Published on September 7th, 2016 |6
BCID views new Park Over GA 400 concept drawings; public gets its chance too
The Buckhead Community Improvement District’s (BCID) board Wednesday morning viewed the innovative Phase I concept drawings for its proposed Park Over
GA400 — an impressive presentation that was repeated at an open public meeting later in the day (Sept. 7) at the Buckhead Theatre.
Initial designs for the Park Over GA400 would create an open space that would not only become a community gathering place, but also would help to further shape Buckhead’s identity—much like other iconic urban places, including Central Park, Millennium Park and Union Square.
The Phase I concept plans were presented to the BCID board by Robert Rogers from lead design firm Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers, and Thomas Woltz from Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects.
The design for the Park Over GA400 makes strategic connections to enhance the life of the district, and is tailored to the undulating Piedmont topography, direct MARTA access and expands the commercial and cultural opportunities present in Buckhead today.
The initial design creates three distinct zones of programming: The Commons, the Plaza and the Gardens. “Each zone is tailored to accommodate a
range of activities and events,” Rogers explained to the BCID board members at their 7:30 a.m. meeting.
The Commons would provide the PATH400 crossing of Lenox Road and would be a gateway to the park and to Buckhead, while providing a gathering spot for people for just leisure activities or possibly things such as formal yoga sessions. It includes a higher topography.
The Plaza would leverage MARTA’s infrastructure and link to the pedestrian walkways on the park’s east/west perimeters. It would structurally support food trucks, etc. and could become the
“town space” for Buckhead. Efforts would be made to get perimeter property owners to provide more commercial frontage on the park along this sector.
The Garden area on the Peachtree Road end of the park would be highlighted by a series of gardens creating more intimate spaces for people to sit and eat lunch or just talk. It would also lead to the elevated pedestrian crossing over Peachtree and ramp to the Peachtree Road sidewalks.
Rogers pointed out that the nearly half-mile long park “provides ample capacity for plazas, lawns, gardens, pavilions and more. A defining feature of the design includes an allée of high-canopied trees running the length of the park that blends with Atlanta’s urban forest canopy and creates broad shade and memorable open space from Lenox Road to Peachtree Road.”
Rogers told the BCID board the park “fills one of the gaps in the trail system….providing public space, a walkable realm and improves quality of life.” He said it is a linkage that “shortens and enhances the walking experience,” indicating that PATH400 would go right through the park.
Earlier proposed plans for the park showed a continuous park covering the entire area of the MARTA Buckhead rail station and GA 400 between Peachtree and Lenox roads. However, Rogers pointed out that created a tunnel and the need to ventilate and deal with such issues as fire escapes.
Rogers said the concept team found that the park could be artfully designed to pull away from some sites along the east and west perimeters so as not to build a tunnel but still retain the linkages
and still maintain the walking and biking paths. The new design reduces the park area over the right-of-way from 9 acres to 6 ½ to 7 acres.
At 5:30 p.m., Buckhead CID held its first open public meeting with close to 100 Buckhead residents, business owners and stakeholders at the Buckhead Theatre, where Rogers and Woltz pretty much repeated their presentation of earlier in the day to the BCID board.
Although BCID Chairman David Allman told the Wednesday evening audience the Buckhead Park idea was first discussed 10-15 years ago, the Buckhead CID introduced its first design concept a year ago and tapped a team for a more detailed study.
Planners and Allman were peppered with questions about potential funding sources, access points to the park, parking opportunities, will lanes of GA 400 be closed during construction and whether the CID board is unanimously on board. Audience comments mostly were supportive.
Buckhead resident Fred Wooten told BuckheadView, “I raised the question about how will the sound from 400 traffic be addressed. The new design is not a full cap over GA 400 and the rail line in that area, like the first design was, so he raised the question about noise abatement.
“As part of the response, he (Rogers) referred to Fifth Street Plaza as a quiet place,” Wooten explained. “Just viewed Fifth Street Plaza on Google Map. That is a capped system.So that is not a compatible/comparable response.”
Wooten stated, “The sound needs to be addressed. What are the levels? What could be done to reduce? At what level is it uncomfortable doing various activities? At what distance from 400? What tools, treatments, etc. could be incorporated to reduce the sound level?”
Like most any investment in transportation infrastructure or parklands, the proposed park would undoubtedly make the area even more attractive to developers and would likely raise property values and potentially tax revenues.
Regent Partners, for instance, is in the design phase for two towers that will border the western edge of the proposed park — one a 44-story building with offices and about 60 condos and a 30-story luxury apartment tower. Allman said his firm wants to get underway with both next year.
Rogers said Wednesday’s gathering is the first in a series of community meetings to help craft the proposal. “Tonight is the starting point for a series of conversations in the coming months,” he said.
In response to an audience question, Allman said, “There are no plans for a public referendum on the project.”
Durrett told the BCID board that both the Georgia Department of Transportation and MARTA have expressed that they find this an interesting project and want to participate in it. He added that GDOT likes the Lenox Road design with the pedestrian bridge “for removing conflicts of pedestrian and vehicletraffic
In order to develop this initial concept, the Rogers Partners team interviewed key stakeholders, analyzed site conditions, developed preliminary
project costs and produced site-specific concept graphics for use in pursuit of project funding.
There are more phases of work to accomplish. This first step provides a sense of what can be built, the order of magnitude of the costs to build and operate the park, and the sources of funding that should be considered to pursue it.
For instance, the present projected cost of building the park is between $195 million and $245 million. Operations and maintenance is projected to cost $1.75 million to $2 million per year.
It is projected the a combination of public and private financing would be required to build the park and that a Special Services District would have to be created to help with the funding that could include the present BCID as well as surrounding residential neighborhoods.
September will be spent seeking and listening to feedback from the community about this opportunity. Should the BCID board be encouraged by
what is heard, they will vote on proceeding to the next phase of work, most likely at the October 5 board meeting.
This Phase II work would focus on public outreach, preliminary engineering, engagement of key agency partners and continued efforts to strategize funding through both public and private entities.
“We are delighted to be working with the Buckhead CID to imagine a new inter-woven and inter-linked public realm, and truly feel we have struck the right balance with this initial design to make big change with artfully considered efforts,” Rogers stated.
“This park will solve pedestrian crossings at Lenox Road, complete a key section of the Path400 Greenway Trail, enhance the iconic quality of Peachtree Street and act regionally and nationally to further distinguish Buckhead,” Rogers added.
The Rogers Partners-led team includes design partners Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBW), multi-disciplinary design firm ASD | Sky; engineering professional services firm WSP | Parson Brinckerhoff; real estate experts HR&A Advisors; planning and design firm, Perez Planning and Design; structural engineers Guy Nordenson and Associates; architectural lighting designers Renfro Design Group; and sustainability experts Sherwood Design Engineers.