By John Schaffner
The year-long planning by the Brookwood Alliance and Georgia Tech’s Urban Design Studio of the Peachtree Road corridor may be combined with a “re-look” at Midtown’s SPI (Special Public Interest) District to become a model for zoning throughout the city of Atlanta.
David Green, professor of architecture and urban design at Tech who headed up the study for the Brookwood Alliance, told a group of some 30 representatives from the five neighborhoods and commercial interests in the alliance that Dist. 8 City Council member Yolanda Adrean and Midtown and downtown Atlanta council representatives Alex Kwan and Kwanza Hall are behind this effort.
Green told the group that gathered Nov. 15 in the Rich Auditorium of Piedmont Hospital for the final presentation of the plan, “That is what we talked about in the beginning, and it shows that it is really getting traction.”
Green told the audience, “Hopefully it is something we can see adopted in an overlay plan here and at some point a model for the entire city.”
Green and his student members of the Urban Design Studio at Tech looked at the impact on development along the Peachtree Road corridor in the area of south Buckhead that includes the five neighborhoods of Ardmore, Brookwood, Brookwood Hills, Collier Hills and Collier Hills North.
The study addressed the three primary areas of street scenes, development and accessibility along the corridor and neighboring residential areas.
Green sees the result of these efforts being a new zoning category that would replace the old commercial and mixed-use residential categories. “It would be adopted throughout the city, but it probably would have to be done incrementally,” Green said. “But it would be done here first.”
Green cautioned the group not to get anxious. “This not something that is going to be done quickly.” Since the work is being done pro bono for the city, he predicts it will be at least a year before the guidelines are set up and another year before it gets implemented.
In response to a question from Councilwoman Adrean, Green said, “This is not a zoning overlay. What you are looking at right now is nothing more than a kind of master plan for the area. What I am talking about is a set of guidelines for zoning the entire city based on this.
“This then would be recalibrated so that it works for other corridors, such as Memorial Drive, and set up as a very specific category or series of categories that can be adopted in these various areas,” he explained.
“The goal is to rank the entire city in three very simple categories: (1) the very high density areas such as Buckhead, Midtown and Downtown; (2) corridors that have higher density and that transition into single family neighborhoods; and (3) single family neighborhoods, which might include small neighborhood commercial districts.”
He said there is a fourth category that he is not going to touch, which is historic districts.
Green said there are about 128 different categories right now in the city ordinances—128 for 85,000 acres of land.
“The goal all along has been to get this adopted in some form here, but also to use it as a model for the rest of the city,” Green stated.
He said the street design proposals had been showed to the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID) and “everybody seems to be on board with it.”
The possibility was discussed that the Buckhead CID is considering expanding its area all the way down Peachtree Road from where it now ends at the Buckhead Village area to Brookwood.
Discussing the street design portion of the final plan — which he handed out in book form to members of the steering committee — Green pointed the perfect street would be 120 feet wide, which would require the purchase of additional right-of-way, “which is not going to happen,” he said. “We don’t have the money to do all the things right away. The purpose was to get two lanes of traffic each direction, a center lane for turning and then on-street parking,” he added.
Development along the corridor was a more difficult issue, he said. Present regulations allow for 220-foot tall buildings. “We tried to take the best of existing plans and consider the impact of mass of buildings on adjacent neighborhoods,” he said.
“We wanted to regulate zoning so that it allows for appropriate impact. It really had to do with height and mass of the building,” he explained.
The existing building profile is large, flat buildings, said Green. “We wanted to take squatty and opaque and make it taller and more airy and lighter” — allowing for space between the taller building parts to let the air and light through. It would lessen the impact on Peachtree Street as well as the adjacent neighborhoods.
The plan could possibly be adopted by the board of the alliance at a Dec. 21 meeting.