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Reporter’s Notebook: BeltLine seeks construction bids for Southside Trail, MARTA to provide update on Streetcar extension, Buckhead and Midtown organizations open community surveys

The week in local news.

This week in 1905, Alonzo Herndon, a former slave, started the company which would eventually make him Atlanta’s first Black millionaire — the highly successful Atlanta Life Insurance Company. The company had 23 offices in Georgia.

Despite being born into a cruel and unjust system, Herdon eventually had great success. He also owned several high-end barber shops in the city and over 100 homes — a testament to his keen eye for business and his entrepreneurial spirit.

On to other local news from the week:

The Southside Trail. (Map courtesy of Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.)

Atlanta BeltLine Inc. seeks construction bids for Southside Trail segments

Construction may start soon on two segments of the Atlanta BeltLine’s Southside Trail between Glenwood Avenue and Boulevard.

Atlanta BeltLine Inc. (ABI), the organization in charge of planning and constructing the 22-mile loop of multi-use trails and public transit around the city, announced the publication of an invitation to bid on Sept. 8. Construction could begin “in the next several months” and take two years, ABI said in a press release. The work will include rebuilding a bridge over United Avenue.

The Southside Trail corridor curves between Memorial Drive in Reynoldstown and University Avenue in the Adair Park/Pittsburgh area. The trail opened in 2019 in a preliminary, unpaved condition. In the past year, two segments have been paved — between Memorial and Glenwood and between University and Pittsburgh Yards. 

For planning purposes, the trail project is broken into smaller segments, of which the parts out for bids are Segments 4 and 5. 

ABI says Segments 2 and 3, between Pittsburgh Yards and Boulevard, are expected to go out for bids a year from now. 

Segment 6 is the existing trail along Bill Kennedy Way between Glenwood and Memorial, which has drawn concerns for safety issues with traffic barriers and other problems. ABI said that this fall it will solicit an engineering design team for “a permanent trail solution” that will include a separate trail bridge over I-20. 

— John Ruch

The Atlanta Streetcar in 2015, its first full year of operation. File/Credit: walkableapp.com

MARTA to update public on Streetcar East Extension project

Next week, MARTA, in partnership with the City of Atlanta and Atlanta BeltLine, Inc., is hosting two public meetings to provide updates on the Streetcar East Extension project. Once finished, the Streetcar would run between Edgewood Avenue to the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Corridor just south of Ponce de Leon Avenue.

In May, MARTA officials announced that the expansion on an eastern segment of the Beltline could be open by 2027.

The in-person meeting will be held at Dad’s Garage on Monday, Sept. 12 at 6 p.m., with the online meeting offered at the same time on Tuesday, Sept. 13.

— Hannah E. Jones

(L to R) CHGA CEO Alieizoria Redd, Congresswoman Nikema Williams and Asia Morman. (Photo courtesy of CHGA.)

Federal funds granted to Covenant House Georgia for its young families services

Last week, Congresswoman Nikema Williams — serving Georgia’s fifth congressional district — announced a $191,000 federal investment in Covenant House Georgia (CHGA) to fund the mental health and comprehensive services for young families in its Transitional Living Program.

Covenant House International spans six countries and 34 cities, with CHGA providing food, shelter, counseling, education and vocational training to homeless, runaway and trafficked youth since 2000.

CHGA’s Transitional Living Program offers off-site housing for 18 months to those who are pregnant or parenting at ages 18 to 21. The program gives young parents the space and support to stabilize their mental health and strengthen their parenting capabilities. They also have access to CHGA’s other services like mental and physical health care, workforce training and life skills development. 

“I know what it means to live on the margins of society,” Congresswoman Nikema Williams said in a press release. “I grew up in a house in rural Alabama with no indoor plumbing and running water. I know what it means to have a roof over your head and a safe place to live. Because I benefited from people looking out for me, I have an obligation to fund programs that give back to the community. That’s why I secured this Community Project Funding Request for Covenant House Georgia. This money will support youth who are still trying to find their place in our community and gives them a fighting chance and the opportunities in life that everyone deserves.”

— Hannah E. Jones

Buckhead and Midtown organizations open community surveys

Organizations in Buckhead and Midtown are conducting community surveys for input on a variety of neighborhood issues.

