What do three lawyers, one private equity investor, a SCAD professor, a commercial real estate broker, and a writer have in common? Enjoying the game of Mahjong. This is my Mahjong group and this is the tale of us. 

Mahjong enthusiasts are popping up everywhere in Buckhead. Have you noticed? Even though many of us have experienced a cultural whiff of Mahjong, either from the novel The Joy Luck Club or the movie Crazy Rich Asians, some are still wondering What is Mahjong? 

The rudimentary answer: Think gin rummy using artful tiles instead of a deck of cards. That is an understatement, but you get the idea. The goal is to be the first player to match a sequence of tiles, using all thirteen of your tiles.  

Maybe this tile craze is taking off because it is known to promote patience and politeness. Meh. That is not why our group plays. We live in an exponentially-growing metropolis, so patience is probably not all that obtainable anymore. According to Market Business News, studies show that Mahjong helps maintain good brain health and improve memory skills. A fat chunk of dark chocolate does that too. Just saying. Actress Julia Roberts plays because she finds it relaxing. I love that for her. Really, I do. Yes, those are meritorious rationales for playing. And so is the important skill of making speedy decisions and gathering information. Yet, none of those explains our Mahjong motivations.

We play for one reason, simple enjoyment. No committees are required. No agendas are passed out. We don’t have to elect co-chairs. No casserole sign-up is needed. No nothing. Not even prizes.

From left to Right: Jennifer Alewine, Aubrey Waddell, Melissa Laue, Laura Clary, Luciana Holbert, and Jessica DeHart

It’s weird. When we play, we also never eat and rarely drink anything except LaCroix. I know, all of this seems incredibly counter intuitive for a gathering group of women who like each other. Sometimes, Melissa Laue brings us good chocolate. This is the one group I am a part of that doesn’t feel compelled to drone on incessantly about scuttlebutt, Ozempic, or botched-up Botox. That is not who we are.

What we are is beautiful laughter and joy for a mere two hours.

History is unsure if the ancient Chinese game started in the 1200s, 1300s, 1600s, or the 1800s. Another thing that cannot universally be agreed upon is how to spell the game. Mah Jongg? Mah jong? Mahjong? With hyphens or without? No one knows. Any way works.

According to the Seattle Times, the American Mahjong introduction happened in the mid-1920s by Joseph P. Babcock, a Standard Oil employee. According to legend, after Babcock first encountered the game on a ship while traveling the Yangtze River, he began exporting sets of the game to the United States. At the time, Babcock realized that there was a fascination with the ‘unknown China’ and that Americans were hungry for anything from the exotic East. Babcock’s Mahjong sets became all the rage.

Today, the game is having a resurgence across America, not just Buckhead. Possibly, the pandemic-induced home-bound isolation that lasted for months on end gave so many of us the same take away: We hated the grueling separation from one another. We need each other. So Mahjong seems a fitting solution; four people at one table, elbow to elbow. Eyes glued to the same action.

For those interested and needing an entrée into the game, look to the Buckhead Mahjong Club on Facebook. That is a terrific spot to start. Co-founders of the club, Liz Liu and Luciana Holbert, instruct players of all levels and host wine and Mahj games across the southeast.

Our group typically plays on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, rarely every week though. I miss it when it’s not on my calendar. Some weeks, we have two tables of four players. Other weeks, we can only fill one table. The game stays with us long after we go home, feed the dog, spray the mucky kitchen sink clean, and roll into bed. We have never once been together and not exploded into memorable laughter. Inevitably, the day after playing, someone starts a text chain because they are still giggling. Which gets us remembering the generous night together.

For us, Mahjong is gobs better than a sisterhood; it’s a cousinhood. A cousinhood in the sense that no matter who shows up to play, we know it will be a lovely, lovely time. And no one can ask more of that from a Tuesday or Wednesday night.

This lovely home exudes the timeless charm and classic elegance that you expect in Tuxedo Park. Renowned architect Stan Dixon designed a recent complete renovation and expansion. The updates increased the living space and added a semi-detached garage which connects to the home by a breezeway. Step inside the inviting foyer to a formal dining room and spacious living room graced with a fireplace and French doors.

Main Level

The heart of the home lies in the lovely kitchen which is equipped with a center island, double oven, and walk-in pantry. The kitchen seamlessly opens to a family room with a cozy wood-burning fireplace and built-in bookshelves and a wet bar.    

Relaxation and entertaining converge in the enclosed all-season living porch, complete with a grilling station, beverage fridge, wood-burning fireplace, living room and dining area, creating the perfect setting for both casual gatherings and elegant dining. With a view of the swimming pool and landscape beyond, this will be where you will enjoy spending most of your time!

Adjacent to the living porch is the generously sized main-floor recreation room. This versatile room with a temperature-controlled wine cellar and powder room is perfect for watching the game or hanging out after a day at the pool!  

The primary bedroom suite on the main level is a lovely retreat and features a walk-in closet with custom shelving, and in-suite laundry (which can be converted to extra closet space if desired).

Upper Level

Upstairs, discover three spacious bedrooms, each with its own ensuite bath, walk-in closet, and access to a shared laundry room with a sink and ample storage.

Behind the 2-car garage is a surprise that will delight golfers – a putting green! Practice your short game right in your own backyard!

A Control 4 system conveniently integrates music and security cameras throughout the home. Conveniently located just a short drive from Buckhead Village and only 1 block from 35 acres of gardens and parkland nestled behind the Atlanta History Center! This home offers an exceptional living experience for the discerning homeowner, combining classic charm, convenience, and a variety of outdoor recreation in the heart of South Tuxedo Park.

South Tuxedo Park Neighborhood

South Tuxedo Park is a small neighborhood that combines just about everything you might move to Buckhead for. Valley Road alone has some of the most beautiful homes in Buckhead, with similarly wonderful homes on nearby streets.

The Cherokee Town & Country Club and the entire South Tuxedo Park neighborhood was once the 100 acre estate of the Grant family. John W. Grant and his wife Annie Inman Grant operated a farm on the property and built their home (which is now part of the Cherokee Club House) there in 1917.

Today the Cherokee Club sits in the center of the neighborhood and offers its members swimming, tennis, and more. The Atlanta History Center includes 35 acres of gardens and walking trails in addition to the fascinating displays and artifacts inside.

The southeastern tip of South Tuxedo Park includes many of Buckhead’s favorite shopping options. The adjacent Buckhead Village is home to the finest collection of high-end dining and retail in Georgia. Neighbors love Lucy’s Market, the Buckhead Butcher, and Whole Foods to name a few.  

Tuxedo Park

Tuxedo Park is the undisputed top-shelf neighborhood in Buckhead. The rich history of this area goes deeper than many residents may realize. This early Atlanta suburb was only woods and farmland at the beginning of the 20th century, but that quickly changed. Wealthy Atlantans began building homes along Paces Ferry around 1904, many used as summer or country estates with farm animals and extensive gardens. Tuxedo Park expanded North several blocks from there and has kept its refined Southern elegance ever since.

The Tuxedo Park Civic Association holds social events, hires private security officers, and generally keeps the neighborhood connected despite the mostly gated and secluded estates. With its historic mansions and picturesque landscaping, Tuxedo Park is aptly named for this sophisticated neighborhood of magnificent residences. Some of the finest estates in Buckhead are located in the prestigious Tuxedo Park neighborhood.

Although the city of Atlanta has grown to surround this once-remote area, the neighborhood still maintains an aura of seclusion and escape. The manicured grounds and varied architecture of the homes give the neighborhood a formal air befitting its name.

In a landmark real estate transaction, Buckhead real estate broker Ben Hirsh has sold 3391 Tuxedo Road in Atlanta for $19.8 million. The all-cash purchase closed on March 12, 2024 in a private transaction in which Hirsh represented the seller. Harvin Greene with Dorsey Alston Realtors represented the buyer. This off-market deal more than doubles the highest sale of 2023, also brokered by Hirsh, and sets the record as the highest recorded home sale price in Atlanta history. The prior two record holders were Tyler Perry’s home on Paces Ferry Road, selling for $17.5 million in 2016, and a home on Valley Road which sold for $18.1 million in 2021.

