By John Schaffner
Buckhead Business Association members were urged to go to the corner of Peachtree and Piedmont Roads —in front of the Container Store — and look north and south along Peachtree. “That is your status report” on the Buckhead Boulevard streetscape project, said Scotty Greene, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID).
Greene said the first phase of the $50 million public/private partnership on the Peachtree Boulevard project will be done in August. He told the BBA at its March 15 breakfast meeting that Phase II will begin in the first quarter of 2008 and will be completed in 2009.
Phase I of the project, originally planned to run from Maple Drive south of Piedmont Road to the Georgia 400 bridge on Peachtree, will extend down to Buckhead Village and the Peach shopping center once complete. Phase II will run from the Georgia 400 bridge to Roxboro Road and maybe beyond to Club Drive.
There is always a possibility of expansion as money becomes available to do more than was originally anticipated, Greene said. Such was the case when the CID and Buckhead Alliance were able to get a $4 million grant from the Woodruff Foundation that allowed them to extend the Peachtree Road streetscape down to Buckhead Village and beyond to the Peach shopping center.
Greene explained that there is nothing new in making investments in transportation infrastructure.
He told the story of a 24-year-old Illinois state legislator named Abraham Lincoln who made his splash in politics by proposing an aggressive bond tax. That propelled him to later become president.
“Lincoln then and our leaders now are faced with discovering ways to pay for needed public infrastructure,” Greene told the business audience.
He explained that at the Community Improvement District, “We tax ourselves to build public infrastructure to support private investment. The property owners in the CID tax themselves 3 mils a year,” he said. “Three hundred property owners generate $3 million a year. We reinvest that capital with our federal and state partners to build projects.”
He suggested that the business leaders can just look up and down Peachtree at the explosion of growth and development going on, much of which is because of improvements being made to the infrastructure.
At last count there were 33 major development projects either underway or announced for just along Peachtree in Buckhead.
The forthcoming explosion of development at the old Buckhead Village location he indicated was jump-started by the Woodruff Foundation grant but was the direct result of a partnership between the Ben Carter organization, the mayor and the Loudermilk family, with the support of groups such as the CID, Buckhead Coalition, BBA and Buckhead Alliance.
“It takes a partnership to make that happen,” Greene stated.
Greene indicated to the BBA group that Mayor Shirley Franklin is poised to announce March 26 that the city will invest $1 billion along the Peachtree Corridor over the next 20 years for public infrastructure items such as street cars, public art, etc.
He said that between now and 2020, the private sector investment will be $55 billion.
The increase in development that can already be seen will continue to increase, he said. Between 2000 and 2006, 10,406 housing units were added and it is expected that will increase to 47,000 by 2020, he said. In that same six year period, 5.1 million square feet of office/commercial space was added. By 2020 that will more than triple to 16.3 million square feet, Greene predicted. And, he said, there will be a tremendous increase in population, going to 175,000 employees and 35,000 more residents.
“The CID is trying to leverage our public sector partners, elected officials, to take your tax dollars and reinvest them in the public sector,” Greene said. “If you think in terms of $1 billion in public sector money in comparison to $55 billion in private sector dollars, I think that is a good deal.
“The business community has already stepped up to the plate. Pretty soon, residents all up and down Peachtree are going to be asked to reach deeper into their pockets too,” Greene predicted.