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Sean Keenan


A conversation with Stacey Abrams on voter suppression, “electability,” and those VP rumors


Most politicians, after losing a monumental election, see their personal brand fade into obscurity. Not Stacey Abrams.

Since Republican Brian Kemp narrowly defeated Georgia’s former House minority leader in the 2018 gubernatorial election, Abrams has become a national progressive hero. Seemingly overnight, the 46-year-old Kirkwood resident has built a roughly 60-person organization, backed by a 500-strong network of “Democracy Warrior” super-volunteers and student activists at 14 college campuses aimed at eliminating voter suppression—which she points to as one of the reasons she lost the most competitive governor’s race in Georgia’s recent history.

In March, Abrams created Fair Count, an organization dedicated to tallying the Peach State’s “hard-to-count” population—communities with a large number of people living on low incomes or people of color—in the Census. In August, she launched Fair Fight Georgia, a voting-rights advocacy group, which later evolved into the national Fair Fight Action. And in December, she founded the Southern Economic Advancement Project, a think tank focused on finding progressive solutions to address issues where the South ranks poorly, like healthcare, income inequality, and environmentalism.

When she’s not flying across the country to rally at events, appearing on MSNBC, or meeting with network producers about turning one of the romance novels she wrote in the 2000s into a TV show, she’s been named as a potential running mate for whoever wins the Democratic presidential nomination. As of press time, Abrams’s political future was up in the air: Another bid for the governor’s seat could be on the horizon, she says, if she’s not tapped as a VP hopeful. On top of all that, Fair Fight Action filed a federal lawsuit outlining problems with the 2018 election and alleging that Kemp, while serving as secretary of state, “grossly mismanaged” the election. (Fair Fight Action has even tagged his title with an asterisk in press releases, a subtle yet pointed jab at the governor.) A federal judge rejected the state’s request to dismiss the suit, which is ongoing.

In December, Abrams discussed with Atlanta magazine the future of voting in Georgia, Census reform, and what TV shows she binges at home.

This interview has been edited for clarity and space.

Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams

Photograph by Fernando Decillis

How has your life changed?
I am a fairly private person. I’m more recognizable than I used to be, and that means I’m privileged to be in a space where people know who I am and what I do and want to talk about it. As an introvert, that means more talking than I’m used to. But I’ve also had opportunities to pursue passions that I’ve had for a long time in a much more intentional way. I’ve always loved writing and television, and now, I get to write for television or produce for television. I think I’ve seen a greater intersection of all of my lives in a much more public way than ever before. I don’t go to the grocery store very much anymore. Really. Again, it’s not a complaint, but it’s a little hard to navigate.

Do you sometimes look back and say, “Wow. Ten years ago, this was not what I was expecting”?
Ten days ago, it wasn’t what I expected. I care about policy, and politics has been one of the most effective ways I’ve found to influence policy. I’ve been in the nonprofit sector and the for-profit sector, so I’ve tried to always be a part of solving problems. I had not anticipated the scale at which I could have a say and have a voice—particularly in the wake of not being successful at something I tried. And so, my nature is that I’m not going to stop simply because I don’t get the thing I want, because that’s been sort of the story of my life. But it has been, for me, a more intense version of that.

Sarah Beth Gehl, SEAP’s policy director, was recently quoted as saying part of the group’s mission is “to change the narrative of the South.” What is the South, in your eyes?
We believe the South, first and foremost, is a geographic region with [states with] similar traits. That certainly differs, depending on which part of the South you’re in. But there are very strong cultural and political correlations amongst most of the Southern states, and there’s also a concomitant challenge you tend to see with having, unfortunately, some of the highest metrics in some of those more challenging areas. We are not the leaders in education. We have challenges in healthcare. We are economically, typically, the most depressed region in the nation. But we also recognize that the South has been innovative and has moved on issues. Pre–community college courses started in Tennessee. Georgia did kindergarten, pre-K. We want to amplify what the South does well, but we also want to take the kernels of good ideas that may happen nationally and—we like to say—“translate them into Southern.” How do you take the conversation about environmental stewardship built into Southern farming and turn that into a broader conversation about how we combat climate change? And, at the same time, use that to address economic and environmental-justice issues, which tend to be endemic in the deep South?

Stacey Abrams
Abrams speaks with ranking member Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., before the start of a House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing on the Voting Rights Act.

Photograph by Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP

Voting rights and the Census aren’t exactly the sexiest of issues.
People want to have a say in their future. And part of our responsibility—and my responsibility as someone in public life—is to remind people of the connection between the right to vote and the policies they want to see for their daily lives. Typically, this conversation only happens during election season, and it tends to target a very specific voting population. The campaign I ran into 2018—plus my 11 years of work in the legislature—have all been focused on expanding that conversation and making it a year-round, daily conversation, not simply about who we elected as our leaders but what we demand of them in their work. I do think there is a tendency for some to relegate the conversation of voting rights to only being about a politician getting a job. My mission—and I think we’ve been successful this year—is to raise the relationship between the world we want to see and the right to vote, and the use of that right to vote.

What inspired your passion for voting rights?
I’ve been working on voting rights since I was in college. I ran voter-registration drives at Spelman. I led voter-registration and engagement work both in Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign and the 1993 mayoral race. I was a Salzburg Global Seminar fellow in Austria on civic engagement. And I was chosen as a youth speaker at the 30th anniversary of the March on Washington. This has been a long-held passion. It began with my parents, who were civil-rights activists as teenagers, helping register people to cast ballots. They instilled in me a very strong belief that the world we want to see is made real through voting. To me, the right to vote is inextricably linked to the policy issues I—we—care about. We cannot solve the issues of economic insecurity or environmental injustice or access to healthcare without exercising the right to vote. But, for me, it has always been not just the act of voting, but what voting can yield. I was a student activist in college, and that connection was always present. As [House minority] leader, I helped introduce a number of bills to strengthen voting rights, but none of them had traction in a Republican Legislature.

You have been criticized for not conceding the results of your election. Is that a possibility at this point?
That’s actually inaccurate. I have, from the 16th of November, acknowledged the legal sufficiency of the vote. That’s never been my question. What I am challenging is the infrastructure that maintains our election system. I’ve not challenged the 2018 election. What I’ve challenged is the system itself and that’s what our lawsuit looks into. The law was followed. The problem is the law, in many ways, was wrong, and we need to correct the law and correct the investment being made in our elections infrastructure in Georgia. There is something deeply illegitimate about a system that allows people to be purged, allows people to be distanced from their ability to cast a ballot simply because they don’t have a car and because the precinct closure did not take into account the economic issues facing that community. There is something absolutely wrong with a “use it or lose it” law that says, in Georgia, you lose the right to vote simply because you did not use it, and you may or may not have received a flimsy paper postcard that warns you that your right to vote was in jeopardy. The laws as they stood permitted the Secretary of State to manage his own election, permitted the Secretary of State to oversee the closure of 214 precincts, permitted the Secretary of State to strip voters of their right to vote, and allowed the Secretary of State to underresource our state elections infrastructure such that people were not fully able to exercise their right to vote.

