Commentary

Published on March 16th, 2015 |

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Livable Buckhead: It’s all about boosting the green quotient

By Denise Starling, Executive Director
Livable Buckhead, Inc.

Buckhead is comprised of many enviable parts – gleaming office towers that house some of the region’s best employers; historic, sprawling homes as well as newly built condos; the region’s premier shopping and restaurants; top-tier public and private education; and much, much more. The reasons that people choose to live, work and play in Buckhead are as varied as the people you will find here.Livable Buckhead logo

Livable Buckhead, a nonprofit organization formed in 2011, is on a mission to make sure that those parts add up to an even greater whole. How? By creating programs that boost Buckhead’s green quotient.

Livable  Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling at the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge event last year.

Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling at the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge event in 2013.

Livable Buckhead is redefining “green” for Buckhead. Sure, we are working toward improving environmental sustainability, but that is just one objective of our programs. We are also focused on “greenbacks” – finding ways to boost long-term economic viability by developing amenities that are in high demand among the next generation of employers and home buyers. One major way we are doing that is by creating more green – as in greenspace – throughout Buckhead.

In three years we have added 26 acres of greenspace and helped bring nearly $1 million of city and foundation investment to Buckhead for parks. And in less than four years we have taken a pie-in-the-sky idea about creating a multi-use trail along GA 400 and turned it into reality. The first half-mile segment of PATH400 opened in January, and so far Livable Buckhead has raised an estimated $14 million of investment for this project including cash and land. $11.2 million is from “outside” sources – that’s a return of $3.65 for every one dollar of investment made by the community.

LBI Executive Director Denise Starling discusses programs with LBI board chair Bob Stoner during a board meeting.

LBI Executive Director Denise Starling discusses programs with LBI board chair Bob Stoner during a board meeting.

Livable Buckhead’s work on parks and trails are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to our efforts to improve Buckhead’s sustainability. Working with partners in Buckhead and around Atlanta, we have also introduced programs that reduce the energy use, protect the environment and save money for residents and businesses:

  • Energy Efficiency: Livable Buckhead recruited 41 buildings – half of the Buckhead office market – to participate in the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge in 2013. Each participating building has committed to reducing energy consumption an impressive 20 percent by 2020. Not only does this program reduce energy costs for participating buildings, but it also helps to position Buckhead as the top office sub-market for environmental sustainability.
  • Electric Vehicles (EV): Livable Buckhead made Buckhead the first EV-ready community in Atlanta by leveraging federal grant dollars to install 23 EV charging stations at local malls and office buildings.
  • Commute Options: Livable Buckhead partners with 56 employers, 33 property management firms to provide options for employees commuting to Buckhead. In a typical year Livable Buckhead’s alternative commute programs reduce 18 million miles of travel on Buckhead roads, eliminate 30 tons of harmful emissions from Atlanta’s air and pass on $1.65 million in savings to Buckhead commuters.
  • Recycling: For the last four years, LBI has hosted the Eco Collection event to collect, recycle and safely dispose of household items such Eco Collectionas electronics, paint, batteries and more. The 2014 event was sponsored by Councilmembers Yolanda Adrean and Howard Shook as well as several business partners and helped remove 21 tons of harmful household materials from the waste stream. Nearly 300 residents took advantage of the opportunity to safely dispose of old medicines, chemicals, outdated computers and other materials.
  • The SPI-9 Development Review Committee hears the Trammell Crow proposal on March 4.

    The SPI-9 Development Review Committee hears the Trammell Crow proposal on March 4.

    Development and Land Use: Livable Buckhead has worked closely with the Buckhead Community Improvement District, the City of Atlanta and Neighborhood Planning Unit B to rewrite zoning ordinances for key areas within Buckhead. Our goal was to set the stage for a more walkable, urban community enriched with public art and parks, wide sidewalks, greenspace, transportation options, and outdoor dining. Livable Buckhead also convenes design review committee meetings on a monthly basis, providing civic leaders the opportunity to shape proposed projects and ensure they are in keeping with the vision for Buckhead’s future.

  • Arts and Culture: Arts and culture are an essential part of a truly livable community. Livable Buckhead brought student-produced art in
    Dist. 7 City Councilman Howard Shook and LBI Executive Director Denise Starling share the moment witha student winner of the competition for artwork on PATH400.

    Dist. 7 City Councilman Howard Shook and LBI Executive Director Denise Starling share the moment witha student winner of the competition for artwork on PATH400.

    the form of the “Playing with Shadows” panels along PATH400, and gave the community a new landmark in the “BUCKHEAD” wall that flanks the trail. In the future we will launch the Mile Long Museum, an outdoor installation of large-scale public art works that will boost tourism, provide unique educational opportunities and build a strong sense of community identity.

So that’s what Livable Buckhead does. But the “how” we do it is almost as important. Buckhead is fortunate to have many organizations working to improve their respective areas of the community. From neighborhood associations and planning units to business associations and nonprofit and civic organizations, each of these groups is playing an important role in making Buckhead a stronger, better community.

LBI Executive Director Denise Starling is shown during the grand opening celebration for PATH400 in January thanking the partners in the project.

LBI Executive Director Denise Starling is shown during the grand opening celebration for PATH400 in January thanking the partners in the project.

Livable Buckhead works in partnership with these groups, leveraging their expertise and resources to accomplish our collective goals. In fact, for the PATH400 project alone Livable Buckhead has partnered with more than 18 different organizations.

Over the past 14 years, every local dollar invested in Livable Buckhead has returned $8 from outside sources. That money has paid for operation of a free commuter shuttle service, acquired park land, built the first phase of PATH400, recycled electronics and other household waste, and much more. For a community that pays more in taxes than it receives in city services, these outside funding sources are incredibly valuable.

Working collaboratively we can create a Buckhead that is greater than the sum of its parts.

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