By Katie Fallon

Residents will once again be able to give their input on a series of design concepts for the 20-acre Abernathy Greenway linear park when the engineering firm creating the designs holds a public meeting on Tuesday.

Post, Buckley, Schuh and Jernigan (PBS&J), the firm hired by the city in 2006 to design the linear park, will host a fact-finding session from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on March 27 at City Hall. During the meeting the firm will display three design plans — a formal, an informal and a low impact design. Residents will be encouraged to make suggestions and speak to consultants about what they would like to see in the linear park.

The park is planned along Abernathy Road from Johnson Ferry Road to Roswell Road. By the time the park is developed, it is expected that the Georgia Department of Transportation’s plans to widen Abernathy Road, which includes adding sidewalks and bicycle lanes, will be underway.

PBS&J project manager John Boudreau said each of the design plans provide varying levels of program elements and cost considerations.

“The areas to the south of Abernathy Road lend themselves toward a more natural, free-flowing design approach, whereas the area to the north of Abernathy Road provides opportunities for more structured activities,” Boudreau said.

According to Boudreau, the three designs each have their own advantages. For instance, he said the low impact design would have minimal construction costs. The informal design, on the other hand, has an increased level of proposed site elements.

“The second alternative will expand the greenspace boundaries to include remnant parcels created by the realignment of several of the road intersections adjacent to the Arts Center, incorporate additional plazas and an increase in seating areas, resulting in greater landscape and construction costs.”

Boudreau said the formal design is the most costly by increasing the amount of public improvements.

Ultimately, the park’s purpose will be to provide linkage from the existing neighborhoods to the commercial areas along Roswell Road and the Chattahoochee River and to act as a buffer to the adjacent neighborhoods from the newly widened Abernathy Road.

“The Abernathy greenspace will provide a safe, well-landscaped public gathering place for the people and neighborhoods of the community to enjoy for decades to come,” Boudreau said.

John Drysdale, deputy director of the city’s public works department, said the land for the park is being obtained from the existing homeowners on both sides of Abernathy Road from Brandon Mill east to the commercial property at Abernathy and Roswell Roads. Drysdale said the city’s total costs to obtain the land are unknown because the process to appraise the properties and relocate the existing owners is still underway. A certain amount of funding, though, will be made available.

“Cobb County and the City of Sandy Springs together have committed up to $8.5 million for the acquisition of properties that are not being purchased by GDOT,” Drysdale said. “This is an estimate, based on the current knowledge of the values and relocation expenses.”

A majority of the homes that occupy the stretch of Abernathy planned for the linear park are single-family, ranch-style homes. Some current right-of-ways, Drysdale said, will also become part of the park.

Because GDOT will be widening Abernathy at roughly the same time work could begin on the park, Drysdale said it will be difficult to do much more than grading and drainage work while the projects are proceeding simultaneously.

The cost to develop the park has not been finalized because the city has not reached that level of detail yet, Drysdale said. Cost estimates for the concept designs are underway, but are only preliminary. The funding will come primarily from city funds; however, Drysdale said the city will likely solicit grants and gifts from other agencies, organizations, corporations and private individuals.

A timeline for the park has also not been finalized. Drysdale said his department plans on doing detailed design work over the remainder of the year before starting construction in the 2008 to 2009 time frame.

“It is anticipated to take a number of years to build out the park to the final approved design” Drysdale said.

Similarly, Boudreau said the park will be treated as a project. “Future phases of the greenspace would be constructed as the funding would be appropriated,” Boudreau said. “The initial phases of the greenspace would be designed in a way that it would not preclude future phases from being constructed.”

Boudreau said the biggest challenges in designing and implementing a project of this magnitude will be building community consensus and effectively assisting the community in visualizing the opportunities and alternatives that are available. He said PBS&J hopes to gain valuable input on the park’s different elements to help shape the design of a preferred Abernathy greenspace plan.