The 2022 “State of Buckhead” biannual survey by the nonprofit Livable Buckhead is open through Sept. 25. It seeks input on such issues as parks, transit, crime and the controversial Buckhead cityhood movement.

The 2022 “Midtown Community Survey” by the Midtown Improvement District is seeking responses by Sept. 21. It’s a follow-up to a 2019 survey.

Both organizations use these surveys to help determine programming and policy suggestions. And both are offering rewards for participating. Buckhead respondents have a chance to win a $50 gift card, while Midtown respondents have a chance for a limited-edition T-shirt. 

— John Ruch

Lendmark pledges to raise $10 million for CURE Childhood Cancer by 2025

Lendmark Financial Services — provider of household credit and consumer loan solutions — aims to raise a total of $10 million by 2025 to support research by CURE Childhood Cancer, an Atlanta-based nonprofit. The campaign will mark the company’s 10-year partnership anniversary with CURE. 

Since 2016, Lenmark has become CURE’s largest donor, hosting an annual Climb to Cure fundraising and awareness campaign that’s generated $4.73 million to date.

​​According to CURE, childhood cancers differ from adults and the research rarely includes children. In response, CURE dedicates over $4.7 million annually to support research projects aimed at curing cancers affecting youth. 

“We are extremely grateful to Lendmark’s ongoing commitment to CURE through their extraordinary giving and fundraising. In just seven years, they’ve raised $4.73 million, ensuring that critical research for children with cancer advances,” CURE CEO Kristin Connor said. “We truly appreciate each and every employee, partner and customer who personally gives and champions the effort, as we earmark every dollar raised by Lendmark towards CURE’s precision medicine initiative. Precision medicine offers one of the best available opportunities to save children’s lives and advance the fight against pediatric cancer.” 

— Hannah E. Jones

Jehovah’s Witnesses resume door-knocking ministry after pandemic pause

Jehovah’s Witnesses are once again knocking on doors in metro Atlanta and around the country after a two-and-a-half-year pandemic pause. 

The Christian denomination had one of the most intense shutdowns among religious organizations, citing the sanctity of life and the Biblical prescription to love your neighbor as reasons to avoid any risk of spreading COVID. They shuttered their places of worship, called Kingdom Halls, in March 2020 and kept them closed until April of this year. 

Also paused was the “public ministry,” or door-knocking evangelism by members, that the faith is probably best known for among outsiders. It was replaced with letter-writing and phone calls. 

“We believe that the early decision to shut down all in-person activities for more than two years has saved many lives,” said Robert Hendriks, a spokesperson for the denomination’s New York-based U.S. headquarters, in a press release. “We’re now ready and eager to reconnect with our neighbors once again – person to person, face to face. It’s not the only way that we preach, but it has historically been the most effective way to deliver our message of comfort and hope.”

The door-knocking resumed on Sept. 1, according to the release.

— John Ruch

Jeff Smythe

Jeff Smythe

Former HOPE Atlanta CEO named ARCHI Executive Director

The Atlanta Regional Collaborative for Health Improvement (ARCHI) — a coalition of public, private and nonprofit organizations committed to improving the region’s health — recently announced its new executive director, Jeffrey M. Smythe. He assumed the new role on Sept. 1, following Kathryn Lawler who left ARCHI to join St. Joseph’s Health System/Mercy Care as CEO.

With nearly 30 years of nonprofit experience, Smythe most recently served as CEO at HOPE Atlanta, an organization that provides a holistic, individualized approach to encourage self-sufficiency and lifelong stability in the fight against homelessness. Throughout his career, Smythe has worked with nonprofits focused on housing and hunger relief, aging and chronic disease management, HIV prevention and support, refugee and foster family support and youth development.

“One of the hallmarks of Jeff’s leadership has been stakeholder feedback and engagement processes,” ARCHI Interim Executive Director Meredith Swartz said. “Whether for strategic planning, diversity equity and inclusion plans or feasibility studies, Jeff has seen the power of engaging stakeholders in planning and ensuring those with lived experience have a central voice, a perfect fit for what we are trying to do here at ARCHI.” 

— 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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