What Makes The Home Special, And The team Behind It 

As you might imagine, Atlanta’s most distinguished home to ever sell is unique to the market. It has been described as Scandinavian in style with a Japanese vibe in its flow – uncluttered and refined. One prime example is the sculptural central staircase that connects the three levels of the 17,000 square foot home. Here, an 18th-century Japanese charring technique called Shou Sugi Ban was used to finish the wood cladding of the monolithic wall on which the crisp right angles of the white oak stair treads appear to float in pleasing contrast. In a home that is a showcase for art, this effect is one of the greatest pieces.

The sellers designed the home in close collaboration with local design/build firm Siegel Construction and Design and Norwood Architects. When reached for comment, the firm’s principal designer Kathy Siegel said, “It was the third collaboration between this client and our firm. It was a fantastic partnership and resulted in a home that is truly deserving of the value it has achieved.”

Interior designer, Sherry Shirah, from New Orleans made each room inviting and comfortable, not an easy feat in a space that is focused on minimalism. Sherry introduced texture in the form of antique rugs layered on top of each other, and exceptional custom furniture pieces that she had built for the space

Jackson Fine Art assisted in curating an extensive fine art photography collection for the home. Owner and curator Anna Walker Skillman commented “The art collection becomes an integral part of a home when curated and placed correctly.”  So integral, in fact, that much of that collection is going to stay.

The 3+ acres of land that surround the home were landscaped by garden designer Thibault Devillard of Terre Gardens. This was the third home Devillard has worked on with the sellers and he handled the landscaping, outdoor lighting and maintenance.

Ben Hirsh, who has brokered multiple purchases and sales for the client, originally brought the property to them with a vision for what could be done with it. “The couple who sold the home defined a one-of-a-kind vision for this property. Like them, I love the creative process and land development,” said Hirsh. “It is especially gratifying to be part of this process from original concept to a successful close. The family who purchased this home cherished it from the moment they entered and they will be very happy there.”

Hirsh Exceeds $1 Billion in Career Sales While Setting All-Time Atlanta Record 

Ben Hirsh (center), with Michelle Legan, Operations Director and Rob Knight, Creative Director

This record-setting sale marked multiple milestones for Buckhead Realtor Ben Hirsh. “Before this sale, my career sales volume was $995 million. It was exciting to set the record for a home sale, while at the same time surpassing the $1 billion mark in homes I have personally sold.” The secret to this incredible success? “There is no secret and no shortcut,” says Hirsh. “Just last month, I celebrated 20 years in the business. What may look like luck at first glance is really 20 years of very hard work, a focused plan, continuous improvement, and significant resources invested in what I believe are the most effective marketing strategies that have ever been implemented in our industry. I am also blessed to be supported by two incredibly gifted professionals: Michelle Legan, my Operations Director of 13 years, and Rob Knight, my Creative Director.”

While Ben is once again the top individual real estate agent in Atlanta based on 2023 sales volume of over $135 million, his achievements are not just in sales volume. “I get incredible satisfaction from really listening to and serving my clients,” said Ben. “These larger than life sales get most of the attention, but I consider myself an expert on all Buckhead real estate, not just the super high end. I treat each of my clients with the respect, dedication and expertise that they deserve and, ultimately, that creates relationships that grow and last for decades. Those relationships are my measure of success.”

This beautiful home offers the perfect Buckhead location between Tuxedo Park and Chastain Park. Designed by Spitzmiller and Norris, the home provides plenty of room for your family with large rooms and comfortable spaces for guests. Details you will notice immediately are extra-tall 10′ garage doors on the 3-car garage, and 11′ ceilings throughout the home. An elevator shaft serves all three floors for a convenient future upgrade.

The backyard is a private oasis, featuring a beautiful pool and spa, level lawn that seems to go on forever, and a covered patio with sitting and dining areas. The patio and pool terrace are easily accessed from multiple rooms, including the family room, kitchen, and main floor guest suite.

Main Level

A grand entry foyer is your introduction to the open spaces on the main level. The cozy fireside sitting room and formal dining room are separate-yet-connected spaces, thanks to large cased openings. Ahead you will find the family room with a wall of windows looking onto the pool terrace.

The expansive kitchen features a large central island with counter seating, and a breakfast area with fireplace and room for a full-sized dining table. Professional Viking appliances are surrounded by ample custom cabinets, including a walk-in pantry with a stacked washer and dryer! A butler’s pantry provides more storage, and the side entry hall and mudroom provide even more custom cabinetry.

A guest suite is tucked away down a hallway on the main level will make your guests feel more than welcome. The private suite features a bedroom overlooking the pool terrace, a walk-in closet, and a beautiful ensuite full bath.

Upper Level

Access the upper level via the main staircase or the back stairs by the kitchen. Here you will find a cozy sitting area, a laundry room, and built-in library shelves in the main hallway. The upper level includes three SPACIOUS secondary bedroom suites, each with generous closets and ensuite full baths. One of these suites currently connects to the primary bedroom as it was originally utilized as a nursery. It can easily be separated depending on your needs.

Primary Suite

The primary suite includes a fireside bedroom with an attached office, his and her walk-in closets, and his and her full baths! The view of the amazing backyard is wonderful!

Terrace Level

Downstairs you will find lots more room for entertaining and recreation, plus a few unique features of this home. Finished in 2013, the terrace level includes a large family room, rec room, home gym, and a full guest suite. There is also a half bath on this level and a remarkable amount of storage space.

Additional features include a whole-house HEPA air filter and a whole-house dehumidifier.

Tuxedo Park

Tuxedo Park is the undisputed top-shelf neighborhood in Buckhead. The rich history of this area goes deeper than many residents may realize. This early Atlanta suburb was only woods and farmland at the beginning of the 20th century, but that quickly changed. Wealthy Atlantans began building homes along Paces Ferry around 1904, many used as summer or country estates with farm animals and extensive gardens. Tuxedo Park expanded North several blocks from there and has kept its refined Southern elegance ever since.

The Tuxedo Park Civic Association holds social events, hires private security officers, and generally keeps the neighborhood connected despite the mostly gated and secluded estates. With its historic mansions and picturesque landscaping, Tuxedo Park is aptly named for this sophisticated neighborhood of magnificent residences. Some of the finest estates in Buckhead are located in the prestigious Tuxedo Park neighborhood.

Although the city of Atlanta has grown to surround this once-remote area, the neighborhood still maintains an aura of seclusion and escape. The manicured grounds and varied architecture of the homes give the neighborhood a formal air befitting its name.

Chastain Park 

Homeowners here will enjoy all that Chastain Park has to offer year-round. Chastain Park is Atlanta’s largest city park, and known by all as Buckhead’s premier park. The wide variety of competitive and recreational activities and entertainment venues hosted by Chastain Park include a swimming pool, a musical amphitheater where both pop and classical musicians entertain audiences outdoors, an arts center, tennis, gymnasium, walking trails, playgrounds, softball diamonds, a golf course and even a horse park – all of which appeal to athletic types and Sunday morning strollers alike.

The Chastain restaurant offers “refined comfort food” for residents and visitors alike in a beautiful setting across from the park.

On a warm night in September of last year, Assembly Studios in Doraville, GA, made a grand debut just a few miles Northeast of Buckhead, igniting excitement in Georgia’s film and TV scene. The star-studded opening featured a glamorous red carpet where invited guests lined up fortours of the high-tech facilities on a new 50-acre campus The night buzzed with live entertainment and networking, spotlighting Georgia’s growing status in entertainment and leaving a mark of anticipation for the studio’s future. Though Buckhead is not the epicenter of productions taking place in Georgia, the Assembly Studios opening further solidified it’s position at the geographic center of the major film studios that now form a ring around Atlanta.

