By John Schaffner

Dist. 2 DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader indicated Aug. 31 it does not look good for having a a public planning charette the second week of September to discuss plans for redevelopment of the lower Buford Highway corridor.

He also said the proposed Symphony Park mixed-use development plan, which is on the county’s agenda to be reconsidered in September, likely will be deferred until it can be considered in context with any plans that might emerge before the end of the year for redeveloping that portion of Buford Highway that forms the lower border of Brookhaven.

Rader has called the Buford Highway corridor “the most ill-considered corridor in the county.” But he and Super Dist. 6 Commissioner Kathie Gannon are trying to mount a groundswell of interest to change that for at least the segment of the corridor along the bottom of Brookhaven from Northeast Plaza west to the Fulton County line.

Rader and Gannon are pursuing a zoning overlay for the area they dub the lower Buford corridor, to spur rezoning and redevelopment to make it part of Brookhaven. Rader and Gannon know there is going to be a lot of pressure to redevelop the corridor. That is what Symphony Park is about — a major mixed-use development planned for the north side of the highway and backing up to Brookhaven’s Cross Keys High School and Woodward Elementary School.

“We need the rezonings and the land-use plan and the changes that will put in those street systems that make it more pedestrian-oriented and put concentrations of people in the right places,” Gannon said.

However, Rader said the initial planning process, which will lead to the public charette for community input, now rests in the hands of five neighborhoods that are directly affected by the corridor and any changes to it, and Jerry Cooper, a resident of one of those neighborhoods who also is a principal of the Atlanta architectural firm Cooper Carey.

He said the neighborhoods and Cooper are working on some preliminary concepts that can be brought before the community for discussion.

Rader said he does not have any indication they would be ready for a charette as early mid-September, which he had hoped would be possible when interviewed July 29 with Gannon. He said that hope was associated with having something in the works when the Symphony Park developer comes back before the county in September.

“If not by mid-September, I would hope we could at least have the public charette before the end of the year,” he added. In the meantime, he predicted the Symphony Park proposal would be deferred this month.

Both Rader and Gannon said during the July interview that the corridor has not been a part of the county that people have thought much about.

“Yet, if you look at Buford Highway on a map of the region,” Rader said, “and when you look at the infrastructure that exists in that plain … you see amazing, unused infrastructure in a very central part of the county.”