Commentary Wish lisst

Published on December 30th, 2015 |

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Our 2016 wish list: Finish Buckhead projects started years ago

(Editor’s Note: Rather than recap stories from 2015 in this final newsletter of the year, BuckheadView has decided to post this “commentary” with a wish list of major projects and initiatives I feel are important to complete in 2016.)

Having covered specifically the Buckhead community for print and online media for more than a decade, I have reported on more community meetings than I can count, listened to more grand proposals than I could have imagined and heard more “progress reports” that have begun all sounding the same month after month.

This is my BuckheadView, from the 18th floor at the Gallery condominiums on Peachtree Road.

This is my BuckheadView, from the 18th floor at the Gallery condominiums on Peachtree Road.

Looking back on my notes from many of these meetings, the reason the “progress reports” have sounded the same over and over is because there really has been little to no progress on some long-standing projects that could make a major impact on the quality of life in Buckhead IF THEY COULD JUST BE COMPLETED.

Almost everyone I know oohed and aahed when Phase 1 of the Peachtree Road Transformation Project was completed, turning the stretch of Buckhead’s most important road—between Piedmont and the Buckhead MARTA station—into a boulevard, with wide walkable sidewalks, beautiful permanent and seasonal plantings and, at the same time, improving traffic throughput.

But folks, that happened many years ago.

Then there came the grand opening of Phase 2 of the Peachtree Road Transformation Project, which produced much of the same results as Phase 1 on the stretch of Peachtree from the Buckhead MARTA station north to Roxboro and Peachtree-Dunwoody roads.

That event, also many years ago now, was on a very cold and windy day—maybe a forecast of a chill that was about to come in the completion of long-planned road and streetscape projects in Buckhead.

Before I go any further, let me acknowledge that we have in Buckhead groups of dedicated leaders who spend their time—and their money—working toward improving the live/work/play

The heart of Buckhead's commercial district which funds many of the major projects through the Buckhead Community Improvement District.

The heart of Buckhead’s commercial district which funds many of the major projects through the Buckhead Community Improvement District.

environment in the community—the quality of life here. And, I have great respect for their dedication to service and the community.

Three of those organizations are the Buckhead Community Improvement District, Livable Buckhead and the Buckhead Coalition. But there also are numerous neighborhood associations, four Neighborhood Planning Units, business associations, civic clubs, etc. And, we have five dedicated members of Atlanta City Council who represent various parts of Buckhead, large and small.

But aside from City Council, only one of those organizations, the Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID) has the ability to collect and spend tax money for projects within the Buckhead community.

bcidlogoAnd, the BCID, which collects an extra 3.5 mils in taxes from commercial properties within its legally established boundaries, can really only spend that money on projects within those boundaries. For the rest, Buckhead must rely on the city or state for funding of public projects.

Quoting from the BCID website: “The mission of the Buckhead Community Improvement District is to create and maintain a more accessible and livable urban environment. We meet the challenges of growth by investing tax dollars collected from commercial property owners within the district, as well as other funds we leverage from outside the district, to make meaningful improvements in the transportation network and public realm that connect people and places.”

According to a report made at its Dec. 15 meeting, the BCID has $21.3 million in total assets and, because of new valuations of commercial properties within the district, BCID will receive $5.8 million in tax collections this year, an increase of more than 20 percent from the previous year.

All of that sounds like a lot of money sitting around. But much of that is already committed to projects and programs—several of the projects having been on the books for six years or more and one for at least a decade without being completed. Thus the funds sit there waiting for work to be done.

The following are some of those projects, which BuckheadView is calling on the BCID to complete, or at least move forward significantly toward completion, during 2016. They are among the very major items on our wish list:

Complete Phase 3 and Phase 4 of the Peachtree Road Transformation Project. Phase 3 is a one-block segment of Peachtree between Maple Drive and Shadowlawn, Phase 4 includes

Phases 3 and 4 of the Peachtree Road Transformation Project will never look like this section from Phase 1, but they will be more walkable.

Phases 3 and 4 of the Peachtree Road Transformation Project will never look like this section from Phase 1, but they will be more walkable.

Peachtree Road from Shadowlawn Avenue to Pharr Road. Phase 3 involves purchasing some right-of-way, which should be done by June, and repaving and restriping of the roadway. Phase 4 primarily involves repaving and restriping to add a dedicated left turn lane for both directions. Both projects have been on the books for more than six years.

Complete northbound left-turn lane extension project at Habersham and Piedmont Roads, a project that has been on the books in one form or another for a decade or more. This one-block-long project has had more snafus and delays than anyone could ever contemplate. The only monthly progress reports on this project have been primarily backwards. Let’s finally get it done!

Complete study and develop plan for improvements to the interchange of Piedmont/Roswell/Habersham roads. Both Councilman Howard Shook and Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean have pledged $100,000 each from their district funds toward this project.

Piedmont Road widening between Peachtree Road and the Lenox Loop. A lot of preliminary planning and discussions have taken place on this with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), Georgia Power, etc. It is now time to show significant progress in moving forward with this project so that the developers of major projects along that stretch know what impact to expect. (If memory serves me right, this project was part of a major Piedmont Road study done by BCID many years ago.)

Phipps Boulevard/Wieuca Road interchange improvement project. While this is a relatively new project for the BCID (planning begun earlier this year), this has been a major issue for

This part of the East Paces Ferry Road restriping at Bolling that has been completed.

