately $360,000, and Atlanta will pay Sandy Springs 22.2% of that, or no more than $81,519, since 22.2% of the project will be in Atlanta. The plan to extend PATH400 has long been in the works. Concept design work began in 2018 following initial public meetings in 2017. The new design work will include preliminary plans, environmental studies and surveying. A public open house is expected to be held this summer. The completed designs are expected in 2020, with construction projected to begin by 2021 and finish by 2023. Funding for construction would be split between the municipalities, but according to Sandy Springs Communications Director Sharon Kraun, the exact source of that funding would not be determined until 2021. Allen Johnson, a Sandy Springs program manager who presented the proposal, said the split will be proportional to how much of the path is in their respective cities. “The construction in each city will be funded by that city,” he said. “We won’t pay for something that isn’t in our city limits unless we agree to reimbursement.” Sandy Springs expects to pay a total of BH
$4.1 million for the entire project. The path would run mostly along Ga. 400, weaving in and out of communities at a few locations. Three sections of the path would cross streets, including two crossings with bridges to isolate the pedestrian traffic and comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act and another over Nancy Creek. The largest would be a bridge over the Glenridge Connector ramps that would be aesthetically similar to the PATH400 bridge in Buckhead that runs over Ga. 400. The only location to have a mandatory street crossing, at Loridans Drive, will be altered to allow regular pedestrian access. “We’ll have signals, crosswalks, and whatever else is needed to make that crossing, and any other smaller crossing, safe,” Johnson said. Parts of PATH400 have already been built in Buckhead, with plans to extend it to the Sandy Springs area on Loridans Drive. At that site, a new city park is in the planning stages and a preliminary design exists for a crossing to continue the path into Sandy Springs. Councilmembers expressed enthusiasm for the project, as they have since its inception in 2017, and Councilmember
An illustration shows the design at Loridans Drive for the crossing and beginning of the PATH400 extension to Sandy Springs.
Andy Bauman even brought up the possibility of expanding this path further into Sandy Springs upon its completion. “We want our citizens to safely get all the way to Chastain Park [in Buckhead], and I can see this path paving the way for that,” Bauman said. Councilmember John Paulson said he was excited to see the plans, and refer-
enced the city’s original goals as once discussed by founding Mayor Eva Galambos. “This is exactly what our late mayor and those of us who worked to make Sandy Springs envisioned,” Councilman Paulson said. Johnson said the city’s long-term goal for the path to act as a spine for a larger network of trails.
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In Holy Spirit expansion debate, talk of agreement, threats of lawsuits BY JOHN RUCH email@example.com
A marathon meeting April 24 about Holy Spirit Catholic Church and Preparatory School’s controversial campus expansion plan was filled with tough questions and hopes of compromise — all backed by increasingly tough legal pressure from both sides. Some residents say they might go to court over a 15-year-old legal agreement that could block part of the project, while Holy Spirit revealed that it photographed 170 pro-agreement yard signs with an eye to possibly suing opponents for “defamation.” Despite such saber-rattling, both sides say there’s room to talk about the proposal – which includes a parking deck, church buildings and relocating the Lower School from its current home elsewhere in Sandy Springs – as it heads toward a May 7 filing deadline for a use permit at the city of Sandy Springs. The plan would expand the current church and Upper School campus at Mount Paran Road and Northside Drive in Buckhead onto an adjacent Sandy Springs site, with a parking deck, church buildings and a new Lower School relocated from Sandy Springs’ Long Island Drive. But debate among roughly 250 residents in the nearly four-hour meeting, held at the church, showed any new agreement has a big gap to bridge, with often emotional arguments pitting quality of life against quality of schooling. Many of the dozens of comments were personal anecdotes about the school and the neighborhood rather than remarks addressing specifics of the proposal, though new details about disputed tree loss and traffic impacts emerged.
“I think it’s only logical and reasonable to have one location” for both campuses, said Jinny Keough, a 30-year church parishioner, who wore a “YES” button and – like many other supporters – the school color of green. “We just want people to talk, not yell.” Debbie Guerra, CEO of the Northside/ Chastain/Mt. Paran Neighborhood Preservation Association (or NPA), a group formed to negotiate with Holy Spirit, said the plan would “disrupt, on multiple levels, the tranquility of our protected, single-family neighborhood.” While opponents often praised the church and school, none of them acknowledged that the plan had been significantly reduced in response to their concerns from a previous version last fall. And no supporter acknowledged any problems with the plan’s neighborhood impacts or the discarding of the old agreement.
‘First-world’ problems One opponent said supporters are clamoring to solve “first-world problems” of inconvenience; one supporter said neighbors are “a bunch of ostriches sticking their heads in the sand.” Several opponents suggested that school attendees are mostly outsiders; several supporters said they moved to Sandy Springs specifically because of Holy Spirit. People who said a religious school should stick to an old promise were dismissed as inflexible and obsessed with paperwork; supporters who said deals should be flexible were said to be setting a bad example for schoolchildren. Opponents’ characterization of the plan as “commercial” or “commercialization” was viewed an insulting by several supporters, who noted the school is a nonprofit that, in part, assists underprivi-
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leged students. There was even a brief debate over whether tree-cutting violates Pope Francis’s encyclical about protecting the environment. (A science teacher said it’s complicated, but basically OK.) But the biggest debate is about the old agreement, where residents approved the Upper School expansion in exchange for a written promise that the school would never grow further on the site or any adjacent property. Holy Spirit acknowledges that agreement could block the school part of its project, but says it is now invalid due to a legal technicality: the NPA failed to renew its annual registration paperwork with the state. The NPA’s Stephen Phillips says Holy Spirit is wrong and the neighbors are willing to test it in court. “Listen, if we wanted to be in a lawsuit tomorrow, we could do that,” he said after the meeting, adding that the NPA is willing to negotiate further instead. The NPA’s yard signs are touching a legal nerve as well. Dotting scores of local front yards for months, they read “Respect Our Neighborhood” and “Honor the Agreement,” along with the NPA’s website. One resident complained that last month he found the school’s public relations director photographing his yard sign and was told it was evidence-gathering for a possible lawsuit. Head of School Kyle Pietrantonio acknowledged that was true. “At the advice of the board of directors, we were advised to document and photograph 170 or so signs and map the corresponding addresses for a potential suit [alleging] defamation against the institution,” Pietrantonio said. “At this time, we don’t plan to pursue that.” Pietrantonio said in an interview that the defamation claim was based on the idea that the signs are false because “technically, there is no agreement… We felt like we could prove some institutional reputational damage.” But Pietrantonio arranged for Phillips to make a special, full-length presentation about the agreement and claims of its validity during the community meeting. “Unbelievable, isn’t it?” Phillips said afterward about Holy Spirit’s defamation lawsuit idea. “We were really shocked and dismayed about it.” Pietrantonio also complained about harassing activity related to the signs. He said that on the night of Palm Sunday – an important Christian observance – someone planted a large number of the signs on the school’s field and on buses parked there. And recently, he said, some students wearing Holy Spirit gear at the Atlanta airport ran into someone who said they “better honor the agreement.”
Traffic pros and cons
Traffic and parking are big drivers of
the campus expansion. Holy Spirit says church parking is already a problem and that having separate Lower and Upper Schools generates unnecessary traffic between them. Holy Spirit officials say that with e new parking deck, a new driveway on Mount Paran, new turns lanes and traffic officers, traffic would flow better. Some top neighborhood leaders aren’t convinced. Sally Riker, president of the Mt. Paran-Northside Citizens Association, estimated the plan would add 200 vehicles to the campus total and do so in 30-minute crunch times in the morning and afternoon. She said the plan needs more changes, such as longer turn lanes. Ronda Smith, president of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods, said it is likely the current Lower School would be sold to a different school that would generate its own traffic in the area. “It will be musical schools in this region,” she said.
The disputed agreement Both sides see leverage in the disputed 2003 agreement. Phillips gave a history of how the agreement came from previous legal hardball. In January 1998, he said, the school – then called the Donnellan School – sought to come to the site with an expanded building and parking deck. More than 800 opponents gathered at a meeting and Atlanta officials ultimately rejected the plan. The school then attempted to use a permit from a previous school facility it had purchased; the city also rejected that. Only then did the school return to neighbors and seek the agreement signed in 2003. The new move to declare the agreement invalid on a technicality is “morally reprehensible,” said Stanley Birch, a local resident who is also a retired federal appeals court judge. “And here we stand in a church, and we’re talking about, ‘The agreement doesn’t matter because our reason is good.’” However, a resident who is also an attorney spoke in support of the project and said that the agreement’s permanent ban on school expansion wouldn’t stand up in court under legal principles barring eternal deals. Meanwhile, Holy Spirit’s lawyer, Carl Westmoreland, said he asked a title insurance company to review the agreement and see whether it would insure the project; the company reportedly said the agreement wouldn’t stop it. But Westmoreland said he remains pro-negotiation, noting that some people don’t want anything to change and some people were more open to change. “I’d like to think the solution is somewhere in the middle,” he said after the meeting. Phillips had a similar approach. “They’re passionate, some might say arrogant,” he said of Holy Spirit, but the NPA is willing to talk further. BH
Community | 11
Five-year streetlight outage plagues busy Buford Highway crossing BY JOHN RUCH
We call it home.
Nighttime means pitch darkness in the busy intersection of Buford Highway and Sidney Marcus Boulevard, on the Buckhead-Brookhaven border, where the streetlights haven’t worked – not for a a month, not for a year, but for a half-decade. The exact reasons are unclear, but the city of Atlanta and the Georgia Department of Transportation appear to have long been in an internal blame game, internal city emails show. A city spokesperson said the lights went out during construction of the flyover ramp connecting I-85 southbound to Ga. 400 northbound – which opened on April 2, 2014. Floyd Taylor, a resident of Buckhead’s Peachtree Hills, has complained to the city about the five-years-and-counting outage, saying it endangers pedestrians and gives cover to criminals. His short summation of the city and GDOT’s inaction: “They’re acting like children.” GDOT and the city say a fix in the works, but neither would elaborate on details or provide a timeline, and Taylor said he’s heard such promises before. Atlanta City Councilmember Howard Shook says he recalls Taylor’s years of complaints about the outage. In response to Reporter questions, Shook said he spoke to city Public Works Commissioner James Jackson Jr. about it. “He did say that a dialogue has been initiated between the city, Georgia Power and GDOT to determine where each entity’s responsibility begins and ends, which will mean a lot of pouring over various MOUs [legal memorandums of understanding,” Shook said in an email. “While it may take some time for these three large bureaucracies to resolve all of this, it seems that concrete steps are at least underway.” And that’s not the only safety situation in the intersection. There are no crosswalks or pedestrian signals, unlike many similar intersections around the city, but it appears there once were. A street sign at the dead-end of a sidewalk on Sidney Marcus directs pedestrians to use a crosswalk that does not exist, and a wheelchair ramp empties into the midst of a travel lane well before a traffic signal. The city did not respond to questions about what happened to pedestrian furnishings there. The intersection is a busy one, feeding directly into the Buford-Spring Connector and very close to a Ga. 400 interchange. About 1,000 feet to the north, Buford Highway intersects with Lenox Road near its I-85 interchange. Taylor said he has met with officials at Atlanta City Hall about the lights, to no avail. His concern was renewed, he said, by the November death of a friend who was killed while walking in the area of the Lenox/I-85 interchange. Repairs have yet to be made, and recent responses from the city and GDOT to Reporter questions were slim on details. Georgia Power did not respond at all. “I’m not sure about what led to the service points being disabled,” said GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale, “but I do know that we are working with Georgia Power and COA [the city of Atlanta] to get them working and handed over to COA.”