What’s the ideal outcome for your federal lawsuit?
The ideal outcome is that Georgia be bailed back into preclearance requirement, and that we be held accountable to the highest standard of voting rights, which is what was set forth in the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and unfortunately eviscerated in the 2013 Shelby Decision [1]. But more than that, I want Georgians to have a full range of opportunity. There’ve been a number of stories about the remarkable difference in how your vote is treated depending on which part of the state you live in. We should not have 159 different democracies within Georgia [2].

If you could wave a magic wand and fix Georgia’s voting system, what would that look like?
I would restore access to all of our precincts, and I would ensure that voting-precinct closures have to go through the preclearance process that was previously required by the Department of Justice. I would ensure that absentee ballots become not only available but that the standards are uniformly applied across our state, and that people can apply for permanent status as an absentee-ballot recipient [3]. I would ensure that every community has Saturday and Sunday voting. Unfortunately, the BMD (ballot-marking device) machines have proven to be problematic [4]. We know that handmarked paper ballots are the gold standard, and I would ask that we find a better combination than the one we have currently. We know that, in Oregon and Washington state and Colorado, vote by mail has become the standard, and those states have seen their participation rates jump dramatically. In Minnesota, they have a combination, and they also have very high voter-turnout rates. I think we need to do what’s best for Georgia.

Historically, Republicans in Georgia have brought 200,000 or so more voters to the polls than Democrats in statewide elections. You were able to help close that gap to a bit over 50,000. What kept you from closing that gap entirely?
I believe a great deal of the constraint was voter suppression. Each of the issues I’m talking about separately may not amalgamate to the goal number (zero), but when you take them altogether, [voter suppression] has a dramatic effect on turnout, and it has a dramatic effect on the number of votes and voices that are heard. But the other piece of voter suppression is the psychic effect: In Quitman, women who attempted to be on the school board and followed the law were arrested, had their offices raided, and sat in jail. They had 120 felonies filed against them [5]. That has a seismic effect on how people feel about whether the right to vote is real. That has a seismic effect on how people decide to vote. As long as one person cannot fully exercise their constitutional right to vote in Georgia, then, we’ve got a problem.

The issue is making sure that we have a fair fight: The side that can actually turn out its voters wins legitimately based on simply who shows up, and not based on any barriers. Let’s be clear: These barriers don’t only affect Democrats. Dan Gasaway had to have the same Republican primary run three times [6]. For me, it’s not that Democrats will win simply because we solve these problems. We win as Georgians when we solve the problems that impede any Georgian from being able to cast a ballot and have that ballot be counted.

There’s a bit of a silver lining to some of the difficulties that Georgia’s had, in that it’s galvanizing people to get involved.
I fundamentally believe that you use every opportunity to make progress, even if that progress isn’t personal. Of course, I’m disappointed that I did not win the 2018 election. But that didn’t exempt me from my obligations to push for what I think is best for Georgia. The organizations I’ve created are grounded in that idea. I took that 10-day period between Election Day and my nonconcession day, and I thought about the work I could do: Even if I didn’t have the title of governor, what did I see as critical to the progress of Georgia, and how could I do something about it? What we want people to understand is that the right to vote should be real in Georgia, and it should not be arbitrarily or artificially removed. And that’s our mission. We are going to fight. We may not win every battle, but we will join every battle. And our mission will be to make certain that every Georgian who is legally eligible has the right to vote in our state.

Stacey Abrams
Stacey Abrams participates in a Fair Fight phone bank at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Thursday, November 21, 2019.

Bob Andres/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

A year after Kemp took office, are you optimistic or pessimistic about where we’re heading?
I’m deeply concerned about the choices he’s made. I appreciate the beginning of a real conversation about Medicaid expansion. But the decision not to pursue full Medicaid expansion and instead to promote a program that costs more and covers fewer people is deeply problematic, and it also fails to solve the critical issues facing rural Georgia. [Kemp’s proposal] did not cover nonemergency medical transport. One of the key issues for rural Georgians is they cannot get to a doctor unless there’s a crisis. They don’t do their prescriptive checkups; they don’t do the work they need to do because it’s not an emergency. And what starts out as diabetes or high blood pressure becomes ketoacidosis or a heart attack.

Those are solvable problems, and Georgia has the resources to solve them. The governor’s plan would allocate more money than is actually necessary for full expansion, but under his program, only 80,000 Georgians—as opposed to 490,000 under Medicaid expansion—would be covered. I’m deeply concerned about his decision to sign House Bill 481, which put Georgia in the position of, again, worsening our healthcare crisis, because we will now face the likelihood of doctors and medical students choosing not to come to Georgia because they could potentially face legal ramifications for practicing their duty of care. I have seen very little action on his part to address the effect of the tariffs on not only our farmers but also on our manufacturing and on our ports. And so, I would say that his allegiance to certain ideologies has undermined his willingness to actually serve Georgia.

Did Kemp’s appointment of Kelly Loeffler to succeed U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson surprise or impress you?
I believe he tapped someone he believes can self-finance, because they know this is going to be a competitive and expensive election. And I think it is a fairly facile response to the increasing losses they’re facing in the suburban communities, this belief that, simply because the candidate is a woman, that is somehow going to negate the policies that are driving suburban women into the Democratic party.

What advice would you give to candidates who are running in those competitive suburban districts like Lucy McBath, who might be viewed through the lens of how they voted on impeachment?
The impeachment is not a political question in the traditional partisanship sense. It is a question of the principles and values that we hold as Americans. What standards do we intend for the leader of our nation to meet? This is not a partisanship issue; this is a civics question, and my belief is that you should vote for impeachment if you believe that that is the right thing to do. Almost to a person, with some very notable and not surprising exceptions, that’s the way it’s being viewed by Democrats and Independents. Justin Amash, a Republican who is now an Independent, has also signaled that he’s concerned about what this looks like. I don’t think voters are going to decide who the next president is based on this process. They’re going to look at, is my life better? Are my wages healthier? Can I take care of my children? Can I make decisions about my body and myself? Those are going to be the questions: The same questions that led them to vote in ’18 are going to be the questions that move them through it in ’20. You vote your conscience, and you vote your life.

In a New York Times Magazine piece, you likened your experience—politically and professionally—to Beto O’Rourke, but you insinuated he automatically ascended to the ranks of presidential possibility in part because he’s a white male. So, what needs to be done to broaden the definition of presidential—or even just electable—among Georgians and Americans?
The framing is driven by media narrative. There is a tendency to see possibility based on what has actually been accomplished. I don’t fault Beto or his ambition at all. What I was speaking to is the tendency for us to only see leadership in something that looks like what we’ve had before. And given the fact that in America, white men have been the titular leaders for most of our history, in almost every one of our ranks, with very limited deviations, that tends to be what is seen as presidential. But the best way to change that is to elect women as president, to elect a person of color as president, and eventually to elect a woman of color as president.

