JUNE 2020 - Dunwoody Reporter

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JUNE 2020 • VOL. 11 — NO. 6

Dunwoody Reporter WORTH KNOWING

Women veterans find online home P18



City Hall eases into limited reopening

Playing for the pandemic reopening

BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net


On pandemic politeness P20 PHIL MOSIER


A crowd of roughly 100 people gather May 23 at the Shops of Dunwoody in Dunwoody Village, drawn by a band playing at Porter Brew & Que as a pandemic reopening event. The brewpub had reserved tables outdoors, while many others enjoyed a new open-container district in the Village that lets people wander and sit with drinks from any local establishment. The tables were spaced for social distancing, but many in the larger crowd did not observe distancing. The city later said the band and seating lacked permits. The restaurant’s manager said he believed city officials gave the OK and that the event was a boost for the business in the pandemic struggles.

A hike down memory lane P19

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Restaurants seek elbow room for distanced dining BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

From picnic tables in parking lots to dining on strips of shopping center landscaping, restaurants returning after pandemic shutdowns are looking for room to spread out for social distancing. And no one knows how long that will last. Or how long it can last. Can restaurants survive with the lower capacity as they spread tables apart until the pandemic is

contained or a vaccine is found? How long will neighbors and city inspectors have patience for seating snatched from parking spaces and sidewalks? Experts and local restaurateurs say the pandemic could push the industry to a trend of building in more outdoor dining and drive-thrus. “As a longer-term trend, I think ‘alfresco’ and outdoor seating has always been a See RESTAURANT on page 31

City Hall began a limited reopening with “skeletal staff” handling Municipal Court payments for four hours on May 18. Dunwoody became the first City Hall in Reporter communities to make a reopening move after two months of pandemic closures. It also came the same day that neighboring Chamblee announced its return to live City Council meetings last week went wrong when an attendee — reportedly a councilmember, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution — later proved to have COVID-19. That could affect thinking about Dunwoody City Council’s similar in-person comeback, which would happen no earlier than mid-June, says one councilmember. In Dunwoody, the experiment is part of a first phase of reopening City Hall at 4800 Ashford-Dunwoody Road, which had been closed to the public since March 14. Now its doors are open 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday, though residents are still encouraged to use online and phone services if possible. Limited reopening of certain park amenities began the same day. The city says that a second phase with fewer restrictions could follow on June 1 if all goes well. “City Hall opened today with a skeletal staff of about 10, with most working onsite for only part of the day,” said Dunwoody city spokesperson Jennifer Boettcher in an email. “They worked remotely, along with the majority of staff members, during the See CITY on page 6

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The Dunwoody City Council has made it easier for businesses to expand their spaces to meet social distancing guidelines, allowing for more outdoor seating at restaurants and interior remodeling in Dunwoody Village despite an ongoing development moratorium that will be extended into December. The votes came in a May 11 meeting where the council also heard the first hard number about tax revenue impacts and discussed the reopening of city parks facilities. The temporary outdoor dining permit will be available to restaurants with no application fee and will be good through Dec. 31. They will allow restaurants to move part of their operations into parking lots or tents. The intent is to help restaurants adjust to occupancy limits under Gov. Brian Kemp’s pandemic reopening guidelines. At the time of the vote, restaurants were limited to 10 people per 500 square feet and keeping groups at least 6 feet apart. On May 12, Kemp amended the order to allow up to 10 people per 300 square feet.


Much of Dunwoody Village is under a moratorium on new development that began in December 2019 while the city reviews possible new zoning to remake the city’s historic center. That moratorium was scheduled to expire June 6, but the council chose to extend it through Dec. 3 due to the pandemic’s delays in the rezoning process. However, the extension came with an amendment, proposed by City Councilmember Pam Tallmadge, that allows Dunwoody Village businesses to conduct interior remodeling to make adjustments to their spaces for pandemic-related social distancing. In addition, the moratorium already exempts several types of businesses, including eating and drinking establishments; health clubs; and medical offices or clinics. Community Development Director Richard McLeod said that if any new business wants to open in Dunwoody Village during the pandemic, the moratorium can be reconsidered. He also said the temporary restaurant permits would not be affected by the moratorium. “I wanted to make sure we’re not inhibiting business in any way, and make sure we’re not preventing businesses from doing what they need to do to remain open,” said Councilmember Tom Lambert.


The city has seen a 15% dip in April revenue from its special local option sales taxes compared to April 2019, in what Assistant City Manager Jay Vinicki called the “first hard data point” about the pandemic’s impacts on the budget. In April 2019, the revenues were about $590,000, and last month were about $500,000, he said. Vinicki previously told the council he was preparing for a hypothetical 25% reduction in SPLOST revenues, which would amount to a $1.7 million cut. He said that most of that could be covered by a road project that likely would be delayed anyway. SPLOST funds are restricted to spending on public safety, transportation and “limited general repairs,” according to the city.


While the Council has declared May as Bike Month, it’s unclear whether adults can join in by riding on city sidewalks. A city code clarification may be on the way. Councilmember Joe Seconder, a well-known bicycling advocate, and several residents raised bike safety issues at the May 11 council meeting. Among them was confusion about sidewalk riding. Under state law, riding on sidewalks is prohibited for anyone over the age of 12, but that can be overridden by local government code, city officials said. Seconder provided a Facebook post by the Dunwoody Police Department that warns against adults riding on the sidewalk. But, he said, the city code is more ambiguous. The code says that no one can ride a bicycle on a sidewalk in a manner that would be an unreasonable danger to the public or disrupt public use. That leaves open the interpretation that safe and reasonable riding on the sidewalk is OK. Councilmember Jim Riticher expressed support for clarifying the code so that it expressly says adults riding bikes on the sidewalk is legal. Councilmember Tim Lambert took a broader view, saying there should be conversations about the pros and cons, followed by a clarification of the code one way or the other. City Manager Eric Linton said that city staff would establish a committee to look at the issue. DUN

JUNE 2020

Community | 3


Iconic mural is altered with mysterious paper heart BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

In a kind of emoji graffiti, the iconic “Everything Will Be OK” mural had its message temporarily altered in mid-May with a paper heart taped over the “OK.” Who altered the mural when at the Spruill Center for the Art’s Gallery at 4681 AshfordDunwoody Road is unclear. The gallery praised the alteration in a May 18 Instagram post and left the heart in place. “Felt the need to share the addition to the beloved #EverythingWillBeOK mural. We like! How about you?” read the post. “I’m not sure who made the alteration (it wasn’t Spruill), but am glad it’s temporary and I’m encouraged by the discussion about art that it has generated,” said Spruill Center CEO Alan Mothner in an email. He said he hopes it inspires people to participate in the city of Dunwoody’s public art survey that closed May 22. Last year, the mural was proposed as template for an official public art policy. As for the fate of the heart addition, Mothner said, “I’m not sure right now, but I’m pretty certain it will come off eventually.” Jason Scott Kofke, the artist who created the mural’s original design, said he did not do it himself and was unaware of it until the Reporter told him. He said he’s “ambivalent” about the alteration. “This project is replete with twists,” Kofke said. “It would not be out of character for me to tag one of my own pieces. But I promise you, I’m not involved in this one. “I’d have done something different. However, I know from my own experiences making public works, you only put yourself at risk in such ways if you believe in what you’re doing,” he added. “Someone felt compelled enough to risk painting a big red heart on this message and i would be remiss — as an artist who developed a career by writing big black letters in public spaces — to condemn this subversive action.” He noted that the heart could have other interpretations due to the symbol’s ancient origins as possibly depicting a contraceptive plant or genitalia. “If I think of this message from the point of view of an ancient Roman, it has an entirely different meaning again,” he said. The Spruill Center was one of two local nonprofits that recently found themselves in conflict with Kofke over a pandemic fundraiser’s use of the mural design. The Spruill Center partnered with Create Dunwoody in a successful effort to sell yard-sign versions of the mural as a fundraiser for out-of-work artists. However, Kofke soon raised copyright objections while marketing his own “Everything Will Be OK” products. An agreement was reached,







but the local yard-sign sales are now over while Create Dunwoody distributes the funds. Kofke created the mural at the Spruill Gallery in 2009. The version there now is a recreation put in place in 2011 by the gallery at popular request. For the city of Dunwoody, the mural’s phrase has become SPECIAL a quasi-official motto freThe “Everything Will Be OK” mural altered quently used in promotionwith a paper heart as it appeared May 19 in al materials. Meanwhile, a photo taken by resident Terry Nall. Kofke has used the phrase in many other artworks around the world, before and after the Dunwoody version. The recent addition of the heart has drawn debate on social media. Resident Terry Nall, a former member of the City Council, said he heard about it through a Nextdoor post from someone who, thinking the alteration was permanent, called it an act of “unbelievable gall” by “jerks.” Nall said he recently visited the mural and found the heart is made of red felt paper or a similar material and held in place by tape on the back. “Somebody went to some trouble to make and apply it,” he said. Kofke said that part of the theme of his “Everything Will Be OK” artworks is putting them in public spaces and seeing how their interpretation and appearance change over time, so the mural alteration fits in that sense. “If I had to critique it, though, I think the message with a heart is more specific and thus left less to the valence and interpretation of the viewer,” he said. “My goal was not to tell a viewer how to feel, but to ask a viewer to become selfaware of how they feel.” Meanwhile, Kofke’s website selling his version of the “Everything Will Be OK” artworks — with proceeds also marked for artists — now includes a way for people to make another form of artistic alteration: a graffiti stencil version of the phrase. And, he said, “I did have some ideas on a new sign I will run by Spruill. It will not involve hearts, though.”