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North Druid Hills Corridor Study approved with controversial roundabout BY DYANA BAGBY
A roundabout at the East Roxboro Road and North Druid Hills Road intersection is included in the recently approved North Druid Hills Corridor Study.
The Brookhaven City Council recently approved a study of North Druid Hills Road in the city and Buckhead’s Pine Hills neighborhood that includes a controversial roundabout at East Roxboro Road. Pine Hill residents have been outspoken about the roundabout included in the North Druid Hills Corridor Study that calls for realigning the “Y”-shaped intersection north of Buford Highway to bring it closer to a 90-degree angle and converting it into a 3-legged multi-lane roundabout with a central landscaped island. This project would call for closing Goodwin Road to vehicular traffic, maintaining it as a green space and preserving access for the residences in the triangle between East Roxboro Road, Goodwin Road and North Druid Hills Road. Traffic signals would be removed at the intersections of North Druid Hills at Goodwin roads and at East Roxboro at Goodwin roads for the roundabout. Crosswalks and sidewalks and multiuse paths would also be incorporated into the design to provide safety for pedestrians,
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cyclists and those using transit. Several residents attending the April 23 City Council meeting when the study was approved questioned why the study would include a roundabout when it is still unknown what will happen at the I-85 and North Druid Hills interchange. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s 70-acre medical campus is now under construction at the interchange and. Emory University is also planning a major mixed-use redevelopment of Executive Park, across the street from CHOA’s campus. The Georgia Department of Transportation is working with CHOA on a redesign of the interchange and CHOA officials have long said they prefer a diverging diamond be built there. Public Works Director Hari Karikaran said April 23 the city has seen a conceptual plan for the I-85 interchange that includes additional lanes. Councilmember Joe Gebbia said at the meeting he understands there is “a lot of distrust” of roundabouts, but noted this project is a listed as a long-term project with funding expected in 2045. There has been no engineering or design of the roundabout and no immediate plans to change anything at the intersection, he said. Anything done at the intersection will have public input, he added. The southbound entry leg into the roundabout includes two lanes, but community members raised concerns about the ability for motorists to make the right-turn from Goodwin Road to East
Roxboro Road and get into the inside lane of the roundabout to travel north. The study recommends that at the time of design, the city consider leaving the traffic signals at Goodwin and East Roxboro roads to be activated by detectors embedded in the road. The project also calls for building a 10foot multiuse path along the north side of Goodwin Road to provide a direct connection for those walking and biking between East Roxboro and North Druid Hills roads. The roundabout would also create a “visual cue” to motorists driving from Buford Highway to slow down when approaching North Druid Hills Road and indicate the area is a multi-modal community, according to the study. Besides the CHOA and Executive Park developments, a new Cross Keys High School is slated to be built on North Druid Hills Road where the former Briarcliff High School was located. And on the other end of North Druid Hills Road, at the Peachtree Road intersection, a mixeduse redevelopment of the BrookhavenOglethorpe MARTA property is also expected to take place in the near future. The North Druid Hills Corridor Study essentially lays out a “corridor vision” for the nearly three miles of busy road between Peachtree Road at the north end to the southernmost end at Briarcliff Road. This segment serves as the main northsouth artery in Brookhaven and is one of the most important streets in the city, according to the study. The corridor vision in the study includes better-looking streetscapes while planning for increased traffic as the metro Atlanta population continues to grow. The vision also involves making the road easier and safer for pedestrians, cyclists and those using transit with added crosswalks, islands, a 10-foot wide multiuse path on the east side of the road and a 5-foot sidewalk on the west side of the road. The thoroughfare connects the MARTA station, the Brookhaven Branch Library, Fernwood Park, the Lenox Park office complex, Cross Keys High and Woodward Elementary schools, some churches, and numerous multifamily and single-family residential neighborhoods. The commercial areas are mostly located at the two ends of the road with the residential areas in the middle.
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Community | 13
Wieuca-Phipps roundabout returns with new design
BY EVELYN ANDREWS firstname.lastname@example.org
The controversial plan to turn the Wieuca Road/Phipps Boulevard intersection into a roundabout returned at an April 24 public meeting with a refreshed design, but some residents still were skeptical it would work. The two-lane roundabout concept had long been in the works by the Buckhead Community Improvement District and was last seen in a 2017 public meeting. It stalled over some community criticism, then funding shortfalls in the city’s TSPLOST and Renew Atlanta bond programs. The city is now leading the $3.5-million project and recommended keeping the project on that funding list. After the project became controversial with residents and property owners in the area, the city brought in an expert roundabout team from consulting firm MSA to review the design and make changes. The team, led by Mark Lenters, who lives in Atlanta, found a roundabout is the best solution for the intersection, but tweaked the BCID’s plan, which was done by POND & Company. The BCID is still a partner on the project. Sally Silver, District 7 Councilmember Howard Shook’s policy analyst, has been leading the revamped process and said private meetings with stakeholders have led to many more people supporting the project. Some residents continued to believe the roundabout would make traffic worse, BH
but officials hope outreach and education about how to use them will make it a success, they said at the meeting held at Wieuca Road Baptist Church. About 75 people attended. The new plan would improve pedestrian safety by adding raised sidewalks; reconfigures the lanes and church access; and moves both directions of the bicycle lanes to the east side of Wieuca Road, Lenters said. Lenters said the roundabout would make the intersection more efficient, but it would remain congested during rush hour. Safety for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists would be improved by realigning the angled intersection and adding new crosswalks and bike lanes, he said. There would be four lanes on Wieuca Road north to Old Ivy Road, where it would shift back to two lanes and a traffic light would be added. Another option to keep the intersection largely the same but realign the lanes was presented and is less expensive, but would not improve safety or be as efficient as the roundabout, documents said. The intersection is surrounded by Wieuca Road Baptist Church, the Park Avenue condo tower, an apartment building and several other residences. There is also a small community park on the north side that was funded by the North Buckhead Civic Association. Gordon Certain, the president of the NBCA, had many concerns about the last version of the roundabout, including that it would take some land from that park. The new iteration doesn’t touch it, and Certain said the new team has been more respon-
Above, an illustration compares the new conceptual design for the Wieuca Road/Phipps Boulevard roundabout on the left to the old design on the right. EVELYN ANDREWS
Mark Lenters, left, a consultant from MSA now leading the Wieuca Road and Phipps Boulevard project, speaks about an illustrated video to a resident at the April 24 meeting.
sive to concerns. “I’m feeling better. I feel like a number of concerns have been addressed,” he said. “Communication has been much better. They’re listening; they’re changing.” A resident of a nearby condo building said she believes the roundabout will make traffic worse and is a “waste of money.” The roundabout won’t help if other nearby intersections remain backed up, she said. “There is no problem with the intersection in off-peak hours, so why are we doing it?” Marjorie Kossoff said. “I think residents were just told this is going to happen.” Another resident had similar concerns, saying that there are other problems in the area that need fixing instead and also feared this would not help traffic. “This is the least worrisome intersection in my opinion,” the resident said. “I hope this is not a done deal.” George Kossoff, who is married to Marjorie, said he is not personally worried about using the roundabout since he lived in Sydney, Australia, where they are popular, but isn’t sure other residents will be comfortable driving through it. George Kossoff is also concerned about the loss of
an old magnolia tree outside the church that would come down. Teaching people how to use roundabouts was a major theme of the meeting, with several instructional boards around the room on topics like the need to choose the correct lane before entering the roundabout. Roundabouts are becoming more common in the U.S., but many still aren’t familiar with them and two-lane versions are even less common. Silver said they’ll host education classes for people to learn how to use them and will coordinate with the nearby city of Brookhaven officials to educate their residents. Lenters showed several videos of successful roundabouts around the country in effort to convince residents they work in similarly busy and residential areas. An illustrated video also showed this roundabout working with simulated cars driving through at anticipated 2027 traffic levels. A scaled map also had toy cars to show how the intersection would work. The project will next be bid out by the city for a company to create a full design, Silver said.
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After 45 years, a nonprofit launches a review of NPU citizen input system Continued from page 1 Malhotra, describing the review’s mission as helping the public “reimagine what it could be.” Founded in 2014 and funded by some
major Atlanta corporations and foundations, CCI aims to boost “social entrepreneurs” who do programs for the public good – especially those that reduce inequality -- while making money, such as urban farmers. Malhotra says no one
hired CCI to review the NPU system and instead the nonprofit is motivated by an interest in improving grassroots input on city government. “No one at any point has commissioned us to do this,” Malhotra said, and CCI doesn’t want to dictate outcomes, either. “We know it’s messy, it’s complicated… But the end goal for us is not around us saying we need this to happen or that to happen…. This is going to require a lot more listening than talking.” The basic idea, he says, is “to treat NPUs like you would any million-dollar start-up.” CCI already gathered NPU leaders for an initial conversation in November, and Malhotra said it has spoken to every City Council member, though Buckhead-area Councilmembers J.P. Matzigkeit and Howard Shook say they have not met with the group. Brink Dickerson, chair of NPU-A, one of Buckhead’s three NPUs, said he did not join in the meeting, but the board has participated in CCI surveys. In part, Dickerson said, he didn’t attend the meeting because NPU-A feels it deals with fewer major issues that other NPUs, “and the city considers NPU-A to be one of its best-functioning NPUs.”
Curb Appeal Achieved
Leaders of two other Buckhead-area NPUs, B and E, did not respond to questions. Matzigkeit declined to comment on the state of the NPU system, but Shook weighed in, including on what he sees as the potential political suicide of shaking it up. Reviewing the NPUs is akin to “running with scissors [or] putting your tongue on a frozen flagpole,” Shook said. “I can’t imagine anything more life-threatening than messing with the NPU system.” But Shook has some of his own ideas. He said that he has long heard wishes on the City Council for a more uniform process among NPUs, but he likes some local character, noting that NPU-B was set up to have businesses represented on the board. “They’re all different and I think there should be a recognition of context,” he said. Shook said he is also concerned that NPUs often lack up-to-date information from city planners, and because many of them meet on the same night, it can be hard for officials to attend. He has suggested a “hotline” that NPUs can call on meeting nights to get instant clarifications from city planners. Kyle Kessler, CCI’s policy and re-
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Community | 15
search director, said heâ€™s heard some similar comments in the early stage of the review. â€œFrom political leaders, the most common phrase we heard was, â€˜Bless your heart,â€™â€? he said with a laugh. â€œWhen we brought NPU leaders togetherâ€Ś [there were] a lot of complaints around representation,â€? he said, including that NPU boards needed to be more inclusive or that they lacked funding for outreach. There were hopes for better public understanding of the NPU system and concern that the review might â€œtry to dismantle this or take this away.â€? The differing processes of various NPUs was a discussion point, with some meeting jointly, other separately, and some electing leadership by general vote and others by board vote only. And the Atlanta BeltLine is a big-picture issue, as the city-transforming park and transit project in many places
runs along NPU boundaries, raising the question of whether boundaries should shift to put major projects in one NPU. The NPU system was established in 1974 by Mayor Maynard Jackson as a way for residents to give input on the cityâ€™s long-term development plan, in an era when many American cities created similar neighborhood groups. Today, there are 25 NPUs around the city, each named for a letter of the alphabet, serving a broader purpose of giving and getting information on virtually every city department. CCI, on the other hand, is five years old and, while it hosted forums in the 2017 city elections and runs a 10,000-squarefoot meeting space downtown, has a relatively low profile. Its funders include Spanx, Equifax, Arbyâ€™s, the United Way and the foundations of Arthur Blank and Chick-fil-A. While grassroots input is among its missions, it does little mar-
keting and contacting its leadership directly can be a challenge. What makes CCI qualified or trustworthy to review the NPU system? And does it have the capacity to do so? â€œYou have reason to be skeptical,â€? said Kessler, whose main experience with NPUs was during his time as president of his local Atlanta Downtown Neighborhood Association. He said CCI will earn trust by listening to advocates from both the civic engagement and real estate development sides, without anyone â€œbreathing down our neckâ€? with a particular agenda. â€œObviously, we canâ€™t force anyone to trust us,â€? said Malhotra. He believes CCI can be seen as an â€œhonest brokerâ€? and facilitator for conversations. CCI will not advocate for getting rid of some form of input system, Malhotra said. â€œThe city should have a formal ve-
hicle for hearing people,â€? and it needs to be â€œamazing,â€? he said. CCIâ€™s next steps are to survey â€œtens of thousandsâ€? of people around the city in late summer and early fall; report to NPU leadership again in November; and propose some short-term fixes by March in a report to the public and the City Council. Longer-term reforms and discussions are likely to be proposed as well. CCI also has enlisted students at Georgia Tech and Georgia State University for research. The GSU students are studying similar input systems around the country that sprang up in the 1970s, often due to requirements of the federal Community Development Block Grant program. Particular attention is being paid, Kessler said, to Seattle and Portland, Ore., where officials are reviewing their versions of the NPU system.