Cutting the ribbon at Assembly Atlanta studios

The “Made in Georgia” logo has become a common sight as the credits roll for film and television productions, and the state’s film/TV industry continues to flourish after a brief hiatus for Hollywood actors and writers strikes of 2023. Several industry experts underscored the important and unique role Buckhead plays in the state’s burgeoning film industry and the economic benefits to the community are substantial

. According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the fiscal year 2023 saw a direct expenditure of $4.1 billion on productions in the state.

Buckhead’s starring role is housing

Georgia’s TV/film industry is now firmly established. As such, many crew members who are considered “below-the-line,” such as grips, makeup artists, camera operators and similar behind-the-scenes roles, now live in the state. But when a production is filming in the Atlanta area, actors, directors, producers and other “above-the-line” talent who do not live in the area require housing. They often move into the Atlanta area for several months for a film production, or longer for a television series.

Cue Buckhead’s production prominence.

Jacob Bean owns Studio Housing Atlanta. The company specializes in providing fully furnished housing — and other relevant services — for cast and crew members living temporarily in the Atlanta area during productions.

“The studios and crew members want something turnkey,” Bean said. “They want it to be fully furnished, with bedding, towels, everything A-Z as they are just showing up with a suitcase.”

Many are coming to Buckhead. Bean said many Buckhead homes are listed for about $30,000 to $70,000 a month. That budget could be even, higher for “top A-list celebrities.”

“Some actors get what they want, and the productions will pay practically whatever,” he said.

Studios will look elsewhere for productions taking place at Trilith Studios in Fayetteville or others area south of Atlanta due to commute times, Bean said. However, Buckhead has become a housing hotspot for productions filming on the north side of Atlanta, including at OFS Studios or Eagle Rock Studios in Norcross, or the newly opened Assembly Atlanta in Doraville. This is particularly true for A-listers who want the estate atmosphere Buckhead provides.

“Buckhead is a hotspot for [more prominent] cast members because it offers the privacy, security and amenities people are looking for,” Bean said.

Buckhead resident Ryan Millsap is the founder of Blackhall Studios, which was sold to a private investment firm in 2021 and now operates as Shadowbox Studios in DeKalb County. Millsap said Buckhead is an attractive housing option for many A-list celebrities as its upscale atmosphere can’t be found in others areas of the city.

“Buckhead is the nicest neighborhood in all of Atlanta,” he said. “This is where you will find the nicest homes. Originally, a lot of stars, directors, and above-the-line teams wanted to live in Buckhead, which I think is still true.”

Millsap said Buckhead has served as a temporary home for major actors like Robert Downey Jr., Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Pratt, and Tom Hardy during the production of films, including Jungle Cruise, Jumanji, The Accountant, Venom, and Marvel movies.

Buckhead’s appeal is not limited to housing

Justin Campbell, director of studio operations for Assembly Atlanta — the newly opened 50-acre studio development in Doraville on the former General Motors assembly site — said Buckhead is also an exceptional place for on-site filming.

“(Buckhead) provides something other areas of Atlanta don’t in its unique architecture and fine-end finishes,” Campbell said. “From the homes, hotels, corporate and retail spaces, it brings something you can’t find anywhere else.” Assembly Studios is projected to include over 1 million square feet of stage space at full build-out and already has a long-term partnership with NBCUniversal.

Jacob Bean with Studio Housing Atlanta said the opening of Assembly Atlanta, which is about 12 miles from the center of Buckhead, should drive more talent to be housed in the community.

“I do think Buckhead’s prominence will rise with Assembly Atlanta,” Bean said. “Already there is one production rumored to be coming in the next 30 days. What I know about that film, it will be higher-end actors looking for higher-end properties.”

Cost savings continue to draw productions to the Atlanta area

Millsap said the biggest driver of the Georgia’s film/tv industry growth, and subsequently that of Atlanta and Buckhead, is the state’s 30-percent tax credit for qualifying productions.

“The tax credit really makes the difference in why people want to make movies and TV in Atlanta,” he said. “All of the growth is largely dependent on the tax credit. If the tax credit changes or caps, it could have a significant effect on the future growth of the industry.”

Other cost savings are notable factors. Millsap said Atlanta provides “a massive discounted price for what you get.” For Buckhead, this includes the leasing costs to house actors.

“You can lease a beautiful home in Buckhead, but move that home to L.A. and you have to multiply the cost by eight or 10 times. The same is true in New York. Even in Miami you are probably paying five times as much for the same home. Atlanta provides a deep, deep discount for luxury. It’s a big draw because the quality of life here for the money is unmatched.”

Though the tax credit serves as the draw, the Atlanta area’s appeal for TV/film production goes beyond cost savings.

“The 30 percent qualifying productions receive, that’s what made [Georgia’s film/TV industry] go,” Campbell said. “But what’s allowed it to grow at the pace it has, and sustain, is the bipartisan support, labor development, the great infrastructure with Hartsfield-Jackson Airport and private airports, and thousands of small businesses that have either started in response to the industry or have pivoted to fit this industry’s needs.”

The initial growth of the state’s production industry has also fostered a new workforce of below-the-line crew members. Campbell credits initiatives like the Georgia Film Academy with fostering the state’s TV/film production labor pool. The Georgia Film Academy partners with the University System of Georgia and Technical College System of Georgia providing workforce training and classroom instruction for TV/film production at universities and colleges around the state.

“We no longer have to import crews from across the country,” Campbell said. “Eighty to ninety percent of crews are local, they’re Georgians. That has been a major driver and component to sustain the industry and make it a permanent presence.”

It is rare for an estate lot on the Chastain Park end of Tuxedo Road to become available, and this one is spectacular!  Spanning over 3 acres, the expansive property boasts a remarkable width of 250 feet and extends over 600 feet in depth. The site, where a previous residence once stood, has been meticulously cleared and groomed, setting the stage for your custom dream home.

The approach is perfect, dipping down at the street and then rising up gently to the hilltop plateau. Here, you will find the perfect site to build your dream home with no compromises. A conceptual plan designed by Land Plus shows ample room for a large home, gardens, lawns, a pool with a pool house, and a tennis or sports court at the rear of the property if desired!

In a landmark real estate transaction to kick off 2024, Buckhead real estate broker Ben Hirsh has sold a home on Knollwood Drive in Tuxedo Park for $9.5 million. The all-cash deal closed on January 17th in a private transaction in which Hirsh represented both the buyer and seller. This off-market sale tops the highest sale of 2023 (which was also brokered by Hirsh), and is a testament to his ability to handle high-value, luxurious properties discreetly and efficiently.

The sellers, Andy and Lindsey Capps, are no strangers to big real estate deals. Andy is the CEO and Co-Founder of Buckhead-based RESICAP, a large real estate development and services firm that develops and manages thousands of build-to-rent homes throughout the country. When reached for comment they said: “Ben has been our agent for years and we have been nothing but impressed. His deep knowledge of the Buckhead market is tremendous and his extensive connections make him the ideal agent to work with. He managed our most recent off-market sale with complete professionalism and exceeded our expectations yet again.”

A unique estate

The home is situated on 1.8 acres and has over 10,000 square feet of living space. The Capps worked with William T Baker to design the home, and Shaba Derazi completed construction for them in 2019. Lindsey worked closely with Dana Lynch Design on the interior, and the result was a masterpiece. Luxe Magazine had the following to say about the home when they featured it on the cover in 2022: “Infusing a contemporary aesthetic into a traditional home takes skill, vision and a substantial helping of resolve. Fortunately, one Atlanta couple was steadfast in their desire to create a family-friendly residence whose clean lines wouldn’t feel out of place alongside its stately Buckhead neighbors.”