The Dunwoody Next Comprehensive Plan Draft will be available for public comment on the City of Dunwoody’s website from May 18 through June 18. The Comprehensive Plan is the guiding document for future development for the City of Dunwoody. Public input is needed to make a plan that works for everyone.



Scan here with your mobile phone to read a draft of the plan or visit dunwoodyga.gov/ dunwoodynext

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Perimeter Marketplace tax abatement deal approved; High Street delayed

An illustration of the planned Perimeter Marketplace mixeduse development along Ashford-Dunwoody Road.


BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

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The Perimeter Marketplace retail development has moved closer to completing a tax abatement deal with the Dunwoody Development Authority, while one for the High Street project has been delayed. The DDA last year gave initial approvals for agreements with the developers of both projects, where the authority acts as a bond issuing agency that allows them to gain property tax abatements over 10 years in exchange for meeting certain investment and job-creation goals. Both have been in a phase of negotiating over details of those agreements. At its May 14 meeting, the DDA approved a 60-day extension of the negotiation deadline with GID Development Group for the abatement on the first phase of its longstalled High Street project. The massive, $2 billion mixed-use project is planned for a 42-acre site at Perimeter Center Parkway and Hammond Drive in Perimeter Center. The developer and the DDA now have until the end of July to reach a deal on what was once — prior to the coronavirus pandemic — estimated to be a $19 million tax abatement. At the same meeting, the DDA approved the agreement with Branch Properties for Perimeter Marketplace, a redevelopment of a 10-acre commercial site on Ashford-Dunwoody Road between Meadow Lane and Ashwood Parkway. The $45 million bond issuance would come with a tax abatement projected to be worth $2.3 million. The deal requires the project to be open by 2023 — developer attorneys say it should be ready by 2021 — and sets job-creation goals. By the second year of operation, the project must create 225 jobs, and in years three through 10, it must create 325 jobs. The developer also must make its full, $45 million investment by years three through 10. For any year where the developer fails to meet those goals, the tax abatement will be revoked. Another clause in the agreement that was a point of discussion, according to DDA attorney Dan McRea, was about force majeure — the legal concept that a party to a contract is not liable for failure to deliver when there is an extraordinary circumstance, such as a terrorist attack or natural disaster. Force majeure clauses have taken on special importance during the pandemic. The agreement says that the developer can invoke force majeure up to two times in the 10 years as a reason for not meeting its required goals without penalty. However, doing so also extends the requirements by another year, so the developer will be required to meet them eventually. Now that the legal agreement is done, bonds still must be issued as a final step. DUN

JUNE 2020

Community | 5


Development Authority won’t join DeKalb pandemic loan program BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

The Dunwoody Development Authority has decided not to participate in a DeKalb County loan program intended to help pandemic-affected businesses, ending a month-long debate. The DDA may find other ways to help businesses, board members said at the May 14 meeting where the decision was made. In the meantime, the one such item in its new budget is a $10,000 contribution to a city campaign of posting signs to urge people to patronize local businesses. The DDA has about $850,000 in the bank from fees on enabling tax breaks for major real estate or corporate projects, and more to come from pending deals. In April, its board members debated whether to use that money to give grants or loans to small businesses, buy out commercial properties as the market declines, or both. Later that month, board members learned that Decide DeKalb, the county’s development authority, was working on a similar program, attempting to create a $1.9 million fund and asking local cities to contribute. The city of Brookhaven previously said it is considering the proposal. The DDA agreed to explore the idea. At the March 14 meeting, city Economic Development Director Michael Starling told the DDA that Decide DeKalb had just approved an agreement that morning with its loan-management partner, the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, and that the proposed arrangement with local cities was still in draft form. Because of that, Starling suggested, the DDA was “not in a position to decide yes or no on this.” But board members decided no after all, with four of six members voting against participation. Heavily affecting the decision was an Atlanta Journal-Constitution report that DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond intends to create a $10 million small business loan program from federal funds. There were questions about some details, or lack thereof, in the Decide DeKalb proposal, including a 10% fee to the program’s administrators. And there was continuing dispute about what amount the DDA should give if it did participate. The DDA board’s two biggest supporters of providing local loans, Robert Miller and Terri Polk, were the ones who pressed for the yes-or-no vote. Polk said that if the DDA did not fully intend to join a loan program, then debating details “is a farce.” While several members had suggested a $100,000 contribution to some type of loan program, Miller said he would not support anything less than $500,000. He called for a straw poll of DDA members on that issue, which found only two of six in support of giving $500,000 or more. Miller then made the motion to not participate in the Decide DeKalb program. Member Bill McCahan objected, saying the decision was premature and that, even if DeKalb did a $10 million program, a local contribution could give the DDA a seat at the table in its distribution. “We’re not wasting a lot of time,” McCahan said. “We just don’t know where this thing is going.” But the majority voted not to participate. “I don’t want to walk away from this,” chair Jonathan Sangster said immediately after the vote, but that was the decision. Miller said Starling could now go find another program that “we can be proud of.” Sanger said that if part of $10 million doesn’t come to Dunwoody, “then we’ll find another way” to support local development.


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City Hall eases into limited reopening Continued from page 1

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rest of the day.’ Other local cities are moving slower. Sandy Springs has said its City Hall would open no sooner than late May, while leaders of Atlanta and Brookhaven have indicated they are waiting for data showing a steady decline in COVID-19 cases. It remains unclear exactly why Dunwoody is beginning its reopening now. Boettcher would say only, “We feel the time is right for a limited and phased reopening that’s designed to protect the public and employees,” and did not respond to repeated requests for the details behind that feeling. City Councilmember Pam Tallmadge said the reopening date was an informal staff decision whose specifics were not known to her, either. But, she said, some factors include that May 18 generally fell between some of Gov. Brian Kemp’s pandemic emerSPECIAL gency order dates; Dunwoody City Hall. was a Monday; and comes at a time when there is a three-week pause between City Council meetings. “My opinion, we have to start somewhere,” Tallmadge said of the general idea of the soft reopening. “It’s not a giant leap, like [saying], ‘Six Flags is open! Let’s go, woo-hoo!’” Tallmadge also emphasized the limited nature of the first phase, where even councilmembers are urged to stay away. “Technically it’s open, but it’s a ghost town,” she said. “Basically it’s not open. It is, and it’s not. It’s just a crack in the door.” Returning to regular business, like in-person council meetings, is a different story with possible consequences that are already evident from the experience of other local cities. Brookhaven City Hall has been shuttered since March 14, when it abruptly closed after an employee was diagnosed with COVID-19, sending most of its leaders, as well as a Reporter journalist, into self-quarantine. In Sandy Springs, the city manager and city attorney both contracted and recovered from the disease, forcing Mayor Rusty Paul and other officials into quarantines. And now Chamblee’s attempted return on May 14 has leaders in self-isolation for 14 days and its Civic Center shuttered for 10, according to a city spokesperson. Asked about her comfort level with the thought of returning to in-person council meetings, Tallmadge said, “Ah, now that I’ve heard about Chamblee….” She said she is comfortable with parts of the business reopenings and recently got a haircut and nail treatment. But those services come with state-mandated safety gear and are in businesses that are built for frequent disinfecting already, she said. City Hall, with carpets and cloth seats, she said, she would be “more cautious.” That would include wearing a mask during meetings, though that could present problems during speaking, she said. In fact, Tallmadge said, there had been discussion about the council holding its June 1 meeting in-person, though that will not happen. The discussion included such measures as spacing councilmembers’ seats far apart and limiting public attendance. “And I’m like, why are we doing this? Then why do it?” she said.