What trends are you seeing among black people in Georgia, Latinx people, young voters?
There’s a great deal of interest in registering to vote. They understand how key the right to vote is. And we have seen increases in registration, but also, we’ve seen increases in participation. And that’s what’s so exciting to me. That it’s not just about a single election. One of the reasons I didn’t file a contest in the 2018 election is that the minute a politician files a contest, the election is about just that person’s title. My mission is to ensure that the state has the best voter system. What is so energizing to me as I travel the state is running into people I would never think to talk to about this, who come up to me and talk about how they are now engaged in voting rights and making sure their neighbors are registered, that their church is participating. They check their voter registration, and they tell their friends and family to do the same. That type of active engagement is what we need in Georgia, and what we need across the country.

There’s talk of you potentially being a VP running mate. What factors are you considering in that decision?
The only factor is whether someone decides they want to ask me. It’s been an odd year. My name was floated early in the process, when I was still considering what I would do next. And because of that conversation, I find myself in a very odd position of answering a question about whether I would be willing to serve in a job no one has asked me to serve in. And so my only response would be, “Yes.” If the presidential nominee asked me if I wanted to serve and help—not only support his or her election process but also help lead our nation—the answer, of course, would be, “Yes, I’d be honored to do so.” And I believe I am prepared to do so. But there’s no planning for that job.

I imagine by now you probably have an idea of who you would or would not be on the ticket with. Are you willing to be the running mate for anybody who’s in the Democratic contest right now?
I believe that we have a strong slate of candidates and yes, the nominee for the presidency on the Democratic slate would be someone I’d be honored to work with. And I trust the American people to make the best choice of who that person would be.

If you don’t go down the VP path, would you consider another run for governor, maybe in 2022? And is that something that’s more appealing than running for Senate?
Well, I see them as separate. I served in the legislature. I was effective as the legislative leader. It is not the job that I am interested in holding again. And so, for me, it’s not a question of, do I do one or the other? I will not run for the Senate. I will not run for Congress. I am not interested in a legislative role again. But I will certainly consider running for governor again. I will be open to opportunities that would allow me to continue to serve in public office, but also to use the executive skills that I’ve built over the last 20 years.

What should Georgians be paying attention to on the national stage, besides the presidential race?
Other than the election, the most salient issue that’s happening in 2020 is the 2020 Census. That is going to determine the course of our nation for the next decade and possibly the next generation. While it is a local conversation in each state, there’s a national narrative that is impacted. It’s how we deploy nearly a trillion dollars in resources. It’s how we as a nation decide that we intend to work together, because we know who we are and we know who’s here. I think we sometimes gloss over the Census because it looks like a stats report, but it really is a determination of who’s going to have access. Who’s going to have resources? Will our struggling communities continue to struggle, or will they get the resources they need? So, the Census is number two for me. I would say number three is the quiet movement that’s happening in the Trump administration to strip more than a million people of access to food stamps. We have to recognize that this is not partisan. Almost exclusively, these are families with children, working families who are doing their best to get by. Instead of allowing states to respond to the needs in their community, we have this intent to primarily harm women and children, by changing how they feed themselves. And that to me is both mean-spirited and it is antithetical to the kind of economic progress we should be making in the country.

Do you ever think that we can get to that place where the process is fair? Do you think that it’s a destination or a journey?
I think it’s a journey. We’ve had voter suppression since the inception of this nation, and the nature of power is that those who hold it will always try to constrain who can have access to it. But the notion of democracy is that we have the ideal that we will get to a place of fairness. And I believe in the ideal. My mission is to make the ideal as real as possible, and it’s not necessarily a question of, did we get there?; it’s, did we do our best to make it possible? That’s my mission.

On the rare night where you’re not traveling and speaking somewhere, where you’re not going on TV, and it’s a night when you can just chill, what do you do?
I read. I catch up on TV. I’m way behind. I need to watch this season of Rick and Morty. I need to watch Watchmen. I got to catch up on The Good Place. Actually, I think I caught up on that one. Caught up on Blackish. I love television. I love reading. I’m usually in the middle of two or three books, so it’s fun to be able to get back to, and possibly finish, them. I am reading The Rosewater Insurrection by Tade Thompson. It’s the second of a trilogy that he did. I am reading Evicted, about housing [7]. And I’m rereading a romance novel, Reckless by Elizabeth Lowell.

What’s Selena Montgomery been up to?
Selena Montgomery has been in retirement since 2010. So one of my contracts was the year I became Democratic leader. And while I’m very good at multitasking, I’d also cofounded a financial services company called NOWaccount at the same time. And between my job in the legislature and starting our financial-services company, Selena had to take an early retirement. She will make a cameo appearance at some point to write the third book in the trilogy that I forgot to finish. But other than that, she is likely going to just watch her work take on new forms, including our CBS pilot if it gets picked up [8].

[1] Shelby County vs. Holder was a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court case that undid key provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 requiring specific states, including Georgia, to seek federal approval before changing their election rules.

[2] Georgia has 159 counties, more than any other state, save for Texas, which has 254. Elections are managed by counties.

[3] Some voters choose to cast ballots by mail before Election Day. Many take this route because they live abroad, but some prefer the ease of access. Permanent absentee-ballot recipients automatically receive a ballot before all elections.

[4] Georgia’s new elections hardware, which cost the state more than $100 million, has been criticized as vulnerable to hacking and malfunction.

[5] In late 2010, then Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office ordered the arrest of 10 black people—some who had just won elections for local office—on allegations of voter fraud. After a four-year investigation, not one was found guilty of a crime.

[6] In 2019, a Superior Court judge, claiming illegal votes had been cast, tossed out the results of two separate Republican primary elections between Dan Gasaway and Chris Erwin for a seat in the Georgia House of Representatives. Erwin was declared the winner after the third election.

[7] Written by American sociologist Matthew Desmond, Evicted discusses housing through the lens of the true stories of eight families in Milwaukee.

[8] In college, Abrams created a spreadsheet to chart out her life and career goals. On the list was to publish spy novels. In 2009, under the pen name Selena Montgomery, she published her eighth romantic-suspense novel. She still uses the spreadsheet.

This article appears in our February 2020 issue.

Is Atlantic Station nearly done growing? “Not even close.”

Atlantic Station Atlantic Green Rendering
An updated rendering of the new Atlantic Green area under construction at Atlantic Station.

Rendering courtesy of Hines

The industrial workers of yesteryear would never be able to recognize the site where they once milled metal for the old Atlantic Steel Company. In fact, even a century after the Atlantic Steel mill first opened, many of the early patrons of what’s now known as Atlantic Station might have trouble distinguishing the mixed-use mini-city of the early- and mid-2000s from the one we have today.

And Atlantic Station is far from done evolving. So says Nick Garzia, director of retail leasing for the Southeast for Hines, the real estate investment firm that purchased Atlantic Station’s retail core in 2015.

