By John Schaffner
“The Village people are getting restless,” Robin Loudermilk told his fellow board members of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID) at their monthly meeting Oct. 27.
Loudermilk, who represents CID members in the Buckhead Village area, was referring to rumblings he is hearing among businesses which pay an additional 3 mil in taxes into the CID’s coffers each year for improvements in Buckhead but feel they are not reaping their share of the benefits.
The CID board heard the message and agreed to two measures that may ease the restlessness of those Village-area members. They started paying additional taxes in 2006 when the CID expanded its boundaries south along Peachtree Road from Piedmont Road all the way to The Peach shopping center, south of the Village.
The first action was the result of a proposal by the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association (BATMA) to expand its holiday lunchtime schedule for the “buc” to include trips between Buckhead Village and Lenox Square every 15 minutes on weekdays, between 11:30 am and 3:30 pm, Dec. 1-23..
The “buc” service to the Village will be a trial during the holiday to determine if BATMA and the CID, which support the service, feel it should continue. It will include service to the St. Regis Hotel, Whole Foods, Buckhead Plaza and the businesses along Peachtree and Pharr Roads before looping back to Peachtree at or near Piedmont.
The second, even more important decision made by the CID board, was a full review of former streetscape plans drawn up by the EDAW consulting firm a few years ago for Buckhead Village. The board also reviewed the status of funds committed by the CID and the Woodruff Foundation for streetscape projects in the Village as part of The Streets of Buckhead development.
Loudermilk, who founded the Buckhead Alliance and is CEO of Aaron’s Inc., made the point, along with new CID Executive Director Jim Durrett, that the prolonged work stoppage at The Streets of Buckhead has led to deteriorating and dangerous conditions on the streets surrounding the project—including Peachtree Road where the sidewalk has been covered up by fencing on the east side of the road.
Durrett was to have a meeting with Streets of Buckhead developer Ben Carter to see if Carter would agree to make certain improvements to the situation, since construction is not expected to start up again any time in the near future.
CID Chairman David Allman, of Regent Partners, and Vice Chairman John Lundeen, of Coro Realty Advisors, questioned whether the CID had made a commitment that its funds would only be used for streetscapes as part of the Streets of Buckhead development or whether they could be shifted for use on other Village streetscape projects while the Streets of Buckhead remains idle.
“As long as The Streets of Buckhead was rolling along,” Loudermilk told the Reporter, “there were funds from the CID and Woodruff grant. But with the stalling of Streets, the CID needs to step in and do what they can to deal with these problems”—sidewalks, streetscapes, deteriorating roads in all of the Village. “We need to take destiny in our own hands,” he added.
Loudermilk said he believed the agreement was on a first-come, first-served basis. Loudermilk, and his family, have many commercial property investments in the Village area and they are one of the larger contributors of tax funds to the CID.
Buckhead Plaza was originally the largest contributor to the CID when it expanded, but no one was sure if that was still true since the St. Regis has been developed on part of that property.
Robert Bradshaw, principal of Central Asset Management, said that The Peach shopping center, which he operates, “hasn’t seen or identified a return on its investment in the CID yet. We really have to have faith,” he added.
“What could give The Peach hope would be a token of appreciation, such as the ‘buc’ coming to The Peach or at least to Buckhead Village,” Bradford said. “It would be nice to have the Buckhead Boulevard concept come all the way to The Peach.”
The “buc” will temporarily come to Buckhead Village for the holidays, but not all the way to The Peach.
Sam Massell, head of the Buckhead Coalition, which created the CID, pointed out that CID members north of the Village did not get anything for several years of paying into the CID. He agreed the Village area does have a need for services, such as the “buc” and police directing traffic. He suggested it will come in time.
Lundeen pointed out that because the commercial development around the Village is so less dense than the area between Piedmont and Roxboro Road, it only generates about $350,000 per year, a small portion of the $5-plus million the CID collects.
After the meeting Oct. 27, CID board members decided to fully review the issue of overcoming the Streets of Buckhead delays and leading the way to provide needed sidewalk, streetscape, etc. improvements in the Village. That review will take place at its Nov. 11 meeting, along with a look at another possible Buckhead CID expansion all the way to Brookwood Station.