PATH400: The Game-Changer for Buckhead Greenspace and Walkability

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The Beltline gets a lot of well-deserved press, but Buckhead is quietly building it’s own version to extend and complement what the the Beltline offers, it’s called PATH 400. It runs along the spine of GA 400 and, once complete, will provide a 7+ mile trail through the heart of Buckhead, connecting neighborhoods, office buildings, retail locations and future green spaces with a path for bicyclists and pedestrians. The multi-use greenway will eventually join with the Atlanta Beltline in the south and trails in Sandy Springs and north Fulton County. In many cases, getting from point A to point B will actually be quicker on foot/bike than it would be in a car thanks to the trail!

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We explored both finished and under construction portions of PATH400 with Denise Starling along Old Ivy Road (partly a closed construction zone unless she’s your tour guide). As Executive Director of Liveable Buckhead, Starling spearheads the PATH400 project. Starling excitedly shares about her expansive project that, “it’s all about getting people around via a more green natural environment. You can now walk from your home to your school or to work. We connect commerce to community on a broader platform of sustainability within the community to continue that long term investment.” Starling paints a picture of the PATH400 end goal by encouraging us to, “imagine biking from North Buckhead to the skate park in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward, or taking visitors on a nature trail with interactive historic landmarks and art exhibits mixed in with scenic vistas and natural habitat, or getting from Alpharetta to Alabama to Stone Mountain without ever getting in your car… Soon you will be able to do just that!”Starling shows us her personal favorite design from the PATH400 art exhibition contest with local students. This one is done by 3rd grader Nicole G. from Atlanta International School.

By taking advantage of underutilized public land along the highway, a collaborative partnership between Livable Buckhead, the Buckhead CID and PATH Foundation are bringing PATH 400 to life. As starling explains, “the Georgia Department of Transportation allowed the City of Atlanta to use their land for this trail. We designed it with the Buckhead CID and PATH foundation is building it with us. I like to say that this project has pixie dust on it… Because things line up for PATH 400 that just don’t usually happen, it amazes me how fast it grew legs!”

The Team

  1. Livable Buckhead, the nonprofit organization improving livability and economic vitality in the Buckhead community, is managing the overall project and community engagement.
  2. The PATH Foundationa highly-regarded builder and planner for trails throughout Georgia, is responsible for construction and maintenance of PATH400.
  3. Buckhead Community Improvement District provides seed funding while engaging the support of the commercial core.

This is a collaboration that Starling enthusiastically endorses, stating that, “within these 3 organizations, we balance each other really well, they (PATH Foundation and Buckhead CID) have the expertise and track record, we (Liveable Buckhead) are the local community knowledge building trust, we’re very sensitive to the community needs and we work closely with residents to keep everyone excited about what’s coming.”

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The Vision:

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Starling shares that, “creating connections is at the heart of the entire PATH400 project. Each segment of the PATH400 greenway is designed to provide a gathering place and a sense of community. Whether walking the dog, riding bikes with the kids, exploring local art and history, or visiting with neighbors, PATH400 links people and places.”Exploring a future PATH400 stretch with Starling in the lead – on the right side of GA 400 North.

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Starling’s community-minded efforts are showcased through ideas like installing art plaques (pictured above) selected from a design contest with local schools, working closely with neighbors who live on the PATH’s route, Liveable Buckhead purchasing a home in vital territory so they could redirect the path safely away from the street, and setting a herd of goats loose to clear the woods of the area – an endeavor much enjoyed by the young neighborhood families. Starling’s leadership has resulted in $20+ million in outside funding being invested in Buckhead.

The Bigger Picture:

PATH400 is the first step & driving force behind implementing the Buckhead Collection, a complex project including parks, trails, green spaces and more. The Buckhead Collection is Liveable Buckhead’s plan in response to a revealing study done in 2008 by the city which brought attention to the lack of greenspaces in Buckhead. Starling’s team at Liveable Buckhead is working to develop this interconnected network of parks, trails and green spaces serving the social, economic, mobility and environmental needs of Buckhead residents, workers and visitors.

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Number of people living within walking/biking distances from the PATH400 greenway.

Once completed, the Buckhead Collection project accomplishments will:

  • Provide a network of trails, bikeways and sidewalks to provide opportunities for alternative modes of transportation
  • Provide residents, workers and visitors with access to a meaningful greens pace within a convenient distance from their home and business
  • Provide adequate athletic fields and recreation facilities
  • Maximize real estate values through proximity to green space
  • Provide opportunities for the community to gather for festivals, performances, special events and other cultural activities
  • Provide opportunities for public art, historic preservation and interpretation, storm water treatment and environmental protection.

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The Resources:

The estimated total cost for PATH400 is $27M. To date, every phase of  the project has been within or under projected budget.

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Funders and partners contributing significant financial and technical support in the early stages of the project include The Buckhead Community Improvement District, Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, The Campbell Foundation, The Rollins Foundation, The City of Atlanta, Atlanta Public Schools, Trees Atlanta and more. For the remaining 75% of the project, Starling’s team is raising $9 million from the community and all are invited to learn more information about DONATING.

PATH400 and The Atlanta Beltline:

As many think of PATH400 as “Buckhead’s version of the Atlanta Beltline,” Starling is used to questions comparing the two and she offered insight into how both entities differ, but ultimately work together. “We work with the Atlanta Beltline, our vision and overall goal is the same,” Starling says. “We connect with them on the South side, creating a bigger network of trails with them.”

While the two are not technically in competition, Starling’s team likes to watch what the Atlanta Beltline does and then do it better. Curbed Atlanta called PATH400 the, “annoying, high-achieving, smarty-pants little brother of the Beltline,” because according to Starling, “PATH400 is doing a lot of the same things as the Beltline does, but we’re getting things done faster thanks to the PATH Foundation enabling us to be powered by local money and no federal dollars.”

Geographical differences also apply, as Starling said, “PATH400 is in more residential areas, going through single family neighborhoods while the Atlanta Beltline is in the area of generating redevelopment. The Beltline is redeveloping, we’re retro-fitting and finding how to fit in, which is tougher to do. Still we will never have the transit component that the Beltline does.” Starling praises the Beltline for the fact that, “they have helped people understand and trust trails! People were terrified of having a trail put in their backyard, but now we have some people who live in PATH400 neighborhoods asking if we can make them neighborhood gates going to the path!”

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As for the operations and activities executed by both entities, Starling discusses “we are both essentially creating a social experience, the Beltline success is about the programming, where people can really begin to own it and soon, we are going to begin hosting programs and events like that.”

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What Buckhead is Saying…

Get Involved:

Every local dollar invested in Livable Buckhead over the past 14 years has returned $8 from outside sources. That money has paid for operations like free commuter shuttle service, acquired park land, built the first phase of PATH400, recycled electronics and other household waste, and much more. Outside funding sources like this are an incredible asset, especially for a community paying more in taxes than it receives in city services. Liveable Buckhead is a great example and driving force of collaborative efforts to create a Buckhead greater than the sum of its parts. Interested in donating?

For More Information on the PATH 400 Project, Watch this Video by Liveable Buckhead!

See you on the PATH!