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Reporter’s Notebook: Buckhead corporate giants sign onto cityhood opposition letter

A look at the skyline in Buckhead.

NEW: Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens has brokered a deal that’s expected to end years of costly legal drama between Atlanta Housing and developer Integral Group. The proposed resolution could spur the development of hundreds of affordable housing units, at a time when the city is more populous and expensive than ever.

The deal was announced at an unexpected press conference Thursday morning.

Click here to read the full story from Sean Keenan, produced in partnership with Atlanta Civic Circle.

On to other local news from the week:

Buckhead corporate giants sign onto cityhood opposition letter

A bevy of Buckhead’s corporate giants have signed onto a letter to state lawmakers calling for them to table cityhood legislation – or at least leave the “commercial district” out of the new city.

The Feb. 1 letter was signed by 31 companies and businesses. Most were prominent real estate firms, such as Jamestown, Cousins Properties and the Loudermilk Companies. The Grand Hyatt and JW Marriott hotels signed on as well, as did the startup hub Atlanta Tech Village.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the letter as major new corporate opposition to cityhood, but it isn’t. Most of the businesses are members of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, a self-taxing group of commercial property owners, and/or have executives who are members of the exclusive nonprofit the Buckhead Coalition. Both groups opposed the cityhood movement from its start last year.

However, as a strategic repacking and roll-call vote of opposition, the letter may be an effective tactic on lawmakers who don’t pay attention to such local intricacies and are swayed by good-for-business arguments. It’s also a way for cityhood opponents to retort to cityhood proponents’ claims that businesses are fleeing Buckhead due to crime.

Buckhead has several commercial districts; the one cited in the letter appears to be referring to the CID’s domain around Lenox Square mall. Many of the signatories also operate in the Upper Westside Improvement District, another CID that extends into Buckhead and also opposes cityhood.

Not every business involved in the CID or Coalition signed the letter. That includes Simon Properties, the operator of Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, which has a seat on the CID board.

– John Ruch

“We are all dependent on agriculture, and the closer we can be to our food and those who grow it, the healthier we will be,” said Amanda Musilli, City of Alpharetta community services manager. (Photo by Nathan Dumlao, Unsplash)

Alpharetta selected to create City Agriculture Plan

With the help of the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) and Food Well Alliance, the City of Alpharetta will craft a City Agriculture Plan

The ARC will help develop a plan to create sustainable food systems in Alpharetta, and the Food Well Alliance will help implement the plan — pledging $75,000 in funding to help bring it to fruition.  

In early spring, the city will seek input from residents to help craft a food and agriculture plan that serves everyone.

“This plan will help our growing city tap into and build on its agricultural roots. We are all dependent on agriculture, and the closer we can be to our food and those who grow it, the healthier we will be.” said City of Alpharetta Community Services Manager, Amanda Musilli.

The program was first implemented in the City of East Point in 2019.

– Hannah E. Jones

The Peachtree Shared Space project cut the car lanes in half, replacing the lanes with planters and temporary outdoor seating. (Photo by MARTA Explorers)

Peachtree Shared Space among many projects that could see ARC funding

Atlanta’s Peachtree Street “Shared Space” pilot program is among 17 projects aimed at improving alternative transportation around the metro area that could get $10.7 million in further funding from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

The funding comes from grants in the ARC’s Livable Centers Initiative program. The funding boost is proposed as part of the ARC’s Transportation Improvement Program update, which is taking public comments through Feb. 11. In addition, a virtual public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 9.

The Peachtree Shared Space project, implemented last year, increased pedestrian and cyclist access on three blocks of the street in Downtown between Ellis and Baker streets. Striping, planters and other devices were used. The ARC is proposing another $1.2 million in funding for the pilot, which could expand to more of the street.

Many of the other projects are multi-use trails, on a list that includes efforts in the counties of Barrow, Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett and Newton.

For a full list of projects and details on submitting comments, see the ARC website.

John Ruch

Spelman professor discusses diversity in STEM at TEDxMorehouseCollege

Last month, associate professor and vice-chair of the Department  Dr. Tiffany Oliver of Biology at Spelman College was a featured speaker at TEDxMorehouseCollege. 

During her presentation, Oliver provided steps on how to increase diversity, inclusion and equity in the growing field of data science. 

Oliver’s federally funded research lab studies the role of how near-infrared light inhibits cell death affiliated wound healing. As a scientist and mentor, her passion resided in mentoring and training minority students in STEM by studying and evaluating the best practices for women of color interested in pursuing careers in science and medicine. 

She has received several distinguished honors related to laudable STEM mentorship geared towards “increasing diversity and inclusion in a changing research landscape.”

Oliver hopes to change the narrative around women of color in STEM by increasing their opportunities in STEM in academia and beyond.

Check out Oliver’s presentation.

– Allison Joyner

Jennifer Ide (left. Photo by Kelly Jordan) Mandy Mahoney (Photo by RAP)

Ide, Mahoney take positions with environmental organizations

Two separate environmental organizations have brought on board two women with ties or aspirations to Atlanta City Hall: Jennifer Ide and Mandy Mahoney.

