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Reporter’s Notebook: Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside trail expansion on the horizon

The BeltLine trail. (Photo by David Pendered)

Early voting is underway for the City of Atlanta’s runoff races and will run through Nov. 24. The mayoral seat has gone into runoffs, along with City Council President, City Council Post 3 At Large, District 1, 3, 4, 5 and 12. Two Board of Education seats are also undecided, including District 2 and Seat 7 At Large.

Before your next trip to the polls, be sure to check out Atlanta Civic Circle and SaportaReport’s 2021 Atlanta Runoff Elections Guide.

Visit the Georgia My Voter Page for more information about where to submit your ballot.

On to other news from around the city:

Atlanta Beltline in Inman Park (Photo by Hannah E. Jones)

Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside trail expansion on the horizon

The Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside trail will soon be two miles longer thanks to a $16.46 million RAISE grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The money will fund the trail expansion to connect the Pittsburgh Yards in southwest Atlanta to Boulevard in the city’s southeast.

Construction of the Southside Trail has been divided into segments — the first opened to the public in September — and this grant will bring the next two segments into fruition. 

“We are incredibly appreciative to the USDOT and our congressional delegation for the recognition and support of the Atlanta BeltLine,” Clyde Higgs, president and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine. Inc., said in a press release. “This project is much more than public infrastructure. With people at the forefront, the BeltLine is improving connections to jobs, schools, and opportunities, enhancing equity and mobility, and fostering culture.”

Click here for drone footage of the Southside segments two and three.

— Hannah E. Jones

‘Truist should be based in Atlanta’ Jim Robinson says at Rotary

Atlanta native Jim Robinson is still defending the city where he grew up.

Robinson, the retired CEO of American Express who served about 40 years on the board of the Coca-Cola Co., spoke at the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Nov. 15 — covering a host of topics about technology, entrepreneurship and venture capital.

In answer to a question about bank consolidation, Robinson shared his thoughts about the merger of Raleigh-based BB&T and Atlanta-based SunTrust to form Truist, which is based in Charlotte.

“I was surprised Truist moved to Charlotte,” said Robinson, adding that it was odd the bank decided to move to a city where one of its top competitors is based — Bank of America. “It’s unfortunate they moved the headquarters.”

When it comes to technology, Robinson said Atlanta’s national stature could rise if the city attracted more venture capital. Up to now, when Silicon Valley invests in a Georgia company, it moves that company to California.

But that could be changing.

“It’s hard to get anyone to move from here to California,” Robinson said.

Maria Saporta

Atlanta Legal Aid Society receives more than $200,000 from technology grant

Atlanta Legal Aid Society Inc. has been granted the Technology Initiative Grant from the Legal Services Corporation. 

The organization, which provides free legal aid for low-income residents in metro Atlanta, will use the $267,374 to improve its case management system and virtual client consultation portal, Georgia Legal Connect.

Sen. Reverend Raphael Warnock congratulated the legal aid group, saying, “The Atlanta Legal Aid Society does tremendous work in our community to help the most vulnerable citizens navigate our courts. I’m glad these federal dollars will be put to good use supporting their important legal work, and I’m going to continue fighting in Washington to strengthen federal support for legal aid in Georgia.” 

The Legal Services Corporation, established by Congress in 1974, is an independent nonprofit that lends financial assistance to civil legal aid groups that serve low-income residents.

— Hannah E. Jones

Tom Johnson, William Cope Moyers and Frank Boykin at the Feb. 5, 2019 dinner gathering at the Cherokee Town Club (Photo by Jennifer Johnson McEwen of the Emory Brain Health Center)

Addiction Alliance of Georgia raises $8 million

The Addiction Alliance of Georgia is gaining momentum after being formally launched in September 2020.

It has already raised $8 million towards its initial goal of $10 million thanks to grants from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, the O. Wayne Rollins Foundation and other individuals, corporations and foundations.

That update was announced on Nov. 14 at a special program ­– “An evening with William Cope Moyers” — held at the Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Moyers, a vice president of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, which is in a partnership with Emory University to advance addiction-related clinical care, education and research throughout the State of Georgia. The Addiction Alliance of Georgia is part of that partnership.

Frank Boykin, a member of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church whose son was addicted to heroin, invited Moyers to tell his tale of addiction that culminated in October 1994 when Moyers had hit rock bottom in a crack house near the corner of North Avenue and Boulevard in Atlanta. He was found there by his father, the world-renowned television journalist, Bill Moyers.

“I just wanted to die,” William Cope Moyers told people who had gathered at the church to hear his story. The talk also was live streamed and recorded

Now sober for 25 years, Moyers said the most important tool in his recovery is helping other people. That’s how he joined the team at Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, and how he has been part of the effort for the partnership with Emory to provide better care for people suffering from addiction.

