Category Archives: About Pendered’s Journalism

Lewis George Van Gorder: April 26, 1920~July 13, 2016

My Uncle Louie opened his home to me as I looked in Atlanta for my first job after college. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution hired me in 1982 and, over the intervening years, Aunt Helen and Uncle Louie shared the warmth of their home and their depth of knowledge about metro Atlanta, where they had moved in 1956. This is the family’s obituary.

Lewis Van Gorder was born in Wellsboro, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, son of Lewis Leonard Van Gorder, and his wife, Cecelia Maria (Markowicz) Van Gorder. He was a graduate of Wellsboro High School Class 1938, Mansfield State Teachers College 1942 (Bachelor of Science), George Washington University (Master of Arts) 1946.

Lewis Van Gorder

Lewis Van Gorder

It was at Mansfield State where he met his wife of exactly 61 years, Helen Leah (Mack) Van Gorder, of Sunbury, PA. They were married at the height of World War II, April 22, 1944, in Wellsboro, PA, during a weekend leave.
Shortly after the war, they settled in Silver Spring, Maryland, where he was a teacher of math and sciences. Here they attended St. Luke Lutheran Church under Senior Pastor Robert E. Lee, and had 2 sons, Lewis Mack (1947) , and Michael Lee (1950).
The family moved to Atlanta, GA, in 1956, with Lewis accepting the position of Director, Christian Education and Youth at The Lutheran Church of The Redeemer, under Pastor Lee. In 1959, son William Robert was born. Lewis worked at Redeemer in this position until 1963, accepting the position of Evening Registrar at Georgia Institute of Technology through 1968, becoming Director of Special Studies at Georgia State University, and moving to Southern Technical College as Dean of Students, where he retired from the University Systems of Georgia in 1984.
During WWII, he was a meteorologist serving in the US Army Air Forces, continuing his studies at University of Kansas, Topeka, and The University of Chicago, attaining the rank of captain, and continuing in the Reserves after the war at this rank. He was working on his PhD at University of Maryland before moving to Atlanta.
He considered himself a solid Lutheran after meeting his future wife and attending her home church, Zion Lutheran (Rev. Dr. Raymond Wood) in Sunbury, PA.

Birthday party

Birthday party

After his retirement, he and his wife Helen traveled extensively throughout Europe, Canada, and the US, normally with the church group. But, they were always home for the holidays to be with family.
Lewis is survived by his one sister, Winifred Marie Jessup (Edward) of Canisteo, New York; nephew Lewis Edward (Nancy), nieces Helen Ann Sawyer (George) and Alice Kay Krum (Marshall); niece Jackie Riggin (John), Jana Raup; niece Jean Hollowell, nephew David Pendered; by his 3 sons Lewis Mack (Joni) and their children Leah Marie (Lucas), daughter Amanda Childress, son Spencer Childress; John Lewis, grandson Evan Lewis; Billy Arnold, Michael Arnold (Kim), grandson Mike; Andy Arnold (Anita), grandson Dominic. Son Michael Lee (Sandra Kay), “adopted” children Ada Milian (Ricky), great grandson Alexander Richard Milian, Sandra Maria Ruiz, Genaro Ruiz. Son William Robert (Jennifer) their daughter Abbe Alessandra, their son Chase William Van Gorder (Heidi), great grandson Beckett Chase Van Gorder.
Lewis was most proud of the many he helped over the years, from his time at Redeemer, and as an administrator in the University System. Students became lawyers, actuaries, and computer scientists, when they had become disenchanted with their undergraduate studies. Many of these students have become lifelong friends.
We give thanks to God for his service to our country, to his church, for his being the patriarch of the family, and for his lifelong friendships.
Memorial contributions may be made to The Lutheran Church of The Redeemer, 731 Peachtree St., NE, Atlanta, GA 30308 or

Atlanta BeltLine hires COO from public private research facility in N.C.

The Atlanta BeltLine has retained Clyde Higgs as the agency’s new vice president and chief operating officer. Higgs most recently worked in North Carolina as an officer with a public private research facility endowed by California billionaire David Murdock, of Dole Food Co.