The new owners has a growing family and a successful B2B business headquartered in Buckhead: “We had such an enjoyable experience working with Ben to find us our forever family home. This was our second time working with Ben over several years and he made the entire process as seamless as possible. He listened to our needs and was able to deliver and show several homes to us, walking us through each one, and spending hours helping us narrow down to our top choice. We relied on him heavily for everything- both big and small concerns; he was always there. Not only was he able to find us our dream house, but he did so in the timeline we needed before our baby arrives, and took stress off our shoulders.  We could not have better things to say about our experience working with Ben and would recommend him to anyone looking to find their perfect home.”

Hirsh Nears $1 Billion in Career Sales

This sale starts the year off strong for Ben Hirsh, who was once again the #1 individual real estate agent in Atlanta in 2023, with over $135 million in homes sold. He will surpass the $1 Billion mark in career sales early this year. However, his achievements are not just in sales volume: “I get incredible satisfaction from really listening to and serving my clients.” said Hirsh. “These larger than life sales get most of the attention, but I consider myself an expert on all Buckhead real estate, not just the super high end. I treat each of my clients with the respect, dedication and expertise that they deserve and, ultimately, that creates relationships that grow and last for decades. Those relationships are my measure of success.”

For more information about Ben Hirsh and his work in Buckhead real estate, visit Buckhead.com/Ben.

While Buckhead’s most expensive home sales in 2023 did not break records, they showed broad strength in the top-end of our market. The average sale price for homes in Buckhead reached $1,714,416 in 2023, marking a 12.3% rise from the previous year. To join the elite list of Buckhead’s top 10 home sales in 2023, properties needed a minimum price tag of $7 million.

For several years in a row I have personally sold more of these top 10 sales than any other Realtor, and I am proud to say that I have maintained that record for another year with two of the top ten sales to my name, including the #1 sale of the year.

Four of the top 10 sales were new construction spec homes, indicating a demand for “new” from buyers and a boldness to fill that demand among local luxury home builders. Siegel Construction & Design built two of these four homes and has plans to bring more top-tier homes to the market in the near future. “We see a lot of strength at the top end of the market in Buckhead both for spec and custom builds,” commented David Siegel, the founder of the firm.

Among the top 10, two were high-rise condominiums. The condo at Park Place, formerly owned by Elton John, garnered international interest and secured the 9th position with a $7.2 million sale price. Meanwhile, a Penthouse at the Graydon, located on the same stretch of Peachtree Road, quietly surpassed this figure, selling for $7.95 million and achieving the 5th spot on our list.

8

343 Hillside Drive                                                                        $7,550,000

SOLD  12/06/2023
7 br / 7 ba / 3 half bath / 11,500 Sqft / 1.5 Acres
 
New construction home on prime lot by Siegel Construction and Design. Sold by Hirsh Real Estate

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10

A new Georgia State Patrol post in Buckhead aimed at curbing crime and improving law enforcement response times in the area now has its location — in Tuxedo Park on the Governor’s Mansion property. Earlier this year the state Legislature approved a $1.3 million budget to fund the new post, which will be accessed via Woodhaven Road off West Paces Ferry Road.

“With this new patrol post, our dedicated State Troopers will have another base of operations as they take the fight directly to criminals, and I look forward to seeing its positive impact on the Buckhead community,” Gov. Brian Kemp said in a press release announcing the post’s location.

New post details

The 1,750-square-foot facility will accommodate “close to 30” state troopers, the announcement noted. Twelve troopers will be directly assigned to the facility “providing increased accessibility to and security for the Buckhead community and surrounding areas around the clock.”

The post, which includes a garage bay, “will maintain the historical integrity of the (Governor’s) Mansion and surrounding grounds,” the press release said.

Neighbors’ reaction

Gigi Rouland, president of the Tuxedo Park Civic Association, said there was no outward opposition to post’s location among nearby residents, and neighbors “will most definitely benefit from an additional layer of security presences” in the area.

“The Georgia Governor has been our good neighbor for decades,” Rouland said. “Building this new GSP post on the Mansion property will provide a central GSP location in Buckhead without burdening taxpayers with the cost of purchasing more land. We also believe a GSP post at this location, not to mention the thirty state troopers who will be assigned there, will provide an increased public safety presence that will help deter and reduce crime not only in and around our neighborhood, but also in the other neighborhoods around the West Paces corridor.”

Rendering of the new GA State Patrol Post courtesy of Houser Walker Architecture

The Civic Association was given a preview of the new post on Sept. 19 by Deputy Executive Director of the Georgia Building Authority, Gerald Pilgrim, and Col. William Hutchens, deputy commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. Rouland said the presentation outlined key factors of the post’s operations and details on how the structure “would be in keeping with the aesthetics and design of the Governor’s Mansion and our historical neighborhood.”

“We believe a permanent GSP post here, with as many as thirty additional state troopers coming and going at different times, will provide a public safety presence that will not only help deter property and other crimes in the area, but also give our local APD officers additional support and assistance in keeping our community safe,” Rouland said.   

Georgia Speaker of the House Jon Burns said the post will improve law enforcement response times around Atlanta and “improve coordination between state and local law enforcement.”

Continued crime-fighting initiatives

Construction is slated to begin on the new GSP post early next year. A construction timeline and expected completion date have not been announced.

The new GSP post continues a string of crime-reduction efforts in the Buckhead area. Earlier this year, the Buckhead Safety Alliance group launched its security patrols for monitoring five of Buckhead’s commercial areas. The patrols include three staffed Atlanta Police Department patrol cars to monitor commercial districts with the same policing power as the APD. These efforts appear to be working. Overall crime in zone 2 (Buckhead) was down 14% in 2022 and year to date there has been a further decline of 2%.

This Tuxedo Park home is a perfect blend of classic design and modern appointments on prestigious Valley Road. A replica of a Phillip Schutze design, the home was built by Robert Goodsell, and renovated/expanded by Mike Hammersmith within the last year.

Main Level

The main level is elegant and sophisticated, with steel framed windows and a bright airy feel throughout. Large formal living and dining rooms are perfect for entertaining. A private fireside study connects the living room to the family room and kitchen.

The kitchen features a large central island and exquisite finishes. An open breakfast room allows family and guests to stay connected while cooking, dining, or relaxing in the family room. The private home management office and spacious laundry room are easily accessible from the kitchen.

Second Level

Upstairs you will find oversized bedroom suites with plenty of space for your family, and a generous bonus room near the back stairs that makes a great play room or upstairs family room.

The primary suite features an over sized bedroom with a fireside sitting area. The elegant main bath has double vanities, separate tub and shower, and generous his/hers closets. A private beverage station completes the decadent main suite.

Third Level

The third floor features two more bedroom suites and nooks for exercise equipment or a home office. An elevator connects all three floors of living space as well as the storage area on the basement level.

Outdoor living

The level back yard features spaces for grilling, entertaining, and play, with manicured landscaping and a plunge pool. This special home may be purchased now, but the seller will require a lease-back through mid-October of this year.

Tuxedo Park

Tuxedo Park is the undisputed top-shelf neighborhood in Buckhead. The rich history of this area goes deeper than many residents may realize. This early Atlanta suburb was only woods and farmland at the beginning of the 20th century, but that quickly changed. Wealthy Atlantans began building homes along Paces Ferry around 1904, many used as summer or country estates with farm animals and extensive gardens. Tuxedo Park expanded North several blocks from there and has kept its refined Southern elegance ever since.

The Tuxedo Park Civic Association holds social events, hires private security officers, and generally keeps the neighborhood connected despite the mostly gated and secluded estates. With its historic mansions and picturesque landscaping, Tuxedo Park is aptly named for this sophisticated neighborhood of magnificent residences. Some of the finest estates in Buckhead are located in the prestigious Tuxedo Park neighborhood.

Although the city of Atlanta has grown to surround this once-remote area, the neighborhood still maintains an aura of seclusion and escape. The manicured grounds and varied architecture of the homes give the neighborhood a formal air befitting its name.