Ide, a one-term councilmember, did not seek reelection last year to the Atlanta City Council. Ide has joined the board that oversees South Fork Conservancy

Ide joined three other newly installed board members at the entity that’s preserving the banks of the South Fork of Peachtree Creek and building more than 30 miles of trails, including a new bridge. The other new members are Mary Leight, Patrick Dean, Jennifer Ide and Dave Butler.

Mahoney lost a runoff election in 2021 to serve District 5 on the City Council. Mahoney has joined the Regulatory Assistance Project as principal and U.S. program director. RAP is a non-partisan NGO that describes its works as promoting the transition to a clean energy future. 

Before running for council, Mahoney served a decade as president of the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance. Before that, Mahoney served as Atlanta’s inaugural sustainability director during two mayoral administrations.

– David Pendered

One piece of the 12-mile-long outdoor art exhibition. (Photo courtesy of the Atlanta BeltLine)

Art on the BeltLine receives $50,000 to support the 12-mile-long exhibit

Art on the Atlanta BeltLine is the largest outdoor, temporary art exhibition in the south — stretching along 12 miles and 20 communities that the BeltLine touches. 

The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership recently received $50,000 to support the sprawling exhibit, with $40,000 from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs and a $10,000 award from the National Endowment for the Arts. 

“Now in its twelfth year, Art on the Atlanta BeltLine is an integral part of the city’s arts and culture ecosystem,” said Clyde Higgs, President and CEO of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., wrote in a press release. “We are grateful for the funding and recognition at both the federal and local level to continue to support artists, produce publicly-accessible art, and contribute to the arts economy.”

The outdoor gallery can be found along the BeltLine, with local and international artists’ work in sculptures, murals and photography. 

— Hannah E. Jones

SCAD Students, Alumni achieve record-breaking wins at International Design Awards

Last month, the Savannah College of Art Design (SCAD) students and alumni won multiple awards at the International Design Awards (IDA). Each year, IDA celebrates visionaries of design and emerging talent from around the world in architecture, interior, fashion, product and graphic design.  

IDA celebrates intelligent and sustainable multidisciplinary designs started by a collective of international designers, thinkers, and entrepreneurs. The SCAD students and alumni won 117 awards, the most wins for any university. 

Three students also received high honors at IDA. The “Emerging Designers of the Year” awards were given to Mateo Mantilla in architecture, Crystal Martin in interior design and Nora Bukhari in graphic design. 

— Allison Joyner

Georgia State receives $3.9 million to boost cybersecurity workforce

Georgia State University (GSU) can now offer students full scholarships and stipends to students studying issues related to cybersecurity and artificial intelligence (AI), courtesy of the National Science Foundation (NSF). 

GSU has joined 82 universities in NSF’s CyberCorps Scholarship for Service program, receiving nearly $4 million to train students on cybersecurity and challenges in the age of AI. 

To qualify for scholarships or stipends, students must agree to work in cybersecurity jobs for federal, state, local or tribal governments after graduation.

“As cyber threats continue to evolve in complexity, so must our approaches to cybersecurity education and our workforce,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, director of the NSF. “The cybersecurity talent shortage remains a critical issue in the United States, with businesses and government agencies alike struggling to fill critical cybersecurity positions. These new CyberCorps Scholarship for Service projects engage diverse student populations and provide innovative and high-quality educational experiences that will ensure our nation is prepared to meet future cyberthreats with a well-trained workforce.”

In 2020, the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security named GSU a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Research.

— Hannah E. Jones

Lisa Cook. (Photo from broad.msu.edu.)

Federal Reserve: Spelman grad faces nomination hearing to board Thursday

Spelman College graduate Lisa Cook is slated to go before the Senate Banking Committee Thursday to be considered as a member of the board that oversees the Federal Reserve. Cook would be the first Black woman to serve on board.

The nomination hearing for Cook and two other candidates is to be streamed through this page on the committee’s website. Cook has submitted written testimony that’s available here.

President Biden nominated Cook to a 14-year term on the governing body of the nation’s central bank. Cook grew up in Milledgeville and went on to shape her views on economics and human potential at academic institutions in the Deep South, England, Senegal and California, according to her bio. She served in the Obama administration and since 2005 has been on faculty at Michigan State University.

Committee Chairman Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) supported Cook’s nomination in a statement issued Jan. 14. Referring to Cook and two other nominees to be considered Thursday:

“They will also bring important perspectives to the Federal Reserve Board about the economic issues women, Black and brown workers, and rural and industrial communities across the country face. I urge my colleagues to support these nominees and look forward to their hearings before the Banking and Housing Committee.”

— David Pendered

AWF’s Inspire Atlanta class of 2022. (Photo by Greg Mooney)

Atlanta Women’s Foundation launches fifth class

The Atlanta Women’s Foundation (AWF) announces its 2022 class of Inspire Atlanta, its community impact program and fundraising campaign.

