Friday, October 9, 2015

Mayor calls for pond re-do around Peoplestown resident Mattie Jackson's home

Posted By on Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 9:32 AM

Mattie Jackson, a longtime Peoplestown resident, will get to remain in her home, Mayor Kasim Reed says. - JOEFF DAVIS/CL FILE
  • Joeff Davis/CL File
  • Mattie Jackson, a longtime Peoplestown resident, will get to remain in her home, Mayor Kasim Reed says.
A 93-year-old woman who has lived in Peoplestown all her life will stay there and the city will look into a redesign of a stormwater detention pond planned for her block, according to an announcement yesterday from Mayor Kasim Reed.

Mattie Jackson is one of five people on a low-lying Peoplestown block who have declined to sell their properties to the city for a stormwater detention pond.For weeks, the longtime community advocate has been the public face of a campaign by the holdouts to stay in their homes.

The pressure on the mayor has been public and sustained. On Monday, Jackson, other neighbors, and activist-supporters delivered a petition to Reed demanding that the city cancel plans to demolish their homes.

On Thursday, Reed gave in on Jackson's house.  An announcement from City Hall says the mayor offered Jackson the opportunity to stay in her home, rather than be relocated, while the administration pursues an alternative design option for the stormwater detention pond.

“Mrs. Jackson has been a pillar in her community, and out of respect for her contributions to our city, we have decided to support her desire to remain in the neighborhood she has called her home for decades," Reed said in a statement. "I look forward to completing this important project as we address an issue that has gone unresolved for many years.”

Jackson's own home has never flooded, but others on the block have. The city has in the past faced lawsuits from people on the block due to flood damage.

It was a "victory" for Jackson, said Tim Franzen of Occupy Our Homes Atlanta, one of the groups working with the block's residents.  But Franzen said the fight is not over yet because no solution has been extended to the other holdouts.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Peoplestown advocates say another flood-control plan could prevent displacing residents

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 3:04 PM

State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, stands with advocates and residents who are fighting the city's plan to purchase people's homes and build a park to handle persistent flooding in the area. - MIRANDA HAWKINS
  • Miranda Hawkins
  • State Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, stands with advocates and residents who are fighting the city's plan to purchase people's homes and build a park to handle persistent flooding in the area.
Armed with a petition listing approximately 5,000 signatures and an alternate proposal, a handful of protesters gathered on the steps of City Hall yesterday in an attempt to save Peoplestown residents, including longtime pillar of the community 93-year-old Mattie Jackson, from being displaced.

Advocates have rallied behind Jackson and others in the fight to save their homes. Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management intends to turn a block of Peoplestown, the same block where Jackson's house is located, into a retention pond to prevent flooding in the area.

DWM officials have been offering to buy homes from the residents first. But many homeowners have accused the city of “low-balling” the value of their homes. If the remaining eight of the 28 inhabitants don’t sell, there is the possibility of their homes being seized through eminent domain.

Leading up to yesterday’s protest, residents and advocates have questioned why the city did not move forward with a consultant’s recommendation that they could have helped solve the flooding problem and avoid displacing anyoe.

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Monday, September 14, 2015

City's plan to prevent Peoplestown flooding could mean moving 93-year-old longtime resident

Posted By on Mon, Sep 14, 2015 at 1:15 PM

Mattie Jackson, a 93-year-old longtime resident and advocate who might be forced to move to make room for a retention pond in Peoplestown, waits to speak to the city's Urban Design Commission in the Atlanta City Council Chambers last week. - JOEFF DAVIS
  • Joeff Davis
  • Mattie Jackson, a 93-year-old longtime resident and advocate who might be forced to move to make room for a retention pond in Peoplestown, waits to speak to the city's Urban Design Commission in the Atlanta City Council Chambers last week.
Mattie Jackson sounds like she doesn't suffer fools. The 93-year-old Peoplestown resident says she’s never drank. And if somebody comes up on her porch drinking, she’ll beat them with a stick. But let her find a motherless child in the street, Jackson says, and the child will get something to eat if it is her "last biscuit."

An inviting screen porch runs the whole front width of Jackson’s bungalow. It’s only a zoning quirk that made a woman sometimes called the “Mayor of Summerhill” a recent resident of Peoplestown. She’s lived in the neighborhood her whole life and has been a longtime volunteer and advocate, notably as a member of the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, where she secured funding for Summerhill residents to get job training for the 1996 games. In a transient city, Jackson is as local as it gets.

The problem is, other blocks look down on hers — literally. It’s at least 20 feet lower in elevation than nearby blocks. When strong rains happen, water flows toward Jackson and neighbors and can overwhelm the sewer lines that run behind their homes. There have been bad enough floods that some residents who live on the block have sued the city for damages.

