By John Schaffner
Sometimes potentially big ideas come out of very small groups.
The second public hearing to discuss the redesign of Charles Loudermilk Park was one of those situations.
Garth Peters, one of seven people attending the May 12 hearing, threw out for discussion what seemed like a radical change from what was being presented by Buckhead Alliance representative Kendall Craig. It involved redirecting Roswell Road onto Sardis Way for a new squared-off intersection with Peachtree Road.
The idea was to create a safer passage for pedestrians between the stores and the park. But the suggestion might also create better traffic flow between Roswell and Peachtree roads, Peters claimed.
Actually, the concept was neither radical nor new. A similar design had been proposed in 1999 by Moreland Altobelli Associates, a local engineering firm headed up by former Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Moreland.
The proposal was rejected by GDOT, said Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition and a person greatly responsible for the present triangle park, which was renamed for Charles Loudermilk in the past year.
Massell said that over the years there have been a few different concepts for the park, “which is a focal point for Buckhead. It is where Buckhead started,” Massell added, referring to the intersection of the two roads that have long been major state arteries.
The Moreland Altobelli plan from 1999 is displayed in Massell’s Coalition office at Tower Place. Peters works with Massell at the Buckhead Coalition.
The Moreland Altobelli proposal actually included two parks at the intersection — one along the buildings that front on Roswell Road, including the new Buckhead Theatre owned and renovated by Loudermilk — and the other across Peachtree Road, between it and East Paces Ferry Road.
Craig, who has been spearheading the park redesign on behalf of the Buckhead Alliance, said she was intrigued by the concept presented by Peters. But she feared proposing something that could push the process back to square one.
Massell said that Edaw Inc. came up with a square park for the site as part of the 1994 Buckhead Blueprint. “One of the most dramatic ideas,” Massell said, came from well-known Buckhead developer and businessman George Rohrig.
“Rohrig suggested a 7- or 8-foot wall with cascading water on both sides that would run from the point of the park to Sardis Way,” Massell explained. “It was very dramatic and very expensive.” Massell said Rohrig also wanted to continue the park on both sides of Peachtree Road and tie the two together with a visual element through the roadway pavement.
Actually, it was Massell, mayor of Atlanta in the 1970s, who got a grant for the park and managed to get the stores removed that were located on the site. As a focal point for that park design, the present sculpture of the “Storytelling Buck” was created by Alabama artist Frank Fleming.
The sculpture, which is admired by some, hated by others but used by many for taking pictures, according to Massell, shows the buck telling the story of how Buckhead got its name to little animals that surround it.
“We had a quarter million dollars to create the park,” Massell said. “We spent $200,000 on the sculpture and $50,000 for the rest of the park, which primarily involved moving some dirt around.”
The most outspoken person at the second public meeting was one of those who hated the buck sculpture and several other aspects of the redesign plan. He didn’t like the idea of the chime tower and also hated the proposed two-story wall sculpture that would depict a rendition of the tavern where the original buck’s head was hung.
Craig said of all the comments that have been received most of the negative comments have been about that wall depicting the tavern, which in the plan is located at the intersection of Roswell and Peachtree roads.