The five-month program focuses on personal, professional and philanthropic growth. Participants learn about issues impacting their neighbors and are taught to inspire real change in their community. The 2022 class includes 26 women representing 22 companies across the metro area.

“To be launching the fifth class of Inspire Atlanta is an incredible achievement,” said Kari B. Love, AWF’s CEO. “Over the last five years, this program has developed beyond our expectations and shows how dedicated women in metro Atlanta are to achieving lasting, positive change in our community.”

So far, 143 women have graduated from the program and raised $1 million to support AWF’s grantmaking. 

— Hannah E. Jones

Credit: Decide DeKalb Development Authority

Decide DeKalb Development Authority spotlights small, medium-sized businesses

On Tuesdays and Thursdays in February, DeKalb Development Authority’s Decide DeKalb will be celebrating Black-owned businesses with its “Look at Us” campaign. 

DeKalb’s colorful tapestry of diverse businesses provides a great opportunity to identify what is most needed and build strategic approaches to help. “‘Look at Us’ celebrates those businesses who are making positive strides and continue to create jobs and wealth throughout DeKalb County,” Imani Beckles, manager of Business Retention & Expansion said.

“Look at Us” will amplify one entrepreneur in the retail, construction, beauty and veterinarian industries through its social media channels. 

“While Decide DeKalb is committed to assisting all businesses in the county, acknowledging the unwavering perseverance and determination of some of our Black entrepreneurs during Black History Month is more than appropriate,” Dorian DeBarr, President of Decide DeKalb, said.

“It is truly an honor to be acknowledged for a job well done,” said David Moody, President of C.D. Moody Construction. “Being a Black entrepreneur is even harder. However, I am a testament to what can happen when you dream big and never give up working hard and believing in your dreams.”

— Allison Joyner

Georgia Commute Options presents Changemaker awardees

Three metro Atlanta entities have been recognized for Georgia Commute Options’ annual Changemaker Award, celebrating regional employers who help enhance mobility and improve air quality. 

The 2022 awardees include the Center for Disease Control Prevention, the City of Powder Springs and Hewlett Packard Enterprise

“This experience during the pandemic has shown us that our telework program in the future can expand to more employees than I would have ever anticipated,” Powder Springs City Manager Pam Conner said. “This required us to build a good policy. And with help from Georgia Commute Options, we were able to create one that addresses not just where and when our people are working, but also their needs for equipment and safety.”

Georgia Commute Options helps metro-area employers create commuter options, including customized worksite assistance, ridematching services and incentive programs. 

— Hannah E. Jones

Alpharetta moves ahead on park funds voters approved in November

Alpharetta has received the top credit rating for bonds to finance its planned $29.5 million parks improvement program, according to a rating action issued Jan. 25 by Moody’s Investors Service. The rating is to result in low interest rates on the debt.

Moody’s analysts issued the Aaa rating, with a stable outlook, based on the city’s “strong wealth and income levels, healthy and stable financial position supported by formal fiscal policies and long-range forecasting. The rating also incorporated the city’s manageable debt and pension burdens.”

Alpharetta voters approved the park bond by a margin of 3:1, with 5,028 in favor and 1,687 opposed, according to the city’s report of election results. 

The bond provides the following sums for the following projects, according to the ballot measure: “$.7.5 million for the additional development of the Alpha Loop; $2 million for the Farmhouse Park design and build-out; $500,000 for the Mid-Broadwell Park build-out; $3 million for the Old Rucker Park design and build-out; $1 million for the Turf Webb Bridge large soccer field; $3.25 million for the Union Hill Park re-development/trailhead; $1.25 million for the Waters Road Park design and build-out; $5 million for the Wills Park Equestrian renovation build-out; $6 million for the Wills Park master plan projects; and paying the costs and expenses incident to the issuance of the bonds.”

— David Pendered

Ellen W. Smith

CREW Atlanta elects 2022 officers and board members

Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) Atlanta, an agency committed to advancing women in the industry, announces its newest officers and board members.

The new officers include President Ellen W. Smith, Past-President Greer Gallagher, President-Elect Trina Joseph and Treasurer Marcia Nally. New board members include Cristina Anderson, Rebecca Jordan and Heidi Swyger, with returning members Pam Little and Yvette Turner. Chapter Director Katie Smith remains on the board ex officio.

The executive team serves one- or two-year terms, depending on their position. 

CREW Atlanta is celebrating its 40th year and will host the 2023 CREW Network international conference for roughly 80 chapters. 

“Members from every discipline in commercial real estate come to CREW Atlanta to advance their career,” President Ellen W. Smith said in a press release. “We are making the commercial real estate industry more equitable and inclusive for all.”

Hannah E. Jones

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.


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1 Comment

  1. Nicolas Uppal February 27, 2022 2:47 pm

    “Not every business involved in the CID or Coalition signed the letter. That includes Simon Properties, the operator of Lenox Square and Phipps Plaza, which has a seat on the CID board.”

    Because theyre in on the scam.Report


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