Now the city wants property owners on the block to sell their land to make way for a retention pond that will function as a park and handle the persistent deluges. But Jackson is determined to stay put in the place she has long called home. For plenty of the people on the block, it’s hurtful that some people will soon enjoy a park and elevated property values while their own block gets the boot.

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Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Motorcycle co-op Brother Moto works to stay open in EAV

Posted By on Wed, Sep 2, 2015 at 11:10 AM

click image GASSED UP: Motorcycle enthusiasts and the "motocurious" can wrench gears and pound coffee at EAV's Brother Moto - BROTHER MOTO
  • Brother Moto
  • GASSED UP: Motorcycle enthusiasts and the "motocurious" can wrench gears and pound coffee at EAV's Brother Moto
Brother Moto, a co-op for motorcyclists on Flat Shoals Avenue, might be forced to shut down. The group that bills itself as Atlanta's "courteous and respectful" biker club could soon be forced to close up its East Atlanta Village shop due to a conflict with city zoning ordinances.

The ordinance prohibits more than two service-providing repair shops in EAV and Brother Moto's presence, in the city's eyes, is one too many. But Brother Moto doesn't consider itself a repair shop at all. The co-op merely seeks to unite motorcyclists through a do-it-yourself oriented community. Plus, it has a coffee shop in the garage. 

To keep the organization from closing its doors, founders Bobby Russell and Jared Erickson filed a petition to rouse support from the Atlanta City Council. Three weeks after the link hit the web, Brother Moto garnered well over 5,000 signatures. Their cry for help reached the ears of Atlanta City Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong, who visited the shop on Friday to discuss the co-op's future. 

Russell says Archibong has been nothing but helpful as Brother Moto's organizers work to redefine Brother Moto as something besides a service repair shop.

"We don't claim any fees for repairs," he says. "It's more of a community garage."

With Archibong's assistance, Russell and Erickson hope they can find a way to comply with current zoning laws, such as scaling back the square footage of their tinkering space. While the organization waits to hear next steps, they remain vigilant in being respectful neighbors.

"We're not the ones revving our engines rolling down the street or racing down residential roads at 90 miles per hour," Russell says, adding that the community has been helpful. "Some complain they don't like our super-loud bikes riding around town. But just because it's a motorcycle doesn't mean it's us."

NOTE: This article has been altered to note that the group reached its petition goal and to clarify that it does not currently have an espresso bar. The article and headline have also been altered to note that the group hopes to comply with current zoning laws. 

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Tuesday, August 18, 2015

GSU wants to demolish historic Bell Building; tentative plan calls for temporary parking lot

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 4:02 PM

CHANGING TONES: The Bell Building, once a connector for early callers, will soon be a paved slab of concrete - SEAN KEENAN
  • CHANGING TONES: The Bell Building, once a connector for early callers, will soon be a paved slab of concrete
Auburn Avenue's historic Bell Building, once home of the Southern Bell Telephone exchange, could soon be wiped off the map. 

Last November, the Woodruff Foundation gifted Georgia State University $22.8 million to liven up some of the school's Woodruff Park facilities. Most of the cash will be used to transform the former SunTrust building on Edgewood Avenue and Park Place into a state-of-the-art digital media center.

But a large chunk of the foundation's grant is earmarked for demolition of the Bell Building, which has been standing since the early 1900s. Tentative plans for the property after the wrecking crews leave call for leaving the lot open for parking space while Georgia State officials decide what facilities to eventually build on the site.

Some historic preservation advocates are riled up about the university's plans for the building. Downtown resident and ATL Urbanist author Darin Givens created to call awareness to "an incredible adaptive reuse project waiting to happen." He thinks it could complement nearby successes such as the Flatiron Building, Candler Building and Olympia Building.

"We want to showcase how the buildings benefit the urban fabric of this block that’s otherwise blighted by these parking decks," says Givens, who launched a petition on Monday to rouse an explanation from university administrators. "The Bell Building is a great opportunity to join in the trend of other buildings downtown that have been saved and reused." 

Georgia State officials claim renovation is out of the question. "It would be cost prohibitive for the Georgia State Foundation to try to retrofit the building," says Georgia State Spokeswoman Andrea Jones. "But we do plan to build on it in the long term." 

The GSU Foundation secures and oversees private funding and gifts to the university, such as Woodruff Park's contribution. But an official at the foundation could not tell CL why the price tag for renovation would cost so much.

Givens says the building has "untapped potential" for expansion.

"The construction engineering for the structure[s] was intended to allow for vertical expansion of another four or five floors on top in the future," he notes.

While the Save The Bell organization pushes for more petition signatures and recognition from administrators, Georgia State is looking for qualified demolition companies to level the structure.

