By John Schaffner
Atlanta Dogwood Festival Executive Director Brian Hill showed up with a support team of police officers at March 4 meeting of neighborhood planning unit-B (NPU-B) to convince wary Buckhead residents that traffic will not be uncontrollable when the three-day event comes to the Lenox Mall parking lot April 4-6.
Lenox had a history with big events with the 4th of July and Macy’s tree lighting and “had a lot of things we were looking for as a venue,” Hill said.
“We have developed a plan that is more than what the permitting requires of us from a traffic standpoint,” Hill told the NPU-B board and interested residents and media in the audience meeting at the Cathedral of Christ The King at 2699 Peachtree Road.
Although the NPU was not asked to formally approve the festival permit, clearly the concern among members was traffic control in Buckhead during the three-day event.
Hill explained that a traffic management plan has been developed that surrounds the mall area and extends all the way down to Peachtree and Piedmont Roads.
The Atlanta Dogwood Festival, Hill stated. “Is not the 4th of July. It is not where you have that mass of people converging on an area all at once.” That is a different traffic management plan “than we had to deal with for the Dogwood Festival.”
Police Lt. Chris Clark and his team of officers explained that the plan utilizes a corps of off-duty Atlanta Police officers positioned at intersections from Piedmont Road to Oak Valley along Peachtree and at points along the mall area down Lenox Road. Another group of officers will be monitoring parking and traffic flow along streets riding motorcycles and bikes. They also will have officers within the festival area and managing traffic in the mall parking decks.
He said a lot of people were worried because they had a bad experience with All-Star Weekend in Buckhead. “All Star Weekend was a totally different type of event. People travelled in their cars. They stayed in their cars and it was not a fine arts event.”
A lot of people were worried about the numbers, he said. “In reality, what we are expecting is about 100,000 over three days.” He added that Lenox has those numbers on a single good shopping day.
He said that on the Friday of the festival, he expects many people who work in Buckhead will take in the festival at the end of the day, postponing their trips home. And, he added, that on Saturday and Sunday, the festival goers will not have to worry about rush-hour traffic and there are no other conflicting events in the area during the festival days.
Development & Transportation Committee Chair Sally Silver urged the organizers to spend a weekend in the festival area to check out normal traffic before finalizing their traffic management plans.
Hill explained that the reason the festival ended up in Buckhead at Lenox Square is because they were told on Jan, 6 — two days before they were going for their final festival permit — that the 72-year-old festival would be allowed to be in Piedmont Park this year. “We had 80 days to find a new home,” he said and the best of three sites considered was Lenox Square.
But he added that some of the popular elements of the festival — the Frisbee dog tournament and the two big music stages, for instance — had to be eliminated due to the smaller and more confined space.
Read full coverage of the March meetings of the three Buckhead NPUs — including an ordinance to control the look of parking decks, online at www.reporternewspapers.net.