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A 16-story hotel is proposed to be built next to Lenox Square mall with a connection to PATH400. The Hyatt Centric hotel would be built on a 1-acre site on the southeast edge of the mall near the George C. Bynum Jr. Pedestrian Bridge, which carries PATH400, a multiuse trail, over Ga. 400. The hotel would have 221 rooms, a rooftop restaurant and outdoor dining, which would “activate” that part of PATH400, a planning document said. The rooftop restaurant would feature “360-degree views of Buckhead and Downtown.” The hotel would also have a fitness center and pool. To improve connectivity to PATH400, 10-foot sidewalks be SPECIAL added to continue the width of An illustration of what the Hyatt Centric the path, architects with Cooper hotel would look like from PATH400 on the Gordon C. Bynum Jr. Pedestrian Bridge. Carry and Kimley-Horn said at the May 1 Special Public Interest District 12 meeting. Bike lockers and 42 racks will be provided for people who use the path to get to the hotel and mall. Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling said she believed the connection to PATH400 could be better by making the part of the hotel it would pass by more active. Starling oversees the path’s construction and operation. The hotel is proposed for the same site where the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials (CHaRM) was planned to go before the idea fell through last year. The site is also next to a possible new Ga. 400 interchange being studied for feasibility. Sally Silver, an SPI-12 board member who is also Councilmember Howard Shook’s policy analyst, recommended the hotel install one of the city’s Relay Bike Share stations and furnish their own rentable bicycles for PATH400 users. Starling also recommended a parking place on site for electric scooters, like Bird and Lime. The hotel will not add any vehicle parking and will used existing decks at other properties.
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Community | 17
Dunwoody Reporter announces The Reporter’s Evelyn Andrews wins sponsorship of Fourth of July Parade Atlanta Press Club ‘Rising Star’ award The Dunwoody Reporter will be a new presenting sponsor of the 2019 Dunwoody Fourth of July Parade, joining the Dunwoody Homeowners Association as a top supporter of one of Georgia’s largest Independence Day celebrations. “We’re delighted to be a part of this great Dunwoody tradition and join with so many volunteers and community groups who make the parade a success,” said Steve Levene, publisher of the Dunwoody Reporter and Reporter Newspapers. “Thank you to the Reporter Newspapers for carrying on the essential media support for the Dunwoody Fourth of July parade,” said parade cochair Pam Tallmadge, who also serves as a City Council member. Dunwoody’s Fourth of July Parade, reputed to be the state’s largest Independence Day parade, with 2018’s attendance estimated at 32,000 spectators and 2,500 participants. The parade dates to American Bicentennial celebrations in 1976 and has run annually since 1991 as one of Dunwoody’s top local traditions and regional attractions. The theme of this year’s parade is“Happy birthday, Dunwoody!” to note the 10th anniversary of the city’s incorporation.
Reporter Newspapers staff reporter Evelyn Andrews won the Atlanta Press Club’s 2018 “Rising Star” award, recognizing her as an “outstanding talent” in metro area journalism, at an April 16 ceremony. Andrews, who joined the Reporter two years ago, earned the recognition for her work on stories in Buckhead and Sandy Springs and on the education beat. She combined shoe-leather reporting and use of the Open Meeting and Open Records laws to ensure transparency on plans for a park capping Ga. 400 in Buckhead, to help secure sidewalk repairs affecting patients at the Shepherd Center hospital, and to follow Sandy Springs’ plans for massive redevelopment of its north end, among other stories. The “Rising Star” award recognizes “outstanding talent from any medium, from a journalist under 30 years of age.” Andrews was a finalist for the “Rising Star” award last year as well. This year, the other finalists for the award were Stephen Fowler, a political reporter for Georgia Public Broadcasting, and Stephannie Stokes, a reporter on housing and other major issues for WABE News.
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Our mission is to provide our readers with fresh and engaging information about life in their communities. Published by Springs Publishing LLC 6065 Roswell Road, Suite 225 Sandy Springs, GA 30328 Phone: 404-917-2200 • Fax: 404-917-2201 Brookhaven Reporter | Buckhead Reporter Dunwoody Reporter | Sandy Springs Reporter www.ReporterNewspapers.net Atlanta INtown www.AtlantaINtownPaper.com Atlanta Senior Life www.AtlantaSeniorLife.com
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Community Voices Simple steps to reduce killing wildlife in parks We Atlantans are extremely fortunate for good reason. One dog running through to live in a forest teeming with plant and a pond or wooded area can kill thousands animal life. We, not the animals, are the of amphibian or reptile eggs, and I can’t invaders. tell you how many wading bird carcassA few common-sense practices can es I have found after off-leash dog attacks. greatly reduce the number of creatures Their owners certainly harm the enneedlessly killed every year in our parks vironment by leaving their poop piles all and nature preserves. over the place. The ones who bag the As screen time has expopoop and then leave it are nentially increased in our particularly grievous. society, the connection with While I was tracking a the immediate world around heron injured by fishing us has suffered. In recent line in March at Brookhavyears, I have seen hundreds en’s Murphey Candler Park, of people use natural areas I saw at least a dozen offas their daycare centers, dialeash dogs. One owner even per disposal bins, dog parks, allowed his dog to run down drone training grounds or the embankment towards garbage dumps. Sure, 98 the injured heron! percent of the people visiting Please, keep your dog, these areas are great stewfriendly or not, on a leash at Stephen W. Ramsden ards of nature. Unfortunateall times while in a nature is the founder and ly, it only takes a few people area. to ruin the environment and director of the global Each of the last three devastate the wildlife in a nonprofits The Charlie years has seen at least one Bates Solar Astronomy small park or preserve. great blue heron killed by “My dog is friendly, he Project and Sunlit Earth. fishing line or other trash left doesn’t need to be on a leash” at Murphey Candler Park. is something I hear often. City, county and It’s amazing how many people will walk, state law differ with this conclusion, and jog or bike through a natural area and
thoughtlessly dump their drink containers, cigarette/cigar butts, or plastic wrappers on the ground. I have noticed that the majority of these people operate from ignorance versus malice and would like to believe they simply don’t know the damage they are doing. Of course, some just don’t care. Simply put, discarded trash is a major killer of wildlife. Animals assume it is food, eat it, and die. One candy bar wrapper is enough to choke a small mammal. One piece of fishing line will strangle most small animals. Your beer/soda can or bottle can kill numerous creatures in several horrible ways. Please, please, please, don’t litter our beautiful natural areas, and if you see garbage, pick it up. If there is a fishing lure caught in a tree or line on the ground, discard of it properly. Turning your head and ignoring these thin gs is almost as bad as leaving them in the first place. Let’s work together to provide safe habitats and beautiful green areas for all of us. Wading birds are a real treat for nature lovers. Let’s take some commonsense steps to ensure that the next generation can enjoy them.
Power and money are at stake in 2020 Census Come next spring, our resentatives, underlining the country will be in the midst importance of the Census in of our most inclusive exerdistributing political power. cise in civic engagement: The 435 voting seats in a complete count of every the House are fixed by law person living in the United and proportionally repreStates. sent the population of all 50 Though April 1, 2020 – the states, with each member of official day of the count – is the House representing a set almost a year away, it’s not number of constituents. too early to start preparing After the 2010 Census, our communities. There is Georgia gained one seat. The simply too much at stake in Aixa M. Pascual Peach State was one of only the 2020 Census, especially eight states that added repis senior lead for for populations that are hard resentatives in Congress, acadvocacy, thought to count. cording to the National ConThe decennial Census is leadership, civic affairs ference of State Legislatures. about much more than com- and cultural engagement Congressional representapiling a demographic snap- at the Latin American tion is also consequential beshot of our nation. It is about Association in Brookhaven. cause the number of a state’s the allocation of power and representatives in Washingmoney. If we don’t get an accurate and ton, D.C., factors into the all-important complete count of all people living and electoral votes that determine who gets to breathing in our country, we are all dibe president. minished. Moreover, the critical task of redrawOur democracy is, after all, a collective ing the boundaries of state legislative and endeavor that empowers “We the People” congressional districts also occurs in the through voting and other forms of politiaftermath of the Census. We cannot uncal and civic participation. For those who derestimate the importance of redistrictcan’t -- or choose not to -- vote in elections, ing in shaping political outcomes. something as simple as filling out the CenCensus data has a bearing on who gets sus questionnaire can be a source of emto vote. In December 2016, the Census Bupowerment. reau designated Gwinnett County, which The Census is a tradition steeped in our has more Latinos than any other county country’s history. Mandated by the U.S. in Georgia, as a jurisdiction that falls unConstitution, the first Census was conder Section 203 of the 1965 Voting Rights ducted in 1790. An “enumeration” is called Act. Since more than 5 percent of votingfor in the same article and section that adage citizens in the county are members dresses membership in the House of Repof a single-language minority group and
have difficulty understanding English, this action ensures that these voters can access Spanish-language ballots. Between 2015 and 2040, Latinos in metro Atlanta will grow faster than any other racial or ethnic group, with Gwinnett County seeing the biggest growth, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. How tax dollars from Washington are allotted to states is also derived from Census numbers. Data from the decennial count determines the geographic distribution of about $900 billion in federal funds. For many metro communities in Georgia this is of utmost importance, since many cities have been incorporated in the past decade and the 2020 Census will be their first decennial count. In 2016, guided by data gathered from the 2010 Census, Georgia received $24 billion through 55 federal spending programs, according to a recent study by the George Washington University’s Institute of Public Policy. For every person not counted in the Census, the state forfeits $1,339 annually in the 16 largest federal assistance programs, the report said. As Georgia’s population grows and becomes increasingly polychromatic, it is imperative that all our communities and residents get access to the resources we need so that Georgia can remain competitive as a business destination. In order for Georgia to reap the political benefits of a population growth powered by Latinos and to retain for decades to come its spot as the top state to do business in, all Georgians need to be counted.