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10 | Art & Entertainment

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High school students give poetry a voice BY JUDITH SCHONBAK

He is a strong advocate of Poetry Out Loud among teachers and students alike and has been involved with POL for 15 of his 16 years Fourteen high school students from the greater Atlanta and cenas a teacher. “POL can help change the culture and perspective of tral regions of the state gathered on stage at the Kennedy Theatre poetry when students get emotionally invested in interpreting and at the Atlanta History Center on March 1. They had come to present performing poetry in high school and beyond,” he said. their selected poems in the regional finals of the annual national Breite is a poet in his own right. He has published a chapbook Poetry Out Loud program. The three or four students with the highof poetry, The Knife Collector, and more than 100 poems in the last est scores would go on to the state finals, held at the Atlanta Histoeight years in various journals. ry Center, and, ultimately, to the national finals in Washington, D.C. He encourages his students to go for the POL experience. “At It was a full house in the intimate theater with an audience of the class level, it’s not unusual for even shy students to try it. Some SPECIAL family, friends and teachers to support them. Also in-house were students hope to improve public speaking skills through POL, and From left, Catherine Wang and Jesse Breite. four judges charged with evaluating the students’ performances on many succeed in that,” he added. “The more surprising element,” he each of two poems. said, “is that male athletes also join the competition. It can be a cool thing to do and the enAmong the contenders was Catherine Wang, a Yale-bound senior at The Westminster ticement of extra credit motivates many students.” Schools in Sandy Springs. It was her second year participating in Poetry Out Loud. She was Choosing a poem from the anthology may sound daunting. Wang said it helps that the chosen for the 2019 state finals that first year. collection is categorized. Last year she chose message-driven works, but this year searched Each year thousands of students across the country take on POL’s rigorous, exacting for poems with strong visual imagery. Her choices were contemporary works: “Dragons” by and competitive effort all about poetry. For Wang, her enthusiasm for poetry blossomed Devin Johnston and “A Certain Kind of Eden” by Kay Ryan. in a sophomore creative writing class, heightened by recitation of poetry in English class. For students, the effort is demanding. They must recite from memory, and Poetry Out She does not write poetry, she said, but loves reading and interpreting it. Presenting it Loud has a set of judging criteria based on “accuracy, physical presence, voice and articulavia POL has been her way of sharing and furthering others’ enthusiasm. “POL has been a tion, evidence of understanding, dramatic appropriateness, and overall performance.” Exgreat way to meet people from other schools and communities, too,” she added. perts and Instructors from the literary and performing arts serve as judges. Poetry Out Loud begins in the classroom in the fall semester in schools that have reg“The poem must speak through you,” said Wang. “Understanding every single word in istered to participate. School instructors judge the presentations on the same POL evaluathe poem is critical,” she emphasized. Plenty of practice is a must too. Wang practiced with tion criteria used throughout the levels of competitions. Wang said about 10 of 14 students hand-writing the work, voice recordings, videos and performing for her family. “They will in her senior class participated this year. She was the only one selected to go on to the allsee things like gestures and speech that you don’t catch yourself.” school level. The 2020 GA POL state finals were scheduled to take place at the Atlanta History Center For all levels of the Poetry Out Loud competition, a student chooses works from an anin mid-April, but the fast-spreading COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to those plans. GA POL thology of more than 1,000 classic and contemporary poems. At least one poem must be 25 opted to hold the state finals virtually. Nine state winners submitted videos of their presenlines or fewer and another must be written before the 20th century. For regional finals, two tations to the judges. Traditionally, the state champion would go on to represent Georgia at poems are required; for state and national finals, three poems are required. the national Poetry Out Loud finals in Washington, D.C., but the finals were canceled beThe anthology assembled by POL spans the spectrum of subjects. “The selection is dicause of the coronavirus. verse enough to give everyone a voice,” said Jesse Breite, Upper School Language Arts inPoetry Out Loud is a partnership of National Endowment for the Arts, Poetry Foundastructor at Westminster Schools. tion, and state arts agencies. In Georgia, it is Georgia Council for the Arts.

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A Dunwoody man is in custody on a felony murder charge in the case of a man found dead May 6 at the Dunwoody Village apartment complex, police say. Spencer Lavest Foster, 39, of Dunwoody was found dead in the apartment complex at 2369 Dunwoody Crossing. The Dunwoody Police Department said his death was a homicide, but a cause has not been released. Kalijuan Hawkins, 19, was taken into custody May 8 and accused of the killing, according to DPD. He is currently in the DeKalb County Jail.


Rudolph “Rudy” Crew, the sole finalist for the DeKalb County School District superintendent job, was rejected by the Board of Education in a 4-3 vote May 11. DeKalb Schools said in a written statement that it is “reviewing its next steps” and intends to identify another candidate to become interim superintendent by July 1. That


Community | 11 is the day after current Superintendent Ramona Tyson is scheduled to retire. Crew, president of Medgar Evers College in New York City, was the sole finalist among 68 candidates in a months-long process, according to DeKalb Schools. His candidacy drew criticism from some parents groups for prominent controversies in his past, including an acrimonious exit as Flordia’s Miami-Dade County schools superintendent amid budget shortfalls and racial discrimination accusations, allegation of misspending of public money at Medgar Evers College, and a 1990s dispute over the failure to secure a room in a school where a student was later raped.

M AN STR U C K A ND KI L L ED O N I- 2 8 5

A man was struck and killed by a vehicle on I-285 in Dunwoody May 9. Police say he may have been attempting to aid the driver of a stalled vehicle. The man was killed around 2:15 p.m. on I-285 westbound near Ashford-Dunwoody Road, according to the Dunwoody Police Department. Preliminary statements and evidence indicate he was attempting to help a motorist whose vehicle broke down or stalled within a travel lane on the highway, according to DPD. No other injuries were reported. The victim has not been identified pending notification to family. No charges have been made in the case, DPD says, but the investigation continues. Anyone with information about the incident can contact Police Officer Chris Forman at 678-382-6900 or Christopher.Forman@dunwoodyga.gov.

12 |

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Community | 13


Comprehensive Plan draft is released, survey open BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

The city has released the latest draft of its revised Comprehensive Plan and is seeking public input through an online survey. The survey runs through June 18. The revised Comprehensive Plan is scheduled to be completed for City Council review in the fall. The city calls the Comprehensive Plan a “roadmap for long-range policy direction.” It is a policy document covering such subjects as land use, transportation, economic development, housing and infrastructure. The state requires cities to update such plans every five years. A team from the Atlanta Regional Commission is serving as a consultant to update Dunwoody’s plan. The review began late last year with meetings of a “sounding board” consisting of community officials and leaders. One community meeting was held in February before the coronavirus pandemic derailed the input process. The city says the latest draft was changed based on feedback from the pre-

Senior Life Atlanta


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march 2018 • Vol. 3 No. 3 | AtlantaSenio rLIFE.com

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Some other changes include: ■ “Refining strategies” for senior housing ■ Renaming the North Peachtree Character Area to 285 Peachtree Gateway “to better described its location and well-suited position for future redevelopment” ■ Placing First Baptist Church Atlanta into the 285 Peachtree Gateway Character Area ■ Adding a parking lot and two condominium communities along Peachford Road to the Georgetown Character Area For details about the Comprehensive Plan, including the full draft and the survey, see dunwoodyga.gov.


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FE.com No. 2 | AtlantaSeniorLI February 2018 • Vol. 3


vious meetings. The changes are largely minor, according to the city. The biggest addition is a new policy goal: “leverage dunwoody’s location at the heart of growing job centers, transportation systems and neighboring communities.”

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14 | Education

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Celebrating the Class of 2020 The coronavirus pandemic threw many graduation ceremony traditions into disarray. Car parades of teachers, students and parents became a popular stand-in for the traditional diploma walk-through. The following are the valedictorians and salutatorians of the class of 2020 as they were announced by the Reporter’s press time. For updates, see ReporterNewspapers.net. Chamblee High School Nevin Aresh and Hattie Carter (V), Md Alam and Rachael Jackson (S) Cross Keys High School Kristy Nguyen (V), Kitty Leung (S) Dunwoody High School Sophia Gavalas (V), Justin Jasper (S)

Pace Academy Aidan Gannon (V), Sophie Lettes (S) Riverwood International Charter School Hayes Miller (V), Chandler McCleskey (S) St. Pius X Catholic High School Nicole Gresham (V), Daniel Buckley (S)

The Weber School Caroline Schneider (V), Isaac Goldman (S) The Westminster Schools Anup Bottu and Lauren Kennedy (V), Albert Liang and Laura Sams (S)

Clockwise from top picture, The Class of 2020 is celebrated in a May 16 car parade sponsored by the Dunwoody North Civic Association. The parade had two dozen graduates and more than 30 vehicles. Dunwoody Police vehicles lead the May 16 parade. Eighth-graders at St. Martin’s Episcopal School were celebrated in a May 21 car parade on the school’s Brookhaven campus. An in-person ceremony was scheduled for July 30. A North Atlanta High senior waves from a May 13 car parade through Buckhead and Brookhaven that celebrated students from various local public and private schools at various grade levels. SPECIAL

Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School Nick Reddy (V), Matthew Raeside (S) The Lovett School Sarah Packman (V), Lily Siegel (S) Marist School Lucas Gonzalez (V), Charlie Callahan (S) North Atlanta High School Emily Song (V), Soleil Golden (S)