Construction activity abounds at the Midtown development, promising a reimagined landscape that, developers hope, will better cater to its residents and visitors alike. The centerpiece is an overhaul of Atlantic Station’s Central Park, which is now wrapped in construction fencing while crews replace former restaurant buildings with new ones and expand the community’s focal green space nearly two-fold.

Atlantic Station Atlantic Green RenderingCentral Park’s successor, which is to be renamed “Atlantic Green,” is poised to open in April, Garzia says, noting that the updated design is expected to make the park more “human-scaled” or “demassified.” The two restaurant buildings that originally flanked the park just felt imposing, he says. “When you would drive in off of 17th Street up District Avenue, you’d be looking at the backside of Rosa Mexicano. That’s not really the welcome mat you want to offer to the world.”

Essentially, once construction wraps, expect a space that breathes easier, where folks can see practically from the busy 17th Street corridor to the Regal Cinemas. The greenspace is also expected to feature three new food options, including a HOBNOB Neighborhood Tavern and two other to-be-announced businesses. “They’re well-known local names here in Atlanta,” Garzia teases.

Atlantic Station Atlantic Green Rendering
New fountains expected at Atlantic Green

Rendering courtesy of Hines

Atlantic Green is also going to have a new, $1 million-plus water fountain that Garzia said will be one of “the signature elements” of the park. “It can steam; it can bubble; it can shoot jets of water. It’s really cool.” Plus, he says, it can be turned off and topped with a stage for concerts. A new LED video board is projected to adorn the back of one of the new restaurant buildings, giving Atlantic Station new advertising space and a place to hold movie screenings or watch parties for sporting events.

Atlantic Station Atlantic Green Rendering
A new screen will be used for advertising and events.

Rendering courtesy of Hines

Atlantic Station Atlantic Green RenderingAlso on the entertainment front, the Regal Cinemas is undergoing a potentially $13 million renovation that aims to make the theater a bit more of a pinky-up-type establishment. Expect three of its auditoriums to be converted to VIP cinemas—think call-ahead seating, big lounge chairs, the works—and the ticket booth to be upgraded to a high-end concierge. “It’s really designed to get people away from Netflix, and get them out and start socializing with human beings again,” says Garzia.

Another auditorium will offer what’s called a 4DX experience: Imagine seats that shake during car crash scenes, artificial wind during an on-screen hurricane, and the smell of roses pumped into the theater as a character strolls into a garden.

Atlantic Station Bowlero
Inside Bowlero

Rendering courtesy of Hines

Near the cinema, at the corner of 19th and Market streets, an AMF bowling and gastropub concept called Bowlero is under construction, primed for a late spring debut.

There’s also a smattering of retail and restaurant news coming out of Atlantic Station—a two-floor, 21,000-square-foot Forever 21 opened in December, for example—but the most visible changes lately have been the massive office developments and hotel construction.

The 230,000-square-foot T3 West Midtown office stack—one of the first around to utilize timber-frame construction methods—finished construction recently, and Hines officials say “leasing activity has remained strong” since they inked their first, 7,000-square-foot agreement with Interior Architects. Even Facebook has inquired at T3, although Hines reps did not address questions about the social media giant’s prospects. “We expect several big tenants to be announced at T3 soon,” officials said in an emailed statement.

Atlantic Station Atlantic Yards
A rendering of Atlantic Yards

Rendering courtesy of Hines

Then there’s the Atlantic Yards office complex, which broke ground last April and will overlook the Downtown Connector from 17th Street. With the help of construction partners New South Construction, Hines hopes to deliver the 500,000-square-foot development later this year, boasting green-topped rooftop decks, balconies and more. The two-tower project is set to top out this spring.

Atlantic Station Atlantic Yards
The Atlantic Yards rooftop

Rendering courtesy of Hines

And, as if all that wasn’t enough growth for Atlantic Station, the development is on track to boost its offering of hotel rooms from 120 to more than 500 over the next couple years. On the south side of 17th Street, an Embassy Suites is coming out of the ground, shooting for an early 2021 opening. And on 17th ½ Street, a dual-branded hotel—part Springhill Suites by Marriott, part Hilton Tapestry—set to kick off construction in April or May, and is looking at a late 2021 debut.

Last, but not least, at the corner of 19th and Market streets, where Atlantic Station has traditionally set up an ice rink, multifamily developer AMLI is planning to build a 371-unit rental building that promises 25,000 square feet of retail space fronting Market Street. It’s projected to start construction this spring and be tenant-ready by late 2021.

Atlantic Station Atlantic Green Rendering
Bird’s-eye view

Rendering courtesy of Hines

Asked if Atlantic Station is almost done growing, Garzia says, “Not even close.” There are still acres of undeveloped land at two parcels on the property. “Per the existing zoning, we can build approximately 2 million square feet on each of those sites.”

Obama in Atlanta: Addressing income inequality is crucial to environmental sustainability efforts

Former President Barack Obama speaks at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta
Former President Barack Obama speaks at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta

Photograph by Oscar & Associates

Sitting cross-legged, sans tie, and flanked by a few biodegradable cups of coffee, former President Barack Obama seemed relaxed on stage in downtown Atlanta Wednesday morning. At the Georgia World Congress Center, the 44th commander-in-chief waxed eloquent on efforts in America and abroad to address mankind’s mounting environmental crises—namely, climate change. And—as Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, testified before members of Congress as part of a presidential impeachment inquiry—Obama took subtle jabs at his successor, Donald Trump.

During the Greenbuild Expo, an international conference spotlighting the merits of environmentally sustainable construction, Obama, Wednesday’s keynote speaker, quipped that he “had the luxury as president to not have jerks around,” and said he’s proud that “we had really smart people working for us.” And, of course, in keeping with the theme of Greenbuild, which the former president was asked to speak at thanks in part to his administration’s work with the Paris Climate Accords, he called attention to the indisputable evidence fingering human behavior as a main propeller of climate change, as well as the urgent need to ratchet up the way we purposefully live, work, and design cities. “I’m all about logic and reason and fact,” Obama said, adding, “Obviously, that’s contested these days.”

Unlike enacting bad tax policies for four or eight years, letting climate change and related environmental problems run rampant can be permanently detrimental to a society, Obama said. “You can be too late,” he said of climate change. “It becomes irreversible.” Reining in environmental crises, however, is an arduous task nowadays, thanks in part to “huge gaps in wealth and opportunity and education,” he added.

That notion carries extra weight in Atlanta, which has repeatedly earned the dubious title of income inequality capital of America. Additionally, green building—essentially, environmentally conscious and resource-efficient construction—is sometimes incompatible with affordable housing, which relies on public subsidies and cutting costs.

Former President Barack Obama speaks at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta
Former President Barack Obama speaks at Greenbuild 2019 in Atlanta

Photograph by Oscar & Associates

Obama also wishes that investors and architects would take more stock of what stakeholders want before redeveloping neighborhoods. It’s important to hear their stories, he said. “Stories around ‘place’ are a good way to start conversations about sustainability,” Obama said.