Commentary | 19
Mother’s words of wisdom Every so often (really, orders and frantic interropractically daily), I see litgations while playing Beat tle gift-store books or interthe Clock: net memes sharing “moth“Turn off the lights!” er’s words of wisdom” or “Do you have your something to that effect. homework?” These are deep, insight“Where are your shoes?” ful sentiments intendNow that they’re all ed to guide the offspring grown up, and with no through the obstacles of grandchildren anywhere life. They are philosophical on the horizon, my opporparadoxes: tunity for imparting life Robin Conte lives with lessons in pithy nuggets “It’s not about finding her husband in an emp- has practically passed. Yet yourself, it’s about creating ty nest in Dunwoody. still, my words of wisdom yourself,” or “The future does not lie in front of are purely pragmatic: you, it lies inside of you.” “Remember your power cord.” Go ahead, do a quick internet search “Don’t walk alone at night.” and you’ll see that Pinterest has 269 “Get enough sleep.” “Best Mommy Words of Wisdom,” and It seems as if the world around us has that’s just for starters. There’s Mothbeen boiled down to sound-bites and taer’s Words of Wisdom to Sons, Mother’s glines, Insta-phrases and 30-character Words of Wisdom to Daughters, to chilbios. But that’s not how we live our daidren about to marry, to children raisly lives. We live in episodes. We live in ing children, to children adopting pets, mini-series. We live in full-fledged storaising plants, cleaning out basements, ries. changing tires…Mothers have Words of My words to my children were simWisdom for every possible person and ply fragments of a whole, spoken to situation imaginable. them as I tried to nurture them through These Words are illustrated with childhood to adulthood. I’m not sure if waterfalls, winding roads, or mountain I uttered wisdom, but I did try to voice vistas, all intended to underscore the encouragement. fact that the phrases are dripping with I wish I could report that I had sent sagacity. Even Harriet Beecher Stowe my kids off to school with some kind of proclaimed decades ago that “mothers Zen-like phrase: are the most instinctive philosophers.” “The road that lies before you may I hate to let Harriet down, but I ofbe rocky, but there is beauty in the jourten see these “things my mother told ney.” me” Yoda-isms and a get a little pang of But I didn’t. guilt, racking my brain to see if I can reWhat was it that I did say? What call any pearls of wisdom that I shared words will my children remember of with my own children. those I told them if they were to write What did I tell them? their own book? “Don’t sleep with wet hair.” “God bless you.” “Floss your teeth.” “Be grateful.” “Stand up straight.” “I’m praying for you.” I don’t remember doling out wis“I love you.” dom while I was trying to get them to Maybe that was enough. school on time. I was mainly calling out
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Read Robin Conte’s debut book ‘The Best of the Nest’ “The Best of the Nest” offers 49 of Reporter Newspapers columnist Robin Conte’s witty essays on suburban family life, organized by seasons. They include some of the pieces that won Robin the first-place Lifestyle/Features Column award in 2017 and 2018 and first-place for Humorous column in 2018 from the Georgia Press Association.
Order the book at bestofthenest.net Follow Robin’s book-related appearances at robinconte.com.
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20 | Commentary
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A local historian uses new tech to make ancient connections
John Beach in the study of his Buckhead home. JOE EARLE
John Beach clicked a few keys and one of several computer screens on the desk in the library of his Paces Ferry home displayed a map covered with scribbled words highlighted in magenta. The scrawl covered the screen like graffiti on a city wall. The brightly colored words marked locations where nearly two centuries ago surveyors had spotted significant trees when laying out land lots in Buckhead. Beach’s computer laid the locations of the trees over a modern map of the area. As the 64-year-old Beach sees it, this
combination of old and new maps can be the start of something. He’s president of the Buckhead Heritage Society. When the mapping is done and published, local students, members of garden clubs or other neighborhood volunteers can use the resulting new map to track down any of the “land lot” trees that have survived the decades of development and bad weather since that original map was drawn. Why go to all this trouble for a few trees? “These trees are part of the history of Buckhead,” Beach said. Besides, they have something to say about the Buckhead environment, and about what was there before. Part of the appeal of studying history, after all, is making connections between the present and the past. It lets us see just how we got from there to here. Beach thinks history as something that helps create a sense
Joe Earle is editor-at-large at Reporter Newspapers and has lived in metro Atlanta for over 30 years. He can be reached at email@example.com
of place. “It makes me feel more connected to an area to understand what’s happened in the past,” he said. Beach is about as connected to Buckhead as anyone can get. His family has been in Atlanta for generations and his resume sketches a portrait of an old-fashioned Buckhead Boy: he grew up near the Bobby Jones Golf Course; went to both Lovett and Westminster; and lives in a house he says once was owned by noted Atlanta historian Franklin Garrett. Beach’s computer-screen-topped desk sits in a study that once was Garrett’s, the writer known for producing a definitive, multi-volume study of Atlanta’s history. Beach even owns the web address “BuckheadBoys.com,” although he said it now only whisks visitors to the website for his construction company, Paces Construction, which started in 2002 (he was in computers before that) and specializes in renovating older homes. Beach said he’s interested in combining his lifelong interest in history with his background in using computers. “I’s hard to explain,” he said. “I like the [intersection] of old and new,” he said. “I like using technology to track and visualize history… What personally excites me is finding new ways to use historical scholarship to make better decisions moving forward. In
my mind, coming from a computer background, it’s about collecting the information and making it actionable.” Things may change, he said, but there’s often a pattern beneath the changes. “Think about Buckhead right now,” he said. “198 years ago, this was the Creek nation. The United States signed a treaty with the Creek nation transferring this land to the U.S. government and then to Georgia.” Soon the Creeks were moved out and new settlers moved in. Over the generations since, he said, Buckhead has repeated the pattern: new people move in and displace residents who had been there before. “That’s a continuous process that has happened,” he said. The trick is to recognize it and learn from it, to figure out how to mix old and new and keep both side by side. “Buckhead means something different to different people,” he said. “It wasn’t all built at the same time … so we get a broad array of house styles, which makes it interesting to me in trying to figure out how to preserve it, or parts of it. We do not want to see Buckhead becoming Anywhere USA, with a lot of 8,000-square-foot mansions. ” That may mean keeping tabs on old things, such as the oldest trees in the forest. They’ve survived a lot, after all. Once found, they may be able to help new residents figure out what to hold on to.
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Is this the gun that killed Buckhead’s namesake deer? Continued from page 1 up look at the recently rediscovered weapon nicknamed the “Buckhead Gun.” “My belief is we’ll never prove it was the actual gun,” says Beach, taking a scientific stance about the potential deer-slaying artifact. He thinks that at best, historians could only prove it’s not the weapon that killed the Buckhead buck, if the age or ownership record turns out to be wrong. (As of yet, there’s not even expert opinion on whether it’s truly a gun – meaning a smooth internal barrel, as it appears at a non-expert glance – or a rifle, with a barrel grooved for accuracy and distance.) But what is already known about how the firearm fits into Buckhead’s bloody legend is compelling. The name is said to have originated in the public display of the head of a buck outside or close to a general store run
by Henry Irby at the intersection of today’s Peachtree, Roswell and West Paces Ferry roads in what is now Buckhead Village. The building stood roughly where the Whole Foods supermarket is today, Beach said. The area was initially called Irbyville before the allure of the deer’s head took hold. Heritage Society research found that the deer was shot not by Irby, as long thought, but rather by a neighbor named John Whitley or his unnamed wife. The display of the head may have been part of the common method of field-dressing a deer after a successful hunt – propping its severed head on a tree branch or stick, Beach says. Virtually all of that information lacks primary sources and has come down as oral history; one narrative suggests that the deer head was displayed across West Paces Ferry around what is now the St. Regis hotel. Soon after, the Whitleys bought 40 acres of land in the Vinings area of nearby Cobb
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County – near today’s SunTrust Park — and in 1842 built a log cabin there, according to the Heritage Society. According to one newspaper article roughly a century later, John Whitley was killed by “rebellious slaves” shortly before the Civil War. The Whitleys’ grandson James was born in the cabin in 1873 and lived there until 1961, with the historic deer-killing gun hanging over the fireplace all of those years. From time to time, his rural life and old-school ways got him press attention. Then along came the Georgia Department of Transportation, seeking to eminent-domain the family land for the new I-285 freeway. Whitely is said to have offered the cabin and the historic Buckhead firearm to GDOT in exchange for sparing at least part of the property or building him a new home. GDOT was not interested in saving the land – or owning a deer-slaying artifact — and set Whitley up in a Smyrna-area house instead. According to Beach, Whitley continued to favor a rustic lifestyle, including cooking in the fireplace of his new modern home. Whitley died the following year. But the cabin and its contents, including the Buckhead Gun, survived. A friend of Whitley’s paid to have the cabin moved – lock, stock and smoking barrel – to the back yard of his Buckhead home. Whitley never lived there again, but the cabin remains to this day, hidden from public view. This private preservation resulted in
some personal complexities and sensitivities that leads the Heritage Society to keep those involved anonymous, at least for now. The cabin is not available for viewing, and for public consumption, Beach will only say that an heir currently owns the supposed Buckhead Gun. That heir has loaned the firearm to the Heritage Society for research and display during its April 28 “Mansions, Gardens and Ghosts” bus tour of historical sites. For now, Beach is something of a oneman Warren Commission on the killing of the Buckhead buck. He’s got a sheaf of newspaper clippings and many historic photos of the cabin and the weapon. The firearm itself has one solid research lead: a maker’s mark on the barrel from H.E. Leman, a famed gunsmith from Lancaster, Pa., whose work can be traced in two speciality museums. One early opinion is that the firearm – estimated to be roughly .36-caliber — had some alterations to its stock and a possible conversion from a flintlock to a caplock firing mechanism, but is substantially intact. And it might even still be capable of firing. But Beach says that there won’t be any test hunting of local deer. In the Buckhead that grew up around Irby’s store, deer-hunting is now illegal. “We now protect the deer that they looked at as their dinner,” says Beach.
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NEW FIRE STATION NO. 3 IS READY FOR DUTY The new Atlanta Fire Rescue Department Station No. 3 opened in November in its unusual spot beneath the Phipps Plaza mall parking deck. The former version of the station, located under a different part of the same parking structure, opened in 1993, but was aging and moved as part of a major makeover of the mall that is still underway. The original Station 3 project was led by Capt. Dennis Ham, who is honored with a statue that stands outside the new station as well.
PHOTOS BY PHIL MOSIER Top right, ready for a call at Station No. 3 on a recent shift were, from left, Firefighter Sterling, Capt. Miller, Sgt. Michael and Firefighter Chang. Middle right, an engine is ready to roll. Bottom right, the new Fire Station No. 3. Bottom, all of the fire truck tools are painted the stationâ€™s colors of red and gold.
Community | 23
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LOCAL COUPLE BRINGS ANIME, GAMING EVENT TO ATLANTA
NATURE AND THEATER MERGE AT DUNWOODY’S PLAY-READING SERIES PAGE 26
Spring 2019 | Where brick-and-mortar retail still works
The PCIDs marks 20 years of shaping Perimeter Center
Main photo, the diverging diamond interchange at Ashford-Dunwoody Road and I-285 as it looked shortly after opening in 2012.
Inset, the Hammond Drive interchange with Ga. 400 shortly after it opened in 2011.