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City commissions study to envision future of Turner Field site — but it won't be binding

Posted By on Tue, Aug 18, 2015 at 11:59 AM

Members of the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, wearing white, appeared at Atlanta City Council Monday in support of an economic development study of their neighborhood.
  • Maggie Lee
  • Members of the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition, wearing white, appeared at Atlanta City Council Monday in support of a LCI study of their neighborhood.

Something huge is coming to the site of Turner Field ... sometime. People who live nearby hope a study just commissioned by the Atlanta City Council will inform what eventually happens on the 77-acre site after the Atlanta Braves move to the suburbs in 2017.

By a unanamious vote, Atlanta City Council commissioned Perkins+Will to undertake a Livable Centers Initiative study for the neighborhoods around Turner Field. The LCI study will be a survey of the people, their infrastructure, and their businesses. It aims to prepare the area for the kinds of developments and enhancements that the neighbors want and that would do the most good.

“Our community has seen a lot of major development that has not benefitted us,” said Sherise Brown of Peoplestown, at a City Council meeting on Monday just before the council vote. “This is an opportunity for us to make this right."

It’s a study that Brown and fellow members of the Turner Field Community Benefits Coalition strongly support.

The Coalition wants an inclusive planning process and seeks a development that allows everyone in the area to be able to access jobs, recreation, housing, and other amenities.

What it doesn’t want is a no-bid sale of the land without community input. Matthew Garbett of Adair Park, who is also a Coalition member, said the neighborhoods want to work with the consultant and developers “so that we can all come together and say ‘Yes.’”

The conversation could result in an “incredibly beneficial” development that stands out not just in the city, but the region, he said.

The Coalition counts some 42 organizations as its members, including neighborhood associations, community development corporations, and advocacy groups.

The survey results are not binding on Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority, the current owners of the stadium and its adjacent parking lots. The Coalition is hoping City Hall pays attention.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Habitat for Humanity's plan for Sylvan Hills draws neighborhood's ire

Posted By on Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 11:23 AM

Nonprofit could build at least 27 homes on the donated land. - THOMAS WHEATLEY
  • Thomas Wheatley
  • Nonprofit could build at least 27 homes on the donated land.
Atlanta Habitat for Humanity has plans for a 10-acre parcel in Sylvan Hills located just blocks from the Oakland City MARTA station and practically across the street from the old U.S. Army fort that Tyler Perry wants to turn into Hollywood South. On the property between Langston Avenue and Evans Drive, the well-known nonprofit wants to build at least 27 homes on the parcel. 

One problem: some residents of the historic southwest Atlanta community do not necessarily like the plan they see.

The struggle to find the best use of such prime land is similar to discussions held in other parts of the city about how to build the “beloved community,” says Sylvan Hills resident Julie Borders, using a phrase popularized by Dr.Martin Luther King, Jr. to describe communities of decency and goodwill.

“How can we gentrify graciously?” she says.

The property, which sits in a ZIP Code that’s working to dig itself out of the foreclosure crisis, was donated to Atlanta Habitat this summer. About five acres of the parcel is platted for 27 residential lots each sized around 0.20 acres. The rest of the land is zoned industrial. (The acreage passed environmental studies, and no issues were found anywhere, according to Habitat.) If that zoning were changed, Habitat could build more homes, perhaps as many as 40 altogether.

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Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tech Square's "Smallmart," branded as the world's tiniest Walmart, is no more

Posted By on Tue, Aug 4, 2015 at 3:57 PM

click image Locked doors: Tech students were baffled when they couldn't cross the street to grab milk and eggs - GEORGIA TECH NEWS CENTER
  • Georgia Tech News Center
  • Locked doors: Tech students were baffled when they couldn't cross the street to grab milk and eggs

When Georgia Tech students start fall semester on Aug. 17, they will be without a tiny friend in Tech Square that's provided toiletries, groceries, and prescriptions to the college campus and surrounding residents. 

The 5th Street Walmart Express, which billed itself as the mega-retailer's smallest location ever, closed the tiny store's doors on July 3, leaving former patrons confused.

Store management posted a sign warning of the closure for a month prior to locking up. People who used to pick up their medicine at the mini-Walmart will have to make their way to Howell Mill’s Walmart to grab prescriptions.  

Walmart’s corporate office did not respond to CL's repeated inquiries asking why the store, which opened in August 2013, closed. Georgia Tech Campus Services did not know why the retailer shuttered the location.   

But according to the Technique, Georgia Tech's student newspaper, the store's tiny size proved to be its downfall. A former employee told the paper prior to the store's closing that the space wasn't big enough to stock the daily inventory drop delivered from a larger Supercenter.

“We had no backroom storage, and there was no cooler space in the back, so we received our inventory every day from the Supercenter, and whatever we got that day was all we had to put out,” Staff Pharmacist Carla Gillespie-Berry told the Technique. “It wasn’t that we weren’t successful, and we loved being here — it was just we needed more space.”