America isn’t the only country on the hook for damaging the earth, but our nation is certainly infamous for its infatuation with excess, he noted. “Despite huge advances in energy-efficient technology, our houses have gotten so much bigger,” Obama said, later wondering, “How much space do we really need?” He nodded to Scandanavian countries that have embraced true density in city design. “Everything here is big: Big Macs. Whoppers. Big stuff in America.”

Granted, the former president admitted he doesn’t have the formula for the “right size,” but when he’s invited to a hotel’s so-called “presidential suite,” he said it can be taxing to keep track of which lights in which rooms he needs to turn off before bed. Perhaps America could take a page from Japan’s playbook, Obama said, alluding to the seemingly ubiquitous motion-sensing lights installed overseas. “It’s a bit spooky sometimes,” he said of the automatic lights.

Spookier, though, are the looming effects of climate change, the brunt of which is sure to be felt by generations following Obama’s. He praised Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg for her “global movement” against fossil fuel interests. “She does not understand how adults can’t take this [environmental crisis] seriously,” he said. The 16-year-old’s organization of school strikes, among other advocacy efforts, “bring attention to the problems in a way that no U.N. paper, no New York Times story can,” Obama said.

Yet that activism—albeit immeasurably important, Obama said—is all for naught if it doesn’t translate into measurable political action. And sometimes, that action doesn’t take all that much effort. Said Obama: “The biggest way to have influence is by voting.”

Here’s what Democratic presidential candidates are doing in Atlanta after Wednesday’s debate

Democratic Debate Atlanta where Candidates are
The Democratic hopefuls during the 4th debate last month in Ohio. Most will return for Atlanta’s debate on Wednesday.

Photograph by Win McNamee/Getty Images

There are a few things we can predict about Wednesday’s 5th Democratic primary debate. Odds are Andrew Yang won’t be wearing a tie—it’s unclear whether he even owns one—and former Vice President Joe Biden’s phosphorescent white teeth will shimmer under the high-beams on stage at Tyler Perry’s massive new Southwest Atlanta movie studio. Starting at 9 p.m., the 10 leading Democratic presidential candidates will spar with one another and plug themselves as the best pick to succeed Donald Trump. Then, some of them will stick around town to court voters in the battleground state that’s been purpling for years.

Each of the candidates slated to take the stage Wednesday evening has of course been crusading for nationwide support ahead of the Iowa Caucus on February 3. And while all of their public schedules show extensive phone-banking and canvassing efforts in Iowa, this week it’s clear that many of them are vying not just for Primary election backing in Georgia, but also for the metro region’s influential black vote. The current Iowa frontrunner, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, for instance, got an early start campaigning in the city on Monday, when he spoke to a crowd of about 250 at Morehouse. So did U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar, who spoke at the Hammonds House Museum in West End. And Yang, no stranger to shooting some pre-debate hoops, joined Atlanta Hawks legend Dominique Wilkins on the court Monday.

Debate watch parties organized by the candidates’ campaigns and grassroots supporters will abound on Wednesday, but if you want a chance to see some of these presidential hopefuls in person, this week could be your best bet.

The following list is the result of repeated outreach efforts to each of the campaigns and also includes the events advertised on the respective candidates’ official websites. This post will be updated to reflect any scheduling changes and/or to include events later shared by the campaigns.

Former Vice President Joe Biden:

  • n/a

Sen. Cory Booker, New Jersey*:

  • n/a

South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg*:

  • Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network Breakfast
    • November 21, 9:15 a.m.
    • Paschal’s

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, Hawaii:

  • n/a

Sen. Kamala Harris, California:

  • Black Women Power Breakfast
    • November 21, 8:30 a.m.
    • Atlanta, GA (exact location unspecified)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota:

  • n/a

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Vermont:

Tom Steyer:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts:

Andrew Yang*:

*Booker, Buttigieg, and Yang have also enlisted for some phone-banking on Thursday at Ebenezer Baptist Church with former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

What it’s like living full-time in a five-star Atlanta hotel

A hotel room with a gorgeous view of Midtown Atlanta
Christa Huffstickler of Engel and Völkers lives with her young family above the Loews Hotel.

Photograph courtesy of Loews Hotel

Living in a five-star hotel is a far cry from a stint in your average extended-stay inn. While visitors to Atlanta can drop a pretty penny for high-rise lodging that comes with room service, housekeeping, and a spa, others take up full-time residence in the buildings, a la Eloise at the Plaza.

Part of the appeal, says Erik Dowdy, a real estate advisor with Engel and Völkers Atlanta, is being able to centralize so much at one address. “You can drop down to the restaurant for a meeting or dinner,” he says. “Your personal trainer meets you at your building. There’s in-home spa therapy. It’s assisted-living for people who don’t need it,” he says. While many residents use them as second homes, says Dowdy, others make hotel residences their full-time pads, from empty-nesters offloading the big houses and yards to young families who want walkability and concierge. Others are semiretired and still want a place in the city.

A current one-bedroom listing at the Loews Hotel, where the condos are dubbed 1065 Midtown, goes for $700,000, and units range up to $2 million. Owners enjoy resort amenities like a rooftop pool, gym, and housekeeping—although one can typically expect hotel residences to come with pricey HOA fees.

At Buckhead’s skyscraping Waldorf Astoria, formerly the Mandarin Oriental, a top-floor, three-bedroom unit newly upgraded by Harrison Design sold earlier this year for nearly $4 million.

This article appears in our Fall 2019 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

Effects of the APS cheating scandal still ripple through Pittsburgh. This journalism project empowered residents to tell their own story.

Pittsburgh Journalism Project
Pittsburgh Journalism Project reporters Chandra Harper-Gallashaw and William King work on their story.

Photograph by Max Blau

In a turbulent time when long-established journalistic institutions are dwindling at a breakneck pace, predominantly low-income and minority communities are especially starved for adequate—and, sometimes, accurate—media representation. Max Blau, a seasoned freelance journalist—and former Atlanta magazine staffer—who has covered social issues in many of Atlanta’s most underserved areas was painfully aware of this disparity. Last spring, with funding from the Center for Civic Innovation, Blau launched an initiative dubbed the Pittsburgh Journalism Project, which was inspired by a similar model in Chicago called City Bureau. The project’s goal was to cultivate journalists in communities that are traditionally underrepresented—or negatively represented—by mainstream news outlets. He began with the southside neighborhood of Pittsburgh, selecting three would-be correspondents from a small pool of applicants. Impressively, the PJP pilot program yielded a front-page story in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the aftermath of the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal, four years after a trial found 11 educators guilty of racketeering charges.

The 2009 scandal of has been chronicled in countless articles, TV news stories, a book, a documentary, and, soon, a Hollywood movie. But none of those, it seems, properly captured the plight of the many intown families affected by the corruption and its long-lasting effects. So says former Pittsburgh resident Chandra Harper-Gallashaw, a Georgia State University researcher and mother of four who still feels the sting of deceit after school system officials orchestrated and carried out a plot to falsify standardized test scores, which made it appear as though APS students were performing better than they actually were. “I just found out they’re doing another movie, but nobody came back to talk to the community,” she says. “Nobody asked us anything.”