BY JOHN RUCH firstname.lastname@example.org
After 20 years of a population boom, increasingly jammed highways and skyscraper-sprouting mega-developments, it may sound quaint that people worried about Perimeter Mall traffic way back in 1999. But the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, the self-taxing groups of business property owners that formed out of those concerns, are among the reasons the local boom has happened and why the traffic isn’t even worse. If you go to Perimeter Center today, you may well get there via one of the big projects the PCIDs pushed – like the Hammond Drive ramps on Ga. 400 or the Ashford-Dunwoody Road diverging diamond interchange at I-285 – and you’ll see smaller touches they’re responsible for, like landscaping and rush-hour traffic cops. “They had a reputation for, number one, cleaning things up, providing some of those cosmetic amenities we’ve all become used to,” said Ann Hanlon, who watched the CIDs form as a longtime Dunwoody resident and now serves as their executive director. “At the time, that was pretty revolutionary, that a private group was willing to pay for those amenities.” Back in 1999, the three cities that today cover Perimeter Center – Brookhaven, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs – did not yet exist. As the PCIDs looks ahead to its next 20 years, it has refocused its mission on transportation, leaving previous proposals such as park-building to the cities. Transportation these days means everything from helping to build multiuse trail networks to shaping the future of toll lanes and transit on Ga. 400 and I-285. That’s in addition to some of the basics the PCIDs currently provides or coordinates, like sidewalks and crosswalks, commuter shuttles, traffic signal timing and the Perimeter Connects commuter advice service. An increasingly residential sector is part of Perimeter Center’s future, with
CONTINUED ON PAGE 34
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26 | Art & Entertainment
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Eat Your Heart Out.
The local couple who brings MomoCon’s world of anime, gaming and more to town
MomoCon operators Jessica Merriman and Chris Stuckey get into the convention spirit.
BY DOUG CARROLL
J U N E 8 -1 5 , 2 01 9
JUNE 8-15 8 T H A N N UA L
Save the date for the most savory week of the year: Dunwoody Restaurant Week! From June 8-15, join us for brunch, lunch, dinner and specialty items, all at set prices. The restaurants will serve their best, all you need to do is secure your spot (and prepare your palate).
She originally had planned to become a neurosurgeon. He studied computer science, but had designs on being a video-game developer. What Jessica Merriman and Chris Stuckey had in common, though, was their affinity for anime, the Japanese style of animation that caught fire in the U.S. in the 1990s. Fifteen years ago, they were members of Anime O-Tekku, the anime club at Georgia Tech — “a bunch of nerds,” Merriman says -- with whom they happily claimed affiliation. Out of that club of a few dozen enthusiasts came a convention, MomoCon, in 2005. The event now brings more than 30,000 people to Atlanta’s Georgia World Congress Center over Memorial Day
weekend but keeps Merriman and Stuckey — now married — busy all year. It’s a circled-in-red extravaganza of cosplayers, gamers and comics fans that just keeps getting bigger and more sophisticated. There’s even a half-day career fair for those hoping to do what Merriman and Stuckey did and turn avocation into vocation. MomoCon — “momo” is Japanese for peach — made the jump from the Tech campus to the massive convention complex in 2015 and hasn’t looked back. For more information about MomoCon 2019, see momocon.com. “We’re invested in this,” Stuckey says. “We want to grow this to be one of the largest events in the country…. As stressful as it is, we’re fortunate to do something we’re passionate about.”
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Art & Entertainment | 27
MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net The couple, who reside just outside Brookhaven in DeKalb County, discussed that passion and their plans for this year’s MomoCon with us recently.
Q: How did MomoCon get off the ground way back when?
Stuckey: It was a lot of effort by Jess to start it. It had 750 people the first year, then it doubled, then it doubled again. We have grown through word of mouth and grassroots marketing and geek hangouts. And we were early in social media with a Facebook page and group.
Q: Explain the attraction of cosplay – costume-wearing and creation -- to its most devoted fans. Merriman: Cosplay people feel very attracted to a character and want to create a costume around that. Some just love the character. Others want to meet like-minded people around the character. It’s a personal expression of relating to something fictional. There’s also some awesome craftsmanship.
Q: What are some of the current trends that we might see reflected at this year’s MomoCon?
Stuckey: E-sports have become bigger. We’ve used our connections there to help us grow. We’ll have 60 different game tournaments this year. We’ve cultivated “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” and are ex-
pecting 1,000 competitors in that alone. We work with people who understand the space well. Merriman: We have a partnership with the Girl Scouts regarding STEM programming and robotics. That’s a new thing.
Q: What’s the key to staying current across so many genres?
Stuckey: To stay relevant, you have to be a fan yourself — and we are. We’re on top of the latest and greatest. It’s easy to stay in tune through social media. That’s where the culture is. For example, within a minute of the start of an episode of “Game of Thrones,” there are memes showing up on social media. Also, we’ll attend other events to network, and we invite influencers as MomoCon guests.
Q: How does Atlanta rate in the eyes of those who attend these types of conventions?
Stuckey: Dragon Con [held Labor Day weekend in Atlanta] has been going for 33 years and was one of the first big fan events in the U.S. It helped grow the Atlanta geek scene in the late 1980s. You could say Dragon Con started the culture here. It made cosplay and prop-making professional. Some of the people in the film industry in Atlanta got their start with Dragon Con.
ANDREW MICHAEL PHILLIPS
A cosplayer at last year’s MomoCon pays tribute to the video game series “The Legend of Zelda.”
Q: The numbers on MomoCon are staggering. You’ve got 1,200 volunteers divided into 70 teams. You have more than 600 sessions scheduled across four days. And you’re handling marketing, contracts, web design, apps and more. How do you keep from going crazy? Stuckey: I tell people that running this convention is like keeping a bunch of plates spinning. It’s difficult. Two months out, it’s all day, every day. We’ll go see the new “Avengers” movie, but even that’s
Meet a Cosplayer
Stuckey: This is a passion, and I like that I can still work with game developers as part of it. Merriman: I’ll do this until I die.
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Q: How did you first get into cosplay, and how long have you been a cosplayer?
Mo Vermenton as Green Lantern
Q: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened to you in costume?
A: I guess the most surreal and interesting experience was the first time my dad saw me in cosplay during our trip to New York for New York Comic Con. Up to that point, I think my dad had only seen my cosplay in pictures, never in the flesh. Because my dad is old-fashioned and in his seventies, I didn’t know what his reaction would be to see this “hobby” I had chosen for myself. To my surprise, he was complimentary and super supportive. I could tell that he saw how much I enjoyed doing this and how happy it makes me. It was by far one of the best experiences.
Q: What makes MomoCon special?
Q: Does it ever get to be too much? Any thoughts of leaving this behind?
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Mo Vermenton is a cosplayer from Buckhead who will portray comic book hero Green Lantern at MomoCon.
A: I am a lifelong geek. I’ve loved comic books and superheroes since as far back as I can remember. I started getting into cosplay probably around 2013, and my first cosplay was Hancock [from the Will Smith movie]. The first convention I attended in cosplay was Dragon Con.
kind of work-related for us. Then two weeks after MomoCon, we’re off to E3 [Electronic Entertainment Expo] in L.A., then the Anime Expo [in L.A. in July].
A: I think MomoCon is a great experience for fans and geeks of all ages. It really sets itself apart from other cons by making its programming and events open to a wide variety of not only genres and fandoms, but diversity across the board.
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28 | Art & Entertainment
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Nature and theater merge at Dunwoody’s play-reading series
F An audience watches a play reading at the Dunwoody Nature Center in the debut Wine & Reading series last year.
Food that Rocks BY JUDITH SCHONBAK
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Enjoy free admission and special programs on the second Sunday of each month.
Audiences will wend their way along a tree-canopied boardwalk to the Dunwoody Nature Center’s newest addition, the North Woods Pavilion. Set on a knoll and surrounded by a lush deciduous forest, the spacious, glass-windowed building feels like a treehouse. They will be on their way, not to hike, bird watch or picnic by the stream, but to a reading of an original play by a nationally recognized playwright, read by professional local actors. In the Dunwoody Nature Center, Atlanta-based Found Stages found the venue for its six-month Wine & Reading Playwright Series to bring original plays out of traditional theaters and into real-world places within the community, from nature
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Art & Entertainment | 29
MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net centers and parks to inns and even back yards. May 12 marks the start of the second annual edition. Co-founders Nicole Palmietto, artistic director, and Second Sunday of each month Neeley Gosset, resident playMay – October, 2 – 4 p.m. wright, made their vision a Visit foundstages.org and dunwoodynature.org. reality in 2014. It was an idea For playwrights, visit leeosorio.com that had been percolating in and edithfreni.com. Palmietto’s mind since her college days about a decade ago. “Our mission is to build a sense of community among audiences as well as with the writers and actors,” she said. Non-traditional spaces and small gatherings give everyone a comfort level, she added. Palmietto and Gosset also hope to help people see that theater is accessible as a part of everyday life, rather than a special occasion. For the Wine & Reading Series, the playwrights are curated, but the choice of the play is up to each individual, says Palmietto, who directs the readings. Local actors known to Found Stages are invited to read a particular role for the play. The play’s set is whatever venue is chosen. There are no props, and actors wear everyday attire. The series readings are the second Sunday of each month, beginning May 12 through October 13. The audience, the director, the playwright and actors mingle over wine and hors d’ oeuvres before the reading, and for open discussion following the presentation. A play reading is a step in the development process of a new play. It’s one most audiences don’t get to see. The Reporter caught up with two busy playwrights to talk about their work in the theater arts, their support for bringing theater to unexpected places and about the readings. Both have a lengthy list of impressive credentials, awards and experience and are known nationally for their work. Lee Osorio, actor, teacher and playwright, opens the 2019 reading series with his one-act play “Faith” on May 12; and Edith Freni, playwright and teacher, will introduce her play “The Hystericals” for its first public reading on June 9. Both Osorio and Freni agree that a reading is vital to the playwright. At their respective readings, they will be sitting in the back of the room taking in audience reactions: where they laugh – or not, gasp or seem to be puzzled. The writers will also be making notes about the pacing of the play, its pitch and volume. “I love to watch the audience’s response and reaction. It tells you so much,” said Osorio. He and Freni said they will likely make changes in the play based on their own reactions as well as audience reaction and post-reading comments. “The plays are still evolving,” commented Osorio.
PLAYWRIGHT Q&A: LEE OSORIO
Just ending a three-week run in the leading role of “Hamlet” at the Shakespeare Tavern in Atlanta, Osorio will don his playwright hat at the reading of his play. Four actors will read “Faith.”
WINE & READING PLAYWRIGHT SERIES
Q: What are your connections to Atlanta? A: I grew up in the metro area. My family moved to Mar-
ietta when I was nine. I came back to live in Atlanta three years ago after undergrad and grad school at Brown University and Trinity Rep in Providence, Rhode Island.
Q: As a playwright, what inspires your work?
A: Life! There are stories everywhere. I was inspired to write “Faith” by an indie blue-
grass song I heard on the radio when I was in Toronto a couple years ago. I was quoted in a press release that I like to investigate characters that want to live and love well, but are really unsure how. My hope is that my work makes someone feel seen, that emboldens someone to be more honest about their struggles, and it encourages us to reach out.
Q: What are the benefits you see in bringing performances to venues outside traditional theaters?
A: I love the model of truly immersive theater. It can attract new audiences; create more support for the theater arts; and give people something different to do. I think the readings give audiences a chance to use their imaginations and respond to the play itself. They are not bound by set, costumes and staging. They can think about what a full production might be like.
