Kate Sweeney | WABE 90.1 FM

Kate Sweeney


Kate Sweeney, reporting from the High Museum of Art just before the renowned Calder sculpture left the museum's lawn after residing there for more than 25 years.
Credit Katie King / WABE

A native of Pittsburgh, Kate Sweeney harbors a fondness for rusted-out architecture and real hoagies. Her radio stories have won her a number of Associated Press Awards and five regional Edward R. Murrow Awards. She also hosts from time to time. University of Georgia Press  published her book  American Afterlife, in 2014, and it won a Georgia Author of the Year Award in the category of Essay. She is a voracious listener to creative radio and podcasts, and adores the Third Coast International Audio Festival

Some of Kate's radio work:

"Suburban Poverty: Atlanta's Hidden Epidemic"
March 2016

"Plaza Fiesta: The Mall of the Future...on Buford Highway?"
January 2015

"Atlanta Looks for Solutions to City's Parking Lot Deserts"
May 2016

"Atlanta Agency Wants Your Dream Donations"
June 2015

"History in the Trees: A Tour of the Doll's Head Trail"
October 2014 (Winner, Best Use of Sound, 2015 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, audio)

"The Bird Restaurant on Peachtree" 
October 2013 (winner, Best Use of Sound, 2014 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, Audio)

"Cycling in Atlanta: Gaining Momentum"
April 2013 (Reprinted by WNYC's Transportation Nation) 

"A Visit to Ms. Ann's Snackbar"
May 2010 (winner, Best Feature, 2011 Regional Edward R. Murrow Award, Audio)





Ways to Connect

Dr. Celine Saulnier, (R), sets up a child in the toddler eye-tracking research equipment as a fellow prepares to monitor her eye movements.
Emory University School of Medicine

Like a lot of parents, Shannon Hewett knew the signs of autism. She looked out for them when her son TJ was born.

“When he was a baby, he made eye contact with me—and even today, if he is engaging with me socially, he will make eye contact,” she said.

But it turns out TJ is autistic, even with all that eye contact.  He was diagnosed when he was 2 years old, after Shannon noticed he wasn’t talking the way other kids did. TJ also had problems with social cues; Shannon said it was often like he didn’t even hear her when she called his name.

Men line up for a meal at Atlanta Mission. The organization's president says poverty is much more complex than ''the number of people we see on the street.''
Rachel Solid / Atlanta Mission

In the United States, poverty is measured by income level. If you’re a family of four making more than $24,000 a year, you’re over the poverty line. Less than that, and you’re under it.

But a study from Georgia Tech says looking at income alone is not enough.

For example, maybe your income is technically over the poverty line, but you can’t afford health insurance. Or your rent or mortgage takes a major hit each month. Or you have a disability. 

Pratt-Pullman Yard is part of the Kirkwood National Register of Historic Places listing.
Dan Raby / WABE

The Atlanta Urban Design Commission has voted to withdraw a plan that would have granted a former Atlanta industrial property historic status.

The state owns the 28-acre Pratt-Pullman Yard: 11 buildings and a considerable amount of unused grassy space. It's been empty for decades, but once was the repair yard for Pullman train cars. Now it occasionally serves as a set for films like the "Hunger Games" series.

Al Such / WABE

This is not one of those stories about millennials.

Even though people in their 20s and 30s are often credited as the prime movers and shakers in the “hipster-fication” of Atlanta’s east side—the influx of restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that have swept in with the advent of the Atlanta Beltline—this story’s about a different demographic.

People like Bob and Bunny Lenhard.

Hadi Mizban / Associated Press

You may have heard there’s something special in the skies this morning. It’s the supermoon, so called because it’s a full moon at the closest point in its orbit to Earth.

But astronomically, it turns out the super moon isn’t really a big deal. Tellus Science Center Astronomer David Dundee calls it “an astronomical non-event.”


“I’m sorry the astronomer’s going to throw a wet blanket on all this,” Dundee says, “because if you walk out, look at the full moon, you're going to say, ‘That's the same old full moon I've always seen.’”

Kyra Semien / WABE

Candler Park resident Anandi Salinas still remembers how excited she was when the residential/retail hub Ponce City Market opened its doors in 2015.

“I was like, ‘Oh! Let’s go check out Ponce City Market!’ And we walked over there, and I needed to buy a yoga mat," she says.

The mat she ended up buying cost $80—which is pricey for a grad student like her.

“And I was like, ‘This is the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought,’ and I quickly felt really out of place, and I just bought it and left.” 

Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

A lot of parents who opposed the Trump candidacy are still trying to figure out how to explain to their children what happened.

Late Wednesday morning, West End resident Jessica Shepherd pulled a pan of brownies from the oven of her home.

“You have to eat your feelings with something that tastes good, right?” she said. 

The statement was followed by a wry laugh. She also cried a lot this morning. A vocal supporter of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Shepherd now struggles with how to talk with her four children about the election results.

