The year 2019 brought about plenty of plans for north Fulton County, including new mixed-use developments and new school facilities. The year also proved large-scale social issues hit close to home with anti-Semitism appearing in headlines alongside teenagers working to change the world. Here are some of the top stories the North Fulton Neighbor covered throughout the year.
Over the summer, Roswell’s city council voted to establish 38 more paid parking spots in its downtown district, along Canton Street and on Elizabeth Way.
Some residents, such as those in the “Roswell Parking NOW” Facebook group, have been hopeful that Roswell will build a parking deck to encourage more people to shop and visit restaurants in the downtown area. But the city says the implementation of paid parking will discourage long-term parking and is expected to encourage turnover of the on-street parking close to the restaurants and shops.
Starting Jan. 2 several on-street parking spaces on Elizabeth Way and along a portion of Canton Street will be converted to paid parking spaces.
Southern Skillet becomes Southern Post
In January, Roswell Downtown Development Authority selected S.J. Collins Enterprises to redevelop the Southern Skillet Plaza site, after an agreement of a site plan could not be met with the first developer chosen — the Beecham Group.
In March, S.J. Collins Enterprises partnered with Roswell design firm Linen & Flax Home and the project was officially renamed Southern Post — “a way to pay homage to Roswell’s historical charm and the notion that the new development will be a part of the community where people can gather together.”
On April 8, Roswell city council approved a new site plan for the mixed-use center, and in November, the land purchase was official.
Also in November, plans were announced for a five-story boutique hotel called the Hotel at Southern Post, which will have valet parking, 900 feet of meeting space, a fitness room and a full-kitchen restaurant.
Southern Post will offer 40,000 square feet of retail space, 90,000 square feet of loft style, open-concept office space, 128 luxury apartments and an exclusive offering of 10 high-end townhomes with garages.
Once considered a hometown favorite for country cooking, the Southern Skillet closed in January 2011. In 2016, the Roswell Downtown Development Authority began managing the city-owned property and looking for a developer.
No place for hate
In early February, a parent discovered swastikas spray painted on multiple areas of Centennial High School’s exterior. In a letter to parents, Principal Anthony Newbold said he was “especially disgusted that this perpetrator, or group of perpetrators, painted a swastika, a historic and extreme emblem of hatred, on our school.”
The hate symbols were cleaned up by early afternoon the same day. The school worked with Roswell Police Department and the Fulton County Schools Police Department to find those responsible, but no perpetrator was ever announced.
A few weeks prior to the vandalism at Centennial, a small message stating “KKK rules” was found at North Springs High School.
On Feb. 10, in response to the anti-Semitic acts of vandalism, Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism held a Town Hall at Temple Emanuel in Sandy Springs. Educators, school administrators, legislators and rabbis were among those in attendance. The town hall addressed concerns expressed by the audience, such as how acts of anti-Semitism and hate are being responded to by schools and law enforcement and what students and parents should do if their families are victims of anti-Semitism.
In November, Centennial High School partnered with The Daffodil Project to bring a Holocaust survivor to speak to students, who later planted daffodils in memory of 1.5 million children who perished in the Holocaust and for children suffering in humanitarian crises globally.
The kids are all right
The past year showed us teenagers are continuing to get more involved with societal issues and activism. North Fulton students were no exception.
In May, Alpharetta High School’s Cristina Neville won the Fulton County School System’s anti-vaping student video PSA contest, the goal of which was to educate students and the community about “the dangers and risks associated with vaping/e-cigarette use and therefore prevent students from engaging in vaping.”
Neville’s video addressed common myths surrounding vaping and explains real side effects of the vice.
In June, Centennial High School student Ethan Asher was a recipient of the 2019 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam Awards, an award that recognizes teens for their commitment to social good and volunteer service, for his work with March For Our Lives.
Asher has been making strides in the fight for common sense gun legislation through his work with March for Our Lives Georgia — a chapter he helped found after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people died. Now the executive director of the chapter, Asher and other students his age worked to organize Atlanta’s MFOL protest on March 24, 2018, which about 70,000 people attended.
“I’m not marching door to door to take your guns away,” Asher told The Neighbor. “I don’t want to...if you’re a law abiding citizen, the second amendment says you have the right to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia. It is so important to have a modern interpretation of that and to look and say there are concrete things we can do to increase safety.”
In December, a group of Milton High School students, led by sophomore Aanika Eragam, addressed the Fulton County School Board at a workshop meeting with a resolution to increase menstrual product provisions in current school funding plans.
The resolution, which was written for youth by youth, aims to place period poverty on the agenda and close the gaps between student needs and current FCS menstrual provisions, while affirming the importance of youth as stakeholders in the educational community.
