12-14-18 Dunwoody Reporter

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DECEMBER 14-31, 2018 • VOL. 9 — NO. 25


Dunwoody Reporter



► Highway toll lanes plan draws more anxiety, and some envy PAGE 4 ► Looking into 2019’s political crystal ball PAGE 10

Long-dormant High Street to break ground next year

BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

Above, a newly released illustration of the planned High Street mixed-use development shows interior streets surrounded by wide sidewalks with store fronts. (North American Properties) Inset, this empty field as seen from the Dunwoody MARTA parking deck is included in the planned High Street massive mixed-use development expected to break ground in late 2019. The lot is across the street from the current State Farm regional headquarters now under construction. (Phil Mosier)

The developer behind Alpharetta’s Avalon is joining the High Street team with plans to break ground on the long-dormant mini-city in Perimeter Center by the end of next year. See LONG on page 23

OUT & ABOUT Bring on the holidays with ‘Candlelight Nights’

Q&A Joe Gransden, the jazz man around town Page 18

Page 16

Dunwoody sees improved ambulance service BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

I believe that when our airwaves are filled with holiday music, we are all bolstered with a little jolt of brotherhood. ROBIN’S NEST


Dunwoody officials say an agreement worked out with DeKalb County to ensure quicker ambulance response times to address ongoing service concerns in the city appears to be working after its first month in action. The news comes as DeKalb County extended its contract with its controversial ambulance service provider for another six months. See DUNWOODY on page 22

2 | Community

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900-condo mixed-use development gets green light BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

The site of Dunwoody’s former City Hall is now expected to be home to a massive mixed-use development, including 900 condominiums, commercial space and a pocket park. The project also includes construction of multiuse paths on site and future potential connections to city parks and to the Dunwoody MARTA station. The City Council approved at its Dec. 10 meeting rezoning nearly 20 acres at 41, 47 and 53 Perimeter Center East to make way for the project that has been some three years in the making. The project includes building four residential towers up to 14 stories tall on what is now mostly underutilized surface parking lots and tearing down one 5-story office building to make room for a new 20-story office tower. The city’s six-month moratorium on permitting and construction of multi-unit buildings is not expected to delay the project from Grubb Properties, named the Park at Perimeter Center East. Grubb representatives said they will first be moving forward with an extensive marketing and design process before seeking any building permits. Grubb Properties is expected to build out the project near I-285 and AshfordDunwoody Road over the next decade. The council’s Dec. 10 approval for the project came more than a year after Grubb hastily

withdrew previous plans when it appeared council members were going to vote to reject the project. At that time, the project included hundreds of apartments, a major point of contention by city officials. Over the past year, Grubb revised its project and eliminated rental apartments from the project and included only 900 for-sale condos in the four residential towers as well as for-sale townhomes. The approved project includes preserving the 41 and 47 office buildings and razing the 53 building on the southern portion of the property. A new 20-story tower with 500,000 square feet of Class A office space is planned to be built on the site of the 53 building. The development will also include a minimum of 12,500 square feet of retail. Each of the three buildings proposed at the main intersection of the development will include a minimum of 2,500 square feet of retail, with the possibility of up to 15,000 square feet of additional office space available to be converted to retail, should demand warrant it, according to Grubb officials. A new 3-acre park will be built in the central area of the development and include public access. Grubb Properties will also construct a pedestrian crossing over Perimeter Center East into the 12-foot multiuse trail recently built at the Townsend at Perimeter townhomes now under construction at 54 Perimeter Center East.



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An illustration of an aerial view of the Park at Perimeter Center East mixeduse development with the 20-story office tower at the left, the new 14-story residential towers surrounding the existing 41 and 47 Perimeter Center East office buildings, and the 3-acre park in the middle. Left of the office building is I-285.

This trail will then connect to Georgetown across a bridge that the city is expected to start building soon. The development will include a 12-foot shared-use path around the circumference of the development to help connect the neighborhood. Grubb Properties is also contributing 50 percent of the cost of a new bike path to the Perimeter Mall. The city has already secured matching funds for the remaining half. The development includes three park-

ing decks to be built up to seven stories that will be utilized through a shared parking model where residents and office workers will use the same parking facilities. Current zoning for the 900 condos and nearly 700,000 square feet of office space requires 3,232 parking spaces. But because office parking is traditionally used during the day and residential parking is mostly for evening and overnight use, Grubb is pairing up its residential and office parking and say they will only need to build 2,393 parking spaces. Councilmember John Heneghan cast the only “no” vote on the project. He pushed for dedicated parking for residents but also wanted at least some of the parking decks to be built under the residential towers. That way, he said, older residents could easily access their cars via an elevator from their condo to where their car is parked rather than them having to walk to a nearby parking garage. The underground parking decks and dedicated, or deeded, parking spaces would provide better aging in place housing, Heneghan said. In a Nov. 28 letter to the council, Grubb Properties CEO Clay Grubb explained that the shared parking model allows the development to replace current surface parking with a park and multiuse path to enhance walkability and the appearance of the project. Constructing parking under a building could cost $50 million more and eliminating unnecessary cost is key to the project’s viability and ensures a timeline is more predictable, Grubb added. Grubb said they would make available deeded parking spaces to residents, or parking spaces the resident would own. Grubb told council members at the meeting spaces would likely cost $25,000 each. Shuttle access and future pedestrian and bike connectivity to the Dunwoody MARTA station, Perimeter Mall and throughout Perimeter Center are also key components of Grubb’s mission to try to cut down on traffic congestion, according to Clay Grubb. To that end, Grubb has hired Copenhagenize Design Co. to analyze existing conditions and identify bike infrastructure around its mixed-use development and within Perimeter Center.

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Community | 3



The mayor and City Council approved a $98,500 contract to TSW, an Atlanta-based planning firm, to conduct a review and rewrite of the Dunwoody Village Overlay zoning regulations. The rewrite comes after significant community input in an online survey and a well-attended community meeting seeking a change to some of the regulations. The zoning rewrite is expected to begin early next year and to take nine months to a year to complete. The finished product will include writing into the city’s zoning code the restrictions and requirements for businesses to be built in the overlay. Many residents and city leaders have said they want to see the area revitalized by getting rid of the vast surface parking space with perhaps a green space for public gathering as well as allowing for more contemporary designs for buildings. Community Development Director Richard McLeod told the council at the Dec. 10 meeting that TSW was proposing two community meetings as part of the process, but that he and city staff were planning to negotiate for up to six community meetings. The council at its Dec. 10 meeting also lifted several current restrictions in the overlay as part of zoning amendments, including removing the pre-1900 mid-Atlantic American Colonial style of architecture, commonly called the “Williamsburg” style, from the code to allow for some variation in style while also acknowledging the existing precedent; to increase the maximum parking limitation to five parking spaces per 1,000 square feet for restaurants only; prohibit drive-thrus for all new buildings; and any redevelopment would need to include an open space.


A six-month moratorium on multiunit building applications, permits and construction is now in effect as city officials say they need time to review the city’s fire safety codes and ordinances. The City Council voted to implement the moratorium during a Nov. 19 special called meeting. The moratorium comes after House Bill 876, dubbed the “wood bill,” went into effect on July 1. The bill prohibits local governments from banning wood-framed buildings that otherwise meet state building and fire codes. The new law erased Dunwoody’s 2014 ordinance that required commercial, office, apartment or condominium buildings more than three stories tall to be framed with noncombustible materials, such as metal or concrete. Mayor Denis Shortal said HB 876 was “maybe a small part” of the council’s decision to issue a moratorium on multi-unit building applications and building per-

mits, but the main factor for doing so was safety. “We’ve been working on this [reviewing fire safety codes] for three or four months … with the county fire marshals, to try to make sure our codes are where they need to be to protect not only our citizens but also the citizens who visit and work in Dunwoody,” Shortal said. Shortal said even before state law was changed with HB 876, the city had agreed it was time for a review of its fire safety ordinances “because we had some idea our codes were not up to snuff.” Councilmember Terry Nall, who spearheaded the 2014 ordinance to prohibit wood-framed buildings over three stories tall, said in a written statement the moratorium is not tied to the “wood bill” or any possible future development. “It’s a breather for Dunwoody to very broadly assess and ensure, in conjunction with the county fire marshal, that the city has the correct codes in place as a public safety review,” he said.


The mayor and City Council voted Dec. 10 to award a $410,000 contract to Wolverton and Associates to design the second

An illustration of the proposed Ashford-Dunwoody commuter trail in front of Perimeter Mall.

phase of the Ashford-Dunwoody commuter trail. Money to pay for the design would come from the new revenue being collected after the city last year approved raising its hotel-motel tax. The city raised its hotel-motel tax last year to generate revenue to fund trail connectivity within Perimeter Center. Public Works Director Michael Smith said in a memo to the mayor and City Council there is currently $700,000 in hotel-motel taxes in the bank. Phase one of the Ashford-Dunwoody commuter trail is planned to be built in front of Perimeter Mall on Ashford-Dunwoody Road between Hammond Drive and Perimeter Center West. The Perime-


ter Community Improvement Districts is designing that phase now. Phase two picks up at Perimeter Center West and will go up Ashford-Dunwoody Road to Mount Vernon Road. The trail is part of the 2014 PCID’s commuter trail systems master plan “to identify opportunities to increase transportation options by improving bicycle and pedestrian access to the stations [MARTA] and generally increase mobility for non-motorized users within Perimeter as well,” according to the memo from Smith. The Perimeter Community Improvement Districts will reimburse the city for half of the design of phase two costs when completed.