JUNE 2020



3:57 PM

| 15


congratulations, lovett

class of


Blaise Achecar Michael Agard Jeremiah Allen Vaghul Anbil Cole Arndt Katie Atwater Ava Ault Julia Balser Cal Barwis Sam Becker Henry Beery Jones Bell Lauren Bernard Tom Bethea Mackenzie Boden Paige Bogard Jackson Borden Clyde Bresnahan John Thomas Brooks Davis Burch Elise Burns Aiden Camillo Anna Carroll Luke Casey Maggie Chambers Nathan Chang Jenny Chen Conner Chevalier Taylor Cohen William Collier Hannah Crenshaw Clayton Cross Will Cumbie Charlotte Dalke Baird Daniel Dobbs Davie Savannah Dean Blake Degner Emma D’Emilio Price Doherty Anna Eiland Hunter Fankhauser Gus Feinour Emilio Ferrara Harper Finch James Fite Colin French Virginia French Ellie Friedman Alex Garcia-Civita Jake Garrett Kaitlyn Garrett Barnett Gibson Kasey Goldenberg Ralston Goldfarb


Lanier Gordon Riya Govin Matias Gowens Kendall Greene Joshua Gregory Nichelle Haley Stewart Hammond Robson Harber Chauncey Hill Cammie Holmes Will Houk Molly Hubbard Hudson Huffard Brett Hull Isabelle Johnson Dotsie Jones Mary Eliza Kamerschen Christian Kelley Gray Kelly Nick Kemether Thornton Kennedy Palmer King Penny King Elizabeth Kleinknecht Jordan Knotts Kofi Lacefield James Lewallen Camille Lewis Margaret Lindsay Caroline Long Chandler Love Frank Lummus Sarah Grace Madden Alex Maner Brooks Mauldin Blaine McAllister Evelyn McCrady Carter McIntosh Caroline McPherson Ben Metcalfe Jonathan Molner Dailey Moog Lillie Moore Rhys Morgan Rankin Mori J.T. Mulcahy Tyler Neville Jahaan Nijhawan Justin Novellas Nate Olmstead Catherine Olsen Erin O’Shaughnessy Sarah Packman Michael Panos Duncan Park

Riya Patel Carter Pavloff Laura Pencea Cole Pisowicz Kate Pitfield Charlotte Pollard Liza Pope Brooke Preisinger Ellis Prigge Lindsay Pugh Cory Riley Mary Alyson Rogers John Russ Hannah Saad Harrison Savage Sloane Saxon Emma Schimpf Mary Katherine Schmersal Pierce Schmidt-Fellner Towner Schunk Mattie Schwieger Mary Pearce Seawell Liza Sharpley Catherine Sherling Olivia Sidman Lily Siegel Robinson Smith Sanci Smith Hailey Staton Ethan Tai Reeves Taylor Chloe Titelman Campbell Tomlin Paxton Trevett Stefano Ulrich Justin Umeri David Underwood Dominique Valles Mike Valls Fritz Van Winkle Sally Vaughan Stockton Vohs Casey Wade Luke Wahl Claire Wallace Cyrus Walls Alicia Walters Pross Watts Lillian Whittle Ritter Windom Jonathan Wolle Luke Wooddall Patrick Woodward Noah Young Haley Zoellick

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16 | Commentary

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Commentary: Who had the best branding in the pandemic? Editor’s Note: As the pandemic crisis struck local communities, leaders emerged, volunteer programs multiplied, and efforts to boost morale spread. In the terms of business and politics, many of these were partly efforts of branding and profile-raising. But which ones worked, which ones fell by the wayside, and will any have impacts after the immediate crisis is over? Down the road, will anyone still say “Brookhaven Strong” or remember that a local restaurant donated food? The Reporter asked professors of marketing, business and politics for their perspectives on some local examples.


Jason Scott Kofke, the original artist of the mural soon raised copyright objections, placing the Dunwoody effort on hold, while marketing his own “Everything Will Be OK” products. An agreement was reached, but the nonprofits soon ended the sign-selling.

The “Army Strong” recruiting slogan introduced in 2006 inspired a trend toward using “X Strong” to highlight the resilience of communities affected by natural disasters or acts of violence, or to show support for a health or social cause. While many people think of “Boston Strong” due its wide publicity following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, its usSPECIAL age is now ofAn work by Terry Combahee was among the ten more localwinners of the “Brookhaven Strong” art contest. ized. It would be interesting to know what associations the city was seeking to leverage by using something recognizable versus using something more generic, like “Together Brookhaven.” The strength of “Brookhaven Strong” is that it is not simply a slogan, but an umbrella for a number of citywide initiatives and programming to bring interested people together and show support in this time of great anxiety and uncertainty, and suffering for some. Their focus is correct; it’s about making sure they’re a community and that those who need support feel that they’re not alone. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, sticks. There’s no reason to think they couldn’t retain some of the new community building programming once we get through this. And, if yes, does the slogan stay with it as a reminder of its roots? A challenge is that there is usually a segment of the population who wants closure, to move on after the healing is done, though perhaps that is more for natural disasters or acts of violence.

Years ago, my daughter was given the “Everything Will Be OK” slogan on magnets from the Spruill Center for the Arts. There was no attribution to the artist, Jason Kofke, so I always attributed it to the center. When I encountered the signs throughout my neighborhood recently, I found them relevant, encouraging and uplifting. Now all of that is going away and we will all be worse off for it. Dunwoody’s “Everything will be OK” yard sign fundraiser is a textbook example of good intentions gone awry. Create Dunwoody was established to enable local artists to enrich the lives of the local community, and this can be of huge value: We need organizations that mutually reinforce a dynamic between the arts, education, community, and commerce. Local artists understand the heartbeat of the community and can inspire us to see our circumstances and our possibilities differently. During this unprecedented pandemic, we need their perspectives more than ever. Unfortunately, this partnership suffered from a fatal incentive problem: artists must remain anonymous and, as evidenced with Jason Kofke, they may not be compensated for their creative work. An artist’s reputation and creativity is the cornerstone for commerce; a partnership that stifles financial growth and opportunity is doomed from the start. It’s unfortunate that these fatal missteps have cost all of us inspiration from local artists. Moving on to a better “new normal” requires us to not waste the learnings from this crisis. Let’s commit to building better, win-win partnerships that benefit artists and educators and strengthen our communities in the days ahead.

The city of Brookhaven promoted this phrase, including as a social media hashtag, and connected it to two events: a virtual community sing-along of the national anthem and an art contest.

— Douglas Bowman, professor of marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School, where he teaches product and brand management

— Sandy Jap is the Sarah Beth Brown Professor of Marketing at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School and the author of “Partnering with the Frenemy”


This phrase appears on a popular mural in Dunwoody and has been adopted as a quasi-official motto. During the pandemic, the nonprofits Create Dunwoody and Spruill Center for the Arts began selling yard-sign versions of the mural as a fundraiser for out-of-work artists, at first to great success. However,


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms.


Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms emerged as a prominent critic of Gov. Brian Kemp’s reopening orders, including in national media appearances.


The “Everything Will Be OK” yard signs.

While there are even more prominent Kemp opponents — former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams immediately comes to mind — none are as well-positioned to make the case against the governor. Like her counterparts in big cities across the country, Mayor Bot-

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JUNE 2020

Commentary | 17


toms has hands-on experience in managing the response to viral outbreaks. But unlike those other mayors, she has had to contend with a governor who isn’t on the same page with her. Whether she would have sought the role that was thrust on her by the governor’s order, she certainly has embraced it, appearing frequently on national media platforms to voice her concerns. While I have no doubt that her concerns are authentic and heartfelt, it is still reasonable to consider the political consequences of the role she is playing. In the first place, there is no downside for her. She runs no risk in her city or her party for criticizing Kemp. And the governor is smart enough to know that he can’t retaliate against the city that is the engine of Georgia’s economy. As for the upside, we can think about statewide and national consequences. Right now, Abrams could have the Democratic nomination for any statewide office she seeks. As the state becomes more competitive (as it’s reasonable to expect that it will), we have to remember that Abrams can hold only one office at a time and that she likely has her eyes eventually on a national office. Mayor Bottoms is a plausible contender for any office that Abrams doesn’t seek or that she leaves behind. A few years ago, I would have said that big-city mayors aren’t cut out for the national political scene. Someone from a big city playing on the national stage wanted to be — I would have guessed — Housing and Urban Development secretary in a Democratic administration. But geography and demography make metropolitan areas the core of the Democratic coalition, and Bloomberg and Buttigieg showed that mayors can be players. I’m not arguing that we should expect Keisha Lance Bottoms to aspire to the Oval Office. But a successful mayoralty, together with a national profile, could launch her into statewide contention. — Joseph Knippenberg, professor of politics at Oglethorpe University


Early in the pandemic, there were nonstop announcements of restaurants donating food to hospitals/first responders and breweries making hand sanitizer. Locally, two restaurants temporarily converted into food pantries. Amidst the horrors of the pandemic, individuals and organizations have also found creative ways to maintain civic connection to one another. Among these are the dozens

of local restaurants that have opened their arms and their doors to deliver food to frontline workers or turn their kitchens into food pantries. These are examples of what social scientists have coined “social infrastructure,” or those physical spaces (including small businesses) that bring people together to achieve collective goods or simply provide a safe place to gather. In crisis, such infrastructure can be a key source of mutual aid and resiliency. For example, one of the entrepreneurs in our Start:ME accelerator, Springreens Community Café, has provided more than 5,000 free hot meals in the East Lake community since late April. It is possible that such generous acts may provide benefits down the road as patrons see that restaurants are so much more than places to eat. The pandemic has shown that restaurants and other small businesses also comprise the connective tissue that holds communities together in times of crisis. But shifting to a food pantry or developing a delivery service also builds goodwill in a community, produces innovative revenue streams, and keeps some key employees working. FILE Are there downsides to The Sandy Springs restaurant Under the Cork more restaurants jumping Tree was converted into a food pantry. onto the giving bandwagon? Probably not so long as neighbors need food and local farmers and other suppliers need reliable income. However, giving away supplies for free in a makeshift food pantry is not sustainable. It is a distinctive display of the incredible resilience and generosity of our city’s food industry, but also reveals the broken system of food distribution that has only been exacerbated by the pandemic. — Wesley Longhofer, associate professor of organization and management, Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

WORTHWHILE CONVERSATIONS WHAT NOW? WEALTH PLANNING AFTER COVID-19… DOES THE COVID-19 EXPERIENCE MEAN THAT WEALTH PLANNING IS NOW TOTALLY DIFFERENT? No, not necessarily. Market and economic conditions continue to change, but good wealth planning comes from being consistent in making sound decisions. HOW CAN YOU MAKE SOUND DECISIONS WHEN THE FUTURE IS SO UNCERTAIN? In nearly 50 years of wealth planning, we have worked with families who can personally recall terribly uncertain conditions. In 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union were staring each other down over nuclear missiles in Cuba and plenty of people felt it could be the end of civilization. In 1974, a sitting U.S. President resigned from office in disgrace and the average citizen’s faith in our government reached an all-time low. There have been times, of course, when the future looked bright. In 2000, we ushered in a new Millennium amidst great optimism, following a decade that saw the fall of the Iron Curtain and a peace dividend.

during the month of the Cuban missile crisis, you were 30% richer one year later. If you put money to work in U.S. stocks during the month Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency, you were 250% richer ten years later. If you waited for the turn of the Millennium to put your money to work in U.S. stocks, you were 35% worse off two years later.

SO, WHAT IS YOUR POINT? Certainty or uncertainty about the future is an unreliable basis for building wealth. Ryan Patterson, CFA, CFP®, our Chief Investment Officer, puts it this way: “When everyone is feeling good about the future, the prices of financial assets are higher, reflecting that feeling. When few people feel good, prices are discounted and opportunities are greater.” If you invested in U.S. stocks

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Bill Kring, MaryJane LeCroy, and Phillip Hamman discuss how to adjust wealth planning during uncertain market conditions following COVID-19. (Left to right: Phillip Hamman, CFA, CFP®; MaryJane LeCroy, CFP®; and Bill Kring, CFP®)

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18 | Commentary

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

Sisters in arms find an online home in Georgia military women group

If you picture a typical military veteran, is your image male or female? If it’s male, you’re not alone. “When we tell people we’ve served, they think we’re the spouses of service members, not that we have served,” said

We are not a support group. No drama, politics or religion allowed. Just ladies hanging out with others who know what it is like to serve.

Carol Niemi is a marketing consultant who lives on the Dunwoody-

retired Army Sgt. 1st Class TanyalineSmith ofabout Dunwoody. Sandy Springs and writes people whose lives inspire others. Contact her at worthknowingnow@gmail.com.

“When I first started making civilian friends and told them I had jumped out of airplanes, they would go, ‘What?’” said Carmen Morales of Brookhaven, the first woman in the Georgia Army National Guard to reach the rank of com-

mand sergeant major, the highest an enlisted soldier can achieve. These are but the tip of the iceberg for women military


The Georgia Military Women logo was temporarily altered for the pandemic with an image of the coronavirus and a social distancing message.

vets transitioning to civilian life. For most of them, serv-

called “GA Military Women,” open

ing in the military wasn’t what they did. It was who they

to all of the state’s female veterans,

were and still are - women committed to leadership, self-

who number nearly 93,000, according to the Georgia Depart-

discipline and personal accountability. And for years they

ment of Veterans Services. “We are not a support group. No drama, politics or religion

lived and worked with people who defined themselves the

allowed. Just ladies hanging out with others who know what it

same way.

is like to serve,” is the group’s self-description on a public Face-

In addition to the challenges facing their male coun-

book page for the group.

terparts -- finding employment and a place to live, getting healthcare and understanding their benefits -- some studies

The club has no dues or budget. It’s a private place online

in the early 2000s suggested they are more likely to be fac-

where the almost 4,000 members can get vital information

ing them alone due to lower marriage rates and higher di-

about veterans services, ask and answer questions, share suc-

vorce rates.

cesses and disappointments, help members in need, and organize member events throughout the state.

One veteran who learned that the hard way is former

“Women vets are natural leaders,” said Stevens. “I have more

Navy Lt. Amy Stevens, who holds a doctorate in education

than 50 leaders around the state [who organize events].”

and is a licensed professional counselor.

“We’re all welcome at all events,” said Morales.

After 11 years of active duty and a medical discharge, she

Stevens posts ceremonies, concerts and other public events

began work at Johns Hopkins University on her master of science degree. The single mother of a special-needs child, with no one to help with childcare, no health insurance and

Tanya Smith of Dunwoody, Army sgt. 1st class (ret.).


on the public page. Especially popular before the pandemic were the free veterans’ tickets to the Atlanta Opera. Lately, the group has been discussing coronavirus-related is-

medical bills of $30,000, she and her son survived by being

sues like using the Veterans Affairs services, National Guard

“essentially homeless” for six months.

call-ups, and making surgical masks.

“I sold my house and my nice car, bought a used car, rented a room from a church lady and had my son stay with a

“It’s where we connect with our sisters in arms,” said Smith.

friend,” she said.

“A lot of people appreciate people who serve but think we

She came to Atlanta for a job with the U.S. Department of

joined because we didn’t have any options,” said Morales. “But

Labor, where she worked for 11 years, along with two part-

we wanted to serve. Everybody in ‘GA Military Women’ gets

time jobs to pay off her medical debts. She eventually re-

this. You don’t have to feel weird.”

connected with the military as the director of psychological

“I wouldn’t change the trajectory of my journey at all,” said

health for the Georgia National Guard, where she provided

Smith, who gave up her position as director of New Jersey’s larg-

counseling sessions.

est juvenile male offenders program to join the Army as a military intelligence linguist.

“People told me everything,” she said. And what she

As civilians, all three women are continuing their life of ser-

heard was often troubling.


When she left the National Guard in 2012, she decided to provide a resource for women veterans and invited a few

Morales is a program analyst at the Social Security Adminis-

women friends from the Guard to join her “in a little Face-

tration. Smith travels the world as a leadership consultant and

book group” called “Georgia Military Women.” It grew into a private, members-only Facebook club

Carmen Morales of Brookhaven, Army command sgt. maj. (ret.).


author. Stevens serves as a Red Cross disaster mental health


JUNE 2020

Commentary | 19


A hike down Memory Lane, and toward the pandemic’s end He was my high school boyfriend. I hadn’t seen him in decades (I won’t say how many), but we reconnected on Facebook because I had jumped on social media to peddle my book (“The Best of the Nest” — get your copy now!), and he contacted me last September when he and his wife happened to be in town. We had a double date for lunch, each of us with our spouses, and we talked to each other of our lives, our kids, and our plans for the future. As we chatted over our Thai food, I congratulated my teenaged self for dating such a nice guy. And I recalled that somehow back then I knew that, great as he was, he wasn’t quite right for me. Of course, I wasn’t right for him, either, a point which became even more glaringly clear as our conversation progressed and they discussed their plans to through-hike the Appalachian Trail together. Wow. Talk about a goal! I mean, I like to walk, but there are limits. I did my bit on the AT when I was young, when my shoulders were sturdy and my back was strong and I didn’t even know that knees could “go bad.” I did it at a time when, if I knelt down to get something off the floor, I didn’t groan Robin Conte lives with her when I got back up. husband in an empty nest But they were determined. They had done their research, in Dunwoody. To contact making plans and preparations for more than a year, all of her or to buy her column collection, “The Best of the which heightened their enthusiasm to undertake this amNest,” see robinconte.com. bitious trek. They embarked in late February, documenting their journey with photos and mile markers. I followed them from the comfort of my laptop as they hiked in the rain and the





Robin’s Nest

snow, water dripping from their rain gear and smiles beaming through spattered camera lenses. And I gawked in amazement at her. There she was, filtering creek water and pitching tents! She was eating her own dehydrated spaghetti! She was balancing her way across rivulets on fallen logs while carrying a 30-pound pack on her back! She was sleeping in shelters infested with mice! MICE! I’m all for nature, but I don’t want it nibbling on my feet while I’m trying to sleep. I viewed their posts, and two thoughts took hold in my mind and stayed there for a while: 1. Whew! Dodged that bullet! and 2. She’s a boss. I also considered, as I followed their adventures on Facebook while watching the world shutter in peel-off fashion, that they picked a good time to stay away from civilization, to hike up and down mountains in relative isolation and enjoy expansive views of the ranges of our East Coast. I was happy for them, and I imagined that they must feel grateful to be enjoying the world in separation from the havoc caused by a sinister virus. Then I heard that the AT was closed. And my heart broke a bit for them, as it breaks every day for the small business owners who watch their life savings being swallowed up by the lockdowns and the employees who sink into the quicksand along with them and the doctors and nurses and all in their field who brave each day to meet our medical needs. The couple had made it into Tennessee, had traveled for 37 days and hiked almost 400 miles. They had persevered as long as they were able, even as their fellow hikers left the trail and the hiker towns became more deserted. They hiked until ultimately, at the beginning of April, it became illegal to continue, and, understanding the safety measures being put in place, they had to abandon their trip. They were proud of what they had accomplished, as well they should be, and they are hopeful that one day they can return to pick up where they left off and ultimately fulfill their dream. I wish that for them, and I wish that for all of us.