Q: What is your view on Atlanta as an opportunity for theater arts? A: I think Atlanta is a place with great potential, diversity and space for more arts in-
cluding theater arts – for actors, playwrights, producers and directors. I have found [Atlanta] to be one of the kindest, most generous, welcoming and supportive places I have worked. There’s room to improve. We need to push ourselves to grow. I advocate that Atlanta must try to become more representational of its diverse communities and I ask of the city and its leaders to make art more accessible to all. Interviews continued on the next page >>
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Facebook.com/TheReporterNewspapers ■ twitter.com/Reporter_News Continued from page 29
PLAYWRIGHT Q&A: EDITH FRENI
On June 9, playwright and teacher Edith Freni brings her play “The Hystericals” to the Wine & Reading Series for its first public airing. Five actors will deliver the reading.
Q: You currently live in Nashville. What are your ties to Atlanta?
A: I was the inaugural Emory University Playwright Fellow
atre in 2015 to 2017.
for two years, 2014 to 2016. It really established me as a playwright. I have had commissions from Actor’s Express, Theatre Emory and Georgia State. I also received a New Territories Playwriting Residency at Serenbe Playhouse. I have worked with Kennesaw University and was the co-lead teacher for the New South Young Playwrights Contest and Festival for Horizon The-
Q: When did you get interested in play-writing? A: I have written ever since I learned to read and write. I grew up in New York where my dad was an actor, so I was immersed in theater all my life. I kept a journal of my writing samples, essays, stories and scripts for him. I remember rewriting the end of “Hamlet.”
Q: What inspires your plays? A: I focus on women and their stories, and in the last five or six years, I have usually had a female protagonist. “The Hystericals” grew out of my own experience with an auto-immune condition and the fact that women are not always taken seriously by the medical profession. I also discovered how people may overly identify with an illness. I met personalities –all women – in online chat rooms and I wanted to write a play about my and their experiences.
Q: Do you have more than one play under development at any given time? A: I have been writing “The Hystericals” over the last year-and-a-half. It’s possible to have two in the works. The theater arts are very competitive, so like many playwrights, I have side gigs going, in my case, teaching. I have taught playwriting, playmaking, play analysis and theater history at various universities.
Q: Do you have current works in development? A: Actually, I am entering a whole new world: writing for television productions. I recently
sent out my first original script. TV offers a lot of writing opportunities for writers. It’s a lifechanging move from my 10 years in academia and writing plays for theater.
Food & Drink | 31
MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net
What’s new at the 2019 Dunwoody Farmers Market BY STAFF REPORTS You might say that metro Atlanta was ripe for a wave of farmers markets, in light of renewed interest in farm-to-table food and an influx of urbanites championing it. Edward Hunter, the new general manager of the Dunwoody Farmers Market, has had his eye on the trend for a while. “Atlanta has seen a flight into the city of young, educated people in the last 15 to 20 years,” says Hunter, an Atlanta native. “Now there’s so much that is thriving here, and people want the experience of a farmers market. There has to be 50 of these in the metro area now.” Georgia’s agricultural roots also are a factor in the popularity of the markets. “There’s still an agrarian spirit in the state,” Hunter says. “People dabble in growing their own food. There are nascent growers, but also people who grew up doing it.” The Dunwoody Farmers Market, which launches its second year on May 4 in Brook Run Park at 4770 North Peachtree Road, represents a partnership between the city and the Dunwoody Homeowners Association. Hunter says about two-thirds of the 30 confirmed vendors will be weekly regulars — the season runs through September, on Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to noon — and favorites such as Watsonia Farms (peaches) and Regina’s Farm Kitchen (homemade jam) will be back. For more information about the Dunwoody Farmers Market, go to dunwoodyfarmersmkt.com. Hunter, who now lives in Athens and works full time in hospital tech, fielded a few questions about the market and his role.
Q: How did you fall into overseeing a farmers market?
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A: A friend of mine, Brandon Smith, started in peach and produce distribution eight or nine years ago. He saw a need in the Atlanta metro area for some competition. The number of Edward Hunter markets has doubled or tripled since he started, with different demand in different parts of the area. I think I can help Brandon with something that’s already strong in Dunwoody. I’ll try not to mess anything up.
Q: How will this year’s market build on the success of last year’s? What’s new? A: There will be more variety. We’ll try to have more food-truck activity, such as Jamaican food, barbecue and Marlee Street Eatz. Two or three times a month, we’ll do a theme.
Q: Will the market have music again this year? A: We’ll have live music for at least half of the season, including Alex Gordon. He’s a solo act who adds the perfect ambiance. He has a “yacht rock” style that’s relaxing. It’s eclectic instrumental music that ranges from the Beatles and Nirvana to Miles Davis and Herb Alpert. We’ll also have a string duet and some singer-songwriters.
Q: What’s special about putting the market in Brook Run Park? A: The park seems to be a real draw for the Dunwoody area, and it’s got a killer playscape for families with kids. The property helps bring businesses into the market. Dunwoody has had [a farmers market] in fits and starts over the years, and the Dunwoody Homeowners Association seems to be a great organization.
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Q: How would you define the vibe of a first-rate farmers market? A: When it serves the function you want it to, it’s almost like a neighborhood grocery store.
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32 | Out & About
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O W O N DY U D BROOKHAVEN
PERFORMANCES BILLY ELLIOT THE MUSICAL
Friday, May 3 through Sunday, May 12 City Springs Theatre Company presents Broadway’s Drew McVety, Pamela Gold, and Sarah Charles Lewis in this unforgettable musical that follows a young boy as he trades in his boxing gloves for dancing shoes in a small mining town in the English countryside. Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center’s Byers Theatre at 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Tickets: $30-$62. Info: 404-477-4365 or cityspringstheatre.com.
This year’s theme: Grand Marshall: Dunwoody Police Department
JULY 4, 2019 at 9:00 am Parade begins at the Mount Vernon Shopping Center, proceeds down Mount Vernon Road for approximately 2.5 miles and ends with a lively Family Festival in Dunwoody Village The Dunwoody Homeowners Association and the Dunwoody Reporter newspaper will host the annual Fourth of July Parade featuring marching clowns, animal units and local celebrities! GOLD
Friday, May 24 through Sunday, June 16, Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m., Sunday, 2:30 p.m. The Stage Door Players bring the joyful music of Thomas “Fats” Waller to the stage. The energetic, upbeat show features familiar songs like “Honeysuckle Rose,” “This Joint is Jumpin’,” and “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love.” Stage Door Players, 5339 ChambleeDunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Tickets: $33. Info: stagedoorplayers.net or 770-396-1726.
CONCERTS BY THE SPRINGS
Sunday, May 12, 5-8:30 p.m. The Return, a Beatles cover band, take the stage at 7 p.m. part of a free concert event. Beforehand, the new Taproom Concert Series will offers craft brewery tastings. The Bell’s Breweries and Founder’s Brewing Co. will offer 12 samples of beer and a commerrative Taproom Concert Series cup. Taproom Tastings $18. Heritage Sandy Springs. 6110 Blue Stone Road, Sandy Springs. Info: heritagesandysprings.org.
CITY GREEN LIVE MUSIC SERIES
Fridays, May 24; 31, 6:30 p.m. The City Green in Sandy Springs debuts its summer music series with Grammy Awardwinning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers on May 24 and Eagles tribute band 7 Ridges on May 31. More acts scheduled throughout the summer. City Green, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Free, no tickets required. Tables may be reserved starting at $40. Info: citysprings.com.
VISUAL ARTS GATHERED IV
Through Saturday, June 15, 11 am- 5 p.m. The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia presents its 4th installment of a biennial exhibition showcasing the breadth and diversity of Georgia talent from a variety of mediums. This year, Gathered IV features 47 works of art by 38 Georgia artists. 75 Bennett Street, Buckhead. Tickets: $8. Info: mocaga.org
SALVADOR DALÍ & LEON KELLY, SURREALIST ART
For more information about sponsorship, please contact Leah Economos at 770-624-4825 or email@example.com.
Friday, May 3 through Saturday, Aug. 31 Salvador Dalí’s Stairway to Heaven presents two fine print portfolios by the artist, his illustrations for the Comte de Lautréamont’s Les Chants de Maldoror and Dante Aligh-
ieri’s The Divine Comedy, on loan from Park West Foundation. Also newly on display is a retrospective spanning surrealist artist Leon Kelly’s entire career. Oglethorpe University Museum of Art, 4484 Peachtree Road, Brookhaven. $5, free for members. Info: museum.oglethorpe.edu.
BOOKS & AUTHORS JILL BIDEN, “WHERE THE LIGHT ENTERS”
Wednesday, May 15, 7:30 pm Former Second Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden, presents her new memoir and personal story of how she built a family and life of her own, Where the Light Enters. The book is a candid, heartwarming glimpse into the creation of a beloved American family, and the life of a woman at its center. MJCCA-Zaban Park. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Seating is extremely limited; tickets are limited to two per person. Tickets: One general admission ticket with one hardcover copy of book $40 / Two general admission tickets and one book: $60. Info: atlantajcc.org
A SHORT HISTORY OF BARBECUE IN AMERICA
Thursday, May 23, 6p.m. As part of the “Barbecue Nation” exhibit, on view at the Atlanta History Center through Sept 29, consulting curator Jim Auchmutey, author of “Smokelore: A Short History of Barbecue in America,” will discuss the history of barbecue in America from the ox roast that celebrated the groundbreaking for the U.S. Capitol building to the first barbecue launched into space almost 200 years later. A preceding reception will include barbecue appetizers. Atlanta History Center, 130 West Paces Ferry Road NW, Atlanta. $10 general public; $5 members. Info: 404-814-4150 or atlantahistorycenter.com.
E L JAMES, “THE MISTER”
Thursday, May 30, 7:30 pm E L James, author of the bestselling “Fifty Shades” trilogy, makes her first Atlanta appearance with a new romance novel, “The Mister.” MJCCA-Zaban Park. 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Tickets: $32 includes general admission plus book. Info: atlantajcc.org
OUTDOOR EVENTS GARDENS FOR CONNOISSEURS TOUR
Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m.5 p.m. Benefiting the Atlanta Botanical Garden, the tour spotlights nine private home gardens throughout metro Atlanta, including Buckhead, Sandy Springs, Decatur and Midtown. Tickets: $28 advance/ $35 day of. Info: Atlantabg.org.
DUNWOODY ART FESTIVAL
Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m.5 p.m. Dunwoody Village transforms into an artist market with shopping, children’s activities, live music and a food court featuring
Art & Entertainment | 33
MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net neighborhood restaurants. Dunwoody Village Parkway, Dunwoody. Free. Info: splashfestivals.com/events-festivals/dunwoody-artfestival/.
CHASTAIN PARK ARTS FESTIVAL
Saturday, May 11 and Sunday, May 12, 10 a.m.5 p.m. Fine art and crafts from 185 artists and artisans, live acoustic music, a children’s area and local food and beverage concessions, including gourmet food trucks. Chastain Park, 140 W. Wieuca Road, Buckhead. Free. Info: chastainparkartsfestival.com. Outdoor Fun
FOOD TRUCK ROUNDUP
Wednesdays, starting May 15, 6-9 p.m. The popular Brookhaven Food Truck Roundup, now entering its sixth season, returns in a new location at the north end of the park near the Blackburn Pavilion. The new site borders a recently installed playground and will feature 8 to 10 food truck dining options, a beer and wine tent, live entertainment and a bounce house and other activities for children every Wednesday through Oct. 2. Blackburn Park, 3493 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, Brookhaven. Info: brookhavenga.gov.
