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Click here to download – Greenspace Action Plan Jan 2011 (7 meg PDF)

Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook last year threw out the challenge to the Buckhead Community Improvement District and other civic groups to come up with a plan to increase the parks, green spaces and playgrounds in his district—the heart of Buckhead’s business community.

Shook issued the challenge after determining his council district is “dead last” in Atlanta in park acreage, with only 73.6 acres of parks and green space, or 2.14 acres per 1,000 residents.

On Jan. 25, “The Buckhead Collection,” a long-range, parks and green space vision “to sustain the Buckhead identity and quality of life,” was presented to the CID board, adding some 106 acres of new plazas, parks, dog runs, trails and greenways and street and sidewalk improvements to Shook’s part of the city.

The Buckhead Collection is a work in progress. Started in October of last year, it is supported by the CID, the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association, Neighborhood Planning Unit B, the Trust for Public Land, Livable Buckhead, a new organization formed to help build a more sustainable community, and, of course, Shook.

The AECOM consulting group was engaged to conduct the survey.

BATMA Executive Director Denise Starling, who is coordinating the effort, said the committee pulled together to work on the visioning process “has been fantastic and the consultants are doing a really great job. There has been a lot of energy in the group.”

But Starling is quick to point out “this is Howard Shook’s initiative.”

One question that is not clearly answered in the presentation is “who should lead the implementation of the Buckhead Green Space Action Plan when completed?”

Two thoughts are the formation of a Buckhead Parks Conservancy, such as the Piedmont Park Conservancy, or a Buckhead Parks, Inc., such as Atlanta BeltLine Inc., to lead the implementation.

The Buckhead Collection got its name because it is envisioned as an interconnected network of parks, trains and green spaces “serving the social, economic, mobility and environmental needs of Buckhead residents, workers and visitors,” according to the report.

So far, the Buckhead Collection has identified 106.6 acres of potential new green spaces including 16 urban plazas, two large central gathering spaces (one near Lenox and Peachtree roads and the second at Buckhead Village), 13 neighborhood parks, three BeltLine parks, 4 community part components (which may include recreation facilities), 17 community greens, 15 dog runs and two destination dog parks, and natural areas consisting of trails, greenways and street and sidewalk improvements.

The plan points out plazas should be within 800 feet of commercial and retail establishments and range in size from 900 to 2,500 square feet. Central gathering space should be strategically located and designed to facilitate programmed festivals and events.

The plan says every resident should have access to a minimum 2-acre park within a half mile of his or her home. Parks should include playgrounds, multi-purpose grass lawns, picnic pavilions, moveable site furnishings and on-street parking.

For trails and greenways, the report says creek corridors should be planned and enhanced as multiple-purpose greenways, providing flood protection, storm water treatment, wildlife habitat projection and pedestrian/bicycle circulation. Roadway corridors with wide rights-of-ways (such as Ga. 400) should also be planned and enhanced as multiple purpose greenways.

The projected development costs for those items—excluding land acquisition costs—is $166.95 million. With land costs acquisition, which presumably would largely be handled by the Trust for Public Lands, the total costs could be in the half-billion-dollar range or more.

The elements of the plan are all designed to meet a set of defined objectives:

• Continue to make Buckhead one of the most desirable places to live, work and play.

• Provide a network of trails, bikeways and sidewalks to provide opportunities for alternative modes of transportation.

• Provide residents, workers and visitors with access to a meaningful green space within a convenient distance from their home and business.

• Provide adequate athletic fields and recreation facilities to serve Buckhead’s needs.

• Maximize real estate values through proximity to green space.

• Provide opportunities for the community to gather for festivals, performances, special events and other cultural activities.

• Provide opportunities for public art, historic preservation and interpretation, stormwater treatment and environmental protection through the system.

Starling said, “The effort is an action plan with longer term vision. But we want some immediate projects as well.”

She explained,” We are pulling back about a month on our implementation schedule to do some additional work on a trail system along the Ga. 400 corridor,” utilizing right-of-way along the side of the roadway.

Starling said she was surprised at how amenable Georgia Department of Transportation was to using this space.

Starling also is excited about the opportunity to create a park on the south end of Buckhead, off Piedmont Road, where development plans being worked on by the South Fork Conservancy, the BeltLine and Buckhead Collection all converge.

The property she discussed is below an overpass of I-85 and is at the end of Adina Drive. “It is really cool and it is a gateway to Buckhead,” she said.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.