Matt Rourke / Associated Press

If you had a sudden expense of $400 could you pay for it right now? Nearly half of people in the Atlanta area say it would be a real challenge. That’s according to a new survey from the Atlanta Regional Commission.

According to the survey, half of us could pay in cash. Another quarter would put the charge on a credit card or borrow the money. The rest of us would either pawn something, or couldn’t pay at all.

Alison Guillory / WABE

Atlanta’s intown population is expected to grow by 44 percent over the next 24 years, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. WABE’s series “Changing Atlanta” examines what that growth means, by talking with the Atlantans whose lives it affects.

Gwen Marshall’s Castleberry Hill apartment has the look of a carefully curated international art gallery.

Indeed, artwork adorns just about every surface, including a striking collection of more than a dozen masks she’s collected from places as diverse as Cozumel, New Orleans and Jamaica.

Kate Sweeney / WABE

Hundreds of programmers descended on Atlanta last weekend for the Southern Interactive Entertainment and Games Expo. Gaming is a $23 billion industry where women are still in the minority, even though they make up half of the nation's video gamers.

The Dear Games project is hoping to move the needle on this.

Exhibit A?

Alison Guillory / WABE

In general, buildings are not good for the environment. Some do less harm than others, but now, Georgia Tech wants to build a $25 million structure that actually does good. It’s called a “Living Building.”

On the campus of Georgia Tech, there’s this huge oak.

“It’s a signature tree on our campus,” says Georgia Tech’s Director of Capital Planning Howard Wertheimer, “and we want to preserve it. So how they site the building will be respectful of this tree.”

This is the space that will house Tech’s 42,000 square-foot Living Building.

David Goldman / Associated Press

Ballot language can be confusing.

Too confusing, alleged lawyers Tuesday, who filed a class-action lawsuit against the state of Georgia. The lawyers alleged that ballot language describing a proposed constitutional amendment is misleading. That amendment, commonly known as the Opportunity School Districts Amendment, or Amendment One, would give the state more control over public schools.

But is the ballot language really that confusing, and if so, why?

Kate Sweeney / WABE

The roundabout. It’s a trendy type of traffic circle that’s known for improving safety and decreasing trip times. But a new roundabout intersection in Sandy Springs is off to a rocky start.

Vernon McKinley’s daily commute takes him through the new intersection — in which two roundabouts replaced stoplights on each side of the Interstate-285 exit onto Riverside Drive. (You can see a rendering by the Georgia Department of Transportation here.)

Boarded-up houses and kudzo covered houses are a common sight in the English Ave and Vine City communities
Alison Guillory / WABE

 A new research paper is sounding the alarm over rising rents on Atlanta’s west side, where the BeltLine is slated for paving.

Dan Immergluck, professor of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech, wrote the paper. Its bottom line: Affordable housing on Atlanta’s west side should be established now, before land values and property taxes rise any higher.

 When you think of youth leadership groups, maybe you imagine things like community service projects. But one metro Atlanta group is doing more: actively supporting a move to raise the state’s drop-out age to 17.

A few years ago, a friend of Bailey Damiani’s dropped out of high school. A year later, he told her he regretted it.

"He wished that someone had been there to kind of encourage him to continue on pursuing his academic career," she says, "because his quality of life now is so below the potential that he could have had."

Construction cranes over the new Falcons Stadium: precursors to a changing neighborhood?
Kate Sweeney / WABE

  The Atlanta BeltLine has led to a lot of rapid development on Atlanta’s east side, and that development has led to soaring property values.

That’s something some Westside residents have watched with apprehension — and one grassroots group has quietly spent the past six years, getting ready, with a unique strategy.

Third-Generation Vine City

Courtesy of HSH.com

  $40,092.12. That’s the amount you need to earn annually in order to afford a median-priced house in Atlanta, according to mortgage-tracker HSH.com.

That number’s up 5.79 percent in the 12-month period the company measured.

But economist Tom Smith with Emory’s Goizueta Business School says: this change is good. Or, more accurately, it’s neither good nor bad. It simply indicates the economy re-balancing itself after the recession.

Khalil Senosi / Associated Press

  Katie Kissel wants you to know: She’s not some crunchy granola type.

"I really think that there’s a good place for medical intervention in birth when it’s needed,” the Atlanta resident says.

However, she says the birth of her first child was filled with interventions she didn’t really want, including an episiotomy and the administration of the drug Pitocin.

David Goldman / Associated Press

After a storm of criticism this past week from transit advocates, Atlanta BeltLine officials have proposed an alternative for a potential tunnel route under Inman Park’s Hulsey Train Yard.

First things first: The big idea behind the BeltLine is a loop of transit and trails ringing the city. But there’s one big obstacle to closing the loop: a CSX railyard south of Inman Park that spans nearly a full mile east to west.

Last week, Atlanta BeltLine Inc. unveiled a plan for a tunnel under the yard. The tunnel was part of a mixed-use development from North American Properties.

Matthias Schrader / Associated Press

A new Adidas plant set to open next year in Cherokee County is an early indicator of a sea change in the way athletic shoes are being made.

First, there’s the technical end. At the so-called Adidas “Speedfactory," sneakers will be made using computer manufacturing technologies meant to speed up production — a big deal in the sneaker game, according to sports analyst Matt Powell.

“The time it takes to bring a shoe to market is quite long — much longer than apparel  — typically 18 months to two years,” he says.

David Goldman / Associated Press

With the mosquito-borne illness Zika in the news, it may be hard to remember that just a few years ago, West Nile Virus was the big concern.

Well, it turns out West Nile never had major numbers in metro Atlanta – and now scientists know why.

Each year, only about three people out of 100,000 in the Atlanta area get infected with the virus.

That figure’s low  compared to other parts of the country, including Chicago.

For a long time the low infection rate puzzled scientists, since Atlanta’s long, hot mosquito season can last until November.

Reed Saxon / associated press file

  Let’s get this straight. Just because you’re over 60, it doesn’t mean your sex life is over, especially now that people are living longer than ever.

The Atlanta Regional Commission has certainly learned this. The ARC offers a slew of one-hour health classes for senior citizens on a variety of topics.

The most requested by far is one that started last year called “Healthy Sexuality as We Age.”

“A lot of people think that as we get older, somehow our interest in intimacy and sexuality wanes,” says Mary Newton, volunteer services coordinator with the organization.

Darin Givens (left) and Matt Garbett (right) explain Thread ATL's goals to a crowd assembled at Condesa Coffee in Atlanta's Old Fourth Ward.
Kate Sweeney / WABE

Walkable neighborhoods. Better transit. And city leaders who’ll make these a priority. These are the goals of a new group organizing in Atlanta.

Thread ATL organizer Darin Givens is familiar with the charge that bike lanes and walkable streets are the pet issues of the elite: weekend cyclists sipping their artisanal lattes.

But, along with co-organizer Matt Garbett, Givens argues that good urbanism should matter to everyone, especially now that Atlanta is seeing such rapid growth.

Artistic rendering of soccer field planned for Five Points Station

Atlanta, say hello to transit-oriented soccer.

It's the latest move by MARTA to try to boost street life around its stations. The organization is working with nonprofit Soccer in the Streets to construct what it’s billing the first soccer field ever built inside  transit facility.

The pitch, measuring about 66 by 99 feet (smaller than a regulation-sized soccer field), will be housed on the top floor of Five Points Station, in downtown Atlanta.

Daddy D'z BBQ Joynt on Memorial Drive in Atlanta.
Rob Holland / flickr.com/robh

  Nonprofit Park Pride is seeking public feedback on a potential linear park between Oakland Cemetery and downtown Atlanta. But exact plans for the three-quarter-mile greenway on Memorial Drive are far from concrete.

One thing that's up in the air: What to do with businesses now operating in the proposed park's path?

Mary Claire Kelly / WABE

Building a new deck or fire pit should be easier now than it used to be, according to the city of Atlanta, thanks to new procedures in place for building permit applications.

Planning Commissioner Tim Keane says that in June, it took an average of 42 minutes for customers to get through the city’s new “express permit” application process for minor building projects. That's down from 44 minutes in May, the month the new procedures rolled out. The goal, he says, is 30 minutes.

Under the former system, Keane says it often took several days:

Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry executive director Laura Drake holds a sleeve of sandwiches packed by volunteers.
Kate Sweeney / WABE

  Every weekday morning in the summer, 9-year-old Jayden Towns lines up with about two dozen other neighborhood kids under a shady tree in his Snellville neighborhood. They come to collect bagged lunches from volunteers from Southeast Gwinnett Cooperative Ministry.

The summer meal program rolled out by the co-op is one of hundreds trying to fill a growing need around the state. Nearly 60 percent of Georgia's public school children are eligible for free or reduced lunches, but once summer rolls around, fewer than 15 percent of them have access to those meals.

 Atlanta’s City Council has approved up to $675,000 in investment grants for three companies relocating their headquarters to the city.

Technology firms Keysight Technologies, Global Payments and GE Digital are up for so-called “economic opportunity fund” grants.

“So, these grants could be used for anything to help support their move to the city of Atlanta,” explains Eloisa Klementich, president and CEO of Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm. Such expenses could include anything from equipment to improvements to company properties.

A new online tool could help reduce the stigma associated with mental illness.

That's according to researchers at Emory University, who helped develop the first online calculator that assesses a patient’s risk of developing psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia.

Emory psychologist Elaine Walker says similar tools have been used for years by medical professionals to assess factors related to conditions like strokes.

John Lewis talks with members of the community at June 29 town hall meeting on gun violence.
Kate Sweeney / WABE

After last week’s House-floor sit-in by Democrats seeking a vote on gun control measures, what’s next?

That was the question on the minds of some 200 people at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Wednesday for a town-hall meeting on gun violence.

Democratic Congressman John Lewis, a veteran civil rights activist, helped organize the June 22 sit-in.

At the town hall, he said that was just the beginning.