By John Schaffner
editor@reporternewspapers.net

Some 30 business owners, civic leaders and residents attended a meeting April 1 about the formation of the Brookhaven Business & Community Alliance (BBCA) and left realizing it was no April Fool’s joke — it is a serious effort to create a strong, unified Brookhaven voice.

At the end of the hour-long morning meeting at Hudson Grille, Kelly Brantley, a financial adviser with Edward Jones and the person who pulled the effort together, said the BBCA will meet the second Tuesday of each month at 9 a.m. at the same location, 4046 Peachtree Road in Brookhaven Station.

Brantley also announced a meeting for those interested in serving on the alliance’s board or key committees April 14 from 8:30 to 10 a.m. at the Brookhaven Bank, 2221 Johnson Ferry Road. Sam Massell, the president of the Buckhead Coalition and an honorary board member of the Buckhead Business Association, will share his ideas and experiences regarding forming such an organization.

Brantley said she called Gretchen Roberts, the executive director of the Brookhaven Arts Alliance, after reading a story in the Brookhaven Reporter in which Roberts said Brookhaven needs an organization that pulls together the talents of its business owners and civic leaders.

Brantley said she agreed the time is right for such an organization, and she volunteered to help bring it to fruition. The April 1 meeting was the first step, and the turnout on a rainy morning showed there is a definite interest.

Roberts set the stage for the formation of the BBCA by discussing some of the community’s demographics — approximately 30,000 residents, a small but growing business community along Peachtree Road and Dresden Drive, a mix of age groups and family styles, and diversity of residents — and what is missing that would make Brookhaven a real community.

One of the key missing elements, Roberts said, is a physical community center. She said Brookhaven needs a village green, a cultural center and a central landmark. “The assets need immediate attention.”

Brookhaven also lacks a chamber of commerce to promote it and pull together interests, she said. “It lacks a clear voice when interacting with DeKalb County and other entities.”

She and Brantley, along with others in the room, think the BBCA can provide that voice.

From a personal viewpoint, Roberts said the BBCA can be the catalyst for the primary goal of the Brookhaven Arts Alliance: “to have four walls” within which to teach the arts, as well as a gallery that also serves as a gift shop.

“I hope this organization will help take the Arts Alliance to the next level” and help provide the leadership for its future, she said.

Roberts was followed by her husband, Bill Roberts, who discussed the background of the Brookhaven Park Civic Association (BPCA) and why it has an interest in the BBCA.

The BPCA was organized in 2004 to work with DeKalb County, MARTA and the Atlanta Regional Commission on the redevelopment of MARTA’s Brookhaven rail site. It also was instrumental in obtaining the Livable Centers Initiative study for Brookhaven and secured MARTA’s commitment to embrace the findings.

He emphasized that the organization is not anti-development but is active in initiatives to protect Brookhaven against changes in zoning.

“It is better to have a group that represents all neighborhoods in the area in a unified voice” when dealing with the county, Roberts said.

Other speakers were Jenny Trautman, representing the Friends of Brookhaven Park, which she referred to as “a gem in Brookhaven that is underutilized by the public”; Dianna Williams and other incoming officers of the Ashford Park Elementary School PTA; and Bill Slubin, representing the Brookhaven Bolt race, which last year raised $19,000 for Ashford Park Elementary and will be held this year May 16.

Among the others at the meeting were Ronnie Mayer, the president of the Ashford Park Civic Association; his wife, ReMax agent Debbie Leonard Mayer; Stacy Lucas, representing Georgia Shakespeare; Bob Cunningham of the Brookhaven Rotary Club; and Nick Gold, representing the Sembler Co.