In Atlanta, publications that would traditionally provide comprehensive coverage of a situation like the APS scandal have shrunk dramatically in recent years. The AJC has watched its 500-journalist employ drop to just 130 heads in the past decade, and alt weekly paper Creative Loafing axed almost all of its editorial staff in 2017. Supporting solid local journalism has never been more crucial, Blau says. “Everything that has gone wrong in Chicago, in terms of the shrinking and closing of newspapers there, has happened even more so here,” he says. “Pittsburgh had no journalists of its own.”

Instead, reporters who had little—if any—affiliation with Atlanta’s predominantly low-income and minority communities would come to Pittsburgh and other affected neighborhoods and “determine the narratives of those places,” says Blau. “Often it was legacy outlets, people who were white or from more privileged backgrounds and had access to become journalists and the means to do so.” For that reason, among others, such communities’ trust in the media has been on the decline.

Blau enlisted three bona fide stakeholders in local issues to participate in the PJP: Pittsburgh native Braddye Smith who works for DeKalb County as a supervisor and case manager for an accountability and diversion court. She also writes poetry and hopes to use her newfound journalism skills to bring positive reporting to the neighborhood. William King, a 30-year Pittsburgh resident and former college newspaper reporter, is an avowed community advocate involved in practically every local neighborhood organization. And Harper-Gallashaw, the Georgia State researcher who lived across the street from an APS school devastated by the scandal, is working on a memoir about the lasting effects of the officials’ wrongdoing.

Each Monday evening for six weeks, the trio met with Blau. They were paid to learn the fundamentals of journalism, all while crafting a story that would spotlight the fallout of misconduct that robbed students of a legitimate education and, subsequently, in many cases, a fighting chance at a successful future. Blau asked his students what kind of voices needed to be in such a report. “Then I had them learn how to go find the information, how to contact people, how to write interview requests,” he says. “I walked them through the things we do every day that they had never done before.”

Pittsburgh Journalism Project
The story earned the centerpiece on the Sunday front page of the AJC.

Photograph by Max Blau

Once the interviews, notes, and research were crafted into an article, Blau began contacting publications. The AJC scooped the story up immediately and worked with Blau to polish it for a Sunday Page A1 debut. The team’s dogged reporting—amplified with the help of Atlanta’s largest print publication—showed that wounds from the scandal didn’t fully heal as education officials were locked up or, in most cases, took plea deals. Rather, many students are still struggling to prepare for college or even for stable careers after high school. “Most of these kids don’t want to go to college because the system already failed them—they don’t trust it,” says Harper-Gallashaw.

Earning inches in the AJC, though a considerable win for the PJP pilot, isn’t the endgame for Blau and his pupils. Blau wants to see the program grow, perhaps to something of City Bureau’s stature—the Chicago operation has trained upwards of 100 journalists since its 2015 inception. And Harper-Gallashaw, now armed with a reporter’s arsenal of skills—interviewing, records-digging, storytelling, and more—hopes with her memoir to fill in the gaps left by the PJP’s story and the innumerable other write-ups on the APS scandal. “These children are forgotten,” she says. “Their families are forgotten. And their communities are forgotten.” With the journalism training, she says, “I have the opportunity to write the real story.”

Read the Pittsburgh Journalism Project’s full story: ‘We Had to Stop the Bleed’

A “human-protected” bike lane on West Peachtree proved protesters’ point

Atlanta protected bike lane West Peachtree protest
Protesters created a human-protected bike lane on West Peachtree Street during rush hour on July 24.

Photograph by Sean Keenan

Even with activists standing shoulder-to-shoulder, blocking motorists from using an entire lane of Midtown’s ever-car-choked West Peachtree Street, rush-hour traffic Wednesday evening seemed to chug along just fine.

That’s part of the point that advocates for citywide mobility improvements—building better transportation infrastructure for non-drivers—were trying to make: Streets can be safely shared by cars, bikes, e-scooters, and other alternative modes of transportation. In Atlanta, though, a decades-old obsession with designing streets to benefit automobiles has left cyclists, pedestrians, and the rest with limited options to traverse town safely.

Niklas Vollmer and Andreas Wolfe, cyclists and staunch proponents of diversifying the city’s transportation infrastructure, organized the activist movement Wednesday, during which Atlanta police helped them cordon off the easternmost lane of West Peachtree Street and turn it into a makeshift Lite Individual Transportation (LIT) lane—a safe, protected channel for cyclists, skateboarders, e-scooter riders, and others.

Vollmer and Wolfe chose this five-lane corridor for a reason: Just over a week ago, William Alexander, a 37-year-old father of two, was headed home from an Atlanta United game on an e-scooter when he was struck by a bus and killed just outside of Midtown’s Arts Center MARTA station. Back in 2015, thanks to the Renew Atlanta bond program, West Peachtree Street was slated to receive what’s called a “complete streets” overhaul, a project that would have sacrificed at least one automobile lane in exchange for wider sidewalks and an LIT lane.

But many projects that were once part of the Renew Atlanta program, as well as those that would have been funded by the TSPLOST (Transportation Special-Purpose Local-Option Sales Tax) approved during a 2016 referendum, were booted from the docket, due in part to rising construction costs and design changes. It didn’t help that city leaders elected to use Renew Atlanta cash to pay for downtown’s controversial pedestrian bridge, a more than $33 million serpentine walkway that arches over Northside Drive and links Vine City to Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After officials revised the Renew Atlanta and TSPLOST project lists to better suit their dampened budgets, only the design phase of the West Peachtree complete streets project is now expected to be funded. “The city council decided not to fully fund the implementation of it,” Vollmer says. “So here we sit, years later, with the tragedy that has happened where we could have had a LIT lane. We’re waiting for the city to actually do that, and they’re culpable [for Alexander’s death] for not funding that.”

Alexander’s death, as well as that of 20-year-old Eric Amis, Jr., who was run over by an SUV in May while riding an e-scooter out of the West Lake MARTA station, has spurred a renewed focus on transportation infrastructure improvements among some Atlanta politicians. “We need to accommodate multiple modes of mobility as the city grows, but we haven’t executed that with the urgency or thoroughness that we need to do if we want to be a livable city,” says Atlanta City Councilman Amir Farokhi. He says short-term (and relatively cheap) changes to streets can make the city safer for all.

Carrying out full-on complete streets upgrades and/or restriping initiatives can be costly and time-consuming, Farokhi says. But while city leaders mull over how to address those desires, some car-clogged roadways could be outfitted with orange, water-filled plastic barricades that would separate car traffic from those using alternative travel options. Additionally, perhaps pedestrian signals at traffic lights could be used to offer cyclists, skaters, and e-scooter users a few seconds head-start before drivers get a green light. “These are things that don’t require any new infrastructure per se; they just take political will and bureaucratic muscle,” he says.

