By John Schaffner
Dist. 2 DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader, who worked for the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Atlanta Regional Commission in the fields of transportation planning, development and environmental issues, urged those attending the July 14 meeting of the Brookhaven Community Connection (BCC) to focus on opportunities for the redevelopment of the lower Buford Highway corridor.
Rader presented an update on the Brook-haven/Dresden Drive Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), which includes potential development at the Brookhaven/Oglethorpe MARTA station, to the packed room of business and neighborhood representatives at the morning meeting at the Hudson Grille at 4046 Peachtree Road.
But his main focus was on the lower Buford Highway corridor.
“There has been quite a lot going on in Brookhaven over the past few months,” Rader told the group, “and I want to focus on one opportunity that is emerging in an area that you might not currently claim as Brookhaven. But I think you should.”
Rader defined the area as stretching from Northeast Plaza to the Fulton County line.
“Geography is in many cases determined by transportation,” he said. “It is where you spend your time. It is what you can’t get to and what you can get to. The lower Buford Highway corridor is an area I think we haven’t embraced because it has been different. But, in fact, it is right there at our back door and an area that I think has great opportunity for us.”
He said the Buford corridor has transportation capacity and a lot of prime real estate. Therefore, he anticipates substantial development activity the next few years.
If fact, it was the proposed Symphony Park major housing development on Buford Highway, which would back up to Cross Keys High School and Woodward Elementary School, that spurred Rader and Dist. 6 Commissioner Kathie Gannon to begin working on a major plan for redeveloping the area.
According to Rader, the south fork of Peachtree Creek is both “an asset and a liability” because of its neglect in the area. “The apartment complexes in the area are declining,” he said, “and there is no benefit to having that extent of density in that area.”
Rader urged the BCC attendees to “start to reimagine that corridor … to make it into a place we want it to be.”
He said the community is trying to move forward a plan for redevelopment of the corridor, led by Pine Hills and other neighborhoods. They are working with an architect on developing the plan and hope to begin community input meetings soon to develop a working plan.
Rader said the business community can and should provide much of the influence on the planning process. He said in his previous positions, he was always struck by the amount of support business people give their community and how important it is for business people to be engaged. “That really constitutes the great asset that you have in any particular place,” he added.
“Brookhaven, like many areas of our district and our county, functions as its own type of a city,” Rader said. “I know that people talk about a formal city organization. But if we are doing our job right as the county government, we are providing you the services and support you need to have a cohesive community.”
Turning to the Brookhaven LCI, Rader said: “As you know, about a year and a half ago we passed the Dresden Drive/Brookhaven overlay that would implement the Livable Centers Initiative Plan for Brookhaven, stretching from the MARTA station on up Peachtree a little ways and down Dresden Drive. That plan has in many ways been implemented very well.”
He added: “We have had a couple of bumps as businesses have come in wanting to establish a footprint for their buildings. We have been able to present them with the goals and specific manifestations of the overlay, and they are rethinking those plans. Fundamentally, we are going to have an urban amenity in Brookhaven as a result.”
He said the burst real estate bubble is an issue. “Some of the events we hoped would come along quicker, such as the redevelopment of the Brookhaven MARTA station, are waiting for financing,” Rader said. “The good news is that the market is there. I think MARTA continues to be committed to redevelopment compatible with what the neighborhoods have said they want.
“We are seeing this development fill in around it — notably the Dresden Drive corridor — showing and leading the way for activity in that area.”