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

When safety comes down to politeness and self-policing On Mother’s Day, shortly after the governor of Georgia lifted his statewide shelter-athome order for most Georgians, David Schulman spotted a group of his neighbors gathered around an ice-cream truck parked near a playground in his Sandy Springs condo community. “What really amazed me was there was nobody wearing masks, nobody standing 6 feet apart,” he said. It looked like little had changed from the days before the world stopped in place to slow the spread of COVID-19. “Unfortunately, there were too many people around,” Schulman said. “It went against the governor’s guidelines.” Schulman, who’s 57, thought this crowd could and should have done a better job of following the rules set by the state. He saw little evidence that the group followed any of the state’s social distancing recommendations, even though a sign was posted nearby asking that residents “please keep social distancing.” He thought it seemed kind of bizarre. And it bothered him. “I’m taking the approach – I have from early, early on — that I try to minimize risk as much as possible,” he said. Schulman didn’t report the gathering to local officials, but he said that when he went out to walk his dog, he took a few photos of the crowd, and later posted a comment on Facebook. Others who have questions about recent social gatherings have contacted local authorities. Representatives of Sandy Springs, Brookhaven and Dunwoody all said those city governments in April or May had received complaints — not many, but a few — about people who are not following the state guidelines for public gatherings or business closings. Some complaints went to city officials through emails or public comment channels, such as city call centers, or cropped up on social media. Others went directly to police. City officials usually responded by checking out the size of the gathering and asking people to abide by the rules. Violation of the social distancing rules can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor, according to the governor’s order, but local city officials said they knew of no arrests for violations. For the most part, Sandy Springs spokesperson Sharon Kraun said, people “are doing the right thing” when they get together, so there appear to be relatively few gatherings to complain about. “It’s really self-policing,” she said, “and folks are doing a good job with it.” But if neighborhood gatherings don’t embrace social distancing rules, then residents themselves become the eyes of the community on social distancing enforcement. Neighborhood scolds who not so long ago might have been complaining on social media about school issues or cracked sidewalks now are replaced by folks raising red flags about too many kids playing in the park. That puts some of us in an uncomfortable position. If you’re worried that too many people around an ice cream truck can be a breeding ground for coronavirus, then you’re put in the position of being the one who breaks up the party. That’s no fun. Who wants to be the neighbor who called the cops on kids eating ice cream? “My biggest concern was that people weren’t taking this seriously,” Schulman said. “Pray to God there were no viruses spread. This is how it happens — just like in California, from a church, where somebody with the virus [attends] and that’s all it takes. I err on the side of caution and expect the community to do the same.” He argues he shouldn’t have to force others to follow the rules. It’s a community issue, he said, and we all have to look out for one another. Following the social distancing guidelines is nothing more than a way of politely acknowledging the concerns of other people who are worried about the spread of a deadly disease. “To me, it’s very simple,” he said. “To do things a little more safely, with more respect for the neighbors.” So, show a little respect. And, of course, remember to stand 6 feet apart and to wash your hands. DUN

JUNE 10 - JUNE 23, 2016

Special Section | 21


SPECIAL SECTION Parks and Recreation

After weeks of sheltering-in-place, crowds head to Georgia state parks BY COLLIN KELLEY Even at the height of the pandemic, Georgia State Parks remained open to offer a change of scenery, a place to stretch your legs, and a brief respite from the onslaught of virus-related news. With the shelter-in-place order lifted, some parks are experiencing large crowds on certain days and admission may be limited to ensure social distancing and protect the health and safety of the public and park employees. But don’t let that stop you from going, especially if you want to get some mountain air, take in the view, or go on a hike. Before you head north, be sure to check gastateparks.org for the latest updates on what is open. As the state continues to loosen restrictions, more park amenities will

wild (Headwaters, Dawson Forest and other sections) as it winds through national forests and state wildlife management areas to rural and even urban. The river is home to more Native American fish weirs than are found on all other Georgia rivers combined and historic sites, including the Etowah Indian Mounds State Historic Site, dot its banks from Dawsonville to Rome. The river passes through three state wildlife management areas (Dawson Forest, McGraw Ford and Allatoona) the Chattahoochee National Forest and numerous local parks. For more information, visit etowahwatertrail.org. Cloudland Canyon ► Located on the western edge of Lookout Mountain, Cloudland Canyon is one Continued on page 22

A new life awaits in Asheville become available to the public once again. Amicalola Falls ▲ At 729 feet, Amicalola Falls is the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast. Visitors have choices on how to best view the tumbling waters, ranging from an accessible pathway to a challenging trail with staircases. An 8.5-mile trail leads from the park to Springer Mountain, the southern end of the famous 2,175-mile Appalachian Trail. The park’s picturesque lodge is open for stays and is taking health and safety precautions amid the COVID-19 outbreak. For more information, visit gastateparks.org/ AmicalolaFalls. Etowah River Water Trail With the exception of the upper reaches of the river (Hightower and Etowah Falls sections), Etowa is rated as a Class I river with occasional small shoals and rapids, which makes it suitable for novice paddlers. Scenery along the river ranges from DUN

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Continued from page 21

passes some of the most outstanding scenery in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Roadside overlooks provide spectacular 80-mile vistas, and four hiking trails lead visitors past wildflowers, streams, small waterfalls and lush forests. The park’s small lake is popular with anglers and circled by an easy walking trail. The park has reported some busy days, so staff may limit the number of visitors to the overlooks, trails and lake area. Visit gastateparks.org/BlackRockMountain for updates.

of the largest and most scenic parks in the state. Home to thousand-foot deep canyons, sandstone cliffs, wild caves, waterfalls, cascading creeks, dense woodland and abundant wildlife, the park offers ample outdoor recreation opportunities. Hiking and mountain biking trails abound. The most popular hiking paths include the short Overlook Trail, strenuous Waterfalls Trail and moderate West Rim Loop Trail. Mountain biking is available at the newly developed Five Points Recreation Area and along the Cloudland Connector Trail. Guests seeking an overnight experience can choose from fully-equipped cottages, quirky yurts or several different types of camping and backpacking options. Reservations are required. Visit gastateparks. org/CloudlandCanyon. Hardman Farm ► Georgia’s newest state park, which opened in 2015, is the 173-acre Hardman Farm located in historic Sautee Nacoochee, just south of Helen. The farm is best known for a favorite landmark: The gazebo-topped

Nacoochee Mound, a burial site probably used long before the Cherokee inhabited the area, which sits in the middle of verdant cow pasture. At press time, the house was still closed for tours, but the trails through the park

are open. For updated information about the farm, visit gastateparks.org/HardmanFarm.



Black Rock Mountain Georgia’s highest state park encom-

Tallulah Gorge ▲ Visitors can hike rim trails to several overlooks but permits to access the gorge floor and for climbing were suspended at press time. A suspension bridge sways 80 feet above the rocky bottom, providing spectacular views of the river and waterfalls. Tightrope walkers have twice crossed the gorge, and visitors can still see towers used by Karl Wallenda. Officials have reported heavy visitation and the park often closes after reaching capacity due to social distancing. For more, visit gastateparks.org/TallulahGorge.

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Special Section | 23



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Scenic Drives

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Take a mountain daytrip and see the sights safely from inside your car BY GIANNA SMITH BEDFORD AND COLLIN KELLEY If you’re hankering to get out of town, but also mindful of the COVID-19 outbreak, these scenic drives through North Georgia, Pine Mountain, and North Carolina make for the perfect social distancing daytrip.


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Traveling through White, Towns and Union counties, the nearly 41-mile RussellBrasstown Scenic Byway looks onto gorgeous vistas surrounded by the Chattahoochee National Forest. Wind through the mountain gaps and valleys of the Southern Appalachians, stopping for Instagram moments along the way. One of the best is atop Brasstown Bald, the highest natural point in the state and an ideal spot to watch the leaves turn brilliant colors in the fall. On a clear day, you can see Atlanta from the peak of Brasstown Bald, even though it’s more than 100 miles away. If you feel like some exercise, tackle the nearly two-mile round-trip hike to Dukes Creek Falls or a portion of the famed Appalachian Trail at the Hogpen Gap trailhead before hopping back in the car to continue your scenic drive. Spanning from Cohutta to Ellijay, the 56-mile Cohutta-Chattahoochee Scenic Byway travels through the Chattahoochee National Forest, plus a number of charming towns. At Prater’s Mill in Dalton, observe a working 19th-century gristmill and cotton gin and pick up goodies at the general store. Don’t miss the many Civil War sites in and around town. After leaving Dalton, drive east to Chatsworth, where you can break for lunch and see the Chief Vann House Historic Site, a restored mansion built in 1804. This town is also home to Fort Mountain State Park, a great place to stretch your legs on a trail (there are more than 3,700 acres of them).

