By John Schaffner
Proposed routes for multi-use trails by the PATH Foundation once again was the focus of much discussion—sometimes heated—at a Nov. 27 meeting of the BeltLine Master Plan Sub Area 7 stakeholders steering committee. This time, the major issues involved proposed trail routes east of Peachtree Road and not the proposed PATH trail through Tanyard Creek Park.
It was the discussion of route options after the trail wends its way east along Peachtree Creek from Peachtree Road and dips south to connect with trails inside I-85 that focused the attention of several at the table on the industrial park at Armour Circle and its proposed future development.
Planner and architect Bill Seay, representing the Peachtree Heights neighborhood expressed his outrage at hearing that the Armour Circle former industrial area—which he said now is mostly retail and service businesses—was designated on the land use part of the Master Plan for industrial development.
Seay said the city recently added that area to the Peachtree Heights neighborhood and that it had been his understanding it was to be redeveloped as mixed-use residential, not industrial. He asked project manager Ed McKinney, of the Glatting Jackson consulting firm working on this area of the BeltLine Master Plan, who had changed the designation back to industrial and why.
Seay pointed to a mixed-use apartment project that is already being developed in the area as proof that the understanding had been that the area would be redeveloped as mixed-use with a heavy residential element.
McKinney said that direction to have it designated as industrial had come from Mayor Shirley Franklin.
Heather Alhadeef, the city’s assistant director of planning & transportation who was attending the meeting, elaborated on McKinney’s statement, explaining that the mayor is very concerned that with all the planned mixed-use development planned in the city—especially along the BeltLine corridor—that the city risks losing too much of its industrial base and the jobs and families that are associated with that industrial base.
It was obvious that Seay does not plan to back off his argument that the land use portion of the Master Plan must not designate that area for industrial development. It was also obvious that he is supported by the representatives of the two other adjacent neighborhoods to the Armour Circle area, Brookwood Hills and Peachtree Hills.
Representatives of both Brookwood Hills and Peachtree Hills voiced opposition to some of the trail route options that were being shown by McKinney at the meeting, which was held in the board room of Piedmont Hospital. Both neighborhoods reported that they are supportive of the BeltLine and of the trails—just not some of the trail options.
Brookwood Hills voiced a very strong opposition to one trail route option because it encroached on a conservation easement in the neighborhood. It was stated that the route had been removed from the Master Plan after opposition had previously been voiced by the neighborhood and the Brookwood Hills representative was shocked to see that the route had returned on the updated plan.
The Peachtree Hills representatives were just as adamant that their neighborhood wants easy access to the PATH, but they don’t want the trail encroaching on their neighborhood at various locations.
Seay suggested a new PATH alignment from the proposed Peachtree Creek Parkway south to I-85 that would take the trail through part of the area designated for industrial development, stating that part of the area could be turned into green space with the trail and could help to foster mixed-use residential development there. It also would remove the option objected to by Brookwood Hills.
The Tanyard Creek Park PATH was briefly discussed at the meeting, but primarily by Jonathan Lewis, the city’s BeltLine project coordinator in the Planning Department, who said the technical people have been gathering data on the compromise route through the park that follows the west side of the creek they are evaluating items such as impact on trees, cost of materials, the need for a railing on parts of the trail where it passes close to the creek, etc.
Lewis said that a recent proposal for a diagonal bridge across Tanyard Creek for the PATH is being considered by the team. He said all of this will be considered at a public meeting sometime in December (the date and time is undetermined) and final recommendations will be made.
The newest materials presented by McKinney at the meeting dealt with the public and cultural arts plans as part of the BeltLine Master Plan—opportunities presented by way of the cultural assets of the community.
McKinney pointed out that Peachtree Road and the BeltLine cross in only two places in Atlanta and one of those places is the proposed transit plaza at Coro Realty’s shopping center north of Bennett Street.
He pointed out that the Georgia Museum of Cultural Arts is moving to Bennett Street, which along with the other aspects of Bennett Street is one of those cultural assets.
McKinney also suggested there are areas within this study area where the Civil War history can be highlighted in art—such as along the trail and throughout Tanyard Creek Park, the area where Colonial Homes is located and Peachtree Creek itself.
He said the design of the transit plaza space itself and the streetscape design along Peachtree Road can provide opportunities to seamlessly integrate art into those projects. Even Peachtree Creek Parkway, including its bridges, offers opportunities for public art.
McKinney said the consultants are now mapping those opportunities for public art.
Several of the neighborhood representatives wanted to know if there would be opportunities for the neighborhoods to have input into the art used, particularly within their neighborhoods. They were told that had not been determined, but that the BeltLine group is utilizing the assistance of several arts organizations and the Urban Design Commission to work on this aspect of the Master Plan. He also pointed out that the BeltLine citizen study groups would continue in the process through the next 25 years.
Two other issues that drew some opposition from several people at the meeting were the proposed option of an on-grade crossing of Peachtree Road by the BeltLine transit and the density shown in the land use portion of the Master Plan presentation for both sides of Peachtree Road adjacent to the proposed transit plaza and to the north from there. It includes the area presently occupied by the aging Colonial Homes development.
The plan contains a mixed-use core of high-rise development and calls for high-density residential of 10-plus stories closer to Peachtree Road and medium-density residential of five to nine stories practically abutting the North Collier Hills neighborhood.
It was pointed out that the Brookwood Alliance of neighborhoods wants no more than 10 stories of building along Peachtree Road up to at least where the proposed transit plaza would be, in order to provide a transition area between the high-rise buildings of Midtown and the high-rise condos further up Peachtree in Buckhead.
Several of the neighborhood representatives remained after the end of the meeting to discuss their individual issues with McKinney and try to persuade him to make the changes they seek in the Master Plan.