Harshita Challa, Shreeya Movva, Sarayu Ayyalasomayajula and Ishitha Vallurupalli were also involved in the presentation.
Eragam said the idea was born after she joined the Homegirl Project, a youth lead organization dedicated to getting girls of color involved with politics. The nationwide organization has student leaders all over the country.
In December, Alpharetta announced it will stop funding the annual Old Soldiers Day Parade, which has been a tradition in the city since it began in 1952.
The decision to stop using taxpayer dollars to pay for the parade was largely due to controversy surrounding the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the confederate flag.
In 2017, the city asked the Sons of Confederate Veterans to not fly the confederate flag but according to city spokesman James Drinkard, they flew it anyway.
During this August’s parade, the Roswell Mills Camp 1547 Sons of Confederate Veterans were told they could march without the confederate flag, but they declined the offer. Several parade goers brought confederate flags to fly from the sidelines anyway.
As a result of not being allowed to carry the flag, the Sons of Confederate Veterans filed a lawsuit against the city of Alpharetta, saying the city was denying them their first amendment rights.
Alpharetta Mayor Jim Gilvin said he hopes private organizations will continue to host the parade in the future.
In the loop
In June, Vertical Earth Inc. construction won the bid to complete the Thompson Street Gap portion of Alpharetta’s Beltline-esque Alpha Loop.
This portion of the Alpha Loop Phase 1 project will serve as a connection between the existing trail from Haynes Bridge Road and Thompson Street.
A crosswalk will also be built connecting the gap, and will have light-up sensors to alert oncoming drivers of pedestrians walking across the crosswalk.
To ensure timely completion of the project, the city of Alpharetta will be authorizing eminent domain on the properties on Thompson Street in order to fill the Thompson Street gap in the Alpha Loop. Once a contract with Vertical Earth Inc. has been established, construction will begin and is projected to be completed in no more than 120 days. The Alpha Loop will link areas like the Avalon, Downtown Alpharetta, State Route 400 and the Northwinds area, with 12 to 16 feet wide pedestrian and bicycle paths.
In May, the city was awarded a $150,000 grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission to develop a concept study to connect the Alpha Loop Trail to the Big Creek Greenway with linkages to the planned North Point bus rapid transit station.
New school rules
In November, Fulton County Schools broke ground on the site of the new Crabapple Middle School. Set to open in August 2021, the replacement school is under construction on Woodstock Road, about two miles from the current school’s location.
The school was designed by the architectural firm of Stevens and Wilkinson and is being built by Evergreen Construction. The 189,760 square foot school will sit on nearly 30 acres of land.
The design includes multiple areas for small groups to collaborate and work. A tiered amphitheater space, 12 science labs, a construction lab and two art labs will also provide students with ample room for tactile learning.
That same month, the school system hosted a groundbreaking for Innovation Academy, its north Fulton STEM school on Milton Avenue in Alpharetta, which is also set to open August 2021.
At three stories and 245,000 square feet, Innovation Academy will be designed to accommodate 1,500 students with expansion for up to 1,800 students. Students will study high-tech, high-demand, college- and career-focused courses that incorporate design thinking with an integrated curriculum.
In June, Roswell approved the East Village project, which will be built at the site of the East Roswell SuperTarget that has been closed since 2017.
The site at 2640 Holcomb Bridge Road will become a multi-use development with residential and commercial aspects. The plan includes 75,000 square feet of commercial, 76 new town homes and 350 new apartments throughout five buildings.
The approval was not unanimous, however, with councilmen Mike Palermo and Marcelo Zapata voting to deny the motion. Zapata said over 200 residents had emailed him asking him not to vote for the project.
In May, Mike Looney was officially named Fulton County Schools’ new superintendent, replacing Cindy Loe, who had been serving as the district’s interim superintendent since January. She replaced Jeff Rose, who resigned at the end of 2018.
Looney had previously served as superintendent of Williamson County Schools in Franklin, Tennessee, a Nashville suburb.
Looney’s base salary is $329,000 and he signed a three-year contract, which went into effect June 17, his first day on the job.
Fulton County property tax issues, including its 2017 tax digest, remained in the news the following year and again in 2019. Because the 2017 digest called for increasing property tax assessments to most property owners, some as much as 50%, it was rejected by Georgia Revenue Commissioner Lynne Riley.
In February Riley appealed a judge’s December 2018 decision to allow the digest to move forward, and in July the county and the state signed an agreement to settle that case.
The next month Fulton sent out the 2019 property tax bills, doing so with a judge’s approval so it would avoid a repeat of 2017. Earlier in August, DeKalb County Senior Magistrate Court Judge Alan Harvey Aug. 9 issued a temporary collection order to allow Fulton to send its tax bills before the Georgia Department of Revenue approves its tax digest.