Rebecca Serna, head of the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition, says the City of Atlanta is on the cusp of adopting what’s called the “Vision Zero” strategy, which, per the organization’s website, “requires rigorous collaboration across city departments and stakeholders to devise data-driven and measurable strategies to achieve the shared goal of zero fatalities.”

But Serna says she wants to ensure that, if and when officials join the Vision Zero movement, it’s more than just a superficial gesture. “It’s easy to agree that no one should die in traffic, but then you have to make hard decisions that come down to trade-offs in order to make that vision a reality,” she says, nodding to road diets, which get rid of car lanes to make way for LIT lanes, among other changes. “For example, you can’t have five lanes of [car] traffic in the most heavily-walked area of a city and call it a day. That’s unacceptable.”

Wednesday’s activism wasn’t the only effort to shine a light on car-centric design—Vollmer and Wolfe also organized a couple of “slow rolls” along DeKalb Avenue, a narrow road stretching from neighborhoods southeast of downtown all the way to Decatur. At those events, dozens of cyclists took a leisurely cruise along the dangerous thoroughfare during morning rush-hour, frustrating some motorists, but proving to many that sharing the road with non-drivers—even a lot of them—doesn’t prevent commuters from getting to work on time.

“We think there’s definitely a will and a way to do all this,” Vollmer says. “It’s just that the city, and the mayor, and the Georgia Department of Transportation need to prioritize it.”

The complicated math behind buying a college education in Georgia

Georgia student debtGeorgia student debt how much student debt do georgia college students have?

When tech investor Robert F.  Smith pledged to pay off the student loan debt of Morehouse College’s entire 2019 graduating class earlier this summer, he threw a spotlight on the enormity of the student loan debt that many college graduates shoulder. In Georgia alone, at least 1.5 million residents—that’s about 14 percent of the state population—carry at least some student debt. Together, they’re in hock to higher learning for some $58.7 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Federal Student Aid

We set out to break down what it costs to attend some of Georgia’s top schools—and how much of those price tags is paid from the pockets of students. Of course, calculating the true price of college is far more nuanced than just looking at the tuition and fee costs institutions advertise on their websites. To help boil things down, College Factual, an online database that provides context to the numbers on students and graduates’ bills, has tabulated an annual net price for thousands of schools, and we’ve organized the data to help underline the sometimes stark disconnects between the sticker value and the bona fide cost of colleges in Georgia.

In some cases, the annual net price hardly resembles the tuition price the school advertises. At Agnes Scott College, Georgia’s foremost women’s college, for instance, the cost of tuition and fees for the 2017-2018 academic year was clocked at $39,960. The average annual net price, which factors in fees and expenses and subtracts scholarships and grants, is almost $11,000 cheaper than that—$29,028, to be exact. The disparity there stems in part from the fact that virtually all Agnes Scott freshmen are offered financial aid—predominantly from scholarships and grants—averaging $35,657 per person for freshman year. And with every incoming student receiving financial aid of some sort, it’s difficult to think of scholarships and grants as rewards, says College Factual CEO Bill Phelan.

“It’s always more flowery to talk about ‘scholarships and grants’ because that’s the nomenclature, but, fundamentally, these are just discounts,” Phelan tells Atlanta magazine. “We find a lot of the schools around the country play this game, where they mark up the tuition really high, and when you see that Agnes Scott College, for example, awards each one of its freshmen $24,000 [in scholarships], that means it’s discounting [tuition]. It’s kind of a marketing gimmick.”Actual vs. advertised costs of Georgia colleges

On the other hand, Kennesaw State University, which has the cheapest 2017-2018 in-state tuition ($6,347) of any of the 10 schools we studied, actually costs $22,453 annually, according to College Factual’s data, which comes from the U.S. Department of Education and private sources. That higher number accounts for student fees, room and board, and all other expenses after financial aid has been subtracted.

But perhaps the most striking data point that emerges when crunching these numbers is the amount of loans students take out to help pay for a four-year education. At the private schools we studied—Morehouse College, Spelman College, Clark Atlanta University, Emory University, and Agnes Scott College—about 21 percent of the tab for four years of schooling is being paid through student loans. For public schools—Georgia State University, the University of Georgia, Kennesaw State University, Georgia Southern University, and the Georgia Institute of Technology—almost 31 percent of an undergraduate degree is paid for with loans.

The average student who earns a degree from one of these 10 schools—public or private—is graduating with more than $27,000 of student loan debt. It’s yet unclear how much Robert F. Smith’s gift to Morehouse grads will cost the billionaire philanthropist, but some estimates have put the number in the tens of millions—possibly as high as $40 million. And that’s for a graduating class with just about 400 students.

“We have no way of knowing who’s paying along the way, but we surveyed students at a number of different colleges a few years back and found that virtually nobody’s paying their loans along the way,” Phelan says. “They think of that as cheap money, and since they don’t have interest accruing during this period of time, we couldn’t find anyone who’s trying to pay it during the school year(s).”

The below charts and blurbs provide further insight to the hefty burden that student loans play in graduates’ post-college lives, as well as paint a clear(ish) picture of how much schooling really costs.

When sifting through this data, it’s important to note that, contrary to popular belief, student loans are not considered financial aid. “[Student loans] have never been financial aid,” Phelan says. “[Calling loans financial aid] is something schools often get away with, but if you were a car dealer selling a car, and you treated a car loan as financial aid, you’d probably go to prison. Or at least the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would be chasing you.”

University System of Georgia schools (in-state prices only)

Georgia State University
2017 undergraduate population (not including Georgia Perimeter College): 25,228
2017-18 tuition and fees: $9,112
Annual net price (including student fees, room and board, and all other expenses minus scholarships and grants): $20,766
Spring 2019 graduates: 2,455 undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 89
Average student loan debt: $23,380

University of Georgia
Student body: 27,951
2017-18 tuition and fees: $11,818
Annual net price: $18,742
Spring 2019 graduates: 5,697 undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 90
Average student loan debt: $23,700

Kennesaw State University
2017 undergraduate population: 32,166
2017-18 tuition and fees: $6,347
Annual net price: $22,453
Spring 2019 graduates: 3,400 grads and undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (including student loans): 83
Average student loan debt: $24,240

Georgia Southern University
2017 undergraduate population: 18,005
2017-18 tuition and fees: $6,356
Annual net price: $19,021
Spring 2019 graduates: 3,200 undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 80
Average student loan debt: $25,020

Georgia Institute of Technology
2017 undergraduate population: 15,489
2017-18 tuition and fees: $12,418
Annual net price: $22,829
Spring 2019 graduates: 2,230 undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 65
Average student loan debt: $33,476

Georgia Independent College Association schools

Morehouse College
2017 undergraduate population: 2,108
2017-18 tuition and fees: $27,278
Annual net price: $32,727
Spring 2019 graduates: 396 grads and undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 86
Average student loan debt: $30,472

