With commercial gains and losses, expansions and elections watched by all of metro-Atlanta, Doraville captured headlines in 2019, making the city the DeKalb Neighbor’s Newsmaker of the year. Take a look back at these newsworthy events:
♦ Doraville’s Assembly, a 165-acre urban enclave within the former General Motors site, continued to see growth and expansion in 2019. In May, Serta Simmons Bedding opened their headquarters on 5 acres. According to BedTimes Magazine, the 210,00-square-foot facility in Doraville is the workplace of 500 employees and combines four former U.S. offices into one. The new location has expansive showrooms, and an onsite research and innovation lab. “We are excited to have our corporate and brand teams together in this beautiful new campus in Doraville,” said David Swift, Serta Simmons Bedding chair and chief executive officer. “We expect to reap the benefits of better collaboration and building community within Serta Simmons Bedding, and with the broader Doraville area.” Also in May, the Georgia Department of Transportation procured 5 acres of land that was slated to be part of the original Assembly campus, according to Reporter Newspapers. The land GDOT bought from the Assembly site will be used for the I-285 Top End Express Lanes project, which would add two new barrier-separated toll lanes on either side of the highway and the toll lanes interchange would also link up with the Doraville MARTA Station, according to Curbed Atlanta. While there has been a delay in the project, it is still moving forward. The agency will be holding a series of public meetings in late January.
♦ In July, Doraville was back in the spotlight for a news story that first garnered attention in 2018 as a group of residents followed through with a lawsuit challenging the city’s use of traffic tickets and other fines to generate revenue. Four plaintiffs partnered with the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit, public interest law firm, and alleged that Doraville’s revenue-reliant justice system creates an incentive to police for profit, rather than neutrally apply the law. At that time, a judge ruled that four plaintiffs (two residents and two drivers who commute through Doraville) had sufficiently alleged that the city, by budgeting for and relying on fines and fees to fund itself, violated the U.S. Constitution and that their case may proceed to discovery (an exchange of information and evidence about a claim) before heading to a trial.
♦ In September, Furkids Animal Rescue and Shelters left Doraville and DeKalb County when the nonprofit moved its headquarters to a larger campus in Cumming, Georgia. Part of the reason for the move out of Doraville was more space and including outdoor recreation and enrichment for animals housed at Furkids, stated officials. Furkids gained viral fame with their “Kitty Kommercial” which has been viewed more than 5.5 million times on YouTube.
♦ After a runoff election Dec. 3, Doraville welcomed a new mayor after voters elected Joseph Geierman, who was sworn in on Jan. 6. “I really do think the city needs to move in a different direction,” said Geierman during his election night acceptance speech. “There’s a lot of work to do going forward. I’m looking forward to serving the city of Doraville.” Geierman was able to secure about 65 percent of the 833 total votes cast to beat incumbent Donna Pittman who was first elected in 2011. Geierman, who served on Doraville’s city council, included bringing businesses and good paying jobs back to Doraville, taking a “big picture” approach to economic development and improving government transparency as his goals. Geierman is the Director of Real Estate and Facilities at the law firm Troutman Sanders. He has served on city committees and commissions including the Doraville Active Living Initiative, the Doraville Comprehensive Plan Citizen Advisory Panel, and as a member of the Planning Commission. He has lived in Doraville since 2001.
♦ In November, a Doraville landmark was added to the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s 2020 10 Places in Peril list. Originally named Sequoyah Elementary School, Cary Reynolds Elementary contributes architecturally to the mid-century Northwoods Historic District. The school is an early design of mid-century architect John Portman, whose other works include downtown Atlanta’s Hyatt Regency and Peachtree Center. Opened in 1961, the school features several of Portman’s signature stylistic motifs, including the central greenspace and light wells above the windows. The building—long slated for ESPLOST funding to tackle deferred maintenance—remains in need of significant investments to improve the performance of the building and the quality of life for its students and faculty. Advocates fear the school, without the promised interventions, will be abandoned and demolished, despite its historic significance. A recently formed community support team hopes to stave off such an outcome, seeking ways to repair and rehabilitate the building and grounds to ensure its continued use. Places in Peril is designed to raise awareness about Georgia’s significant historic, archaeological and cultural resources, including buildings, structures, districts, archaeological sites and cultural landscapes that are threatened by demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.
Everett Catts contributed to this article.