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Highway toll lanes plan draws more anxiety, and some envy BY JOHN RUCH AND EVELYN ANDREWS The state’s plan to build massive toll lanes along I-285 and Ga. 400 continues to raise anxiety about local impacts, most recently from Fulton County Schools over possible land-taking. But in the world of transportation advocacy, the plan is drawing some envy, too – especially for using toll prices that vary with driver demand and for including a bus rapid transit line on Ga. 400. “Honestly, if you had BRT running on dynamically priced roads with real stations … Atlanta will be a national model,” says Chris Dempsey, the director of the Bostonbased advocacy coalition Transportation for Massachusetts. “People from Boston will be coming to Atlanta to say, ‘Teach us about transit,’ which is probably not what people from Atlanta are used to.” But before that happens over the next decade or so, the state must figure out how the “express lanes” will fit into neighborhoods. The early concepts have already rattled some officials in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs for possible land-taking and the idea of putting the lanes on ramps towering CHRIS DEMPSEY 30 feet or higher over neighborhoods and DIRECTOR plugging into new interchanges onto such TRANSPORTATION FOR local streets as Mount Vernon Highway. MASSACHUSETTS Fulton County Schools is the latest institution to voice concerns following a private Oct. 22 presentation from the Georgia Department of Transportation that showed possible toll-lane land-taking at Sandy Springs facilities, including a playground at Woodland Elementary and parking spaces at the district’s own headquarters on Powers Ferry Road. “It’s … concerning information that we want our schools and community to be aware of,” Superintendent Jeff Rose said at a Nov. 6 Board of Education work session. GDOT says that its toll lane plans are in the early concept stage and will change over time. In the case of the Fulton schools, GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale said, the property-takings were rough estimates done to fulfill a federal environmental study requirement. “The info we showed to them is all subject to change,” Dale said. “Based on the conversations, we are already looking at changes that may avoid some of the schools altogether.” So far, GDOT has held no general public meetings about the toll lanes, saying the concepts are not ready enough. However, GDOT has met off-and-on privately with “stakeholders,” such as the school system and the city of Sandy Springs, for over a year to get feedback on some details. GDOT also says it will meet with any local organization, such as a homeowners association, but it does not proactively notify residents who might be affected. The public meetings are finally coming in 2019. The Ga. 400 toll lane meetings will begin in the “first quarter” of the year, Dale said, and the I-285 toll lane meetings later in the year. The presentations will include concepts and alternatives, including a “no-build” option, Dale said. The public will not be presented with a done deal, she said. “There is still the flexibility,” Dale said. “We are not going to go to the public with a concrete, [set] in stone” version of the plan.


People from Boston will be coming to Atlanta to say, ‘Teach us about transit,’ which is probably not what people from Atlanta are used to.

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The toll lanes are part of a metro-wide network GDOT is gradually building. One section, called the Northwest Corridor Express Lanes, opened earlier this year along I-75 and I-575. The intent is to allow drivers to speed through congested highways on entirely separate lanes in exchange for paying a toll whose rate varies based on demand — a system called “dynamic pricing” or “variable tolling.” GDOT is currently rebuilding the I-285/Ga. 400 interchange to improve traffic flow and safety. The toll lanes are a separate project that would add even more lanes — four

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Community | 5


on each highway — in construction that could take a decade. The Ga. 400 toll lanes are tentatively slated to come first, with a construction start in 2021 and opening in 2024. They would run between I-285 — or possibly a bit farther south at the Medical Center area — and Alpharetta’s McFarland Parkway. The lanes are also intended to carry a new bus rapid transit route operated by MARTA, which would work similar to a streetcar line, with large buses at platform-like stops. That involves building bus stations and interchanges at sites to be determined. On I-285, the toll lanes would run between I-75 in Cobb County and I-85’s Spaghetti Junction, with other segments to the east and west extending near I-20. Construction could start in 2022 and opening could come in 2028. The Northwest Corridor lanes are getting good reviews from drivers, according to media reports. That has caught the attention of Dempsey, the transportation advocate in Massachusetts, which doesn’t have the dynamic tolling system. He’s been sharing the Georgia stories on social media. As a former assistant secretary of transportation in his state’s government, and now director of a 70-plus-member transportation coalition, Dempsey has spent a lot of time thinking about how to deal with ever-growing traffic congestion. Dynamic tolling fits right in, he says, with the modern road-planning mantra that “we shouldn’t be building more lanes. Let’s manage the lanes we have better.” The idea is that letting some drivers pay to avoid congestion will reduce that congestion for everyone, and brings in revenue from a highway system that is currently heavily subsidized by everyone’s taxes. While toll lanes have some unfairness — they’re more affordable to wealthier drivers — Dempsey says some states use the money to subsidize tolls for lower-income drivers and to pay for public transit. And putting BRT on the Ga. 400 toll lanes would make commuting life better for everyone, he says, noting similar models have worked in such cities as Los Angeles. “You should be rooting for it,” he said. At the same time, Dempsey said, it’s important for communities to ask questions about local impacts like traffic and pollution. And he had his own question about GDOT’s specific model, going back to that mantra about managing lanes rather than expanding them. The current trend, Dempsey said, is to first place tolls on existing lanes, then see whether there is truly a demand-related need to add more lanes and “eminent domain and take people’s back yards — and that’s the right approach.”

Reporter Newspapers to change format, delivery in January Starting in January 2019, the print edition of the Reporter will move from biweekly to monthly, transforming into a bigger, two-section newspaper. At the same time, the four Reporter community editions will arrive by mail direct to local homes, while still being available for pick-up at many local businesses. “We think the larger, direct-mailed Reporter will better serve our readers in both convenience and content,” said publisher Steve Levene, who is also the founder of parent company Springs Publishing LLC. “These changes are also designed to better position the printed publications in a digital media environment.” In the past year, the Reporter group has accelerated efforts to turn the ReporterNewspapers.net website into a daily news source for Brookhaven, Buckhead, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs. The new frequency and format are intended to complement the digital platform. “The new print edition will aim to help readers understand the big picture of those daily stories, and give some more breathing room to stories about the people and culture that make our communities great,” said Managing Editor John Ruch. “However, one thing won’t change: Our writers will still be at government meetings, community celebrations and the scene of breaking news, which are still at the core of our award-winning coverage of our communities.” Reporter Newspapers, a 60,000-circulation community newspaper group, was started in 2007 by Springs Publishing LLC. The parent company also publishes Atlanta INtown and Atlanta Senior Life.


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Time flies when you’re having fun.

And the past decade has been a blast. Happy 10th Anniversary, Dunwoody.

Learn more at discoverdunwoody.com

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Community | 7


Dunwoody marks a decade of cityhood BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers.net

At midnight on April 1, 2009, dozens of people gathered in the parking lot at 41 Perimeter Center East to witness officers with the Dunwoody Police Department drive out on their first patrols of the newly formed city. Blue lights flashed and sirens wailed as the local residents cheered. “I’ll never forget it,” Ken Wright said of that night. “The sights and sounds and excitement were incredible.” Wright stood with the crowd that night as Dunwoody’s founding mayor. Just four months prior, on Dec. 1, 2008, nearly 82 percent of voters went to the polls and voted “yes” to create their own city. Wright and a team of volunteers and other council members quickly took on the job of forming a city from scratch, from hiring a police chief and police officers to awarding bids for management services to signing the lease for City Hall. “I’m proud of the foundation we poured for Dunwoody and future leaders,” Wright said. “There were a lot of tough decisions, tough conversations, as we tried to make the right decisions on behalf of our community.” Dunwoody’s path to cityhood and creating a new government was not an easy one. State lawmakers and DeKalb County officials at the time, led by the controversial and colorful CEO Vernon Jones, successfully fought off the cityhood efforts by Citizens for Dunwoody and Yes Dunwoody organizations for three years. Opponents to Dunwoody argued the majority black DeKalb County would lose a sizable chunk of its tax base if the wealthy, mostly white community of some 35,000 people in north DeKalb broke off to form its own city and government. The loss in tax dollars would result in reduced services for the more than 700,000 county residents, they argued. Cityhood proponents claimed their tax dollars were being wasted by a county government mired in controversy and scandal, including the CEO being accused of illegally using campaign funds in 2005 to promote passage of a $95 million parks bond referendum. Desire for more local control of zoning, better police service and more infrastructure improvements, such as paving, were among the driving forces to create Dunwoody, said state Sen. Fran Millar. “The number one thing was to get the services we were not getting,” Millar said. “It was not about race.” Millar was in the state House at the time and assisted former state Sen. Dan Weber in getting the legislation to incorporate Dunwoody approved in the General Assembly. “Dan Weber was the guiding force. It was his vision,” Millar said. “Vernon [Jones] made it easy, but Dan deserves the credit.” Wright said he was also inspired by

Eva Galambos, the founding mayor of Sandy Springs, to take up the fight to create Dunwoody. When he was president of the Dunwoody Homeowners Association and “she was trying to get pigs to fly” in neighboring Sandy Springs, Wright said Galambos would often attend DHA’s annual meeting to give updates about the lengthy legislative battle to put the city of Sandy Springs to a vote. The “when pigs fly” reference is popular in Sandy Springs lore as a comment former state Sen. Vincent Fort supposedly said about the chances of Sandy Springs becoming its own city. Sandy Springs was finally approved in 2005, becoming the first city to split from Fulton County control. Their success spurred Dunwoody to follow suit and after three years of tough battles, Dunwoody became the first city to separate from DeKalb County in 2008. “We were the first to break the mold,” Wright said. “It was a firefight for two to three years.”

