By John Schaffner

editor@reporternewspapers.net

There weren’t any shovels for turning dirt or road-paving equipment — just cocktails and hors d’oeuvres and scores of business and civic leaders — at the Buckhead Club Aug. 25 to celebrate the kickoff of Phase II of the $52 million Buckhead Boulevard project.

The evening also was a celebration of the 10th anniversaries of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID) and of Scottie Greene’s work as its executive director— work that centered on pushing through every phase of the Buckhead Boulevard project up to now.

It also marked the passing of the torch of executive director from Greene, who retired as of Sept. 1, to his successor, Jim Durrett.

Construction of the one-mile stretch of Peachtree Boulevard Phase II, from the Buckhead MARTA station to Roxboro Road, will not begin until late December or early January. But there was much to talk about at the late afternoon kickoff party.

Here are some of the facts:

The second phase construction should take 14 to 18 months, but there won’t be lane closings during this year’s holiday shopping season.

The total cost for the second phase is $32 million—$15 million for construction and about $17 million toward obtaining right-of-way.

The CID put in $4 million in cash toward the right-of-way and the came from businesses along the route—all in the CID—who deeded land for the right-of-way.

The $15 million the build the Phase II project is from federal stimulus construction funds.

The entire Buckhead Boulevard project is a Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) program, for which Greene and the CID leadership fought hard over the past 10 years to secure approval and funding. Phase I, which was completed in the fall of 2007, included wide sidewalks, raised medians, new lighting and plantings and ran from Maple Drive to the Buckhead MARTA station.

DOT Commissioner Vance Smith Jr., who took office June 25, was on hand at the kickoff event to officially announce the $15 million in construction funding for Phase II, which was approved by the DOT board on July 16.

Both Greene and CID Chairman David Allman, of Regency Partners, praised the land owners along Peachtree who gave up valuable portions of their land to provide the right-of-way for the boulevard project. Since they are part of the CID, they not only donated valuable property, but also allow extra taxes to be levied on their properties in order to fund these CID projects.

“This is precisely the type of project we need more of,” Allman told the audience. “If Atlanta is going to accommodate the growth that we are still anticipating over the next 15 or 20 years, we have got to support the transportation funding, in our urban, mixed-use dense areas that are viable for high-rise residential, walkability and those sorts of things.”

He said, “Historically these have not been easy projects to fund. It has not been easy for us. But we think it is a model that is critical to the future of how the city grows.”

Allman said that the CID is not going to abandon transportation projects in the future, but its board recently voted to also “expanded to include more quality-of-life components,” whether it is working more closely with neighborhoods, looking at cultural amenities, public safety, and the aesthetic qualities with more intensity.

Both Allman and Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell reaped praises on the work done over the past 10 years by Greene as executive director of the CID. The five-foot-something Massell quipped that he and Greene had not always seen eye-to-eye, “but look at him, he almost seven feet tall.”

In his parting remarks, Greene spoke of how much he had enjoyed his work at the CID and how important he felt the improvements have been to the community. He said he has no immediate future plans except to spend time with his wife and family, reading and reflecting.

As of Sept. 1, the build-out of Peachtree Boulevard Phase II is in the hands of the Durrett, the new executive director.