Clyde Higgs

Clyde Higgs

“Clyde was the best strategic choice to serve as our next Vice President & Chief Operating Officer,” Paul Morris, the BeltLine’s president and CEO said in a statement released Monday afternoon.

“His extensive experience leading day-to-day operations of the internationally recognized Kannapolis Project, along with his unique expertise in consensus building, grants, economic development and technology innovation will be an invaluable asset as we continue to advance the Atlanta BeltLine to fruition,” Morris said in the statement.

Higgs will succeed Lisa Gordon, who resigned to take the position of president/CEO Habitat for Humanity Atlanta.

Higgs served as executive vice president of operations and business development at the North Carolina Research Campus. The facility is located in Kanapolis, a former textiles manufacturing center located 26 miles north of Charlotte.

Higgs initially was hired in 2006 as VP of business development, where he helped bring in companies including Monsanto and General Mills to NCRC, in addition to bringing in universities and the Carolinas Healthcare System, according to his bio on the NCRC website. Higgs later took on the oversight of NCRC operations.

Two Republican governors have named Higgs to statewide boards, according to the statement released by the BeltLine.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry appointed Higgs to the Texas Emerging Technology Venture Fund for early stage companies working on innovations in the fields of biotechnology, healthcare, energy and information technology. North Carolina Gov. Beverly Perdue appointed Higgs to the State Board of Community Colleges.

The NCRC was built in Kanapolis on the site of a former Cannon textile mill that Murdock once owned. Murdock is implementing his plan to raze the mill and build a research facility that focuses on human health, nutrition and agriculture.

Murdock has invested more than $600 million in the 350-acre campus that opened in 2008, according to a report in, which is the publication of a non-profit group that says it tracks education initiatives.

The campus opened two years after Higgs joined NCRC.

The state of North Carolina agreed to provide $23 million a year to fund its academic research at the campus, according to

However, the budget priorities for 2015 to 2017 approved by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors says the state agreed to pay $29 million. Regardless, the state didn’t fund its commitment and the board allocated a recurring $7.5 million a year to fund the commitment.

Murdock himself was in the news in August, when a judge ruled that Murdock and a top aide had to pay $148 million to shareholders for manipulating the stock price of Dole Food Co., according to a report in

Murdock took the company private in 2013 and a judge determined that he and the company’s former COO, Michael Carter, rigged the deal, according to The ruling stopped short of assigning any liability to Deutsche Bank, which advised on the transaction.



Pet euthanasia rates plummet as Fulton, DeKalb approach being “no kill” communities

After a lot of hard work, the chances have improved significantly that an animal will come out alive from a shelter in Fulton and DeKalb counties – up from 15 animals out of 100 in 2012, to 85 animals out of 100 in 2014, according to the contractor who took over the facilities in 2013.

LifeLine, adoption

Princess has hopped into the vehicle and is heading home with her family through an adoption arranged by LifeLine at the Fulton County Animal Shelter. Credit: LifeLine

The turn-around has been so dramatic that the two counties should be able to reach the “no kill” threshold of saving 90 out of every 100 animals, according to Rebecca Guinn, founder and CEO of Lifeline Animal Project. The “I’m In” campaign, seen on MARTA vehicles, aims to reach the goal by 2016.

“It’s our dream that the community really wants this, and wants to be part of this,” Guinn said. “It’s broadening the compassion in our community to include our animal companions. We can do it. It’s achievable.”

The “no kill” rate of 90 percent accounts for some animals being too sick, too injured, or too behaviorly unsound to save, Guinn said. The rate has been reached in cities including Austin, Texas and Reno, N.V.

To Lifeline board Chairperson Anisa Telwar Kaicker, the region’s treatment of animals is on the quality of life index for attracting folks to metro Atlanta. Kaicker is the founder of Atlanta-based Anisa International, a multi-national company in the cosmetics industry with offices in the U.S., England, and in China, where the company owns a brush manufacturing plant.