The home at 490 West Paces Ferry Road features massive dimensions, is lavishly outfitted, and has been featured in blockbuster movies. It once had an owner with a pet lion, is embellished with $2 million in gold gilding, and has ties to a reality TV star — and those are far from the only reasons it is notable. After several years on and off the market, the two-acre property featuring an over-the-top 25,000-square-foot mansion was recently sold. 

The home, which sits on a 2.05-acre property across from Tuxedo Road near the Georgia Governor’s Mansion, was purchased for $8.5 million by a local family who already lived nearby. 

A mega mansion with attention-grabbing style 

The sales listing notes the home totals nearly 25,000 square feet with nine bedrooms, 12 full bathrooms, and six half-baths. It also features 19 fireplaces, a four-car garage, three grilling areas with a Hibachi grille and brick pizza oven, two owner’s suites, and a grand foyer with a custom staircase.  Other highlights include a courtyard-style pool and spa, a “grand salon,” a movie theater with tiered seating for up to 18, elevator, three wine cellars, game room and bar, recording studio, hair salon, and more. 

Perhaps even more attention grabbing is the home’s eccentric styling that appears to be inspired by a Mediterranean villa. Amenities include 10-carat gold leaf ceilings, limestone and Moroccan hardwood floors, and furnishings from custom design firms like Phyllis Morris of LA, Maitland-Smith, and others. 

The home’s outlandish style is the result of a massive renovation undertaken by its former owner, “Big Papa” Lee Najjar. A real estate investor, Najjar was portrayed as the “sugar daddy” of Kim Zolciak-Biermann of Real Housewives of Atlanta fame. The home has been featured in films such as Zombieland and the 2012 “Three Stooges”, and on HGTV’s “Million Dollar Rooms,” according to Yahoo. It was also shown on MTV Cribs. 

The home’s history dates back over a century 

The property has a long-standing history. The original 7,500-square-foot home was built around 1910, according to an Atlanta Journal Constitution article from 1996. In 1914, during the original building period of the great estates lining West Paces Ferry Road, the Jackson-Alsop-Arnold House, as it was then known, was renovated and expanded by architectural firm Hentz, Reid and Adler, who were also responsible for the design of several other well-known homes in the area. 

The home was later renovated and expanded in 1996 by then owner and builder Jacque Fowler. The renovations included the Mediterranean-themed styling that carries over to the current house. It was then dubbed Villa Banderas after Fowler’s lion cub pet, Banderas. 

A tumultuous sales history 

Barry Milam, a real estate broker and custom home builder in the Atlanta area, was the listing agent of the home for over five years and actually lived on the property as caretaker for several years between 2017-22. He said the build quality of the home is exceptional. 

“I’ve built homes for over 50 years, and the craftsmanship is simply like nothing I’ve ever seen in Atlanta,” Milam said.  

The home was listed in 2009 for a staggering $25 million, making it reportedly the most expensive asking price in the Atlanta area at the time. However, prospective buyers apparently felt it wasn’t worth its eyebrow-raising price or took issue with its unique design, so it remained unsold for years.

Milam believes the styling was a case of “love it” or “hate it” for many prospective buyers. 

“The uniqueness of the interior, that’s what either appealed to people or turned them away,” he said. “I feel if it had been in L.A. or Miami, it would have been sold very quickly. But in Atlanta’s traditional market, I feel it took a special customer. It’s certainly one of the most unique homes in Atlanta.” 

The listing price was reduced to $15.9 million in 2014, but later that year it shot back up to near the original asking price of $25 million before quickly falling again. 

The deed records on the home are a jumble of unusual transfers, but in 2015 Najjar lost the home to foreclosure. It was then sold by the mortgage lender for a bargain-basement price of $1.358 million on the Fulton County courthouse steps to a private investor from California who immediately relisted it at $18.8 million. It has been on and off the market since. 

One aspect of its on/off listings, Milam says, is a rash of bad luck at the 11th hour during the sales process, at least while he was the listing agent. 

“It went under contract on several occasions,” he said. “We sold it to a famous rapper, we sold it to a California movie director, we sold to several people, but every time some late issue came up, so it never got past due diligence. It was just very unusual circumstances.” 

The home finally found a new buyer after being listed in September 2022 for $9.98 million and later dropped to $8.995 million in March. It was sold June 30 through an $8.5 million cash offer. The new owners are already making it their own and will be moving in soon. It appears the home’s days of drama are now history. 

Property assessment notices hit Buckhead mailboxes in June, and many homeowners were surprised by what they found. One of our readers had the taxable value of their home more than double to over $18 million! To get a better understanding of the process, Buckhead.com sat down with the Chief Appraiser of Fulton County as well as an attorney who specializes in property tax appeals. Read on for more information on how the process works and click here to search for your assessment online. 

The average home in Fulton County saw a 15% increase in value in 2023, and assessed values went up 12% on average in the City of Atlanta compared to 2022, according to the Fulton County Tax Assessor. Despite the increase in average assessed property values, Fulton County Chief Appraiser Roderick Conley told us that 2023 is not considered a “catch-up” year.

Assessment factors

Fulton County Chief Appraiser Roderick Conley

Conley explained that numerous factors affect a property’s assessed value. “A combination of property characteristics, such as year built, square footage, bathroom count, and story height, along with the market, but it’s the market as of January 1 of the tax year.” The last part of his statement is important- the assessed value is based on the market and other factors during the PREVIOUS year. Any market fluctuation during the first half of 2023 would not have a bearing on this year’s assessments.

Jacoby Elrod, tax appeal consultant with Campbell & Brannon, notes that this is one reason some homeowners may not agree with their assessment. “Some people might argue that the market has softened a bit [in 2023]. But while inventory was low [in 2022], sales were still pretty strong in general.” Elrod continues, “And so when we’re looking at 2023 values, the county’s using 2022 sales comps. The way that process works is not the most responsive, maybe to the market, since it’s using the previous year’s data. It’s not going to respond to this spring’s market trends, for instance.”

Elrod said that higher than expected assessments seem to be more common in 2023. “We see that every year with some properties that will increase three and even four times, but it seems like this year, it’s just been a bit more widespread. It just seems to be hitting people harder than they expected, and maybe than it did in the last couple of years.”

Justified increases

Sometimes a home’s value may jump dramatically from one year to the next for good reason. If an assessment appeal is taken before the Board of Equalization, the assessed value is frozen for that year and the following two years under the 299C provision, regardless of the ruling on the appeal. 299C is the area of the state code that provides for the three-year property value freeze.

Once that value freeze has expired, Chief Appraiser Conley explains, the homeowner may be surprised the following year. “After that period of time has expired, that value comes off. It’s not an appreciation of that one year from year-to-year, it is actually a culmination of those three years.”

Remodeling, finishing a basement, or building additional square feet can also add to a property’s value. Mr. Conely and his team use mass appraisal techniques to value each property annually, and they try to complete a detailed review every three years to confirm the condition, square footage, etc., and synchronize the value with the market.

A home’s purchase price may be considered the market value the year following a sale, but that is not necessarily the case. Conley says, “You do have the ability to seek the transaction value. For example, if your property sold in 2022, [the appraised value may be] the transaction value or no higher than the transaction value for that following year.” Any remodeling or additions that are completed before the year’s end can cause the appraised value to be higher than the purchase price. Elrod says the county is not required to use the sale price as the assessed value, “But they can increase it to that, as long as they’re also increasing comparable properties in the neighborhood within a reasonable value and keeping uniformity of assessments.”  

Elrod finds it difficult to make broad conclusions about how assessments typically turn out. “I’ve seen a few increases that are big, but are supported. But then I’ve also seen a lot of increases that are large and are just not supported by any data or the market.”

