The core of Buckhead’s commercial district has experienced explosive growth and much more dense and vertical development over the last 10 years than ever before. The next 10 years appear poised to reshape the skyline even more, with countless developments announced along the core, which follows Peachtree Road from Phipps Plaza to just past the Buckhead Village. All of this development is pushing Buckhead toward a less car-dependent and more walkable future. Unfortunately, the sidewalks and streetscapes in these areas are woefully inadequate, an eyesore, and reflect poorly on our community. Peachtree Road in particular is the gateway to our community for many and it is in dire need of a facelift.
But, there is good news! The streets of Buckhead are in for a refresh spearheaded by the Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID). Since the BCID was established in 1999 it has funded projects and programs that they hope will “set the stage for Buckhead’s commercial core to be a more walkable, livable urban center.” Three years later, in 2002, the first Buckhead Action Plan was put in motion to develop a comprehensive vision for land use and trails throughout Buckhead.
Behind these vast and far-reaching efforts is a relatively small team led by Executive Director Jim Durrett. Also on staff at the BCID are Director of Capital Improvements and Planning Darren Dunn, Financial and Office Manager Rebecca Stokes, and Capital Projects Implementation Manager Tony Peters. The nine member board includes notable local executives and business leaders such as Robin Loudermilk Jr., Robin T. Suggs, and Howard Shook. Partnerships and sponsorships with local businesses and institutions facilitate the BCID’s operations while some of the planning, design, construction, and maintenance is outsourced to contractors to facilitate a number of projects all at once.
Over the course of the past 20 years the BCID has raised $60 million via a special property tax on commercial properties within the BCID boundaries. $110 million has also been raised from outside sources for improvements and repairs in Buckhead. Of the funds, only around 5% has been allocated for administrative costs, the rest going directly to the fulfillment of their project objectives.
Complete Streets are “streets for everyone” according to the Renew Atlanta website. A Complete Street may include sidewalks, dedicated bike and bus lanes, paved shoulders, special bus lanes, bus stops, crosswalks, median islands, pedestrian signals, curb extensions, and roundabouts, among others. Beyond the safety aspect of reworking streetscapes is the beautification of our thoroughfares that accompanies these improvements.
Complete Streets often feature buried utilities, efficient lighting, and fresh landscaping in the ‘verges’ strip of land between the sidewalk and road. These changes are based upon countless studies of road use to enhance safety and improve the pedestrian experience for those utilizing busy streets whether by car or on foot.
Durrett considers the transformation of Peachtree Road to be the BCID’s signature project. Phases 1 and 2 have already transformed Peachtree from Piedmont Road to just North of Phipps Plaza. Phases 3 and 4 will kick off in early 2020 and extend from Piedmont Road South through the Buckhead Village. This area is the center of massive redevelopment, yet still has large stretches of blighted or non-existent sidewalks. The BCID is currently working to acquire right-of-ways in this area.
Click on segments on the interactive map below to read more information about where these improvements will be impacting Buckhead streets.
Path 400, a 5.2-mile mixed use trail led by Livable Buckhead, will have have 3 miles open to the public by October 10, 2019. The route stretches alongside GA400 from Miami Circle to the Gordon Bynum pedestrian bridge, crowned by a tangle of train lines overhead. We got a sneak peek of the route earlier this summer, you can see pictures of the work in progress by following this link.
Concept designs have now been funded by the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank grant for an innovative new 9-acre greenspace that has been gaining traction in the last few years. The process will include surveys and analysis of geotechnical data the BCID will need in order to bring HUB404 to its next stage: preliminary engineering.
Carving through residential neighborhoods, dividing streets that had once been united, the construction of GA400 was divisive to the local communities that were affected. Perhaps the boldest BCID initiative is HUB404, a plan to install a greenspace atop GA400, reported to be the first multi-modal transit-oriented park of its kind in the United States. Drawing inspiration from the HighLine in Manhattan, Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, and Millennium Park in Chicago among others, this monumental greenspace would become an iconic part of the landscape and skyline.
BCID hopes that the design, conceptualized as an experience for locals and visitors alike, will offer a connection to nature, serve as a much-needed gathering space, and encourage transit by foot or bike by including bike share station and the inclusion of Path 400 between previously divided areas of the community. Plans include space allocated to gardens, plaza, and commons, with an allée of high-canopied trees that provide structure and shade in the space.
The intersection of Piedmont, Roswell, Habersham, and Blackland Roads is currently being studied to establish what changes can be made to improve the interchange. The results of that study, along with one concerning the redesign of the GA400 interchange at Lenox Road and a potential new interchange behind Lenox Square, are predicted to be available towards the end of the year.
The Buckhead CID has been working tirelessly to bring these and many other big ideas to life in Buckhead. Those streets you drive on your way to work, the road at the end of your block, the route that your children take to school, those roadways may not draw your attention on a daily basis but they are an inexorable part of your life, and it’s thanks to the dedication of organizations like the BCID that they are restored and rescued from slipping into disrepair. Working in a space that connects the community to the contractors to the Mayor herself, the BCID has established itself as a powerful force of good for those who call Buckhead home