The next 10 years

It was apparent Millar was still stinging from his loss to Democrat Sally Harrell in the November election as he talked about the city’s changes over the past 10 years. A Dunwoody resident for nearly 40 years who represented the city at the General Assembly for 20 years, he only won the city by a few points. People living in single-family dwellings were the backbone of the cityhood movement starting in 2005, Millar said. But single-family homeowners no longer dominate the city’s population of 50,000, and more and more residents are living in multifamily housing, he said. “And you see changing demographics, obviously,” Millar said. “It’s a different Dunwoody going forward. And I’m not saying that’s a bad thing,” he added. Current Mayor Denis Shortal was on Dunwoody’s inaugural City Council and said the mission of the city today is the same as it was 10 years ago. “To continue the enhancements of quality of life for our citizens,” he said. “The emphasis is to make sure all citizens know they are important. And the whole key is

Above right, Mayor Denis Shortal and Bev Wingate, who both worked to create Dunwoody 10 years ago, cut a birthday cake at a small ceremony Dec. 10 at City Hall. (City of Dunwoody) Top left, state Sen. Fran Millar. Bottom left, Ken Wright, Dunwoody’s first mayor. (Special)

to keep in perspective the finances we have. “The spirit of citizens that live here … they feel things are better, that’s my feeling,” Shortal added. Major developments on the horizon in Perimeter Center will shape Dunwoody into the next decade, Wright said. The massive High Street mixed-use development, approved by DeKalb County a year before Dunwoody incorporated, is set to break ground next year. The development is expected to have 1,500 apartments and 1,500 condominiums as well as a hotel, a new office tower and retail space spanning 10 city blocks and 8 million square feet. Grubb Properties’ planned redevelopment of Perimeter Center East, where the former City Hall is located and where the Dunwoody Police Department’s officers rolled out on their first patrols on April 1, 2009, includes 900 condominiums and a new office tower. “The evolution of our business center brings with it a lot of new expenses, a lot of new potential police, strains on our infrastructure … things that go along with growth that the council will have to deal with,” Wright said. Millar said that Perimeter Center will always be the city’s, and the region’s, economic engine. But the residential neighborhoods and communities surrounding the business center will remain the heart and soul of the city for years to come, he

said. “The bulk of our residents continue to see Dunwoody as a bedroom community,” he said. “We don’t consider ourselves an urban nexus. “But much of Dunwoody is new and fresh and young people new and fresh,” he added. “That’s fine. You go with the flow and see what people want. That’s the world we live in.” The bitter battle between Dunwoody and DeKalb County that raged a decade ago has mostly subsided, Millar said. He noted his work with DeKalb County CEO Michael Thurmond to get a special local option sales tax and a freeze on property taxes approved. “The relationships are pretty good, much better than the previous regimes,” Millar said. Wright, who lost a bruising battle with Democrat Mike Wilensky for the state House seat once held by Tom Taylor, said he believes it is important for current local leaders to make sure national political attitudes don’t impact local policy and elections. “The political divide 10 years ago was not as harsh as it is today,” Wright said. “Keeping that divide away from our local governments — I hope that can be maintained. It’s nothing but harmful.”


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10 | Commentary

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Commentary / Looking into 2019’s political crystal ball As 2018 wraps up and a new year looms, we asked a dozen local newsmakers to peek into their crystal balls and see what’s ahead. Here’s are their thoughts on 2018 and their ideas for what’s to come in 2019.

ularly having to do with traffic and transportation … think MARTA! We will also benefit from the coalition’s relationship with City Hall to be selected for the futuristic Smart Cities Program, bringing “Buck Rogers”-type innovations into play.

Sandy Springs City Councilmember Chris Burnett

Dunwoody City Councilmember Pam Tallmadge

In 2018, our city, state and nation continued to enjoy the benefits of a strong economy and while I expect some slowdown in 2019, I remain optimistic that Sandy Springs and metro Atlanta will continue to thrive, given the significant desirability of our region. Locally, through top-quality performances and culturally intriguing programs, we will position City Springs and the Byers Theatre as the premier destination for our citizens to gather as a cohesive community. Transportation needs are always a crucial initiative and transportation-sales-taxfunded road projects will continue in earnest in 2019. Next year, we also expect to formalize a strategic plan to economically stimulate the northern end of Sandy Springs with a focus on affordable housing for empty nesters and for the first responders, teachers, medical and service personnel that are crucial to our community. Finally, we will continue work on infrastructure improvements, such as road paving, sidewalk installation and park and greenspace projects, to further enhance our quality of life and we are hopeful that we can reach an agreement with the city of Atlanta to improve the reliability and cost of our water system. 2019 will be another busy year for Sandy Springs and I am personally excited about what the future holds for our great city.

Brookhaven City Councilmember Linley Jones

2018 was a banner year for the city of Brookhaven! Years of public input and effort paid off as voters went to the polls and approved a park bond that will fund top-notch parks throughout our city. 2019 promises to be equally exciting as Brookhaven undertakes these major park improvements along with significant projects from the Ashford-Dunwoody Corridor study, including a constantlyflowing right turn lane from Ashford-Dunwoody Road southbound onto Peachtree Road. These projects will, of course, incorporate the sidewalks and paths that are assured to provide us all with great connectivity and mobility in the years ahead. The city is also preparing to break ground and start construction on the Peachtree Creek Greenway, the beltline path that will one day connect our city to paths throughout the metro area. These projects and many more promise to make 2019 yet another banner year for the city of Brookhaven!

Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell

As the Buckhead Coalition celebrates its 30th anniversary, we must confess use of the wellknown adage, ‘build it and they will come,’ for that’s exactly what we urged when organizing in 1988 … and it happened. Described back then as a sleepy bedroom community, Buckhead caught the attention of some of the country’s leading developers satisfying the hunger for such an address. We went through the need for office space that provided millions of square feet, a phenomenon that scared the inexperienced, and economically dampened some of the plans. But, following the downtimes described by some as recessions, we came out of it with even those at the end of the cycle renting up to 90 percent capacity. More recently, we experienced the boom in rental apartment construction, which has increased our inventory some 150 percent in the last seven years. This expansion has been satisfied, so we’ve moved on to the next phase, that of hotel and specialty space (such as assisted living, self-storage, medical). What’s next for Buckhead? Probably more of the same. The community is so successful, our attention is turned to governmental partnerships. This is coming into being with all levels -- city, county, state, federal – finally showing interest in infrastructure, partic-

Parks: I look forward to the new amphitheater at Brook Run Park. This facility will be an outdoor venue to revitalize music, drama and dance programming; it is an outdoor focal point for all our citizens’ activities. I stand by the Dunwoody Nature Center and Donaldson Bannister House building projects, educational programs and events. I will continue to support Spruill and Stage Door Players in talks of expansion and design. I cannot wait to see the new Perimeter East Park designed, developed and finished. Trail Connectivity: There is a grand plan to have all the city connected by multi-modal trails. The key deliverables are: the Peachtree-Dunwoody Road Pathway provides interconnection from the Hammond Drive area northward to major employers such as Cox Communications. The Ashford-Dunwoody Road Pathway, along the Perimeter Mall frontage, connects the Dunwoody MARTA station with numerous office developments on the east side of Ashford-Dunwoody Road to restaurants and shops to the north of Perimeter Center West. In the pipeline is connectivity from Georgetown to Perimeter Center East. Village Overlay: I believe it is crucial that the village has a makeover. My dream is added greenspace, less asphalt and walkable entrances. My wish for 2019 is for everyone to get involved somewhere, somehow. Join a committee or club … the list is endless.

Fulton County Commissioner Lee Morris

Property taxes will continue to be a major issue in 2019. While many appealed sharp increases in 2018 and will therefore not see increases in 2019, property values will continue to increase in many neighborhoods. New voter-approved homestead exemptions will apply in 2019, providing relief to many: the so-called “floating homestead exemptions” for the city portion of our bills within Atlanta and for Fulton County Schools’ portion within Sandy Springs; the increase in basic homestead exemption for Atlanta Public Schools’ portion within Atlanta; and the new $50,000 senior exemption for the county portion. The General Assembly may look for other ways to provide relief, especially for seniors struggling to stay in their homes. We will continue in 2019 to shine transparency on issues that tend to shift burdens from commercial owners to homeowners, including Tax Allocation Districts, possible commercial property undervaluation, and tax abatements provided by development authorities.

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader

DeKalb will be focused on delivering on the promise of Special Local Option Sales Tax-financed infrastructure improvements, now that the program is at last underway. The negotiation of a new EMS transport contract will test our ability to integrate the DeKalb Fire Department’s first-responder role with the full spectrum of medical transport responsibilities of a third party contractor, to deliver consistent high coverage and affordability Countywide. The unknown prospects for more municipalization will challenge the sustainability of service delivery strategies, as the uneven distribution of tax base and service demand across DeKalb complicates maintenance of uniform service levels. Continued investment in the water/sewer system will increase pressure for a rate increase, so DeKalb must meet the demand of new customers to offset our system rehab costs. Finally, our growing reserves must be maintained, but a property tax cut should soon become a priority.

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Commentary | 11


State Rep. Deborah Silcox (R-Sandy Springs)

As we begin a new legislative session in January, I believe one of the most important decisions we will make is to help choose and appropriate the funds for a new election system. We must have integrity in our elections. Transit will also be an important topic as we begin implementing House Bill 930 from last session that creates the new Atlanta Region Transit Link Authority or “ATL” for the 13-county metropolitan region. The recommendations of the Senate School Safety Study Committee will also be a significant topic this session, and I hope will result in significant safety improvements for all students in Georgia.

State Sen. John Albers (R-Roswell)

I am confident 2019 will be another great year for Georgia. My communities of North Fulton and Cherokee County are consistently ranked as the best places to live, work, raise a family, enjoy public safety, etc. This is a testament to the hard work by our first responders, educators, elected officials, business owners and citizens. Continuing to build upon our strong conservative foundation will allow our communities and state to thrive. My prediction for 2019 is a renewed kindness and professionalism to rise from the ashes of rhetoric. As the No. 1 place to do business for the past six years, Georgia will continue this trend by allowing people to fulfill the American Dream. We are truly blessed and should all recognize the abundance by serving others joyfully and more often.

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State Rep.-elect Matthew Wilson (D-Brookhaven)

This is going to be an interesting session under the Gold Dome. With so many new faces and perspectives, not to mention a new governor, there will be a lot of uncertainty about which issues the leadership will choose to tackle this year. Clearly, we need to focus on what we all promised we would do and strengthen our public schools. Governor-elect Kemp promised to raise teacher pay and I am all on board, but it will take a coalition of both Republicans and Democrats to get it done. There is, of course, plenty more work to be done to determine how the state can better equip our teachers and students with the resources they need to succeed. I am also hopeful we will truly expand access to healthcare and continue the good work of late on transit. These are all priorities for which I will be advocating, and I am ready to get to work.

State Rep.-elect Mike Wilensky (D-Dunwoody)

This session will be unique. For the first time in 20 years we have a new governor and lieutenant governor starting in the same year. We have over 30 new state representatives and about six new state senators. Also, because of the Super Bowl, this session will finish later than normal, likely ending sometime in April. With all these changes, we must prioritize Georgia businesses and stay away from legislation that discriminates. We must make sure our local public schools retain their current funding and work to increase funding through adjusting outdated legislation. Creating sensible gun laws that prioritize the safety of our children and families is crucial. Advancing our voting system technology must also be a top priority. Last, with the creation of the ATL board, we must continue what has been started and prioritize transit both financially and through proper planning and construction.

State Rep.-elect Josh McLaurin (D-Sandy Springs)

We’re a nation suffering from division. Many of us have felt firsthand how painful this division can be in our families and communities. But we’ve also woken up to the reality that we must engage with our neighbors more and in better ways if we want to have a healthy democracy. We can’t hide behind our computer screens and nurse anger at each other and expect to see change. Thankfully, so many people have begun to participate in civic life these last few years by voting, meeting their neighbors, and joining civic organizations. In my view, this renewed engagement is our only hope for a brighter future for our children.

Kevin Abel, former Congressional candidate and Sandy Springs resident

The Sandy Springs North End Revitalization Task Force has spent the last year struggling with how to revitalize the northern stretch of our city, including the question of affordable housing. As they approach the end of their study period and make their recommendations to the Sandy Springs City Council, no consensus has been reached. Developers and some wealthier citizens would like to see low-rent apartments give way to higher-end housing and retail. Advocates for affordable housing would like to see improvements to existing developments and a recognition that the city must accommodate all of its citizens and workers, not just the upper end of the economic spectrum. In order to be the progressive city of the future that we citizens of Sandy Springs aspire to be, we must ensure housing options exist for the full economic spectrum. Those who work in our hospitals, restaurants, schools and other local businesses deserve no less.

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12 | Commentary

Being a Santa for everyone is more than a job

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Around Town

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

As Santa Rick sees it, putting on the red suit and the white beard and ho-ho-ho-ing was watching him from another aisle. The boy appeared awestruck. Rosenthal sudyour way through the holidays isn’t just a job. It’s much denly realized the boy thought the man with the bushy more than that. white beard must be Santa. “It’s the most amazing thing you’ll ever experience,” “He was staring right at me like a deer in the headSanta Rick said, “And it makes you a better person. ... lights,” Santa Rick said. “I walked over to him … and It changes you, and it’s the biggest responsibility you’ll said, ‘Don’t tell anybody you saw Santa in Home Depot ever have because it touches everybody. It’s not a job.” buying tools for the elves.’ The kid just froze. I knew Santa Rick — the name Rick Rosenthal puts on his what he was thinking. I said, ‘That’s it. I’m Santa.’ I business cards and website (SantaRick.com) and the knew it was a sign.” name people called him as the north DeKalb resident Through the years, Santa Rick has developed rules chatted over lunch of matzo ball soup at a Toco Hills for portraying Santa. He’s well-dressed and well-kempt. deli one recent afternoon — has been the living embodi“Santa is very regal and pristine,” Santa Rick said. ment of Santa for years. And, of course, he’s a good listener. “People will tell He’s Santa all the time. At age 66, he appears as the you things they won’t tell your spouses, good and bad holiday spirit at parties and events year-round at such stuff,” he said. “People are very open and raw, actually, places as Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta;, spreads holand they trust you 100 percent because you’re Santa. I iday cheer on TV, at baseball games and photo shoots; can’t tell you how it feels to have people unconditionaland even operates his own school to teach others how ly love you because you’re Santa. You’re that guy.” to properly portray Santa. There are only a few things, Santa Rick said, that “It’s important people realize what a big responsibilhe absolutely would refuse to do as Santa — serve diity being Santa is,” Santa Rick said. “He’s different from vorce papers, for instance, or hand out dismissal noanybody in the world. He doesn’t live forever, but your tices when employers are firing people. But the people grandparents knew him and sat on his knee, too.” who would ask Santa to do those kind of things surely And he has plenty to say about Santa. For one thing, belong on his “naughty list” anyway. “I wouldn’t do that Rosenthal, an Orthodox Jew himself, argues Santa because I’m Santa and Santa wouldn’t do that. isn’t just a Christian symbol. Santa Rick obviously has “Santa is very real,” Santa Rick said. “Give him a PHIL MOSIER thought this through. When he starts talking about Sanchance, you’ll know it.” Santa Rick in his holiday best. ta, his words rush out in a tumble. “Santa is different from Saint Nicholas,” he said. “There are two camps in Santa World. One camp thinks Santa is a religious figure and he should tell everybody the reason for the season. Another camp, that I happen to belong to, says that Santa is a toymaker and that he should provide hope, love and inspiration … THANKS TO EM Ts, HO S P I TA L FO R L I FE- S AV ING HEL P “Santa is a toymaker. That’s who he is. He loves you and he wants the best for everybody. He wants the best for you. … It doesn’t have anything to do with a specific reI shall be eternally grateful to the expeditious DeKalb County emergency ligion. ... Santa, he gets around. He’ll visit people of all religions. … medical technicians who braved my rambunctious dogs then adeptly maneu“It’s not about anything other than the children, and innocence, and believing in vered I-285 rush hour traffic, and the proficient cardiovascular staff at Emory the best the world has to offer. That’s really what Santa is about to me.” Saint Joseph’s Hospital, for saving my life Nov. 14 when I suffered subsequent Rosenthal, who held various kinds of jobs through his life, decided to embody Sanmassive heart attacks. How very fortunate are we in Dunwoody to live in a community that has such ta as a career after his dad died in 2011. He was close to his father (“I had the best dad professional and compassionate heroes to assist us in our personal crises?! in the world,” he says.) and, following tradition, didn’t shave after his dad died, he Gary Ray Betz said. His beard grew in white. He kept it for months. Dunwoody One day when he was shopping in a Home Depot store, he realized a young boy

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DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Commentary | 13


Canned or classic, Christmas tunes give a jolt of brotherhood For one season a year, whether we like it or not, we’re all living to the same soundtrack. There might be a million and one different versions of “Deck the Halls” and every conceivable malefemale duo trying a hand at “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” but we’re all hearing essentially the same 20 tunes, played over and over again. Stores evRobin Conte lives with erywhere been her husband in an emp- have hammerty nest in Dunwoody. To ing us with contact her or to buy her canned new column collection, carols for “The Best of the Nest,” months in see robinconte.com. an attempt to ramp us all up into the holiday gift-buying spirit. But after a few weeks of the pounding, it backfires. After all, there are only so many times you can hear Andy Williams belting out “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year” without going full-on bah-humbug. And it’s a shame, really, because there are, in fact, wonderful images and recollections wrapped up in the holiday tunes. Songs evoke memories. And the songs of December might evoke the clearest memories of any. I grew up on the Kingston Trio’s “Last Month of the Year” album, and I truly became weepy-eyed when I recently found that album again on Spotify. When I was young, my siblings and I used to bounce around the living room of our split-level house while the Trio sang a rollicking rendition of the title track: “You got July, August, Sep-tember, October anda November. Was the twenty-fifth day of December, was the last month of the year!” Hearing that song again allowed me to reach out and touch those memories as if I were dusting off a yellow-edged photograph. Even though the tinned tunes of commerce are grating, our personal collections are soothing. Our own melodies conjure images of firesides and sleigh rides, of comfort and joy, of family gatherings and holiday feasts. Once I escape the blaring of the malls, I slip into my own Christmas music like a comfy robe. That’s because my home is a risk-free music zone. In my house, no grandma of mine or anyone else has ever got run over by a reindeer, and Wham will never sing about Last Christmas. Jingle Bells will not be barked, meowed or quacked, and the only Madonna allowed in is not singing to “Santa, Baby.” Instead, I cozy up to the warmth of Rosemary Clooney crooning “White Christmas” and de-stress to the strains

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of the Vince Guaraldi Trio playing the soundtrack from “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” I have some collections that are unique enough to escape constant replays at the malls and thus remain untainted: the hammer dulcimer album discovered at a grocery store in north Georgia, the Christmas with Reindeer jazz duo that sounds like a classy cocktail hour, the German albums our family obtained while living overseas. As I push “play” each December, it’s like hearing the voice of a dear friend who visits for a few months each year. These tunes ground me and keep me centered. I’ll be rushing to buy or wrap, decorate or bake, when my playlist rolls to “Some children see Him almond-eyed.” So, I stop and smile. The music transforms my bustling about into a kind of prayer. The “Still, Still, Stills,” the “Silent Nights,” the “O Come, Emmanuels” transport me to a place where Christmas is truly still, where Christmas Eve is sacred, where Advent is spent in reverent anticipation. And though I think that we can agree that they start it way too early (and in spite of the fact that while we’re pushing a cart through Target, Jimmy Boyd is bound to see mama kissing Santa Claus), I believe that when our airwaves are filled with holiday music, we are all bolstered with a little jolt of brotherhood.

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14 | Community

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BY DYANA BAGBY dyanabagby@reporternewspapers

A “blue wave” crashed onto Dunwoody’s borders in November as voters elected two Democrats to represent them at the General Assembly next year, marshaling in a new era of politics for the city long regarded as a Republican stronghold. An ongoing dispute with DeKalb County over ambulance service continued, High Street’s massive mixed-use development in Perimeter Center returned to the front burner, discussions about the city’s future budgeting policies and an outcry from residents to loosen up the look of Dunwoody Village were other top stories this year.


A “blue wave” rocked Dunwoody Nov. 6 as state legislative seats long held by Republicans were flipped with decisive Democrat victories. Changing demographics and a backlash against President Trump led to the seismic shift in power, according to some observers. Democrat Sally Harrell of Chamblee handed state Sen. Fran Millar his first loss in more than 20 years by defeating him for the state Senate District 40 seat. In another stunning upset, Democrat Mike Wilensky, a first-time candidate, won the House District 79 by defeating Republican Ken Wright, the city’s founding mayor. This is the first time in the city’s 10-year history it will have Democratic leadership at the Gold Dome.


The City Council in May declared an “EMS emergency” to state health officials over ongoing concerns about slow ambulance response times from DeKalb County’s contracted provider, American Medical Response. The city also stated it wants to break off from the county to form its own EMS zone. DeKalb CEO Mike Thurmond and Mayor Denis Shortal negotiated an agreement for more ambulance service in the city, and while the council voted in November to approve the contract, council

members also demanded the city’s request for its own EMS zone remain a priority. A state subcommittee reviewing DeKalb’s overall EMS service and Dunwoody’s separate EMS zone request is expected to make a recommendation in February. AMR’s contract expires Dec. 31 and on Dec. 11 the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners voted to extend AMR’s contract for six months. County officials are working with a consultant to finish up a request for proposal expected to be finished early next year.


Developer GID teamed up in November with North American Properties, the developer behind Avalon in Alpharetta, and set a date of late 2019 to break ground on the massive High Street mixed-use development in Perimeter Center. The announcement was made days after the City Council approved a six-month moratorium on permitting and construction of any multi-unit buildings. High Street is planned to span 10 city blocks near the Dunwoody MARTA station and would be built out in different phases to include 1,500 apartments, 1,500 forsale condominiums, townhomes, 400,000 square feet of new office, 400,000 square feet of retail and 400 hotel rooms. The mayor and City Council also approved Grubb Properties’ rezoning request for some 20 acres in Perimeter Center to construct a mixed-use development including 900 condos, 500,000 square feet of new office space, approximately 12,000 square feet of retail and nearly three acres of green space. The 16-story Twelve24 office building is going up on what was a nearly 4-acre unused portion of the Perimeter Mall parking lot and will include 335,000 square feet of

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The City Council voted in December to hire planning firm TSW to help review and rewrite the Dunwoody Village Overlay zoning code in 2019, a process expected to take up to one year. An online survey of more than 1,800 people showed 85 percent of respondents wanted many restrictions relaxed, particularly its dominant “Williamsburg” style architecture. An August community meeting attracted hundreds of residents, many of whom said they wanted to see the area become more pedestrian friendly, have a green space where people can gather, and zoning that encourages contemporary architectural designs. The moves to review the overlay came after the City Council directed staff to find ways to loosen the zoning restrictions in Dunwoody Village.


The mayor and City Council this year approved a $25 million general fund budget for the city, nearly the same total as the past several years. But Finance Director Chris Pike warned that as the city’s operations budget continues to grow, where to find the money to maintain new capital investments is becoming scarce. “We’re at a unique crossroads in our city’s history,” Pike said. “The goal is for the mayor and council to start thinking when they build something, ‘How will we take care of it?’ ” In an August memo to the council, Pike said the city’s existing capital investments have reached a point where maintenance eats up nearly all its budgeted resources. Finding ways to pay for maintenance as new projects come on board, such as the planned athletic fields at Brook Run Park to be built next year, must be addressed, he said. No specific actions to address Pike’s concerns have yet been publicly discussed.


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The City Council found a little money here and there in a 2018 budget amendment to pull together the roughly $7.5 million to be used for the Brook Run Park master plan. Construction is set to begin in March 2019. Most of the money came from the $2.88 million received as part of the 2015 DeKalb County parks bond settlement. Another $1.45 million came from the homestead option sales tax that includes $1 million in HOST reserves and $450,000 in unbudgeted HOST revenue collected in January, February and March. Slightly

more than $2 million was cobbled together from general fund savings including: $1 million from real property tax; $300,000 from franchise fees (collected from utilities for use of right of way); $140,000 from building structures and equipment; $290,500 from reduced expenses from regular salaries; $21,000 from reduced expenses of overtime salaries; $101,000 from reduced group insurance; $4,500 from reduced Medicare expenses; and $63,000 from reduced retirement expenses. Plans for the park include adding two athletic fields, a band shell, more parking, a new picnic area and a new park entrance


Dunwoody’s elected officials began this year publicly expressing anger and concern about the planned elevated toll lanes on I-285 and Ga. 400 as part of massive Georgia Department of Transportation projects. Elevated toll lanes on I-285 could tower over homes and businesses in Georgetown situated along the interstate. Access points to the new toll lanes are also a contentious issue as Dunwoody officials warn if there is not an even distribution, the city’s surface streets could be clogged with motorists driving into the already congested Perimeter area to access the I-285 managed lanes to go toward I-75 or I-85. No detailed information about how transit, including bus rapid transit, may be included in the interstate projects have been provided, city officials also argue. The “I-285 Top End Express Lanes” project between I-75 in Cobb County and I-85’s Spaghetti Junction focuses on adding two new elevated, barrier-separated express lanes in both directions on I-285, alongside regular travel lanes. They could stand 30 feet or higher. Construction could start in 2023 and opening could come in 2028. Toll lanes are also planned for Ga. 400 between I-285 and McFarland Parkway. Preliminary studies are underway for the nearly $2 billion project that would add two elevated, barrier separated express lanes in each direction between I-285 and Spalding Drive. Construction of those toll lanes is slated to begin in 2021 and open to traffic 2024. City officials are also denouncing GDOT for not yet holding any public community meetings to outline specifics of the project and to gather resident input. GDOT officials have said the public meetings will occur next year.


A market study as part of master planning process to redevelop the Peachtree Industrial Boulevard Area from I-285 to Winters Chapel Road determined it was “not realistic” to redevelop the area at this time. The study by Bleakly Advisory Group shows the land in the study area is valued at approximately $1.1 million per acre and that it would take more than $200 million to assemble the apartment complexes included in the area. The market study showed there are 2,023 apartment units on 188 acres of the study area and there is an estimated 2.3 million square feet of buildings averaging out to less than 11 units per

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Community | 15


acre. Rents average at $1,260 per month. Combined, these properties generate a net estimated annual income of $26.2 million, according to the market study. The apartment complexes include Peachtree Place North, Dunwoody Glen, Lacota and Dunwoody Village.


Construction of the new 900-seat Austin Elementary school on about 10 acres of Dunwoody Park where the former Dunwoody Senior Baseball fields were located

is underway and the new school is slated to open in January 2020. Two new baseball fields to be used primarily for Dunwoody Senior Baseball opened this year adjacent to Brook Run Park. The two developments are the result of the 2016 agreement reached between the city and the DeKalb County School District. DeKalb Schools purchased the Dunwoody Park land for $3.6 million and gave the city access to Peachtree Charter Middle School property to build two new baseball fields. The school district will hand over ownership of the current Austin Elementary School site to the city after the new school opens.

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gineering, $51,000 in testing and permit costs, nearly $98,000 in contingency costs and The total cost for the project is $7.58 million. City Manager Eric Linton said the city has that amount set aside in the 2018 budget. This is the city’s largest project in its 10year history, he added. “This is something the citizens have waited a long time for,” Linton said. The Brook Run Park master plan process began in January 2017. After community input, the final design includes: two multiuse athletic fields with artificial turf at

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against cost increases expected in the new year. Johnson also said the city will save money by paying to do all the construction at one time rather than “piecemeal.” A question was raised about the percentage of green space at Brook Run Park. The entire park is 102 acres. When DeKalb County deeded the park to Dunwoody, a restriction was included that mandated at least 70 percent of the park remain open green space. Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker said after construction is complete, Brook Run Park will still have 78.4 percent green space. Councilmember Tom Lambert expressed confusion on what exactly was being voted on at the Dec. 10 meeting. He said site plans and numbers presented at the council meeting appeared different than what had been previously discussed. “Are we getting everything we talked about or are we just getting the number down to what we need?” Lambert asked. “Have we cut corners to make a budget?” Johnson said no corners were cut and that the city was getting everything as had been discussed in previous meetings, including the size of the restrooms and concession area. “We have been talking about this for a long time and I know the community is excited to see it happen,” Councilmember Terry Nall said.

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16 | Art & Entertainment


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Enjoy free admission and special programs on the second Sunday of each month.






Monday, Dec. 17, 6:30 p.m. Mount Vernon Presbyterian School presents a family friendly celebration of Christmas featuring choirs, bands, dance troupes, string ensembles and actors aged 8 to 19. $9$19. Byers Theatre, Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center at City

Springs, 1 Galambos Way, Sandy Springs. Info: citysprings.com.

Designed for little kids, big kids, and the whole family, Second Sundays are for everyone. Visit us each month and experience new interactive, innovative family activities inspired by our collections and ever-changing exhibitions. Second Sundays are sponsored by the Lettie Pate Evans Foundation.

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Friday, Dec. 21, 5:30-9:30 p.m. The gardens and grounds of the Atlanta History Center will be decorated and illuminated by candlelight, with a holiday market filled with local crafts and exhibits of holiday traditions from the pioneer days, the Civil War era and the 1930s in three historic houses. Santa visit, improv comedy show, storytelling and musical performances. $20 adults; $15 members; $10 children. Food available for purchase; cash bars. 130 West Paces Ferry Road, Buckhead. Info: atlantahistorycenter.com.


Saturday, Jan. 5, 1-2 p.m. The Dunwoody Nature Center holds a bowl burning ceremony, where written statements are burned as a way to move on. Enjoy s’mores around the fireplace. 5343 Roberts Drive, Dunwoody. Info: dunwoodynature.org.


drbrentmurphy.com | 404-480-4008 | 755 Mount Vernon Highway NE

Ongoing through Saturday, Jan. 12 Georgia Ensemble Theatre remounts its 2017 show, the Tony Award-winning musical, “Million Dollar Quartet,” at Oglethorpe University. Based on true events, the show was inspired by the recording session that brought together rock ‘n’ roll icons Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins for the first and only time. Tickets start at $40. Senior/student discounts available. Conant Performing Arts Center, 4484 Peachtree Road N.E., Brookhaven. Schedule and more info: get.org or 770-641-1260.

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018



Ongoing Fridays through Dec. 28, 8:30-9:30 p.m. Bring your flashlight and join the Heritage Sandy Springs Outdoors Club for a 3-mile hike through scenic areas of Sandy Springs. The walk starts and ends at the Sandy Springs Cinema & Taphouse, where an optional movie begins at 9:30 p.m. The walk is free. Movie admission is $11.50 for adults and payable at the cinema. Advance registration is highly recommended. 5920 Roswell Road, Suite C-103, Sandy Springs. Info: facebook.com/groups/hssoutdoorsclub.


Wednesday, Dec. 19, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Shop at the monthly book sale held downstairs in the Brookhaven Library. All proceeds benefit the Friends of Brookhaven Library. 1242 North Druid Hills Road N.E., Brookhaven. Info: dekalblibrary.org.


Tuesday, Dec. 25, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta offers a day of inflatables, movies, sports, swimming, crafts and JCC Maccabi Games. Community service projects will also be offered, in partnership with The Packaged Good. Free. MJCCA-Zaban Park, 5342 Tilly Mill Road, Dunwoody. Registration: atlantajcc.org.


Thursday, Dec 20, 11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m. Atlanta World War II Roundtable will hold a luncheon meeting featuring the topic “The Athletes in WW2.” Future meetings are held monthly on third Thursdays. Military speakers are featured at each meeting. $20 individual; $35 couple. Dunwoody United Methodist Church, 1548 Mount Vernon Road, Dunwoody. RSVP requested: atlantawwiiroundtable.com or 770-457-4409.


Saturday, Dec. 22, 2-3 p.m. Weaving instructor Elaine Bradley teaches the traditional Scandinavian craft of weaving a snowflake or star which can be displayed as a table favor, hung from a ribbon, filled with mistletoe or attached to a gift package. Supplies will be provided. For adults. Free. Funded by Friends of the Dunwoody Library. 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road, Dunwoody. Info: dekalblibrary.org.


Thursday, Dec. 27, 11 a.m. to noon Take your new phone, tablet or laptop and your questions about them to the Brookhaven Library which says it can help you get them up and running. For adults. 1242 North Druid Hills Road N.E., Brookhaven. Info: dekalblibrary.org.


Mondays, Jan. 14, Jan. 28 and Feb. 4, 7-9 p.m. Marist School presents three evenings of courses for adults taught by the school’s faculty and staff. Course topics include religion and spirituality, art history, ceramics, photography, college planning, history and culture, poetry, self-discovery, and more. $95 (by Jan. 5); $110 (after Jan. 5) Marist School, 3790 Ashford-Dunwoody Road N.E., Brookhaven. Register: marist.com/eveningseries. Onsite registration will be available Jan. 14 from 6-7 p.m. in Marist’s Whitehead Cafeteria.



Art & Entertainment | 17

18 | Art & Entertainment

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Joe Gransden, the jazz man around town

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On any given night, Joe Gransden draws a crowd. The musician figures he plays more than 340 gigs a year throughout metro Atlanta, the Southeast and in New York and California. On Nov. 29, Gransden played at the White House tree-lighting in D.C. The trumpet virtuoso, singer and bandleader is a name in jazz and big-band music, and he has a passion to make the music and to share it with established and up-andcoming musicians, including through a jazz camp. At 46, Gransden has made a name for himself and his 16-piece band. He also has a trio, quartet and even a sextet. He has released 14 albums, the latest in April. Called “Go Getta,” it features award-winning saxophonist Kenny G. Gransden counts among his fans Clint Eastwood, the legendary filmmaker, musician and jazz aficionado. “Joe is a young man with an old soul and a classic voice,” reads a quote attributed to Eastwood on Gransden’s website. “He is a great new talent with a wonderful sense of humor to boot. And don’t forget, he plays a hell of a trumpet!” The Joe Gransden Big Band plays twice a month at Café 290 in Sandy Springs, where the band has played for nine years for a fervent following, and Wednesdays at the restaurant Valenza in Brookhaven. Gransden’s packed holiday schedule includes New Year’s Eve performances at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and with singer Francine Reed. For more information, visit joegransden.com. The Reporter recently caught up with Gransden on his busy touring schedule and

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DECEMBER 14-31, 2018


Art & Entertainment | 19

asked him about his life in music.

Q: You were known as a trumpet player and did not sing in the earlier days of your career. What led you to become a vocalist?

A: Singing was not on my performance radar. I considered myself a trumpet player, but survival came into play. About 20 years ago, I had a trio — piano, bass and trumpet — and we played twice a week at a now-closed Italian restaurant in Midtown. We earned $50 and a plate of the house special per night. One night the manager told me that he really liked our music, but wanted a singer, so he was thinking of looking for another band. My on-the-spot response was that I could sing. And I found out I could. The next show, I sang, and everyone seemed to like it. Tips got better, too. Q: Where did you get your inspiration to sing? A: I guess I always sang, but never thought of performing as a vocalist. I fell in love

with the trumpet listening to my grandfather play when I was a kid. He gave me my first horn. Music is in my DNA, so I guess it was inevitable. My grandfather, William Gransden, was a freelance top trumpeter and played with many of the big bands of the 1930s and ’40s. My dad, Bob Gransden, is a piano man and a singer. He is still going strong and plays four or five gigs a week.

Q: Since your dad is a vocalist, did he help you when you added singing to your performances? A: My dad gave me a lot of pointers. Among the most important, he said, “Be true to the song. In other words, don’t mess with it.” And, “Let the song tell the story.”

Q: You formed your big band in 2009. What prompted you to take that plunge? A: When I was 20, I was in my second year studying trumpet at State University of

New York in Fredonia, New York and I got a call to audition for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. I got the job and left school to join the orchestra. It was life-changing. I was the youngest guy in the band, and for a year we traveled all over the U.S., Europe and South America. I remember sitting on a stage in Europe with that band. I loved the sound, the music and the bond with the musicians. I thought, “Someday, I am going to have a band like this.” The popularity of big bands comes and goes over the years. I had been going back and forth between New York City and Atlanta. I had ties to Atlanta having gone to Georgia State and my parents had moved to Roswell. I moved to Atlanta after 9/11. In 2009, it seemed the time was right. I had been playing with all the top guys over the years and I called them to ask them to join my band. They are an incredible group. Big band is enjoying another run of popularity. People are dancing more and the club scene is strong in Atlanta and New York. While we play mostly in Atlanta, we are likely going back this summer to the popular Blue Note Jazz Club in New York City.

Q: You became friends with Clint Eastwood after a friend suggested sending your CDs to him and other celebrities. What created a bond between you?

A: We hit it off right away over golf, jazz and music. He loves music and plays both the trumpet and piano. And he has lots of great tales to tell about my heroes, like Miles Davis, Chet Baker, [Frank] Sinatra and others. We enjoy hanging out together over a couple beers. He has invited me many times over the years to play at parties, and we get together when he is filming in Atlanta. I visit his set sometimes and he pops into Café 290 when my band and I are playing. It has helped my career a lot. I’ve met his friends and they have hired me. He is a real fan of mine. He introduced me to Kenny G and suggested we play together. Our first duet was “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” We wrote and recorded an album together, “Close to My Heart,” and he is featured on my latest album, “Go Getta.”


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20 | Education

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DeKalb Schools’ redistricting plan gains residents’ support BY EVELYN ANDREWS

gether, residents said. “One of the previous options carved out a portion of the neighborhood. I appreciate that this plan is keeping Ashford Park together,” Residents largely approved of the revised another said. Brookhaven school redistricting plan presented The changes would allow the district to remove at a recent public meeting, saying it better keeps 17 “portable classrooms,” or trailers, which one together key neighborhoods and would successresident said is a “huge pro.” fully address overcrowding at some schools. Others said the district seems to have worked “They listened from the last meeting,” one resout a better way to address traffic patterns. ident said. “I’m really pleasantly surprised.” “It seems to be more efficient with how far peoThe Nov. 27 meeting was the final public input ple have to travel up and down Clairmont Road session for the DeKalb County School District’s and Buford Highway,” a resident said. “It seems to redistricting process to fill the new John Robert minimize that as much as possible.” Lewis Elementary and relieve overcrowding at Under this plan, Lewis Elementary would be at Brookhaven schools. The plan presented would 94 percent capacity, which one resident said may move 607 students to different schools. mean the redistricting “doesn’t go far enough.” Lewis Elementary has over 500 open seats, vaDan Drake, the district’s interim chief operating cancies that the school district hopes to use to officer, said that the district needs that buffer to curb overcrowding at nearby schools in the Cross ensure it doesn’t go over capacity and need portaKeys cluster. Named for the congressman and ble classrooms. civil rights leader, the school is currently operatNearby middle and high schools are also mildly ing in a temporary location on North Druid Hills affected. Eight students would move from ChamRoad and will open in a new building on Skyland blee Middle to Sequoyah Middle. Fourteen would Drive in August 2019. move from Chamblee High to Cross Keys High. Most redistricting changes in the staff-recomThese moves would keep each student moving mended plan would move students to Lewis Elefrom elementary to high school in the set feeder mentary, except for 62 students that would move patterns, Drake said. from Briar Vista to Woodward and three from These changes would slightly increase the Fernbank to Montclair. Moving to Lewis Elemenutilization of Sequoyah Middle and Cross Keys tary would be 22 students from Ashford Park, 93 High, which are both over capacity. However, new from Montclair, 210 from Fernbank and 195 from schools are in the pipeline to address their overWoodward. crowding. DEKALB COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT The school district has held two prior meetStudents who would move and are rising into A map shows the DeKalb County School District’s redistricting plan. ings, gathering input and presenting two options the final grade at each school would be able to stay residents generally liked. But some questioned with no transportation provided, the district said. the methodology behind some choices and expressed concern about longer travel disSince the middle school and high school changes would increase the overcrowding, tances and splitting up neighborhoods. one resident said that keeping every student on the exact feeder pattern may not be necThe single staff-recommended plan came out of that feedback and was presented at essary and the district should take a second look at that practice. the final public meeting. The superintendent will now adjust the plan based on further inHe said the district should be better at communicating how new schools would alleviput and submit it to the school board for approval, scheduled for February 2019. ate that problem. New schools in the pipeline include a new Cross Keys High and convertThe public can still provide input through an online survey and at future school board ing the current high school to a middle school. meetings. Nothing is in the pipeline for Ashford Park Elementary, which would still be over caThe redistricting changes would go into effect when the school year begins and Lewis pacity by more than 100 students, but Drake said it is likely to become part of the Cross Elementary opens in the fall of 2019. Keys cluster once the new middle and high schools open. The school is currently part of The main points of the plan were presented by Hans Williams, the district’s director of the Chamblee cluster. planning, before the residents split off into breakout sessions to provide feedback, which Addressing overcrowding at Dresden Elementary, which is also part of the Cross Keys was generally positive. cluster, will come in 2019, ahead of the opening of Cross Keys North Elementary, a workThe plan would completely relieve Montclair and Woodward overcrowding, and parting name. ly alleviate Ashford Park Elementary. Dresden Elementary is not addressed in this plan. For more information, visit dekalbschools.org/redistricting. “I think they achieved the number one goal, which is addressing the overcrowding,” one resident said in a breakout session. Residents were supportive of the revised plan keeping more neighborhoods together. Chunks of neighborhoods that would move seem to be more unified instead of pieced toevelyn@reporternewspapers.net

Education Briefs


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An artist who did illustrations for major works such as a spin-off comic for Marvel’s “Black Panther” series visited Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Sandy Springs to mentor students. During a three-day visit in December, Afua Richardson, who has done illustrations for other Marvel comics and for U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ upcoming graphic novel, provided advice to middle school art students on their graphic novel projects, a school press release said.


St. Martin’s Episcopal School’s Head of School Dr. Luis Ottley was recognized by the diocese for increasing diversity at the school. Ottley was awarded the Bishop’s Cross at the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta’s annual council meeting in November for his work advancing the diocesan mission to “draw the circle wider,” according to a press release from the Brookhaven school. In his two years at the school, Ottley has hired a director of diversity and inclusion and more people of color as faculty and staff, enhanced the multicultural education committee, diversified the board and increased the diversity of the student body, the release said.

DECEMBER 14-31, 2018

Classifieds | 21


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CARE GIVER C N A – Flexible & dependable with references. Minimal 4 hours available per client. Personal care for loved one. Call 404-397-9429.

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Tech Care for Seniors – Digital Device Doctor (computers, devices & Wi-Fi networks). We make house calls: 404-307-8857.

Arlington Memorial Park – Section F. Two side by side plots. Single $2000 - Both $3500. Call 1-706-354-8312.



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Arlington Memorial Park – Three lots for sale in the Calvary Section located in lot 276D, spaces 2, 3 & 4. Asking $5,900 each or $17,000 for all. Beautiful views and the most desirable section. Cemetery will assist in showing. Email: mrmccabe@hotmail.com Two beautiful plots - Discounted, Overlooks the Lake and beneath Oak tree. Arlington Memorial Park – 770-596-1093.

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22 | Community

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Dunwoody sees improved ambulance service Continued from page 1 The DeKalb Board of Commissioners voted Dec. 11 to extend DeKalb Fire Rescue’s contract with American Medical Response until June 30, 2019. AMR’s five-year contract with the county was set to expire Dec. 31. The extension is needed as county officials continue to work with a consultant on writing a new request for proposal and bid process that is expected to be completed by March. AMR’s contract extension follows an agreement reached Oct. 31 between Mayor Dennis Shortal and DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond to address specific concerns raised by the Dunwoody City Council. The agreement, approved by the City Council, includes adding another ambulance to the city during peak hours and staffing the three ambulances in the city with at least one paramedic. The agreement between Dunwoody and DeKalb also includes “tiered response times” that call for an ambulance to respond to life-threatening calls in under nine minutes and to non-critical calls within 15 minutes. Dunwoody Police Chief Billy Grogan told the council at its Dec. 10 meeting that the agreement appears to be working. A monthly report on response times and number of calls, also required as part of the agreement between the county and city, is expected by Dec. 15. “So far, so good,” Grogan said. “The proof will be in the pudding when we get the report. I know from anecdotal [evidence] that I see ambulances a lot more. And we have not received the number of complaints we were receiving.” While the City Council approved in November the contract made between Shortal and Thurmond, the members made clear in their vote that their request for a new EMS zone remain open until DeKalb County can prove for at least Mayor one year it is meeting all the contractual requirements. Denis Shortal Shortal has said he has backed off believing Dunwoody should have its own EMS zone. In an interview, he said he also has not heard any complaints about ambulance service in the city since the Oct. 31 contract was reached. “As far as I can see, it’s going good,” he said. Councilmember Terry Nall said he was disappointed DeKalb County waited until the last Board of Commissioners meeting of the year to address AMR’s contract, knowing it was set to expire Dec. 31. No “plan B” is in place, he noted. Nall has led the quest to create Dunwoody’s own EMS zone. He said DeKalb County has promised ambulance service improvements in the past, but they all eventually failed to address public safety concerns. That is why the city’s request for a separate

EMS zone must remain a viable option for at least one year to ensure the promised improvements continue, he said. “DeKalb, I know, means well,” he said. “But unfortunately, we’ve have had prior mitigation plans and they fell through. We’ve been down this path before of promises and we now want to hold their feet to fire with the latest agreement and we need to see sustained compliance.” DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester said in a written statement she was unhappy DeKalb officials brought the AMR contract extension to be approved at the commission’s last meeting and had hoped the new RFP would have been completed before now. “I have not been happy with ambulance services or the county contracting processes regarding this matter,” she said. “The procurement process in DeKalb is controlled ex- DeKalb Commissioner Nancy Jester clusively by the CEO.” The contract extension is very similar to Dunwoody’s agreement, according to Fire Chief Darnell Fullum, such as providing for tiered response times. AMR will be fined $1,000 for each late response time, according to the contract extension. The penalty fee goes into effect Jan. 1. Also as part of the contract extension, AMR can charge higher fees for transport and medical services. Cities can also pay $145 an hour to station an ambulance in their jurisdiction for “enhanced” service as part of the contract extension, Fullum told the Board of Commissioners. DeKalb was expected to extend AMR’s contract despite Dunwoody’s complaints to county officials for the past two years about AMR’s slow response times in the city. The current contract states AMR will respond to all calls in under nine minutes for 90 percent of the time. DeKalb data showed AMR responses were often coming in at 15 to 20 minutes and sometimes much longer. City officials requested in May that state health officials authorize the city to break off from DeKalb to create their own EMS zone. Councilmember A state health ad hoc committee was appointed earlier Terry Nall this year to review DeKalb’s overall emergency medical services and AMR’s contract with the county as well as Dunwoody’s request for a separate EMS zone. The committee is expected to make a final recommendation to the full EMS Council in February.


The city’s first “Create Dunwoody Arts and Culture Master Plan” completed with consultant CivicMoxie has been adopted and will serve as a guide for city officials as they move forward in prioritizing arts and culture in the city’s overall mission. A top priority recommended in the plan is to determine where to locate organizations currently crowded into the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center, including the Spruill Center for the Arts, the Stage Door Players and the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild. The master plan recommends the city make a decision within six months on the organizations at the Cultural Arts Center. If the city chooses to make no decision, Spruill most likely will partially or totally move from the Cultural Arts Center to elsewhere in Dunwoody or to a nearby city that offers them space, according to the priority list included in the master plan. Stage Door Players might take over their space or may relocate as well, according to the plan. The city could decide to keep all of the organizations on site and support expansion of the building or decide to keep some organizations there and put others at the former Austin Elementary School when it is deeded over to the city after the new school opens in 2020. Assistant City Attorney Jessica Guinn told the council at its Dec. 10 meeting that recommendations included in the master plan, such as creating an arts advisory council and coming up with a plan on how to best use the city’s buildings and facilities for

arts and culture programming, will likely be discussed at the council’s annual retreat in February.


Funding for parks and right of way maintenance with contractor Optech Monette LLC has been approved to be increased from $618,000 to $828,000 for 2019. In a Dec. 10 memo to the mayor and city council, Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker said the additional money for maintenance is needed to hire three additional staff and equipment to “maintain the park amenities that continue to expand in our park system.” Funding will come from the Parks and Recreation budget.

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Long-dormant High Street to break ground next year Continued from page 1 North American Properties announced last month it was teaming up with High Street property owner GID to develop “High Street Atlanta” on nearly 40 acres at Perimeter Center Park and Hammond Drive near the Dunwoody MARTA station. As part of the announcement, NAP said a groundbreaking is expected in late 2019. NAP was behind Avalon in Alpharetta, a 1.1 million square-foot mixed-use development on 86 acres. Other NAP projects in metro Atlanta include Atlantic Station and Colony Square in Midtown. NAP is headquartered in Cincinnati and has offices in Atlanta, Dallas and Fort Myers, Fla. Boston-based GID remains the primary developer for the project expected to span 10 city blocks on the Sandy Springs border and encompass 8 million square feet of residential, retail, hotel and office space. GID President James Linsley recently invited Dunwoody city officials to join him on a tour of Avalon. “While each mixed-use project is unique, we believe Avalon and High Street share certain similarities and common themes,” Linsley said in an email to the mayor and City Council. “I’ve seen Avalon,” Mayor Denis Shortal said in an interview. “But we haven’t seen the full proposal yet [for High Street] and we can’t comment.” He added the sixmonth moratorium implemented on Nov. 19 on multi-unit buildings also limits any public discussion of the project. The moratorium is needed to give time to review fire safety standards, city officials said. “Until we get it straightened out with the fire code, we’ve got a moratorium for six months. We may release it earlier or may extend it. It’s all conjecture right now,” Shortal said. How the moratorium in place until May on multi-unit buildings, such as apartments and office towers, may affect High Street’s plans to break ground next year is unknown. The moratorium prohibits the acceptance and review of applications or issuing any building permits. GID’s Vice President of Development Jeff Lowenberg and GID attorney Woody Galloway attended the Nov. 19 meeting when the City Council voted to approve the moratorium but declined to comment on why they were there. They did huddle with and speak to Shortal after the meeting. Shortal declined to say what they spoke about. Linsley’s email was sent two days after the moratorium was approved and informed city officials that GID selected North American Properties as a development partner because of its local knowledge of retail leasing, retail property management and programming. He said NAP’s success with Avalon in retail leasing and retail property management was instrumental in GID’s decision to pick them for High Street. Linsley also stated in the email that he wanted to “confirm GID’s commit-

Another illustration of the planned High Street development where 3,000 residential units are planned to be constructed along with retail and office space. (North American Properties) The Atlanta Journal-Constitution building on Perimeter Center Parkway as well as the buildings behind it are included in the planned High Street mixed-use development that will include 10 city blocks and 8 million square feet. (Phil Mosier)

ment” in the High Street project. A request for comment from North American Properties about the moratorium and if it would affect High Street was not returned. The High Street development has been on paper since 2007. That’s when DeKalb County approved rezoning for the massive mixed-use development that includes 1,500 apartments and 1,500 condominiums, 400,000 square feet of new office, 400,000 square feet of retail and 400 hotel rooms. Dunwoody incorporated as a city the following year. A March 8 application for a land disturbance permit for the first phase of High Street was rejected by the city, according to documents obtained via an open records request. A new application has not yet been filed, according to city officials. City staff also rejected a March 8 application for a land disturbance permit for the first phase of the development and requested more information and details before considering a new application. Site plans submitted to the city in March by Kimley-Horn as part of the LDP application for the first phase of High Street show four blocks of mixed-use development, private internal streets and parking decks. A small, central park area is also included.

The first phase encompasses nearly 22 acres and includes demolition of existing surface parking lots adjacent to the 11-story office building at 211 Perimeter Center Parkway. No major construction is reflected around the 219 and 223 Perimeter Center Parkway office buildings. The Atlanta-Journal Constitution is based at 223 Perimeter Center Parkway. A 30-story condominium tower that was once considered to be part of the first phase of High Street and last discussed publicly at a Dunwoody Homeowners Association meeting in 2016 is not included in the first phase, according to the LDP application filed in March. The site plan for the first phase does include four 8-story apartment buildings and their parking decks, a row of townhomes and a 16-story apartment building surrounding 211 Perimeter Center, according to the LDP application. A 12-story office tower and a 7-story parking deck are also included in the first phase. Retail on the ground floors of the apartment and office buildings has been

part of ongoing discussions surrounding the project. As part of their rejection of the High Street LDP application, city staff requested more information and details in several areas before considering a new application. The city requested a current tree survey, saying a 2015 tree survey was unacceptable. Several questions about stormwater detention were also raised. Requests also include that High Street’s “Center Street” that comes off Perimeter Center Parkway into the center of the mixed-use development be extended to the Sandy Springs border for future connection. Bike and pedestrian connectivity must also be included along Center Street as part as part of the Perimeter Community Improvement Districts Commuter Trail Master Plan, according to the city’s comments. The bike lane must be separate from the road, according to city instructions. The city also requested a westbound right turn lane on Hammond Drive.

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