Reflecting on 2020 / Planning for 2021

I think everyone will agree that 2020 has been an off-kilter year. When I was sworn in this January, I had no idea Doraville would soon be confronting a global pandemic. Even though we were forced to swerve a bit, I think the city council and I were still able to accomplish a lot. Here’s a list of the things I am most proud of getting done this year:

  • Doraville City Council rezoned Buford Highway to allow for mixed-use development. Before the re-zoning, only single-use strip mall style commercial development was allowed along the corridor. This re-zoning is the first step towards enabling the type of walkable, mixed-use development that our residents have told me they want to see in Doraville.
  • Doraville City Council hired Chris Eldridge as our new city manager. Mr. Eldridge has extensive experience working with local governments of varying sizes. With the full approval of council, he has come in and made key process and personnel changes that have put the city on a path to success. There is more work to be done, but we are in good hands with Mr. Eldridge.
  • Doraville City Council approved an intergovernmental agreement with Gwinnett County that paved the way for Amazon to build a new Delivery Station in our city. The station is opening in 2021 and will create hundreds of full and part time jobs starting at $15 an hour.
  • Our Downtown Development Agency was able to finalize the deal for new apartments that will be built across from Home Depot (in the old “Friday’s Plaza” shopping center). The $65 million investment in Doraville will include over 300 units. Construction has begun and will continue through 2023.
  • Doraville received about $1 million in CARES Act Funding from DeKalb County after participating in months of negotiations with the DeKalb Municipal Association. Money received has been allocated toward hazard pay for first responders, for food relief provided to Doraville residents, and to WiFi hot spots for area elementary school children in need.  The money has given the city a surplus that will also be spent on COVID-19 relief. In the coming months, council will be looking at other ways our city can provide pandemic relief.
  • Doraville City Council officially appointed Chuck Atkinson to the position of Police Chief after he had served as “Interim Chief” for nearly a year. Chief Atkinson has been with the City of Doraville Police Department for 30 years and is an asset to our community. We are happy we can keep him here.
  • We swore in three new judges who are from diverse backgrounds and more representative of the community as a whole. This includes our first ever Latina and Asian American judges.
  • The city partnered with Trees Atlanta to bring goats in to Autumn Park to help combat the Kudzu problem there. This was one of our most popular programs in many years. I hope that we will apply what we learn to other parks in our portfolio in the coming years.
  • Doraville City Council was able to come to an agreement about developing the streetscape for New Peachtree Road. We had received a grant for this project in 2016, but no work had been done since that time and we were in danger of losing the funding. Council aimed to remedy this and gave the city staff direction to get it done. A contractor is being selected now, and work will get started in early 2021.
  • Doraville partnered with the DeKalb Dept of Public Health to bring COVID-19 testing to our city. The testing first was conducted at the site of the former Kmart and is currently located in the Brandsmart parking lot.
  • Doraville tore down the old police station, which had been abandoned for over a decade and converted the lot into green space. We’ve since used this location for several socially distant events – including food giveaways and our drive-through  trick-or-treating.
  • Doraville closed its jail – the last municipal jail in DeKalb County.  This allows our police force to focus on keeping our community safe, instead of running a jail. Going forward, arrestees will be transported to DeKalb County’s jail. The move reduces a huge liability and should improve our future insurance costs.

While we spent more time than I would have liked dealing with the pandemic this year, I believe we are in a good place as we look to 2021. My top priority is to work with the council to come to an agreement on a plan for redeveloping the 10 acres of land that the city owns directly across from MARTA, and using it as a catalyst to spur development throughout our downtown and along the Buford Highway corridor. If you have any suggestions for things we should be working on in 2021, please feel free to send me a note at joseph.geierman@doravillega.us.