Property value more than doubles

509 W Paces Ferry Rd NW Villa Juanita
Villa Juanita

Buckhead business leader Robin Loudermilk received a surprising assessment this year for his home along West Paces Ferry Road. The property, known as Villa Juanita, was last purchased in 2016 for $7.2 million. The assessed value has hovered around that price each year since the sale, including a value freeze at $7.2 million for 2020-2022. Mr. Loudermilk was “shocked and bewildered” to find his property assessed for $18,097,200 in 2023. Loudermilk said the price was “at least double what I thought it would be.”

Villa Juanita was professionally appraised twice within the past eight months for $9.75 million. With two appraisals in hand, Loudermilk says “We’re already in the appeal process, and we’ll see how it comes down.”

The most expensive home sale in Atlanta’s history, $18.1 million in 2021, is in the same neighborhood. Oddly enough, that record-setting home’s value was just over $9.5 million in 2023, according to the Fulton County Board of Assessors.

Assessment appeals

Chief Appraiser Conley emphasizes the importance of the appeal process in situations where the market appears to be significantly undervaluing or overvaluing a home. “That’s why the appeals process is so good. When someone may think we’re incorrect, whether it’s the characteristics or just the overall evaluation, you bring those things to our attention and we’ll take a look at it.” Conley and his staff want to make sure they have the correct data for accurate assessments. “There’s are lot of benefits of bringing those things to our attention. We want to make sure that the information in the data is correct, as relates to the characteristics. Then we can have a discussion as to the fair assessment of the value.”

The appeal process begins by visiting the Fulton County Assessor’s Office online. The deadline for 2023 appeals is July 24, 2023. While a homeowner can go through the appeal process on their own, there are benefits to hiring a professional like Jacoby Elrod and his colleagues at Campbell & Brannon. Even though most of the information you need for your appeal is public record, Elrod and his firm pay for additional information, such as FMLS data, that most folks don’t have access to. Elrod adds, “From my experience, the benefit of having a professional [file the appeal], or at least assist, is just knowing what to present, and how to be efficient with it.” The homeowner only gets a 10 minute hearing before the Board of Equalization (BOE), so it is definitely helpful to know exactly what to say!

Many homeowners think that simply filing an appeal grants a value freeze under the 299C provision, but the home’s value is not frozen automatically. Elrod says he perennially fields calls from frustrated homeowners who thought their value had been frozen. “They appealed the previous year, they were successful, and thought they were going to have a freeze, but it turns out, they just accepted the county’s initial value. And that did not freeze the value.”

As long as the appeal goes to the BOE, whether you win or lose, the value of your property is frozen for three years. Elrod says the homeowner can attend the BOE hearing, or simply respond to the BOE’s letter in the appropriate manner to initiate the value freeze. When you receive a notification from the BOE containing a hearing schedule, and you believe your property’s value is reasonable, reach out to the county appraiser requesting a value agreement. Make sure the value agreement mentions the 299C provision before you sign it, and your value freeze will apply.

Chief Appraiser Conley adds, “The 299c provision can also be applied should the appeal be resolved informally with staff prior to forwarding the appeal to BOE.”

Should everyone appeal?

Elrod says many taxpayers across the state appeal their assessment every three years just to have the value frozen because “that gives the homeowner a bit more knowledge and more stability knowing what their taxes are going be based on in the two years following appeal.”

That doesn’t mean that every homeowner should file an appeal. There is a chance your property value could go up if the county doesn’t have current data about square footage or other improvements on your property. County appraisers do not have the right to enter your home for an inspection, but they can walk the property to take measurements and inspect your home.

The county has 180 days to respond to an appeal according to the state code. Fulton county receives so many appeals that they are often granted an extension period. The Board of Equalization begins scheduling hearings in the early fall, and hearing dates may run into spring of next year.

What to expect after filing an appeal

Elrod describes what to expect while a homeowner is waiting for their appeal to be heard, “While the property is under appeal consideration, the default is for the temporary tax bill to be sent out. That’s also known as an “85% bill,” because it’s based on 85% of the current year’s total value, or 100% of the previous year’s total value. So essentially, the county is trying to provide some relief, in case there was a giant increase. For instance, they would use last year’s bill, just to keep the homeowner from being liable for a big bill they weren’t expecting right now. And then once the appeal is complete, the county would issue a revised final bill for any remaining amount to you. Or they would issue a refund check, like a lump sum refund.”

Time is of the essence when it comes to appealing your property value assessment. Elrod emphasizes, “The most important thing if you’re considering appeal, is probably just go ahead and get an appeal filed while the appeal window is open. Because if you miss that deadline, the county will not work with you. A taxpayer can always file an appeal on their own behalf at first, and then hire a firm like ours or another tax rep to come in and represent them later down the road if they feel like that is necessary.”

Homeowners are also advised to double check the homestead exemption on their assessment letter. Make sure your homestead exemption is listed on your notice, and confirm that the amount has been calculated correctly.

If you are interested in professional assistance with filing an appeal, Cambbell & Brannon charges a $500 administrative fee to handle your appeal, plus a 25% contingency on the first year’s tax savings. This covers all filings, valuations, and correspondence with the county, plus representation before the Board of Equalization. The contingency only applies to any savings during the first tax year, and the homeowner does not pay additional fees for subsequent years of the value freeze.

The middle school dance. A mix of awkwardness, nervousness, and hesitation permeate the air. Students dressed in their finest attire stand in clusters, attempting to hide a blend of excitement and trepidation. Who will make the first move? Hesitant feet shuffle on the dance floor, as unsure steps seek to find their rhythm.

The Buckhead real estate market in 2023 is not unlike that middle school dance, as buyers and sellers consider their options. While our market (and the Atlanta market overall) is one of the strongest in the country, the dramatic rise in mortgage rates has put many on the sidelines.

In the first half of this year, the number of single family homes sold dropped 42.5% to 274 homes sold vs 475 in the same period last year. While it is natural to see this kind of fluctuation as a lack of demand from buyers, the decline is being driven equally by seller hesitation. Prices increased by 6.9% over the same period, underscoring the opposing market pressures. Click here to see the top 10 home sales so far this year.

Buckhead Real Estate Data Deep Dive

Comparing the first half of 2023 to the first half of 2022, here are the year-over-year percentage changes for the given data:

Single Family Homes:

Condo/Townhomes:

  1st Half 20221st Half 2023
Single Family HomesTotal Sold475274
Average Sale Price$1,487,281$1,590,773
Average Days On Market4056
Condo/ TownhomesTotal Sold787461
Average Price$498,028 $473,179
Average Days On Market4149

The high-end luxury market in Buckhead is showing plenty of resilience despite the market fluctuations. While the majority of homes under $4 million involve mortgages, 80% of the homes at $4 million and above are paid for in cash. This insulates these buyers from interest rate shocks and is part of the reason that the upper end of the Buckhead market is outperforming the rest. 

Eight of the ten sales below were cash deals and two of the sales were off-market deals. Click here to read my mid-year market update. The market stats may surprise you!

The Loudermilk Estate that I sold in February is still the #1 sale of 2023 but the top ten Buckhead home sales list for the first half of 2023 is packed with beautiful homes!

1

2

3

4

5

373 Argonne Drive                                                            $6,200,000

SOLD  3/33/2023
6 br / 8 ba / 9,500 Sqft
 
Light-filled European Mediterranean perfectly sited on gorgeous 1.7 acres on a beautiful Atlanta street. Front of house shows perfectly balanced architecture.

6

7

8

4825 Woodvale Drive                                                           $4,995,000

SOLD  5/23/2023
6 br / 6 ba / 2 half baths / 7,700 Sqft
 
Former Design Showhouse in Sandy Springs.

9

281 King Road                                                           $4,700,000

SOLD  3/13/2023
5 br / 8 ba / 6,571 Sqft
 
281 King Rd NW, Atlanta, GA 30342 is a single family home that contains 6,571 sq ft and was built in 1999. It contains 5 bedrooms and 8 bathrooms. This home last sold for $4,700,000 in March 2023.