LifeLine, flyer

The animal shelters in Fulton and DeKalb counties are finding homes for 85 percent of pets. In 2012, the live release rate was closer to 15 percent. Credit: LifeLine

“That we, as a community, care about the homeless animals says a lot about us,” Kaicker said. “People who are looking to move to Atlanta would find that attractive. I think there’s an ROI [return on investment] when it comes to running our shelter. This says a lot about Atlanta – that our shelters have a higher percentage of animals getting out, that they name every animal at the shelter, that every animal has a bowl and rights,” Kaicker said.

“It makes us a better city, and we will treat each other with more respect and more humanity,” Kaicker said.

Anisa International donated $40,000 to renovate the outdoor space at the Fulton shelter. LifeLine sponsored a ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday to officially open the space where folks who want to adopt a pet can play with the animal outside the shelter, and introduce the animal to other family pets to see if they’ll get along.

“LifeLine’s work with FCAS [Fulton County Animal Shelter] is making a difference in Fulton County,” John Eaves, Fulton County chairman, said in a statement. “Through the generous and consistent support of partners and the community, access to quality adoption and other animal services is dramatically decreasing the population of homeless animals in our community.”

County commissioners in Fulton and DeKalb decided to outsource their shelters in 2013. Both counties were struggling to manage the shelters at a time property tax receipts were flagging in the wake of the Great Recession.

LifeLine, Cats

Cats do what cats do best, doze, on bedding procured by LifeLine for the Fulton County Animal Shelter. Credit: LifeLine

Part of the trouble was that shelters were too small and too old, more than 30 years, to meet current demands without killing a high proportion of animals brought in by owners or picked up by animal control officers.

LifeLine took over the Fulton shelter in March 2013 and the DeKalb shelter in July. Guinn’s organization immediately began creating partnerships to increase the number of animals that get adopted – either locally or in the Long Island suburbs of New York City.

“We work hard to make sure all our partners are doing the right thing,” Guinn said. “We’re fortunate there are a lot of people willing to help.”

More than 100 partners are now helping to place animals in homes, Guinn said. The list of partners includes Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, Atlanta Pet Rescue, and lots of rescue organizations that focus on particular breeds, such as Boston terriers and beagles.

LifeLine, After construction of meet and greet space

Anisa International donated $40,000 to upgrade the outdoor area of the Fulton County Animal Shelter. Dog runs were renovated and a new meet-and-greet space created for animals and their adoptive families. Credit: LifeLine

Some animals are transported to the North Shore Animal League, in Port Washington, N.Y., Guinn said.

“Once a month, we transport 15 to 40 animals there,” Guinn said. “They’re a large, no kill shelter. They have a huge facility and a huge capacity to adopt animals into homes. They actually send a team down to get animals.”

LifeLine relies on donations to manage the programs that have increased the adoption rate, Guinn said. This includes free vaccinations at special events, fee-free or reduced-price adoptions, and fee-free or reduced-price spay/neuter programs, all of which lower the price of responsible pet ownership.

The contract fees paid by the counties covers the cost of operating the shelters, Guinn said. In the case of DeKalb, the contract also provides for LifeLine to manage the animal control program. Fulton County retained control of that program in its jurisdiction.

LifeLine, New dog runs

Dog runs were renovated at the Fulton County Animal Shelter with a $40,000 grant from Anisa International. Credit: LifeLine

The contracts cover the entire county, regardless of whether an area is incorporated or not incorporated. Fulton paid $3.4 million and DeKalb paid $2.6 million in 2014, according to LifeLine’s 990 tax form. Contributions and grants totaled $897,000.

“If we want to do more, go to the next level, it does take businesses or individuals to contribute,” Kaicker said. “That’s just part of the situation we’re in. I see the direct impact, the before and after, when employees get to see they’re contributing to something.”


LifeLine, Before construction of meet and greet space

The new meet and greet space at the Fulton County Animal Shelter replaces this grassy area adjacent to the front steps. The project included new grass, fence, trees, and a table with umbrella. Credit: LifeLine



Home prices rise 5.4 percent in metro Atlanta over past year: Case-Shiller index

Prices of homes sold in metro Atlanta rose by 5.4 percent during a 12-month period ending in June, according to the Case-Shiller index released Tuesday. The results help offset values lost in the ongoing stock market plunge.