Moyers made three requests to the people who were listening to his talk. First, if you are a person in recovery, share that with someone who doesn’t know it. Second, if you have a family member who is struggling with addiction, share that information. And third, if you are a professional who works in this field, go back to your community, and talk about your successes.

It was Moyers’ first in-person speaking engagement in 20 months, because of the pandemic.

“I have come home,” Moyers said. “I feel right at home in this house of worship.”

Moyers then said that substance abuse impacts 1 in 3 families nationally and about 1 in 7 individuals during their lifetime.

Dr. William McDonald, who is the Fuqua Chair for Late-Life Depression as well as a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory, said the goal will be to provide a broad array of services including clinical treatment, advocacy, education and research.

Maria Saporta

Johnny Isakson (Photo from parkinson.org)

Isakson Initiative contributes to Parkinson’s Foundation

Johnny Isakson’s initiative to combat Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and related dementia has made a leadership gift to the Reach Further campaign, sponsored by the Parkinson’s Foundation. Terms were not disclosed.

A former U.S. senator who retired in 2019 because of Parkinson’s, Isakson started The Isakson Initiative with a fund-raising lunch in September. Proceeds enabled a donation to Reach Further that advances its effort to raise $30 million. Of this sum, $20 million is earmarked for research and the remainder is to increase access to health care and quality-of-life programs.

“The Parkinson’s Foundation is taking aggressive steps towards a future without Parkinson’s disease through the Reach Further campaign, and I am proud to support these ambitious plans,” said in a statement.

In an email, Isakson struck a personal note: “Again, our lunch together was a wonderful day to reminisce and celebrate all that you helped me do for Georgia and our nation. Looking to the future, I am excited about what The Isakson Initiative can do for the world. Thank you again for being a part of a special day and a special mission.”

David Pendered

Dennis Richards

Atlanta BeltLine hires affordable housing director 

The Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. has hired a director of affordable housing initiatives, tapping a former executive with the Atlanta office of National Church Housing. The organization specializes in affordable senior living communities.

Dennis Richards, Jr. joined ABI on Nov. 1 as vice president of housing and development. Richards is to help lead two primary aspects of ABI’s affordable housing initiatives: Inducing development of affordable housing along the BeltLine corridor; and ABI’s new real estate program, in which it buys land and sells to a developer who complies with goals that include equity and greenspace. 

National Church Housing’s Atlanta office oversees 1,355 units in eight communities, most in southwest Atlanta. Richards served in a series of leadership roles in an organization that focuses on independent living housing developments with some level of wrap-around services, according to pages on its website.

“In order to reach our goal of creating or preserving 5,600 affordable housing before 2030, experienced, innovative leadership and focus is required, and I am confident that Dennis will help us get there,” ABI CEO Clyde Higgs said in a statement.

David Pendered

(L to R): Anthony Alston (East Point Senior Planner), Kate Conner (Food Well Alliance Executive Director), Kimberly Smith (East Point’s Planning & Community Development Director), Mayor Deana Holiday Ingraham (City of East Point), Maceo Rogers (East Point’s Economic Development Director), Erin Rodgers (East Point’s Economic Development Specialist), Sarah Brown (Policy and Advocacy Manager for the Food Well Alliance).

City of East Point recognized by ARC for visionary planning and development

On Tuesday the ARC announced the winners of their Regional Excellence Awards for 2021. 

Among those Developments of Excellence Awards recipients were the East Point Agriculture Plan from the Food Well Alliance and the City of East Point. 

The alliance, which provides resources and support to local growers to connect and build healthier communities, assisted the city in addressing access to healthy food in the area. 

The innovative plan aims to improve food access by supporting East Point’s local growers with funding and programs to help them expand. 

The plan was developed using a community-led process that brought together urban growers, residents and city officials to identify community food system priorities, as well as strategies to achieve those priorities. 

— Allison Joyner

Sarah Kirsch

ULI Atlanta executive director steps down

Sarah Kirsch, executive director at ULI Atlanta, announced Tuesday that she will be stepping down after eight years in the role and an 11-year run on the team.

“I have learned so much, had a lot of fun along the way, and am proud of what we have accomplished together,” Kirsch wrote in an email to ULI Atlanta’s network.

ULI Atlanta is a District Council of the Urban Land Institute, a network of land use and real estate experts aiming to create a built environment that helps foster thriving communities.

Kirch continued by highlighting the efforts that she looks at proudly: “Most recently, we launched HouseATL as its own entity, incubated ULI Alabama, launched our DEI Council, and navigated these challenging past two years in a way that I feel very good about handing the organization over to its next staff leader.”

The ULI Atlanta team aims to find a new executive director by early next year.