10

This inviting family home in desirable Tuxedo Park is just a stone’s throw from Chastain Park with an unbelievable backyard! With a stately setting on a hill above Blackland Road, the home features a circular driveway for easy access and guest parking, and a rear motor court behind a motorized gate. The extra deep 1.19 acres features a flat backyard with a walk-out swimming pool and spa, pool house, a stone patio with a fireplace, and plenty of room for play and sports activities.

Inside the pool house you will find a large open living space with a dry sauna, custom cabinetry with a sink, and a full bath. This space could easily serve as a studio suite with a 5th bedroom. The pool terrace has plenty of room for recreation and a picturesque poolside pergola with additional seating. A breezeway connects the home to the garage on the main level.

Main Level

Originally built in 1948, the home has been updated and expanded to accommodate modern family life and entertaining. Inside, the home retains warmth and charm, although the open living spaces and floorplan offer a more contemporary feel. The entry foyer provides access to the breakfast room and living room, plus the kitchen and a powder room beyond the main staircase.

The fireside formal living room introduces you to the wide-open living spaces. The living room is open to the dining room, and provides sight lines all the way through to the backyard, but the spaces are separately defined. An adjacent private study makes the perfect home office.

A wall of glass doors connects the dining room to a brick terrace outside, and a large cased opening leads into the cozy family room with a great built-in wet bar, a marble fireplace, and open sight lines into the kitchen bringing in an abundance of natural light and verdant views.

The very spacious kitchen is lined with custom cabinets and designed around a large central island with counter seating, and a walk-in pantry provides even more storage. There is a separate breakfast room just off the kitchen. A home management office is nestled adjacent to the powder room and the main floor laundry room.

Primary Bedroom

The primary bedroom suite occupies the entire rear corner of the home, with large windows on three walls, high ceiling, a cozy marble fireplace, and convenient access to the rear staircase. The master bath features dual vanities, a soaking tub, large separate shower, and a generous walk-in closet and dressing room.

Upper Level

Upstairs you’ll find three bedrooms and two full bathrooms. Two of the bedrooms share a Jack & Jill bath, and the other has a private ensuite bath. The rear staircase near the primary bedroom wing connects to a bonus room that was originally a sleeping porch. This space makes for a great nursery, play room, or home office hideaway.

Terrace Level

The rec room on the terrace level was built for entertaining family and friends of all ages! This large finished space has a fireplace and a small kitchenette, with plenty of room for a game room and a second family room. There is a full bath on this level, as well as a second laundry room and a walkout terrace that connects to the backyard area.

Tuxedo Park

Tuxedo Park is the undisputed top-shelf neighborhood in Buckhead. The rich history of this area goes deeper than many residents may realize. This early Atlanta suburb was only woods and farmland at the beginning of the 20th century, but that quickly changed. Wealthy Atlantans began building homes along Paces Ferry around 1904, many used as summer or country estates with farm animals and extensive gardens. Tuxedo Park expanded North several blocks from there and has kept its refined Southern elegance ever since.

The Tuxedo Park Civic Association holds social events, hires private security officers, and generally keeps the neighborhood connected despite the mostly gated and secluded estates. With its historic mansions and picturesque landscaping, Tuxedo Park is aptly named for this sophisticated neighborhood of magnificent residences. Some of the finest estates in Buckhead are located in the prestigious Tuxedo Park neighborhood.

Although the city of Atlanta has grown to surround this once-remote area, the neighborhood still maintains an aura of seclusion and escape. The manicured grounds and varied architecture of the homes give the neighborhood a formal air befitting its name.

Chastain Park 

Homeowners here will enjoy all that Chastain Park has to offer year-round. Chastain Park is Atlanta’s largest city park, and known by all as Buckhead’s premier park. The wide variety of competitive and recreational activities and entertainment venues hosted by Chastain Park include a swimming pool, a musical amphitheater where both pop and classical musicians entertain audiences outdoors, an arts center, tennis, gymnasium, walking trails, playgrounds, softball diamonds, a golf course and even a horse park – all of which appeal to athletic types and Sunday morning strollers alike.

The Chastain restaurant offers “refined comfort food” for residents and visitors alike in a beautiful setting across from the park.

This is a wonderful opportunity to purchase a lot in Tuxedo Park at an unbeatable value! 24 Blackland Road is a 1.02-acre lot that is mostly level. The current owners cleared the old home and had a custom home designed. Those home plans were 80% of the way through the permitting process when a new job required their family to relocate out of state.

The seller’s loss will be your gain! Prospective buyers will have the advantage of the existing engineering and design work to speed up their construction and design process. This will save both money and time, getting you in your dream home much sooner!

Tuxedo Park

Tuxedo Park is the undisputed top-shelf neighborhood in Buckhead. The rich history of this area goes deeper than many residents may realize. This early Atlanta suburb was only woods and farmland at the beginning of the 20th century, but that quickly changed. Wealthy Atlantans began building homes along Paces Ferry around 1904, many used as summer or country estates with farm animals and extensive gardens. Tuxedo Park expanded North several blocks from there and has kept its refined Southern elegance ever since.

The Tuxedo Park Civic Association holds social events, hires private security officers, and generally keeps the neighborhood connected despite the mostly gated and secluded estates. With its historic mansions and picturesque landscaping, Tuxedo Park is aptly named for this sophisticated neighborhood of magnificent residences. Some of the finest estates in Buckhead are located in the prestigious Tuxedo Park neighborhood.

Although the city of Atlanta has grown to surround this once-remote area, the neighborhood still maintains an aura of seclusion and escape. The manicured grounds and varied architecture of the homes give the neighborhood a formal air befitting its name.

Stan Benecki could have reason to take issue with the new zoning rules implemented under Special Improvement District 25 (SPI 25) for Tuxedo Park. SPI 25 was passed by the Atlanta City Council March 20 to curtail new development within the historic neighborhood. After all, it was his request to subdivide a near-three-acre property at 3655 Tuxedo Road for the development of two homes that spurred the new restrictions. However, Benecki says he supports the SPI’s passage, which creates stringent regulations on setbacks and other zoning mandates aimed at preserving the “park-like character” of the neighborhood.

“Clear rules are good for everybody,” Benecki said. “When they are gray, that’s not good for anybody – it’s not good for us, it’s not good for the city, and it’s not good for the neighborhood. A key of good zoning and planning is for anyone to be able to read regulations and understand what you are and are not allowed to do. I like the new rules and regulations. You know exactly what you can do, and before [the SPI], it was subjective.”

Benecki said he supports “the majority” of the SPI, save for the house setback regulation that requires any new homes to have a front yard setback that is equal to “one-half of the lot depth.” The ruling prohibits any improvements or construction on the front half of a property.

Though Benecki is heralding the SPI for laying out clear zoning requirements, his subdivision request that led to creation of the new rules isn’t a foregone conclusion. Benecki says he is appealing the decision that effectively killed his request, arguing the proposal met all zoning criteria when it was filed. His appeal went before the city’s Board of Zoning Adjustments at its April 13 meeting.

A Contentious Issue Revived

Benecki Homes’ request in late 2022 to subdivide the 2.7-acre property at the corner of Tuxedo Road and Woodhaven Road – which includes a Tudor-style home built in 1929 – into two lots led to a faction of neighbors speaking out against the application, including the Tuxedo Park Civic Association. The proposal met all zoning requirements in place at the time of the application, but neighbors filed an appeal to Atlanta’s Historic Preservation Studio. That office determined in January the subdivision would be rejected on the grounds it did not meet the traditional design and layout of the neighborhood. The decision was detrimental to Benecki Homes, which had already demolished a carriage house straddling the proposed property lines of the subdivision.

Benecki said the “whole goal” of the application was to develop the properties by-right by meeting the zoning requirements in place. Only after Benecki Homes had received a permit and demoed an existing structure did the City of Atlanta’s Office of Design’s Historic Preservation Studio rule against the request based on a letter penned by the Tuxedo Park Civic Association (TPCA).

