Published on January 7th, 2016 |1
BCID board votes to issue ‘Park in the Sky’ RFP, but not all in favor
The BCID board voted 4-1 Jan. 6 to issue the request for proposals for design work and cost estimations on the proposed park—which would stretch from Peachtree to Lenox roads over the top of Ga 400 and a MARTA rail station—as long as it did not include any expenditure of funds.
But it was very clear that not all members of the BCID board believe this is a project that should be pursued, including board vice chairman John Lundeen (who chaired the Jan. 6 meeting) and Simon Properties representative Robin Suggs.
“We definitely have members who are not in favor of this, including me and my German partners,” Lundeen told the other board members. But he said he believed sending out the RFP “is not a bad thing. I don’t know how we would ever pay for this,” he added. “I personally think it is beyond the scope of this board.”
Suggs told the board, “Simon thinks resources should be spent on transportation” projects instead.
In fact, Suggs and BCID board member Scott Selig, of Selig Enterprises, made it clear they wanted efforts directed toward a formerly studied Buckhead Gateway project—at the ramps from Ga 400 to Lenox Loop Road—which they termed as being in dire need of improvement.
Suggs told the board, “The park over Ga. 400 is so far down the road and that area (the Gateway to Lenox Road and Buckhead) looks terrible.”
Selig suggested the board spend maybe up to $10,000 to downsize the previous Gateway study done more than a year ago, “to come up with an interim plan that can be implemented now to improve that area. It would be a good expense,” he added.
But Durrett countered that the tall light towers that were in the Gateway proposal are part of a request for funding for improvements along Lenox Road. However, he said much of that should be held up and would become part of the plans for the park over Ga 400.
The decision to proceed with the RFP does not commit the CID, a group that annually taxes commercial properties within its district an additional 3.5 mils of property taxes—to building the park. It simply seeks to see what a park over Ga. 400 might look like, how much it would cost to build and how it could be funded.
The scope of work includes developing a detailed schematic plan, funding strategy and marketing materials for a world-class park, including programming and operations recommendations.
Submissions in response to the RFP are due no later than 2 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19.
“Issuing this RFP is the next phase in our effort to examine the viability of creating a nine-plus acre park over GA 400 and MARTA’s Buckhead Station,” said Jim Durrett, Buckhead CID executive director.
“This study began with the BCID’s interest to improve and create parks and open space in the Buckhead area,” Durrett added. “A signature park over GA 400 will significantly enhance and expand on-going efforts by providing an opportunity for a great urban park where open space is simply not available.”
Durrett told the board members the RFP “would take it all the way up to, but not through, documents for development. It does not represent any cost commitment to the board,” he added. He said it also includes maintenance and programming at the park.
Asked if MARTA and the Georgia Department of Transporation had been consulted about the proposed project, Durrett told the board, “MARTA and GDOT are cooperating partners.” But BuckheadView was told that is dependent on no adverse effects on the operations of either during construction, something that seemed to be difficult to guarantee.
Two of the strongest proponents of sending out the RFP were John Barton of Parkway Properties and Thad Ellis of Cousins Properties, both developers or owners of commercial properties adjacent to the proposed park.
BCID board chairman David Allman, who was out of town and missed the Jan. 6 meeting, is a developer and owner of commercial property adjacent to the proposed park and has in past meetings been supportive of creating the nine-acre “park in the sky.”
Board member Herbert Ames of Edens Company, appeared to be riding the fence at the Jan. 6 meeting as to whether or not he and his company are fully supportive of the park project. However, he did say, “I think this is a good opportunity to explore this for the community.”
Barton told the board, “We have already done a lot of the pre-examination of the costs and funding options” for this project, citing that fellow board member Thad Ellis had been involved in a very similar project in Dallas for Cousins and had brought to an earlier BCID meeting the person who headed up the Dallas project.
Barton and Ellis both said they thought it would be a mistake not to explore the park fully.
“People want a holistic approach” to developing our community, Barton told the board. “We need to be in the forefront to at least explore it. Let’s be open minded enough to explore it fully in order to understand it,” he added.
Lundeen pointed out that the BCID has explored other locations in Buckhead for parks over the years—one or two in the area around Phipps Plaza mall and in the central commercial core area. “Those would be less expensive to develop,” he added.
But after it was confirmed there would be no cost commitment on the part of the BCID to issue the RFP, Barton moved to proceed with issuing the RFP and it was approved by the board with one opposing vote.
Atlanta City Councilman and BCID board member Howard Shook was not able to attend the meeting due to a previously scheduled medical procedure. Board member Robin Loudermilk of the Loudermilk Cos. also was absent from the meeting.
The BCID is seeking proposals from major national firms. Any questions regarding proposals should be directed no later than 2 p.m., Jan. 29, to Tony Peters, Buckhead CID program manager at firstname.lastname@example.org. The initial Park over GA 400 concept report can be found here.