This part of the East Paces Ferry Road restriping from Peachtree to Bolling that has been completed.

residents surrounding the intersection and residents of neighboring North Buckhead for many years. We know a roundabout is the preferred resolution so let’s get it done in 2016.

East Paces Ferry complete street project between GA 400 and Roxboro Road. This again is a relatively new project on the BCID’s list. But since the city wants to see it completed in 2016, maybe it just might happen. The city has committed $1 million out of citywide funds.

Buckhead Village streetscape project. This has been on the books for at least six years, since for BCID Executive Director Scotty Greene got the Woodruff Foundation to allocate a few million dollars for the project. So far, we have seen a few trees planted along sidewalks in one-block segments of Peachtree Road and East Paces Ferry. It is a good thing there was not a time limit on the use of the Woodruff funds. Hopefully it gets done along with Peachtree Road Phase 4.

Complete the redevelopment of Charlie Loudermilk Park. The redo of this park has been in the works for a long time and the dedication of the new park design last spring was a welcomed event. But the park design is not yet complete. It still lacks a piece of sculpture at the pinnacle point of the park at the intersection of Peachtree, Roswell and Paces Ferry roads. Hopefully that can be completed by the spring of 2016.

That is quite a wish list for the BCID to accomplish in 2016. But just imagine the impact completion of most, if not all, would have on the Buckhead community.

Think of the goodwill it would generate for the BCID among the commercial business owners who have been contributing yearly to the BCID’s work and the general public—residents, workers, shoppers and players—who spend their time and money in Buckhead.

I realize the sexy project being considered by the BCID board right now is the “park in the sky” which would float in the air space over Ga 400 between Peachtree Road and the Lenox Loop Road.

Early rendering of a potential park over Ga 400 between Peachtree and Lenox roads.

Early rendering of a potential park over Ga 400 between Peachtree and Lenox roads.

BCID plans to issue a request for proposals for national design firms for this project in January.

But this project is years off and has little or no impact on Buckhead today. Creating the design is one thing, but creating the reality is quite another—and a very, very expensive reality it would be. And, no one seems quite sure how it could be funded—an increase in the BCID’s millage rate to commercial property owners, creation of a special tax district a mile or two around the site (which would include residential areas) or what?

Let’s really focus in 2016 on getting completed those projects that have been hanging around for almost a decade uncompleted. Check off those things that can make an immediate impact on Buckhead’s quality of life.

(To read the BCID’s December, 2015 newsletter on its accomplishments, click here.)

PATH400 section along Lenox Loop road.

PATH400 section along Lenox Loop road.

One of those is completing the PATH400 project of Livable Buckhead, which has already made great progress in a very short time and involving some very intricate negotiations. Now $9 million is needed to complete this wonderful Buckhead asset. If every resident of Buckhead contributed $100 that goal would be met. Let’s do it early in 2016.

Speaking of making an immediate impact, the city of Atlanta needs to get its act together and also take care of projects promised to Buckhead. For instance, residents passed the Infrastructure Bond Issue earlier this year, which included several projects to be completed in Buckhead. Has one dollar of those funds yet been spent on Buckhead projects? I know the first allocation went to southwest Atlanta.

The city of Atlanta seems to have a habit of forgetting about Buckhead—which accounts for 45 percent of the city’s tax revenues—year after year. Thus we have terrible sidewalks along the city’s premiere thoroughfare, Peachtree Road, potholes in just about every street in the community, the largest police zone in the city and never a full complement of officers to cover it, etc. I could go on for pages. The city needs a very long past due kick in the butt.

And, when the city finally does handle a project—like the repaving and restriping of West Paces Ferry Road near Peachtree and the repaving and restriping of Pharr Road—it somehow always seems to make a bad situation worse and causing people to wonder if a 6-month-old child did the design and planning.

For 2016, can we get someone who understands traffic engineering and how to incorporate bike lanes safely with vehicle traffic to take another look at those two roads in particular and maybe try to improve them one more time?

My last wish list items involving roads, are that GDOT actually does start the repaving and restriping of Peachtree Road from Pharr Road to Deering Road in the summer and

The road striping plan for Peachtree Road from Pharr to Deering roads.

The road striping plan for Peachtree Road from Pharr to Deering roads.

complete it before the end of the year, and that the federal funding really is available to extend Moores Mill Road to Marietta Boulevard so that the redevelopment of the derelict Moores Mill Shopping Center can begin in early 2016 and bring a Publix supermarket to that site–again something promised more than a decade ago.

Oh, and one last request, can GDOT and the city move along more quickly on the Northside Drive project and try not to puncture a gas or water line almost every week while completing it? I know that project has been in the works for well more than a dozen years.

As for other organizations during 2016, I would urge the Buckhead Coalition to keep up its good work of funding important quality of life projects, the Buckhead Business Association to find ways to contribute more toward improving the community and the same for the Buckhead 50 Club (one of Buckhead’s oldest organizations which was instrumental in the paving of Roswell Road).

And to neighborhood associations and those serving on Neighborhood Planning Units and similar boards, be diligent and protective of the beautiful community neighborhoods as Buckhead inevitably becomes a more urban environment. A blended coexistence is not only possible but beneficial for all of us.

The last item on my wish list is for all Buckheadites to have a Healthy and Happy New Year.

John Schaffner, owner and editor

 

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