“We demolished a perfectly great structure the city told us we had to tear down,” Benecki said.

Next steps

Though the Historic Preservation Studio’s decision and the passage of the SPI seemingly killed the request, the tussle between Benecki Homes and neighbors opposed to the application is not over. The BZA took up the issue at its April 13 meeting in which Benecki argued the subdivision will retain the historic home and lead to the development of a new home fitting with the neighborhood. Benecki said the TPCA said it was “fine” with tearing down the existing 1929 home and building a new home in its place, but that’s not the direction he wants to take.

“They would rather have new housing than a split, they just don’t want any new development,” he said. “They’re going to fight it, but we meet all the zoning codes. I find it strange the Civic Association would rather have a new house there than keep an old, beautiful structure. And on the new lot, they won’t even be able to see the house. But I guess it’s their opinion they don’t want new houses at all.”

The BZA is a five-member, “quasi-judicial board” that hears applications for variances, special exceptions to zoning ordinances and appeals of administrative decisions. According to the city’s website, the board “takes into consideration the recommendations” of the Office of Zoning and Development staff, the appropriate Neighborhood Planning Unit and testimony given during its hearing in rendering its decisions.

The Tuxedo Park Civic Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this article.

The Atlanta City Council voted March 20, 2023 to put into place rigorous restrictions on new development in the Tuxedo Park neighborhood, capping a multi-decade effort by some to preserve the area’s “park-like” character. The City Council approved the creation of a Special Interest District (SPI-25) with its vote following a recommendation of approval for the regulations by the Atlanta Zoning Review Board (ZRB) and NPU-A earlier this month, and the City’s Historic Preservation Office deeming Tuxedo Park a historic neighborhood in 2020.

The SPI mandates that new subdivisions or developments within Tuxedo Park will follow the area’s “historic pattern” on lots and house placement, specifically, maintaining existing patterns of “long, rectangular lots with straight side lot lines” and “deep setbacks.” The regulations prohibit new subdivisions from creating new public streets, impose lot width restrictions, mandate that all new lots conform to the range of lot depths by other properties on the same side of the street, and that no new lots will be created “unless it contains a depth that is at least twice the length of its width.” The SPI also establishes setback requirements, most notably that all new lots include a front yard setback equal to “one-half of the lot depth,” effectively limiting improvements or construction to the back half of the lot.

The rezoning was spearheaded by Atlanta City Councilwoman Mary Norwood, who said at the March 9 ZRB meeting the legislation provides important protection for Tuxedo Park’s “park-like” character. The passage of this legislation has the potential to affect all Atlantans, if the idea of rezoning neighborhood-by-neighborhood takes hold.

“The most important characteristic in this neighborhood are the deep lots and thoughtful placement of residences,” Norwood told the ZRB.

Tuxedo Park History

Tuxedo Park’s historic nature dates to its informal creation in the early 1900s as a neighborhood for wealthy Atlantans in which homes were first built along West Paces Ferry Road, usually summer or country estates that featured residences built far back from the street — a theme the SPI aims to continue. The neighborhood continues to be one of the wealthiest and most desirable in Buckhead. The Tuxedo Park Civic Association, which spoke in favor of the SPI at the March 9 ZRB meeting, wasfounded to “protect the character, integrity, quality of life, and security” of the neighborhood.

Tuxedo Park was considered for historical designation in 1990, but that effort never came to fruition. As such, Tuxedo Park’s century-long history has recently included plenty of jousting over future development of the area between developers and neighbors.

In 2018, the “Pink Palace” property on West Paces Ferry Road was subdivided into three lots, which spurred many members of the neighborhood to begin fighting against what they considered to be undesirable development of the area. In 2020, the opponents of redevelopment celebrated a win when Tuxedo Park earned “historic neighborhood” status through the City of Atlanta Office of Design’s Historic Preservation Studio. That designation quelled an attempt to subdivide a 3.4-acre property on Tuxedo Road, which had been staunchly opposed by Norwood and an organized group of neighbors.

Response to recent concerns

The recently rejected subdivision at Tuxedo Road and Woodhaven Road. Photo by Rob Knight

Most recently, a request by Benecki Homes to subdivide a 2.7-acre property along Tuxedo Road and Woodhaven Road— which included an existing home — for the development of two homes caused ire among neighbors. Community members voted 58-1 to oppose the plan during an NPU meeting. But because the proposal complied with local zoning requirements, it appeared primed for eventual approval. The fight was not over, however, as neighbors appealed to the Historic Preservation Studio, which determined in January the subdivision was to be rejected because the proposed lots would not be “long” enough to conform with the area’s traditional design and layout.

The close calls for neighbors opposed to redevelopment of Tuxedo Park spurred the creation of the rezoning. With its passage, hard lines are now set on new development in the neighborhood, and the stringent regulations will thus make it far more difficult to subdivide properties or redevelop lots.

“SPI-25 specifies that new subdivisions will follow the neighborhood’s historic pattern of lot plating and house placement; thus, codifying the City’s Historic Preservation Office’s 2020 determination of this neighborhood as an historic neighborhood,” a City Council press release stated.

While future redevelopment proposals within Tuxedo Park are likely given its history and standing among Atlanta neighborhoods, neighbors now have the backing of the SPI to maintain the area’s character.

“I am so pleased to have the unanimous support of my Council colleagues and the City’s administration for this important legislation,” Norwood said.

Following is the text of the approved legislation:

THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF ATLANTA, GEORGIA, HEREBY ORDAINS, as follows:

Section 1: That the Atlanta Zoning Ordinance is hereby amended by adding a new Chapter 18Y, SPI25, Tuxedo Park Special Public Interest District Regulations which shall read as shown on the attached “Exhibit A”.

Section 2: That the Official Zoning Map of the City of Atlanta is hereby amended by changing the designation of all those properties located within the Tuxedo Park Special Public Interest District so as to add SPI-25 to the District Designation. Said District shall be as shown on the attached “Exhibit B”. That the maps referred to, now on file in the Office of the Municipal Clerk, be changed to conform with the terms of this ordinance.

Section 3: That all ordinances or parts of ordinances that conflict with the terms of this ordinance are waived to the extent of the conflict.

CHAPTER 18Y – SPI-25 TUXEDO PARK NEIGHBORHOOD DISTRICT REGULATIONS

Sec. 16-18Y.001. – Scope of Provisions.

The regulations set forth in this chapter, or set forth elsewhere in this part, when referred to in this chapter, are the regulations in the SPI-25 Tuxedo Park Neighborhood District. Whenever the following regulations conflict with provisions of Part III Code of Ordinances – Land Development Code Part 15 – Land Subdivision Ordinance or Part 16 – Atlanta Zoning Ordinance, the more stringent regulation shall apply.

Sec. 16-18Y.002. – Statement of Intent. The intent of this chapter is establishing the SPI-25 Tuxedo Park Neighborhood District is as follows:

  1. To preserve and protect existing general landscaping features, existing spatial relationships between the buildings and streets;
  2. To ensure that redevelopment reflects and reinforces the exceptional park-like features established in the original planning of Tuxedo Park;
  3. To conform to the distinguishing feature of the long, rectangular lots and deep setbacks of the residences; and
  4. Maintain the spatial organization of open space in front of existing residences.

Sec. 16-18Y.003. – Regulations.

1. Subdivision Requirements.

a. The Tuxedo Park neighborhood, as defined by the City of Atlanta, shall be considered a historic neighborhood for the purposes of Part 15 of the Land Subdivision Ordinance. All subdivisions within this district shall not be subject to Sec. 15-08.002(a)(2) and Sec. 15-008(5)(d) of the Land Subdivision Ordinance, but shall meet the following requirements in addition to all other requirements of the Land Subdivision Ordinance:

b. All new lots shall be oriented so that the shortest side of the lot faces the street.

2. Development controls.

a. Setbacks: