athens risingNews

Walkable Downtowns, Five Points Ranch, Boulevard Behemoth and Hands on Athens

Speck Lecture: I’m very excited to attend the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation’s Jeff Speck lecture at The Chapel on Wednesday, May 1 from 6-7:30 p.m. with a book signing afterwards upstairs at Transmetropolitan. Speck is a city planner, urban designer and advocate for smart growth and sustainable design. He worked for years with Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, leaders in New Urbanism.  His lecture will cover his most recent book Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time

Hands on Athens: I’m in luck, because for my last birthday two of my friends bought me a gift certificate for a manicure. After a weekend of scraping, sanding and painting with Hands On Athens, I’m ready to use it.

I worked with a group led by house captain Ben Liverman on 170 Lyndon Avenue in Boulevard that was undergoing a significant change.  The nearly 90-year-old house had previously been covered in asphalt siding to help with insulation.  Prior to my arrival, the siding had been removed, holes had been drilled in the original wood siding and insulation had been pumped into the walls.  So, by the time I arrived late (slept through the alarm) that Friday morning, a group was already hard at work scraping paint from the original wood siding.  Since I felt guilty about being late, I lied and said I was fine working on a ladder, so I climbed up, pretended the height didn’t make me want to vomit and began scraping paint off the eaves.  

Since lead paint was used up until the 1970s, most paint scraped off during Hands On Athens weekend contains lead, and volunteers have to wear face masks and put plastic around the house to catch the paint chips.  Between the face mask and foggy goggles, being able to see what I was doing became a luxury.

Then the entire house had to be sanded for priming, which consumed the majority of Saturday. There are a few finishing touches left before the house receives its final coat of paint. While the house already looks drastically different from a month ago, when it was covered in asphalt siding, it will look even more different in just a few short weeks.

Hands On Athens is made up of volunteers throughout the community.  This year, I worked with Liverman and Emerging Green Professionals, a group of students and young professionals interested in sustainable design and construction, who have volunteered together with Hands On Athens in the past. Ben Hornsby, third-year volunteer and master scraper, says he enjoys working with Hands On Athens because it can be hard to find time to give back to the community with the demands of everyday life. Emily Wirt, also a third-year volunteer, said, “Hands On Athens is always on a beautiful weekend in April, and it’s a great way to welcome in spring and be outside.” And it is.

And it wasn’t just Hands On Athens volunteers working. Neighbors joined in and, at some point, every member of the Mattox family that owns the house helped paint.  

Five Points Ranch: On a sad note, Athens’ first (and perhaps best-designed) ranch house, located at the corner of University Drive and Pinecrest Drive, is going to be demolished. Allison Wright, the ACC commissioner in the Five Points area, had put a 30 day hold on the demolition in hopes that someone would come forward willing to relocate the house. Two parties were interested in relocating the house, but neither inquiry “went very far in planning the move. It will be a said sight to see this unique house that used to be a well kept home torn down,” Wright said.

321 Dubose:  Developer Tom Ellis is scheduled to be arraigned in Athens-Clarke Municipal Court on Thursday, May 2 on charges of failure to comply with a Certificate of Appropriateness and violating a Feb. 2 stop work order issued when the COA violation was discovered, according to Athens-Clarke Attorney Bill Berryman. Ellis angered neighbors because a behemoth addition to his house at 321 Dubose, in the Boulevard Historic District, is five feet taller than plans approved by the Historic Preservation Commission.