Pulte Homes, Atlanta

Pulte Homes is developing Stonehill at Lenox, a community of 3-story townhomes to be priced from the low $500,000s. Credit:

Nationally, the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed an increase of 4.5 percent in the 12-month period ending in June. That’s an increase from the 4.4 percent increase the index showed for the 12-month period ending in May.

The growth rates for other cities in the south include:

The cities with the highest gains, among the 20 cities tracked by the index, are:

The price increase in Atlanta continues an upward trend that began in March 2012. At that time, the Case-Shiller price index was 82.54. That was the lowest level since August 1996, according to the index measures the average change in value of residential real estate in Atlanta given a constant level of quality, according to its website.

That said, the Case-Shiller reported noted that, as of June 2015, average home prices in the index have risen to their levels in winter 2005. Furthermore, “Measured from their June/July 2006 peaks, the peak-to-current decline for both [10-city and 20-city composites] is approximately 12 to 14 percent. Since the March 2012 lows, the 10-city and 20-city composites have recovered 33.8 percent and 34.9 percent.”

Metro Atlanta is located in the 20-county index.

The analysis of the index noted that home prices continue to outperform inflation, rising at 4 percent to 5 percent while hovers below 2 percent.

Case-Shiller index, 1987-2015

This Case-Shiller chart shows that home prices have regained their level of winter 2005. Credit:

The analysis also notes that a stock market correction isn’t likely to affect the housing market, until the correction reaches more than 20 percent.

This is the complete analysis, provided by David Blitzer, managing director and chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices:


Underground ATL: Ga Tech grad shows time right for redevelopment

As Darron Cooper completed a research paper about Underground Atlanta last year at Georgia Tech, he had no idea the city was on the brink of selling Underground to a developer.

Underground Atlanta locator map

Underground Atlanta has a critical location in the future plans to develop an east-west corridor in downtown Atlanta. Credit: Google Earth, David Pendered

Cooper’s paper views private ownership as a logical step for the revitalization of Underground. Now his report joins those on the Atlanta BeltLine and Atlantic Station for envisioning new purpose for remnants of Atlanta’s industrial past.

“All three projects are about revitalizing some of those fantastic bones of Atlanta,” Cooper said.

Cooper said his affinity for Atlanta has grown since he moved here with his family in 1996. He’s stayed in the city longer than expected, graduating from Emory University and taking a job with a marketing and advertising firm before deciding to pursue a masters degree in city and regional planning. He earned the degree in May 2014.

Cooper said his research paper is unrelated to his job. Cooper now works as an analyst with JLL, a large commercial real estate firm. Before that, as he was transitioning careers, he worked with Russell New Urban Development.

The potential revitalization of Underground was a natural for Cooper as he considered research topics.

“I have an appreciation for Underground and don’t want it to fall outside the fold – especially when you consider the tourism aspect, especially when you consider that Underground abuts some of these key developments,” he said. “It’s vastly important that Underground be included in some form or fashion.”

Underground is immensely important in future connectivity in downtown Atlanta, in light of the following projects and potentials:

In real estate, timing can be as important as location.

Cooper happened to deliver his paper in May 2014, two months after the Atlanta City Council voted to pay $8.8 million buy out the sublease of its operating partner at Underground, CV Underground LLC. At the time, no potential buyer for Underground’s 12-acre site was named in public.

Dan O’Leary, a principal with CV Underground, was more than willing to sell.

O’Leary and his partners had spent over a decade trying to polish Underground’s image as a gathering place for regional celebrations, such as the New Year’s Eve Peach Drop. They won city-backed financing to build one or more mid-rise apartment buildings above Underground, only to abandon those plans in the early 2000s. O’Leary’s interest finally seemed to wane in 2009, after his proposals to reinvent Underground as a casino went nowhere.

Enter WRS, Inc.

WRS agreed in December to pay the city $25.75 million for Underground Atlanta. The deal evidently will leave Atlanta with about $1.5 million, after the city uses proceeds to retire a development loan of about $15.5 million and to finance the $8.8 million payment to CV Underground.