Cullasaja Falls

Continued on page 26

JUNE 10 - JUNE 23, 2016



Special Section | 25

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North Carolina

If you want to go a little further, head into North Carolina for to see the Cullasaja River Gorge, which offers a spectacular scenic drive along the Waterfall Byway between the towns of Franklin and Highlands. The fast-moving Cullasaja River tumbles down three major waterfalls alongside the 61-mile road that winds through the Nantahala National Forest. Visitors can drive their vehicles beneath the 120-foot Bridal Veil Falls and walk behind the roaring water at Dry Falls. The tallest falls are the Cullasaja Falls, which drop 250 feet. Cullasaja means “honey locust place” in the Cherokee language. The gorge is part of the trail followed by Spanish explorer Hernando DeSoto in 1540. The gorge and its waterfalls can be accessed along U.S. Highway 64/State Road 28 between Highlands and Franklin, which is part of the Waterfall Byway. The road is winding and narrow.

Pine Mountain

Scenic mountain views aren’t limited to North Georgia or North Carolina. A couple of hours south of Atlanta, the Pine Mountain Highway-Scenic Heights Road ( State Route 190) runs from Manchester to Callaway Gardens through F.D. Roosevelt State Park. There are numerous parking overlooks with gorgeous views overlooking the valley below and hiking trails. Stop at Dowdell’s Knob to see the view that President Franklin D. Roosevelt loved so much that he had a brick oven and picnic area installed so he could dine there when he was at the nearby Little White House in Warm Springs. For more information on these scenic drives, visit ExploreGeorgia.org, blueridgeheritage.com, or gastateparks.org/FDRoosevelt.

Mountain Activities

▲The Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC has reopened its park spaces, including the gardens and grounds with more than 20 miles of walking, hiking, and biking trails. Be sure to visit biltmore.com for details and admission information. The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests in North Carolina are open, but at press time, most campgrounds remained closed. The forests are open for hiking, mountain biking, fishing and for scenic drives. Visit fs.usda.gov/nfsnc for updates. If you want to go glamping (that’s a mashup of glamourous and camping), then you’re in luck because Under Canvas is welcoming guests who want to add a touch of luxury to their outdoor getaway in the Great Smoky Mountains. Located near Gatlinburg, this ecofriendly site offers luxury canvas tents, daily housekeeping, on-site dining and more. Visit undercanvas.com for details. Coral Hospitality, which operates lodges for Georgia’s State Parks, has reopened Brasstown Valley Resort and Lodge in Young Harris, Unicoi State Park Lodge and Amicalola Falls Lodge, along with the restaurants. Social distancing will be in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Visit coralhospitality.com for details and reservations.

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GDOT responds to I-285 toll lane questions, concerns BY JOHN RUCH

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Pill Hill overpass is biggest idea in Perimeter Center road project studies A conceptual illustration of the Medical Center’s Peachtree-Dunwoody/Johnson Ferry roads intersection turned into an overpass.


The Georgia Department of Transportation has issued its formal response to questions and concerns from hundreds of residents and officials about its controversial plan to add toll lanes to the top end of I-285. The responses cover such topics as access points on local streets and the overall design and purpose of the project. The responses follow public meetings in January to unveil preliminary designs for the lanes, which are intended to speed traffic as part of a metro-wide system, but would impact hundreds of properties and would turn some local streets into highway interchanges. Public comments were roughly split 50-50 for and against toll lanes, GDOT said. Most answers boil down to GDOT saying it is either studying the issue or considers the question outside of the project’s scope of discussions. GDOT issued its detailed response in April. The input from the public meetings will be used to create a “more refined project concept” that will be presented in another round of meetings, possibly in early 2021. GDOT continues to accept and respond to public comments at TopEndExpressLanes@dot.ga.gov. To view all responses, see majormobilityga.com. GDOT plans to add toll lanes -- separate from the existing highway lanes and in many places elevated on pillars -- along the top end of I-285 and on part of Ga. 400 between Sandy Springs and Alpharetta. The intent to speed up overall traffic by allowing paying drivers onto the toll lanes. The Ga. 400 toll lanes would carry MARTA rapid transit buses as well, and a similar concept is being studied for the I-285 lanes. The Ga. 400 proposal began earlier and is expected to start construction in 2022 and open in 2027. The top-end I-285 project is split into east and west sections. The east section, between Ga. 400 and Henderson Road, is expected to start in 2022 and open in 2028. The west section, between Ga. 400 and Paces Ferry Road, is expected to start in 2026 and open in 2032. Following the January meetings, GDOT said, it received 485 formal comments. Of those, 82 were in support; 109 were in conditional support; 250 were opposed; 33 were uncommitted; and 11 did not specify a position.


GDOT has touted toll lanes -- which it calls “express lanes” -- as a traffic congestion solution and has said their value is already proven by such recent examples as versions on I-75 and I-575. But its formal answer to a question about whether the I-285 project will perform as advertised in the long term was less committed. It says that “performance data” on existing lanes “indicate” improvements on reliability and “overall duration” of trips in both tolled and free lanes. “As the EL [express lanes] concept is relatively new in Georgia, research and data analysis are ongoing,” the response says. Other big design points remain unknown, GDOT said, including where Georgia Power’s high-voltage lines in the right of way would be relocated, and how high the elevated lanes would be in any given spot -- though the height will range from 30 to 120 feet. Noise barriers can’t always be built prior to lane construction, GDOT said; as for putting them on the elevated lanes, the agency is evaluating the “feasibility.” GDOT said it is “evaluating the design changes necessary” to place a multiuse trail on a replacement of the Chamblee-Dunwoody Road bridge, as requested by the city of Dunwoody. GDOT said it got comments both for and against its plan to turn Savoy and Cotillion drives into one-way streets to serve the toll lanes. The plan is “necessary,” but the configuration and number of lanes is being studied. New access points for the toll lanes have been controversial, especially since GDOT says they must be different from the current entrances and exits for free lanes. The agency said it received multiple comments about eliminating, moving and adding access points, but showed little interest in altering most of them. The most controversial has been one proposed on Mount Vernon Highway over Ga. 400, due to possibly adding tens of thousands of cars to daily local traffic. GDOT said a traffic study will be done and alternatives are being studied. Many other impacts of local concern, including air quality, water runoff and lighting, are part of ongoing environmental reviews, GDOT said.


BY JOHN RUCH johnruch@reporternewspapers.net

Turning the Medical Center’s main intersection into an overpass is the biggest -- and probably least likely -- road project among several that the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts has in the planning stages. More lanes for faster turns and easier access to Ga. 400 are a general theme of several projects that project director John Gurbal presented at an April 28 quarterly update from the PCIDs, two jointly operated, self-taxing business districts in Perimeter Center that spend much of their money on transportation improvements. The following are some of the new projects PCIDs is studying or planning.

Pill Hill intersection

The intersection of Peachtree-Dunwoody and Johnson Ferry roads is the heart of the Sandy Springs Medical Center, known as Pill Hill. Clogged at rush hour, the crossing tends to be wide open at other times. The PCIDs is about a year into preliminary study of some sort of improvement, with traffic counts and other groundwork already done. A big idea from the first brainstorming, Gurbal said, is to turn the intersection into an overpass, with east-west through-traffic running beneath Johnson Ferry. “Too bad it wasn’t built that way to begin with,” said Gurbal in an interview, adding that such a structure “would be huge” and “may not be possible” due to right of way and emergency-access conditions. The next step is an alternatives analysis that will include more modest ideas, including small turn-lane changes. The PCIDs is also waiting to coordinate with a traffic safety study, including a look at crosswalks, that Sandy Springs city staff intends to do, according to Gurbal. A city spokesperson declined comment pending a City Council approval of such a study.

Ashford-Dunwoody median and path

Moving quickly toward construction are plans to add a median, a multiuse path and more turn lanes to a section of Ashford-Dunwoody Road in Brookhaven. The section is between Lake Hearn Drive and Perimeter Summit Parkway/Oak Forest Drive. The joint project with the city is nearly ready to start a design phase, Gurbal said. Construction could start in late summer.

Abernathy ramp to Ga. 400

This proposal would add a new right-turn lane from Peachtree-Dunwoody Road southbound at Abernathy Road westbound that would provide no-stop access directly onto the Ga. 400 northbound ramp. A separate but related plan would add a similar turn lane on Abernathy from Mount Vernon Highway westbound to Peachtree-Dunwoody northbound.