— Hannah E. Jones

Jocelyn Dorsey (Photo from thanksmomanddadfund.org)

Free virtual workshops to provide guidance on aging issues

A free series of virtual workshops is to provide usable how-to information on aging issues.

The program is sponsored by the Thanks Mom and Dad Fund, a non-profit based in Atlanta that raises funds and provides grants to agencies that serve older adults.

Upcoming workshops address some of the major questions facing metro Atlanta’s aging population. The Atlanta Regional Commission forecasts the number of adults over 65 years will triple by 2050, from 632,200 to 1.9 million residents in the 21-county area.

The programs are to be streamed Wednesdays at 2 p.m. Jocelyn Dorsey, retired director of public affairs for WSB-TV, is to moderate the one-hour programs. 

The shows are to be recorded and links are to be available on the Thanks Mom & Dad Fund websites, by clicking here or here.

Program titles and dates are:

  • Nov. 17 — Can We Talk?, about long-term care plans, presented by Anresa Davis, R.N. Senior Residency Counselor, Park Springs
  • Dec. 1 — Medicare:  What You Need To Know, presented by Christine Williams, Team Lead, GeorgiaCares State Health Insurance Assistance Program
  • Dec. 8 — Social Security:  What You May Not Know, presented by Cindy Husson Lundquist, CEO, Cindy Lundquist & Associates
  • Dec. 15 — Aging 101 — Where to Find Help and Answers, presented by Cara Pellino, Access to Services Manager, Atlanta Regional Commission
  • Jan. 12, 2022 — 10 Tough Questions (About Estate Planning), presented by Paul Black, Estate & Elder Law Attorney, Law Office of Paul Black
  • Jan. 19, 2022 — 2022 Changes in Medicare & Medicare Advantage, presented by Christine Williams Team Lead, GeorgiaCares State Health Insurance Assistance Program

David Pendered

Craig Menear chatting with Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms in 2017. (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Home Depot Foundation grants to veterans surpasses $400 million

The Home Depot Foundation is well on its way to fulfilling its commitment to donate $500 million to veterans by 2025.

The Foundation recently announced that it has surpassed $400 million in donations to veteran causes, mostly focusing on affordable housing initiatives for veterans.

“The Home Depot and The Home Depot Foundation want every veteran to have access to safe, affordable housing that fits their individual needs,” said Craig Menear, chairman and CEO of the Home Depot, in a statement. “We strive to help veterans live independently by conducting critical home repairs, providing mortgage-free smart homes and helping to end veteran homelessness with our nonprofit partners.”

Since 2010, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has decreased by nearly half, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Thirteen cities have ended veteran homelessness. However, more than 37,000 veterans are facing homelessness on any given night, and nearly 3 million live in inadequate housing, according to the latest estimates by the Housing Assistance Council.

For the past decade, the Foundation has focused on ending veteran homelessness, improving veteran housing through critical home repairs; and building accessible smart homes for catastrophically combat- wounded veterans. The $400 million invested to date has helped the Foundation and its national nonprofit partners build, renovate and enhance more than 50,000 veteran homes and facilities and provide critical assistance to veterans and their families in need.

This year, the Foundation recognized 10 years of partnership and impact on veteran issues with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Volunteers of America, Operation Homefront, Semper Fi & America’s Fund and U.S.VETS, among others.

“Since 2011, we’ve worked with some of the nation’s leading veteran’s service organizations to effect positive change for veterans, many of whom are facing homelessness, housing insecurity or housing that hinders their movement or ability to live independently due to service-connected injuries,” said Shannon Gerber, executive director of the Home Depot Foundation. “We’re proud to serve alongside our partners who work tirelessly to support veterans. We know there is so much more work to be done, and we are honored to continue serving alongside these incredible organizations.”

Maria Saporta

Hannah E. Jones

Hannah Jones is an Atlanta native and Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for two newspapers. Hannah managed the Arts and Living section of The Signal, Georgia State’s independent award-winning newspaper. She has a passion for environmental issues, urban life and telling a good story. Hannah can be reached at hannah@saportareport.com.


1 Comment

  1. Dana Blankenhorn November 19, 2021 10:26 am

    As the electrification of transportation continues some hard questions will be asked around the Atlanta Beltline which you should cover.

    The most important is one of speed limits. Electric bikes can get up to 20 mph. Pedestrians walk at 2-3 mph. Accidents are going to happen. A speed limit of 10 mph would be fast enough for most pedal bikes and could be monitored.

    We’re used to thinking of highways, roads, paved trails and unpaved trails as being different things with different uses. Everything moving on all these types of thoroughfare will be electric in a few years, and we need to think about how we integrate that thinking into our transportation planning.Report


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