WRS’s plan for revitalizing Underground appears similar to an initial plan of CV Underground. WRS announced it intends to build apartments along Upper Alabama Street and revitalize existing retail space.

WRS’s redevelopment costs are eligible for city financing through property taxes collected in the Eastside Tax Allocation District. The  Eastside TAD has $11.1 million unrestricted funds in its coffers, according to a disclosure audit released in August 2013, the latest such report readily available.

TAD funds were not available for Underground when it was owned by the city, city officials have said. Any discussions between the city and WRS over the potential use of TAD funds have not been made public.

Enter Cooper’s research paper.

The paper pays particular attention to the neighborhood around Underground. It focuses on topics including employment and household income. Cooper identifies influencers including office and retail availability, and access.

Cooper’s paper notes that Underground’s very location – under Atlanta’s buildings and streets – is a major drawback for any retail activity. The drawback is exasperated in an automobile-centric region such as Atlanta, where Underground exists as a subterranean site that’s difficult to advertise with appropriate signage.

However, the paper also observes that Houston has achieved success with retailers in its system of tunnels beneath the business district.

The demographics of downtown Atlanta underscore the need for some basic forms of retail.

A grocery, for instance, is sorely lacking in downtown. Talk of a big box retailer is a cause of some concern, but Cooper notes that Walmart fills an important niche with its compact store at Technology Square.

Cooper said downtown has plenty of college students, and he supports WRS’s early plans for the residential component to target residents other than college students.

Cooper’s research showed 24,599 persons reside in 12,672 households located within a 1-mile radius of Underground. The median income was $31,707 in Census tracts within that radius, according to the latest available information.

In light of Underground’s present reality and future potential, Cooper said his blue-sky idea would be for Underground’s retail mix to be truly innovative. Something like an incubator space for tech entrepreneurs, such as Atlanta Tech Village, in Buckhead.

“Underground provides access to both road infrastructure and public transit to tech spaces around Atlanta, such as Tech Square,” Cooper said Monday. “They could add something that’s new, different, and edgy.”


Data security at Atlanta’s airport remains in question: City audit

As concerns related to cyber security abound, a new report from Atlanta’s city auditor shows the city’s IT department has not kept pace, especially at Atlanta’s airport.

The laundry list of unresolved issues includes former airport contractors having access to computer systems regarding the airport; and network issues at the airport so critical that the report said specifically that it did not name them for fear the issues would be made public.

Nothing in the report suggests that passenger safety is at risk. The report does anticipate that Samir Saini, the city’s information technology director since August, will address the issues.

Atlanta city Auditor Leslie Ward presented the report to the council on Monday. The document is slated for further review in council committees and possible deliberation by the council in 2015.

The new report follows up on a number of formal audit, including one dated November 2011 that had this perspective as the No. 1 mission: “Are controls in place to maintain data security for critical aviation systems?”

The answer from the airport, in some cases, is, “No,” according to the audit.

This is the item that refers to information controls at the Department of Aviation. The audit says the controls were expected to be implemented in January 2012:

The Aviation Department opted to complete one of the four changes, though it had agreed to implement all four upgrades, according to the audit:

This audit joins a growing list of issues related to the city’s ability to manage its digital affairs. Atlanta purchased a computer system that has not fulfilled expectations and requires ongoing funding to perform.

The purpose of the new audit was to address a number of IT issues, or information technology issues, that it had raised over the previous 84 months. The city auditor is supposed to provide reports that look back to determine if recommendations have been followed.

The new audit shows the IT department implemented 10 recommendations; partially implemented five recommendations; and did not recommend nine recommendations.

Here are a few of the issues and the city’s responses:



About David Pendered’s Journalism

David Pendered is managing editor of, a website that covers the urban affairs of metro Atlanta. Pendered’s work has appeared in Urban Land, the magazine of the Urban Land Institute, and several print and digital sites around the region. Pendered is contributing to an upcoming book to be published by the American Planning Association.

  • Journalism