Saturday, May 18, 8 a.m. A 5K run that is a Peachtree Road Race qualifying event. All proceeds go to Ashford Park Elementary School. Village Place Brookhaven, 1430 Dresden Drive, Brookhaven. $30. Info: brookhavenbolt.com
Saturday, June 1, 7:30 a.m Livable Buckhead amps up its wellness mission with BuckheadWALKS, a free 30-day walking challenge that culminates with buckheadRUN!, an inaugural 5K race that takes runners through Buckhead and Path400. Lenox Square mall, 3393 Peachtree Road, Buckhead. Run: $30 before May 15, $35 after. Info: livablebuckhead.org/run.
FAMILY FOREST WALK AT BIG TREES PRESERVE
Friday, May 24, 9-10:30 a.m. Enjoy a short guided walk and see some of the tallest trees in Sandy Springs, including Tulip Poplar and American Beech. Big Trees Forest Preserve, 7645 Roswell Road, Sandy Springs. Free, registration requested. Info: registration.sandyspringsga.gov.
MOTHER & SON DANCE
Saturday, May 11, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Brookhaven Parks and Recreations hosts its first ever Mother & Son dance for a special night with a live DJ, photographer, food and giveaways. Lynwood Park Community Center, 3360 Osborne Road, Brookhaven. $25. Register at brookhavenga.gov/parksrec.
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34 | Perimeter Business
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Perimeter Business Focusing on business in the Reporter Newspapers communities
The PCIDs marks 20 years of shaping Perimeter Center Continued from page 25 an estimated 9,000 people already living there and more large-scale, mixeduse projects in the pipeline. It remains to be seen whether the PCIDs will join similar business groups in leveraging residential property owners into the self-taxing district. “The CIDs’ story, in some ways, is a mirror of the story of metro Atlanta,” Hanlon says of the growth. “I’m excited to see what the next 20 years brings for Perimeter… Metro Atlanta is changing so rapidly and Perimeter is no different.”
Self-taxing Community Improvement Districts are authorized by state law. Virtually any business area can form one and institute the tax, as long as a majority of commercial property owners representing 75% of the local property values agree and the state legislature gives permission. The PCIDs’ district in Perimeter Center is roughly bordered by Ga. 400 to the west, I-285 to the south, and residential areas of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs to the north and east. Another rule, and the one responsible for the PCIDs somewhat awkward plural name, is that a single CID cannot cross county lines. Perimeter Center happens to be split nearly in half by DeKalb and Fulton counties. The PCIDs is a joint staff that operates on behalf of two separate CIDs: the DeKalb CID, the one that formed in 1999 and is the basis for the 20th anniversary celebration, and the Fulton CID, which followed in 2001. Today, there are 27 CIDs in the metro Atlanta area, according to the Council for Quality Growth. But in 1990s CIDs were still a novelty. “The CID was really a novelty,” Hanlon says. Cobb County’s Cumberland CID was the first, founded in 1988. Another early example was Central Atlanta Progress in that city’s downtown. Buckhead attorney Chuck Palmer had worked on the CAP legislation and was drafted by Perimeter Center leaders to form the DeKalb CID. “There was a group of property owners
who believed they really needed to focus on transportation out there… and that they would come up with some solutions for that,” Palmer said. “…Basically, these property owners are putting their money where their mouths are.” Yvonne Williams, then the president of the SPECIAL Cobb Chamber of ComDunwoody Mayor Denis merce, was brought on to Shortal, left, and PCIDs lead the new CID – partly Executive Director Ann because the Cumberland Hanlon pose on a new CID had been an affili- multiuse trail connecting the city’s Georgetown ate of the chamber, givneighborhood with ing her experience in that Perimeter Center. The world. Williams led the trail opened in April. PCIDs for 17 years, leaving in 2016, and is now president and CEO at the Greater Macon Chamber of Comerybody was frustrated with Ga. 400” and merce. long-stalled road improvement ideas to re“We went in reverse, [by] not having a duce its infamous congestion. The PCIDs strategic plan in the beginning,” Williams joined the Sandy Springs Development recalled. “We decided to get a project done Authority in partnering with the state to very quickly” to show the value of the tax add a new half-interchange on Hammond dollars — relatively minor crosswalk and Drive in 2011, which Williams called a landscaping improvements to the inter“game-changer.” section outside Dunwoody’s Crowne PlaAnother huge project, the Ashfordza hotel in the Ravinia complex where the Dunwoody diverging diamond, followed CID was based. in 2012, helping to establish the PCIDs’ rep“We started with small projects with utation as a big builder and partner with small wins to engage the public,” Williams the Georgia Department of Transportasaid. “Then, of course, it just evolved to be tion. The intersection, where traffic crisshuge.” crosses the street for better flow and safeThe PCIDs came into being when the ty, was the first of its kind in Georgia and is Fulton side joined in 2001. At an April now widely imitiated. 25 20th anniversary reception, held in Brookhaven’s Hyatt Regency at Villa ChrisCities Join the Picture tian, founding DeKalb CID board memThe cityhood movement trigged by ber Bob Voyles recalled that gathering Fulthe incorporation of Sandy Springs in ton property owners was “more fractious” 2005 swept Perimeter Center, with Dunbecause there were more of them, with woody coming in 2008 and Brookhaven smaller businesses. Another founding in 2012. It was reportedly something of a board member, Diane Calloway, was honsurprise to PCIDs leaders who had come ored at the reception for her work, which to view Perimeter Center as its own locaincluded wrangling those Fulton propertion. As Voyles said at the 20th anniverty owners. sary reception, “Business owners think Williams soon found herself advocatmore about the region. And we don’t see ing for projects much larger than landPerimeter as cities. We see it more as an scaping. On the Fulton side, she said, “Eventity.”
Williams said the PCIDs always got along well with the new cities and saw itself as a “uniting partnership” among them. But there could be some frustration as well, as the PCIDs was used to dealing with the much lighter project review process of a single county. “You can’t erase history” and the partnership with new cities was good, Williams said. But, she added, “You can’t always have things go as smoothly” and projects could sometimes face a “smorgasbord” variety of review processes that made them “labor-intensive” and a “heavy lift.” “[City reviews] probably adds another layer of complication to it,” says Palmer, the attorney who continues to advise the DeKalb CID, adding that there is good cooperation. At the city of Dunwoody, which recently partnered with the PCIDs on a new multiuse trail connecting the Georgetown neighborhood with Perimeter Center, Mayor Denis Shortal and City Manager Eric Linton had effusive praise for the organization. “They’re just a tremendous partner,” said Linton. “They understand that their success is our success, and our success is their success.”
Perimeter Business | 35
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A conflict with one local city is among the controversies and misses the PCIDs has seen amidst its successful efforts. In 2016, Sandy Springs sued the PCIDs for $2.8 million over a project paperwork problem; the PCIDs later settled. Some efforts are viewed differently with the passage of time. In 2017, the PCIDs gave GDOT a $10 million check to boost its “Transform 285/400” highway interchange reconstruction project, which is now underway. Williams says the money and the political symbolism made the project happen up to a decade faster. Current PCIDs leadership hasn’t openly criticized the donation, but had made it clear such unrestricted funding won’t happen in the future. Hanlon and Williams have differing thoughts on the PCIDs’ missed opportunities. Hanlon says a trail plan was dormant for too long – something the organization is reviving now with a new master plan. Williams is disappointed a planned park alongside the Dunwoody MARTA Station fell by the wayside, and in the disbanding of the affiliate group the Perimeter Business Alliance, whose exact function was fuzzy but which she says served as a “regional forum” for innovative ideas. However, Hanlon and Williams agreed on the PCIDs’ biggest success. It also happens to be the most widely mocked: the Perimeter Center Parkway bridge over I-285, which opened in 2007 and was nicknamed by critics as the “bridge to nowhere.” While hardly remote, the immediate area was not booming with new development at the time, essentially connecting the back ends of the Medical Center and a Dunwoody hotel. Now State Farm is building an enormous multi-skyscraper office campus at one end, and more redevelopment is coming at the southern end, at Lake Hearn Drive. And GDOT is eyeing the bridge as an interchange for its future toll lanes system. Williams said it was the first joint project of the combined CIDs and the $35 million was secured by her relationship with then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, who
da. So is coping with demographic and traffic changes well beyond its direct control at this point, including an influx of residential properties in the increasingly urbanized Perimeter Center and GDOT’s enormous toll lanes projects. “I think the next 20 years are going to be a continuation of those basic services… [while also] finding new and innovative ways to invest,” Hanlon said. From the point of view of the PCIDs, residential properties in the district get many benefits of the public improvements without paying the extra tax. In fact, conversion of former commercial spaces to mixed-use – or nonprofit or government headquarters, like Dunwoody’s new City Hall on Ashford-Dunwoody Road – mean properties come off the PCIDs’ special tax rolls. Many CIDs recently lobbied the state legislature, unsuccessfully, to allow bringing residential properties into their taxing system; Hanlon was among the advocates. In some CIDs, like Buckhead’s, the counterargument from residents is that they shouldn’t pay higher taxes or rents to a private business organization over which they have little influence or access and whose board members may have personal profit motives. It’s a tension that’s likely to grow along with the residential population. Already contentious is the toll lanes project, which the PCIDs has met with general support for traffic relief and some skepticism about the look and placement of the gigantic ramps and interchanges that will weave throughout Perimeter Center. Along with the Transform 285/400 project already underway, it means a solid decade of construction in the area. Hanlon recently appeared in a GDOT video supporting the toll lanes, which are planned to include MARTA bus transit on Ga. 400 and may have transit on I-285 as well. “My take on it, especially as a Dunwoody resident… [is] right now, our interstate system is not functioning as efficiently as it should be,” she said. “New road construction is not always popular… especially when you’re talking about the potential to take land, to take homes, to take neighborhoods.”
be under construction with mega infrastructure projects for the next 10 years,” Hanlon said, adding that the PCIDs will seek input on everything from minor lane closures to major transit advocacy. “I think it’s absolutely critical that some sort of transit be built in the top end [toll lanes] project.”