Hammond Drive/Ga. 400 turn lane

This project would extend an existing right-turn lane from Hammond Drive westbound to Ga. 400 northbound. The lane would be extended to the Concourse Parkway intersection.

Other turn lanes

The PCIDs is considering various turn lane additions and extensions, in some cases by eliminating existing medians. Some of the locations include: Crestline Parkway at Peachtree-Dunwoody and Mount Vernon Highway; Perimeter Center West at Central Parkway; Perimeter Summit Parkway at Ashford-Dunwoody Road; and theGlenridge Connector at Johnson Ferry Road. DUN


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Chattahoochee national park’s temporary leader steers through pandemic BY BOB PEPALIS

“Our law enforcement staff and maintenance staff are essential staff and have been working throughout the pandemic,” she said. The temporary boss at the Chattahoochee River National RecreOther staff either teleworked from home or are on-site. ation Area’s took on her duties just as the park was about to close for Otherwise it’s been business as usual for the staff as they track health reasons due to the pandemic. their budget, develop projects and otherwise handle resource man“We’ve dealt with natural disasters and government shutdowns,” agement. But now they’ve added examining specific jobs to detersaid Acting Superintendent Ann Honious, “but nothing that is healthmine if modifications are needed as park access increases and all related and pandemic. And that is a different response.” employees return to working on site. Honious came to Georgia from the nation’s capital, where she Getting to know the Chattahoochee River NRA was her first priserves in her permanent posting as the deputy superintendent at Naority. She said a park tour and participating in a ride-along with law tional Capital Parks East in Washington, D.C. Her 120-day temporary enforcement officers on river patrol gave her insight into those asposting began in mid-April and ends in mid-August. pects of park operations. She’s filling in temporarily for the superintendent’s position. AfHonious has been working with the park’s partners, including ter the position is advertised a permanent superintendent will be communities adjacent to it, the friends group and other partners chosen. Until then, acting superintendents fill the role on temporary whose relationships she’s trying to maintain. assignments. “I bring my skills and experience from other parks and am able to Longtime Superintendent Bill Cox retired on Jan. 3 after a 40-year SPECIAL apply them to the National Recreation Area,” she said. Ann Honious. federal career. He had actively recruited by the National Park Service She started working with the National Park Service as a historito serve as the superintendent for the Chattahoochee River National an. Recreation Area in 2013, the National Park Service reported. “I’ve always liked history. And I found that the park service is a great way to share Cox set up partnership projects and helped develop the Friends Group – the Chattathe history of America, and the great resources that we have like national parks,” Hohoochee Parks Conservancy – to where it now provides philanthropic support to the nious said. park. He increased awareness for the Chattahoochee River NRA among local cities and People immediately think of parks like the Grand Canyon when you mention the Naorganization. And Cox helped educate the community on watershed management’s imtional Park Service. But the Chattahoochee River is also a national park, Honious said, portance and the economic benefits the park brings. and is a place where you can get out to enjoy the country and its natural resources. The biggest challenge Honious has faced in her short tenure has been the pandemic She worked in Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright brothers, at the Dayton Aviation and park operations with COVID-19, “and developing an adaptive recovery to increase Heritage National Historical Park. She also has worked at the St. Louis Gateway Arch access for visitors in the park, keeping park visitors and employees safe.” National Park. At National Capital Parks East in Washington, D.C., she helps manage None of the Chattahoochee River NRA’s employees were furloughed due to the coromore than 8,000 acres and 90 parks, including the Washington-Baltimore Parkway, Annavirus, she said. Around 30 people work for the park, with numbers fluctuating beacostia Park, Frederick Douglass Park and Civil War Defenses of Washington. cause seasonal maintenance employees come in during the summer.


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Restaurants seek elbow room in the pandemic’s distanced dining

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popular component to any restaurant location,” said Scott Amoson, the director of research at the Atlanta office of the real estate firm Colliers International. “I would think going forward, however, this will be an even more important aspect to incorporate into a restaurant’s location.” But another long-term social distancing trend could hit restaurants hard, and it’s completely out of their control over their square-footage and chairs. The lower attendance in offices as employees shift to teleworking will be “real hurt” if it becomes a new normal that eats into the lunch-catering business, said Richmond Green, director of operations at the Atlanta-based quick-casual chain Gusto. “That’s one area where we’re not sure things are going to return to normal,” said Green. “A lot of businesses have discovered that working remote is not just some futuristic thing that only Google does. ... There may never be a time where people gather in offices for hundred-person lunches. And it may be a long time before businesses take the risk of bringing people back to the office when they can safely work from home.”

Moving outdoors

Gov. Brian Kemp allowed dine-in restaurant service to return in late April. Under the current language of his emergency order, which was scheduled to run at least through June 12, restaurants are limited to 10 patrons per 300 square feet and 10 patrons per table. Michael Starling, the economic development director for the city of Dunwoody, said those rules boiled down to one message: “you have to find more space.” That’s because even 50% occupancy would not be enough for most restaurants to survive. Outdoor seating is a popular solution both to increase the footprint and because the open air is considered generally lower-risk for coronavirus transmission than indoor spaces. The cities of Dunwoody and Brookhaven quickly offered temporary permits to allow certain forms of outdoor dining. But restaurants and customers locally and around the metro area were already adapting on their own with ad hoc solutions. Amoson said he saw many examples in his home area in Atlanta’s southern suburbs, where standalone locations of chains like Outback used strips of land outside their stores for tables with umbrellas. “ I’ve also noticed people in general (including my family) have purchased their food to-go and then gone to sit on walls, or throw a blanket out on public spaces nearby,” said Amoson in an email. Earlier on, my family would purchase to-go and then have a picnic in the back of my truck in the parking lot. It was at least something different than eating at home and got us out.” Verde Taqueria in Brookhaven Village was among those that quickly moved outside. The restaurant has a patio, but already had converted it into a pickup spot for takeout orders. So to make outdoor seating, the restaurant put three picnic tables in parking spaces marked off with traffic cones. “We just got parts of our parking lot


blocked off. And we’re letting people order food and sit out there as they please,” said Manuel Gonzalez, general manager of the restaurant. Verde is in a mixed-use building that shares parking with other businesses and residents. Gonzalez said the restaurant owners were in discussions with the tenant association about the temporary setup. Amoson said jerryrigged seating solutions likely can continue, with any rulebending overlooked, while the pandemic comeback continues and restaurants attract potential customers for neighboring businesses. But, Starling said, some friction eventually will take hold, as other businesses will eventually want to use parking spaces, too, among other possible conflicts.

But seating is an important part of the business and its intent to be a “destination” for customers. And that loss of office catering is a significant one that has the chain strategizing. And social distancing may have some long-term impacts on the way the chain does business. “I don’t think we’re going to do away with dining rooms when we’re looking at space in the future. I think we will look for more drivethrus,” said Green, adding that the Chamblee location has done the most consistent pandemic business because it has one. Gusto is also thinking about increasing the size of patios, as well as working with shopping center landlords to create “community spaces to eat outdoors” that could be used by a number of restaurants. A distanced Then there’s the biggest future? X factor of all: customer demands. Green said Gusto is Will the pandemic mean already seeing customers long-term changes to the without masks and hearway restaurants operate? ing demands to open the inWhile uncertainty is the store seating. Public tolerpandemic’s main trait, flexance for new ways of doing ibility in design seems to be business may wane. the main answer. “We’ve been telling our For Darren Benda, the guys… that for a couple of PHOTOS BY PHIL MOSIER new owner of El Azteca in months, the restaurant inTop, outdoor dining in the pandemic on May 23 at Louisiana Bistreaux Seafood Kitchen on Piedmont Road in Buckhead meant Dunwoody Village, it’s not dustry earned a lot of grace tables spaced apart and a server in a mask and face shield. an abstract question. He and earned a lot of sympatook advantage of the pan- Above, red X’s of tape mark tables as off-limits to maintain social distancing thy,” said Green. But after at the HOBNOB Neighborhood Tavern in Town Brookhaven on May 24. demic closures to speed up that period with “zero cusinterior renovations of the tomer complaints,” he said, restaurant. He says that the “as people are starting to feel interior will not be changed specifically to safer, we’re going to get less grace.” prepare for any prolonged pandemic fall— Bob Pepalis contributed out, but that flexibility remains a design principle. “The beauty of our space is that 95% of the seating and tables can be rearranged for various patterns and occasions. So we will adjust whenever the rules and regulations allow for that,” he said. For Gusto, the pandemic is a test of the old normal, as the chain had the unfortunate timing to open its new “Chastain” location in Buckhead’s Roswell Wieuca Shopping Center on May 8. The restaurant opened as scheduled, but in a low-key fashion to avoid drawing crowds and with its roughly 50-seat dining room still unused. Green, Gusto’s director of operations, said that the quick-casual business model allowed the opening to do decent business, since it already had takeout and delivery built in -- though delivery takes a bigger cut of the revenue -- and the Chastain location has patio seating. After an initial hit, the chain’s counter business is back to near normal, said Green, with customers including nurses from nearby Piedmont Hospital flocking to the original location on Peachtree Road in Brookwood Hills.

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