Emory University
2017 undergraduate population: 6,861
2017-18 tuition and fees: $49,392
Annual net price: $48,705
Spring 2019 graduates: 2,494 undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 51
Average student loan debt: $25,752

Spelman College
2017 undergraduate population: 2,215
2017-18 tuition and fees: $28,181
Annual net price: $43,011
2019 graduates: 474 grads and undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 80
Average student loan debt: $32,216

Clark Atlanta University
2017 undergraduate population: 3,093
2017-18 tuition and fees: $21,892
Annual net price: $29,042
Spring 2019 graduates: 562 undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 87
Average student loan debt: $29,468

Agnes Scott College
2017 undergraduate population: 927
2017-18 tuition and fees: $39,960
Annual net price: $29,028
Spring 2019 graduates: 217 undergrads
Percent of first-year students on financial aid (not student loans): 100
Average student loan debt: $29,636

These 3 new metro Atlanta developments embrace the outdoors

Quarry Yards in Westside Atlanta
Quarry Yards

Rendering courtesy of Urban Creek Partners


Few urban super developments connect to the outdoors like the 70-acre Westside Atlanta’s Quarry Yards. The $400 million first phase of the Urban Creek Partners development (Parkside at Quarry Yards) is scheduled to break ground this summer and will cover 27 acres just south of the Bellwood Quarry and the under-construction Westside Park, which will become the city’s largest greenspace. Plans include retail, multifamily apartments, and a 300-key hotel. Once complete, the project will straddle the Proctor Creek Greenway and offer close proximity to the Beltline’s Westside Trail. One office building will even feature a 70-foot climbing wall on its facade.

Forsyth County

Forthcoming mini-city Halcyon hopes to be more than just another swanky, suburban, mixed-use development, with 50 of its 135 acres dedicated to greenspace and easy access to the 10-mile Big Creek Greenway, which will eventually link Roswell, Alpharetta, and Cumming. Slated for this summer, the $370 million, RocaPoint Partners project will offer nearly 700 high-end residences, from apartments to upscale homes by EA Homes. Creature comforts not overlooked, the development will include a Krog Street Market–style food hall, local boutiques, and the county’s first dine-in movie theater.


The eco-chic community of Serenbe, 30 miles south of Atlanta, is expanding with a $250 million health-and-wellness–focused “hamlet” called Mado, which will soon offer 440 new houses. Imagine picking fresh fruits and vegetables after your morning jog, then returning to your Scandinavian country house, stylish shotgun home, cozy cottage, or townhome. Serenbe’s environs include a 25-acre organic farm, more than 15 miles of woodland trails, and berry-lined sidewalks. Officials say Mado’s first phase, including 270 homes, is nearly complete. Coming are offices, healthy eats, wellness-focused shops, a fitness center, and a hotel and destination spa.

This article appears in our Summer 2019 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

It’s official: Clarkston Mayor Ted Terry—of Queer Eye fame—will run for U.S. Senate

Ted Terry Clarkston Mayor running for U.S. Senate
Ted Terry

Photograph by Tom Griscom Photography

The young leader of what’s been called the most diverse square mile in America declared today he’s running for U.S. Senate. Ted Terry, a millennial sometimes referred to as the “hipster mayor,” represents Clarkston, a small town just east of the I-285 perimeter. Now he’s set his sights on the Senate seat Republican David Perdue has held since 2015.

If elected, Terry, an avowed progressive Democrat, would be the political antithesis of incumbent Perdue, a staunch ally of President Donald Trump. In Clarkston, Terry has championed the decriminalization of marijuana possession and raised the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour. He’s also an avid environmentalist, serving as the director of the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, and has committed to get his city running 100 percent on clean energy by 2050. (Perdue, on the other hand, has taken money from oil and gas interests and lobbied Trump to bail on the Paris Agreement, a United Nations accord that aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions and disinvest in fossil fuels.)

Terry, 36, vows to pursue the same liberal goals at the federal level, he told Atlanta magazine in an interview Tuesday. The mayor’s primary goal with this bid: “To bring a new generation of leadership to the Senate—a new perspective.” A young one, he means. “The median age of the Senate is over 60 years old, and there is no voice representing what would be the largest voting block in America in 2020—the under 35-year-old voting block.”

Trump’s election and the rise of the alt-right have also played a role in Terry’s decision to run for higher office, but he says his chief inspiration comes from what he’s seen out of Perdue’s time in office. “He ran as an outsider,” Terry said. “He made some campaign promises along the way and then completely fell in with [Senate Majority Leader] Mitch McConnell, the king of the swamp creatures.”

Among his platform goals, Terry wants to address what he considers a “healthcare crisis” in America. “I’d like to see a ‘Medicare for all who want it’ public option,” he said, nodding to a bill senators are pushing that would allow Medicare to compete with private insurance companies. Terry also wants to ensure the U.S. stays a part of the Paris Agreement. (Trump opted to pull out of the deal in 2017, but it will take until November 2020 for the withdrawal to take effect.) But he says the agreement needs bolstering, since it’s largely a symbolic commitment to mitigating climate change. “The Paris Agreement has no enforcement mechanism . . . I’d like to see a renegotiation that actually puts some standards in place so countries could be held accountable,” he said.

And of course, considering Terry represents such a prolifically diverse community, immigration reform is top of mind, too. “Fifty percent of [Clarkston] is foreign-born, and yet crime hasn’t spiked; we’re one of the safest cities in Georgia,” he said. “We haven’t gone bankrupt; we’re one of the fastest growing suburbs in the nation. Our new Americans represent the best of what America has to offer.”

Terry aims to grow the country’s refugee resettlement program and streamline the immigration system for asylum seekers. “Clarkston could have been a dying town 30 years ago, but because of the refugee resettlement and immigration, we’ve become an even richer community culturally and economically.”

And yes, Terry is that dude from the second season of Netflix’s Queer Eye, in which the then-scraggly-bearded mayor underwent a major makeover. By the end of the show, Terry’s “resistance beard” was gone, his tattered clothes were replaced, his home “looked like it jumped out of a Pottery Barn catalogue,” and his name recognition spiked. “I get messages on a daily basis from people around Georgia, around the country, around the world who are glad that there are American leaders who are taking a welcoming, inclusive, and compassionate approach to some of the most vulnerable people in the world right now,” he said, referring to refugees and asylum seekers.

Whether his progressive record and reality TV appearance are enough to send through the primaries remains to be seen. He believes his record as mayor should separate him from the other Democrats who have or will toss their hats in the ring since Stacey Abrams opted not to join the race. But what really sets Terry apart from Perdue, he said, is his intention to better listen to constituents. “I will hold a gosh darn town hall,” he said, a jab at the senator who protesters called to meet with—to no avail—during the early days of Trump’s presidency. “My first year as mayor, I got rid of my mayoral office and opted to have all of my meetings out in the public at local coffee shops, parks, and restaurants . . . I will bring that same level of transparency to the Senate office.”

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