Published on July 14th, 2015 |0
CID hits ‘pause’ on 9-acre park over GA 400 to review and reflect
Originally, the CID board was slated to consider a vote at the July 13 meeting on an agenda item for “approval of Park over 400 Detailed Planning and Concept Design RFP” (request for proposal), a visionary project that has an estimated price tag of $150 million to $200 million.
For months now, the CID has been discussing building a 9-plus-acre street-level park utilizing the air rights above Ga. 400 and the Buckhead MARTA station, which would connect the area between the Atlanta Financial Center on Peachtree Road and the Lenox Road Buckhead Loop.
Consultants have already prepared preliminary studies and reports on the project for the CID.
But, when Executive Director Jim Durrett asked for a vote on the agenda item, Dist. 7 City Councilman and CID board member Howard Shook asked, “When is this board going to sit down and decide if we want to do this or not? We have never had a substantive discussion of it.”
Shook’s reaction came after a presentation by Monte Wilson, who’s consulting firm Jacobs Engineering has been doing the preliminary studies of the proposed concept for months for the CID. He had just proposed the next four steps in the process: programming community input, costing and planning, design and engineering to come to a planning concept design.
Continuing his concerns about moving forward without a firm board understanding and commitment to the project, Shook stated, “We need to talk about this, have a straw vote, see what our questions and concerns are. We seem to be getting a little bit more pregnant with every meeting,” he added.
CID vice chair John Lundeen told the other board members he agreed with Shook. “We are dealing with a $150 million project. Some of us are ahead of others on how we would make this happen within our lifetimes,” Lundeen added.
Board chair David Allman asked Shook and Lundeen, “What would you like to see us do?”
Shook replied he would like the board to have work session to fully discuss and vet this project before hiring any more consultants.
Lundeen added, “This is a huge project that is exciting. But, we have never handled anything like this before.”
Shook asked Durrett and Allman, “What kind of additional management needs to come on board to handle this project and what else could the board handle over the next 10 years?” (the time it might take to bring it to fruition).
Shook also asked, “At what point will this take us out of the transportation management business? The question for me is whether we will be able to do any other transportation improvements at a critical time when Buckhead is drowning in traffic,” Shook added.
Indicating that he supports the park concept, board member Robin Loudermilk said that finding another 9 to 10 acres of land in Buckhead on which
to build a park would prove very difficult. . “As you look around Buckhead, it doesn’t exist,” he said.
Still, Loudermilk said the board should take a close look at the park proposal. “I do think we want to vet it,” he said. “This is going to be legacy.”
Durrett told the board, “I would suggest we not go forward with requesting proposals at this time but instead set up a work session,” a suggestion the board accepted. “I will work on scheduling a work session,” he said.
Allman said the decision would not slow down the progress of the project since no set timeline has been established.
“We feel like we’ve already established the feasibility of the project,” Wilson said during his earlier presentation. “Now it’s a matter of technically what would be included, programmatically what would be included and, of course, how much would that cost.”
Determining programming details in the early stage of the stakeholder involvement process could impact costs and fundraising, Wilson said. The engineering team would also examine technical requirements including structural and transportation issues, life safety and fire protection, the tunnel under the park, he added.
Commercial property owners within the CID agree to pay extra property taxes to pay for transportation improvements within the defined CID area. The board on July 13 set its tax rate for 2015 at 3 mills, the same as it has been during the CID’s five-year history.
The Midtown and Downtown Atlanta improvement districts each have rates set at 5 mills, board attorney Lynn Rainey said, as well as the CID in Cobb County. He said the two Central Perimeter CIDs each have rates of 4 mills.
Allman told the BCID board, “We are below our neighbor CIDs. There is some potential capacity to handle major projects.”