In addition, the paper says, the imminent opening of multiple high-rise apartment buildings around Tech Square could have sparked an uptick in business that the Walmart Express couldn't logistically accommodate. Publix Media Relations Manager Brenda Reid says the Midtown Publix, which operates just two blocks north of the old Tech Square Walmart, is seeing a small bump in business since the closure.

The “Smallmart” will remain vacant until Georgia Tech’s campus services decides what to put in the space next. 

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Retail strip that includes Smith's Olde Bar up for sale, venue given 60-day notice to vacate

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 4:30 PM

  • Courtesy Smith's Olde Bar
July has been a hard month for Atlanta’s music venues. Smith’s Olde Bar, which has hosted countless bands and fans near the corner of Monroe Drive and Piedmont Avenue since 1993, could soon have to vacate the space as part of a proposed sale of the retail strip it calls home.

On Aug. 28, the more than 27,000 square-foot property and commercial strip dubbed the “Morningside Strip Center” will be sold at auction. A trust owns the circa 1925 building that includes Smith’s, an antique shop, and a now vacant hair salon after its longtime owner died, according to Tim Holdroyd of City Realty, which is managing the sale.

According to CR’s “property package” about the strip, Smith’s is currently a “tenant at will” and has been given a 60-day notice to vacate the premises. Smith’s is disputing that notice to vacate its longtime home, CR's document says, and “ownership is working to resolve this ongoing issue.” A venue spokesman said Smith’s Olde Bar management declined to comment on the matter.

According to Greg Land at the Fulton Daily Report (free reg. req'd.) two filings in Fulton County Superior Court indicate the trust "have demanded that club's owner, Nolan-Reeves Music, vacate the premises after demanding more rent and increased insurance coverage for the space." Nolen-Reeves have asked to stay put until at least the end of the year, the report says.  

The antique shop’s space will be vacant when its lease ends after Sept. 30, 2015. The summary notes that the property’s prime location near heavily trafficked areas such as Piedmont Park, Morningside, and Ansley Mall. It is also only a few hundred yards from a portion of the Atlanta Beltline.

The document, which was first noticed by Tomorrow's News Today, says nine retail spaces — five of which are leased to Smith’s — are up for sale. Fans of Cowtippers, the steak and spirit joint that is located on the strip’s northern edge, or the El-Gant alterations shop to the south, need not worry — they're not part of the auction. The giant billboard looming over the center is also not included in the deal.

It’s up to the new owners to decide if they want to continue leasing to Smith’s or do something else with the space and the property, Holdroyd says. He says a number of parties are interested in the Morningside property. Holdroyd expects to close the sale by the end of the year.

The news comes on the heels of a developer’s plan to repurpose the longtime home of the Masquerade and build a 228-unit mixed-use development on the Music Park and two adjacent parcels. Management of the nearly 25-year-old Old Fourth Ward music venue says they will continue booking events until 2016 and won’t leave the city.

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Monday, July 13, 2015

Hall wants to keep MLK natatorium in O4W

Posted By on Mon, Jul 13, 2015 at 11:02 AM

  • Joeff Davis/CL File
The Old Fourth Ward may be getting a new aquatic center with an old name.

Earlier this week, Atlanta City Councilman Kwanza Hall introduced legislation to relocate the Martin Luther King Jr. Natatorium from Boulevard to 110 Hilliard St. on land donated by the Atlanta Housing Authority.

In November 2012, the original swimming pool that served the Atlanta area for more than 20 years was condemned due to structural instabilities, which is why the need for a new site. The adjoining rec center will remain but the future of the current MLK natatorium site is unclear.

The cost to build the new center has been budgeted at $17.5 million, which would come from the 2015 Infrastructure Bond. The natatorium reconstruction was the most expensive non-infrastructure project on the $250 million list of improvements.

Hall says the facility is important because it serves a diverse crowd. Plus, there’s a personal connection.

“I was a lifeguard there when I was a teenager,” Hall says in statement. “It has been important to me that we keep the facility in the Old Fourth Ward.”

The new site does two things: keeps the facilities in the historic neighborhood, as per Hall’s wishes, and creates easier access for residents who rely on public transportation to get around the city. The King Memorial MARTA station is located one block south of Hilliard Street and an Atlanta Streetcar stop is two blocks away.

Hilliard Street also offers the opportunity for the new aquatic facilities to create a “recreation hub” and serve planned developments. The Selena Sloan Butler Park Recreation Center was recently revamped and MARTA is planning to build a “new transit-oriented mixed-use development adjacent to the station, including more than 300 apartment units.”

If the legislation passes and the project is completed, residents are being promised a “world-class facility to be built featuring an iconic structure, an indoor pool, classrooms, and meeting areas adjacent to the existing recreation center.”

The Finance/Executive Committee will take up the legislation for further discussion.

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