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She said that toll lanes present a tradeoff between “do you want to build big elevated managed lanes and look at that” or build even more regular lanes and see them fill up again. She said that if the pricing of toll lanes pushes anyone to use alternative transportation, “I consider that a victory.” “Generally speaking, our western wall and our southern wall are going to
Shortal called it a “true partnership,” personally drove an earthmover across not like some where you “smile for the it as a ribbon-cutting. camera and when the Hanlon calls the cameras go off, things project “visionary” and turn around.” Without partly responsible for the PCIDs, Shortal said, “billions” in new insome projects would vestment. “I can say take the city longer to without question the do, and some might not Perimeter Center Parkhappen at all. And both way bridge was the Linton and Shortal said best project the Perimthe PCIDs’ political leeter CIDs has done,” verage is a huge asset she said. “With big infor the area. frastructure projects SPECIAL “They’ve got influlike this, time realYvonne Williams, the former ence with GDOT and ly does tell the story… head of the PCIDs. under the Gold Dome Now it’s the bridge to because they’re very much an economic everywhere.” engine for the whole state,” Shortal said. Hanlon agreed the relationship with The Next 20 Years cities is going well. “It’s like they’re the As the PCIDs looks ahead 20 years, cake and we have the ability to be the icthe current slate of service and transing on the cake,” she said. portation planning is still on the agen-
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36 | Perimeter Business
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Buckhead’s Onward Reserve shows how brick-and-mortar retail still works BY JOHN RUCH firstname.lastname@example.org
They say it’s a tough time for brick-andmortar retail, and a trip through Buckhead shows some of the proof, as the old Belk department store at Phipps Plaza comes down brick by mortared brick for an officeand-hotel makeover. But keep on traveling through Buckhead Village and you’ll find a locally based men’s apparel retailer that’s beating the odds. Onward Reserve, headquartered above its shop at 3072 Early St., has blossomed into an 11-stores-and-growing Southeast chain that just bought a new HQ on a future Buckhead segment of the Atlanta BeltLine. Owner and founder T.J. Callaway, who also lives in Buckhead, says the difference is creating his own brand – a mix of preppy casual and outdoors-y practicality –that is authentic and true to itself. “We get an Amazon package at our house every day,” says Callaway, explaining that he’s no foe of the store-crushing online retailer. But Amazon’s focus on showcasing the lowest price is “in effect… a race to the bottom for brands… The people getting killed by Amazon are selling a commodity,” not an identity, he says. Onward Reserve’s identity is a bit of old-school masculine and a bit of Southern hospitality. The Buckhead store is festooned with deer heads and antlers – part-
ly a nod to the neighborhood – and even a stuffed lion. You’ll be greeted warmly – even before they know you’re, say, a reporter -- and if you’re thirsty, they’ll offer you a Coke or a beer. The design is calculated, but it’s not just for show. A ride in an elevator hidden behind wooden paneling takes a visitor to the upstairs headquarters, where there are similar hunting trophies in the online sales shipping area and Callaway’s comfortable office. The break room has walls hung with swatches of shirt fabric under consideration, surrounding a stuffed bear mounted with crossed golf clubs. “It’s kind of me,” Callaway says of the Onward Reserve brand identity. “It’s a store for what I want… I like to fish. I like to hunt… I’m kind of a weekend warrior on a lot of fronts.” It’s what a lot of customers want, too, which is how Callaway attracted the interest of such investors as Robin Loudermilk, president and CEO of Buckhead-based Loudermilk Companies, one of the city’s biggest real estate firms, as landlord and partner. The irony is that Callaway started his apparel business as an online store in 2011, curating other makers’ brands that he liked, before opening his first brick-andmortar spot in Athens, Ga., in 2012. He says he quickly realized that simply being an “aggregator of brands” gave him little control over the future against the likes of Am-
Onward Reserve founder and owner T.J. Callaway inside the Buckhead store.
azon. Today, Onward Reserve still sells other brands and has a growing sideline in college sports product licensing, but also create a house brand. “We design them from scratch,” Callaway said. “That’s made all the difference… It’s what enabled us to turn into another brand instead of just another retailer.” The company now has 11 store locations, including in Ponce City Market; Thomasville, Ga.; North Carolina; South Carolina; Tennessee; Texas; and Washington, D.C. Callaway says it plans to open two to three more stores in the next 12 months,
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including a new spot in Buckhead’s Peachtree Battle shopping center and a store in College Park, Texas. It continues to have a significant online and catalog-based sales business – though the catalog no longer contains an order form, instead driving people directly to the website. And now Onward Reserve is moving into an expanded headquarters at 116 Bennett St., where online sales will be handled and the twice-a-year warehouse sale will be hosted, with the first one coming in July. The 40,000-square-foot building, which the company bought for $2.5 million, is a
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Perimeter Business | 37
MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net former antiques mall. Known for nightclubs, shops and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Bennett Street is also pegged in preliminary designs for a segment of the BeltLine trail, connecting to the existing Northside Trail nearby in Atlanta Memorial Park. The BeltLine’s transit line is planned to run on a railroad corridor just behind the Bennett Street building. Onward Reserve is no stranger to the BeltLine boom, as it has a location in the Old Fourth Ward’s Ponce City Market. “I am excited about all the work that has been done to improve the greater Memorial Park area and am glad to be a part of it,” said Callaway. “It will be very exciting for our new neighborhood and specifically for Bennett Street when the BeltLine ties into all the work that has been done by the PATH Foundation, the Bobby Jones Golf Course Foundation and others in and around Memorial Park.” One thing not changing is that Onward Reserve remains a privately held company, “so that we can continue to be who we want to be as opposed to who an investor wants us to be,” Callaway says. That’s important to his business, too. It’s not just about identity, but also that the identity is authentic. The same goes for the stores, which are individually designed to suit the vibe of the location. “We want each store to be an authentic part of the community where it exists,” Callaway says, and in the Buckhead store, that includes reusing bricks from an old Midtown building designed by famed Atlanta architect Need
Reid. “Live authentically” is a slogan Callaway says the company has trademarked. “My biggest peeve about the fashion world is so many people are just making things up to seem authentic,” he said. The company name reflects the sense of authentic spirit. It’s named for Onward, Mississippi, the area where then President Teddy Roosevelt refused to kill a bear specially captured for him during a hunt, deeming it unsportsmanlike, an incident that drew national headlines and was exploited for the now-iconic toy teddy bear. A bear is the company’s logo. Callaway says he likes the story of Roosevelt’s integrity and the widespread meaning of the bear. “Who has not been impacted by the teddy bear?” he says. Callaway says this approach is what ties customers to his brand. A $100-plus golf shirt isn’t for everyone, and that’s exactly why his business works. “If all you need is a shirt to cover your back, Onward Reserve is probably not the most economical,” he says, explaining that it’s all about that identity. (The company also sells more affordable trinkets and accessories, so most anyone can participate in the brand, he adds.) “Retail as a whole is in trouble… I would not be buying stock in a department store right now,” says Callaway, but he believes that real experiences can prevail in the digital age. “I still like going into a store and interacting with human beings.” For more information, see onwardreserve.com.
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38 | Perimeter Business
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The following businesses recently opened in Reporter Newspapers communities
State Farm Agency-Michael Howard celebrated its office opening March 1 at 1455 Lincoln Parkway East, Suite 105, Dunwoody. Joining in the ribbon-cutting were, from left: Aijilon Gallow and Tammy Minter of the agency; Gladys Stubbs, mother of Michael Howard; owner Michael Howard and daughter Leighton Howard; Mayor Denis Shortal; Terrence Coley and Destiny Dickerson of the agency; Dan Farrar, city of Dunwoody; and Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Stephanie Freeman. For more information, see statefarm.com.
Dr. Kimberly M. Moran, left, and Dr. Antontious L. Moran cut the ribbon on their new business, Moran Signature Chiropractic, April 4 at 750 Hammond Drive, Building 6, Suite 150, Sandy Springs. For more information, see moransignaturechiropractic.com.
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Guardian Physicians recently opened a practice at 4651 Roswell Road, Suite D 308, Sandy Springs. Joining in the ribbon-cutting were, from left, Suzanne Brown of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce; owner Dr. Adebola Oyekoya and her husband Veronock Exavier; and Tashauna Gayle of the Chamber. For more information, see guardianphysican.com.
Cinco Mexican Cantina – Perimeter, 4400 Ashford Dunwoody Rd., Dunwoody. Info: cincorestaurants.com. Crescent Neurology and Sleep, 8010 Roswell Road, Suite 140, Sandy Springs. Info: cnsatlanta.com. Esthetique by Elaine Sterling, 5840 Roswell Road, Suite 900, Sandy Springs. Info: esthetiquebyelainesterling.com. il Giallo Osteria & Bar opened a new Catering Division, 5920 Roswell Road, Suite B-118 Sandy Springs. Info: ilgialloatl.com. Pathways Autism Center, 6849 Peachtree-Dunwoody Road, Building A-1, Sandy Springs. Info: pathwaysautismcenter.com. Persium Group is the new name of the financial and investment advisory firm formerly known as White Horse Advisors, 6190 Powers Ferry Road, Suite 500, Sandy Springs. Info: persiumgroup.com. Smile Doctors by Awbrey Orthodontics, 5501 Chamblee Dunwoody Rd., Dunwoody. Info: smiledoctors.com.
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MAY, 2019 ■ www.ReporterNewspapers.net
‘Policy over politics’ is doing well, Lt. Gov. Duncan tells business group BY DYANA BAGBY
syth County, said one of his main goals is to make Georgia the “technology capital of the East Lt. Gov. Coast.” To do Geoff Dunso, Duncan can praised said, he wants this year’s legto lead an efislative sesfort to create sion as a sucan “ecosystem cessful one of talent” in where “polithe state. cy over poliComputer tics” was the science classes name of the offered at all game in passhigh schools ing laws foand integratcused on eduing technolocation, health gy into educacare and techtion can help nology. achieve this Duncan goal, he said. made the Much like the comments film industry April 16 durhas created an ing a 15-minenvironment DYANA BAGBY ute speech at Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan spoke about the legislative session where talent a Dunwoody at the April 16 Dunwoody Perimeter Chamber luncheon. can be found Perimeter in Georgia for Chamber of Commerce luncheon held at all areas of making a movie, so can Georthe Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center hogia do with technology, he said. tel with approximately 30 people attend“I want technologists to come here, to ing. train here, to start businesses here,” he Duncan did not mention in his comsaid. ments to the crowd the controversial Duncan said he believed Georgia House Bill 481 bill, known as the “heartwould also become a model for other beat bill,” that was approved this year and states due to its passage of Senate Bill 106. essentially bans abortion in the state. In The bill gives the governor the authority a brief interview, he said he was proud of to seek Affordable Care Act and Medichow the Senate handled the emotional deaid waivers that, Duncan said, would albate. The governor has yet to sign the bill low “Georgia to create its own health care into law and Duncan did not know when system.” that may be. The bill only allows for limited Med“Look, it’s a personal issue. It’s a pericaid expansion for Georgians at 100 personal issue for me, it’s a personal issue cent of the poverty level. For an individual, for the folks who voted against it,” Dunthat’s about $12,000 a year. Full Medicaid can said. expansion, as Democrats pushed for, inThe ACLU of Georgia has already statcludes adding those making 138 percent ed they plan to sue the state if Kemp does of the poverty level to Medicaid, or about sign the bill into law. $16,000 for an individual. “We’ll see how that plays out. I’m perThe new law will “redefine the definisonally in favor of the measure,” he said. tion of Medicaid,” Duncan said. “I’ve got three beautiful kids I view as Legalizing growing and selling medicomplete miracle from God ant that’s the cal marijuana, signed into law by Kemp lens I look through.” on April 17, was also a major milestone During his talk, Duncan said he for the legislative session, Duncan said. kept his focus on shepherding good law The medical marijuana bill passed in through the General Assembly. 2015 gave people the right to use THC oil “I get policy, and I despise politics,” illnesses such as seizures, but they could Duncan said. “I’m a policy over politics only obtain the oil by crossing state lines person.” to purchase it, thereby breaking federal He said Gov. Brian Kemp is the same law. way and “what you see is what you get” in This bill closes that loophole by credealings with the governor who, he said, ating a limited, government-supervised would tell a person the same thing in priindustry to grow medical marijuana, he vate that he would tell them in public on said. The bill would not pave the way to any kind of legislation. recreational marijuana use because of “Although we may not always agree how closely it will be supervised, Duncan on policy, we agree that being honest and said. up front is the best way to start,” Duncan Duncan praised a rural broadband said. bill approved this session. The bill allows Duncan, who lives in Cumming in Fordyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net
electric membership corporations to get into the broadband business and bring high speed internet to rural communities across the state. This will help boost economic development throughout the state and not just in metro Atlanta, he said.
Kemp’s $3,000 raise included in this year’s budget to all public teachers is a “great down payment” for the $5,000 raise he promised on the campaign trail, Duncan said, and was a successful bipartisan effort.
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