By John Schaffner
In 2007, five neighborhood associations in southern Buckhead came together to form the Brookwood Alliance. They were motivated by a controversial proposed development at Peachtree and Collier roads and a series of studies aimed at guiding the future of the Peachtree corridor where they live.
Residents in the five neighborhoods —Ardmore Park, Brookwood, Brookwood Hills, Collier Hills and Collier Hills North — wanted a voice in determining their future. The five neighborhoods represent over 1,000 households.
“The Alliance’s purpose is to preserve and enhance the identity and unique character of the Brookwood community,” said Brookwood Alliance President Joe Gardner.
Although the area is part of Buckhead, he said, “our area is a calmer oasis of sorts between the high-rise, retail establishments” of Buckhead to the north and Midtown to the south.
Now the Brookwood Alliance — with help from Georgia Tech professors and urban planners David Green and Richard Dagenhart and students with the Georgia Tech Studio — is embarking on its own master plan for that “calm oasis.”
The master plan process formally kicked off Jan. 31 at the first public meeting of the alliance. About 80 residents attended the two-hour Sunday meeting at the Rich Auditorium of Piedmont Hospital.
The meeting was held to explain the master plan process, introduce the students who will be working on it for the organization and to obtain input from residents in the neighborhoods to three questions that will be used to guide the study: What do they think are the positive forces in the area? What do they see as the challenges and weaknesses of the area? What is their vision for the future of the area?
Gardner explained that the organization came together initially to deal with a proposed development involving a Walgreen’s store that most in the area felt would cause serious traffic problems at the intersection of Peachtree and Collier roads. The intersection already was stressed by the volume of Piedmont Hospital traffic. But it was the planning resulting from work of the Peachtree Corridor Task Force and Atlanta BeltLine Inc. since 2007 that “led to the defining mission of the association,” Gardner said.
Representatives of the five neighborhoods recognized that the city or special interest groups have conducted a half-dozen major studies in recent years that had an effect on their neighborhoods, but did not involve the residents. Those studies include the Connect Atlanta transportation plan, the master planning for BeltLine development in sub area 7 (south Buckhead), the drawing of the 15-year future land-use map, Piedmont Hospital’s planning process and the 70-acre Peachtree Corridor Study area.
Gardner said the Brookwood Alliance wants to reconcile six or more of these existing plans in order to create a vision for how the neighborhoods want to see their future develop and “move forward to codify that vision” as an overlay to the present zoning plan or a zoning district.
During its meetings over the past few years, the alliance board has crafted a vision statement for the organization, which Gardner read. In part, it states: “The Brookwood Alliance sees its member neighborhoods as a ‘calm oasis’ between the intensely developed communities to its north and south….
“The Brookwood Alliance seeks to promote the preservation and development of single-family residential neighborhoods; open green spaces and low- to mid-rise, mixed-use structures built for residential, retail and commercial use along Peachtree.”
Green, a Tech professor and urban planner who will be working closely with the seven students of the Georgia Tech Studio on the master plan, led an audience discussion of the three questions.
Residents said they liked Brookwood’s trees, green spaces, mixture of residential and commercial uses, stable single-family residences, access to good public schools, the historic significance as a Civil War battlefield, walkability, small narrow lots, access to interstate highways and the presence of Piedmont Healthcare.
The number one challenge, or weakness, cited by residents attending the meeting was traffic. Rush hour gridlocks Collier Road, they said, but the road becomes a race track at other times of day. Other challenges cited were: lack of a street grid;, on-street parking that causes safety and movement problems; parking problems at Tanyard Creek Park; the Peachtree/Collier roads intersection, and lack of signals at crosswalks.
Residents at the meeting suggested the area needed more public art, more sidewalks, road improvements on Northside Drive and limits to the growth of Piedmont Healthcare. They also said the area should not have a streetcar or trolley and should not have shops that are open 24 hours a day.