A new nonprofit organization named Livable Buckhead has the ambitious goal of ensuring the long-term vitality and prosperity of the community without relying on the cash-strapped resources of the city of Atlanta.

The focus is on programs to improve the environment and quality of life by “ensuring a green future for the community, not only in terms of environmental sustainability, but also the social and community vitality that generate economic development,” according to a press release issued by the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association.

BATMA is spearheading the program at the prodding and support of Dist. 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook.

Livable Buckhead grew out of the Buckhead Action Committee, a small group that held its first public meeting in 2001 with the goal of unifying the interests of Buckhead’s developers, businesses and residents. Its efforts culminated in the Atlanta City Council’s adoption in October of a sweeping zoning overlay district for Buckhead’s commercial core.

Livable Buckhead covers several project areas.

“It’s ambitious, but this is Buckhead,” Shook said recently. “We have tremendous resources here. When we point out a need, we can solve a lot of problems.”

“Sustainability is a business strategy, and the Buckhead community understands that,” said Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead. “That is why a number of organizations have been working on various aspects of sustainability here for many years. But there are areas for improvement that haven’t been addressed, largely because there hasn’t been an organization that could take them on. Livable Buckhead will take on that role, focusing our efforts where the environment meets the economy.”

To that end, Livable Buckhead was recently incorporated as a 501(c) 3 organization spearheaded by the leaders of BATMA and governed by a board of trustees consisting of members of Buckhead business and residential communities.

Bob Stoner of Eola Capital serves as board chair, Neighborhood Planning Unit B chair Sally Silver is secretary and Sandy Godwin of Pearl Meyer & Partners is treasurer.

Livable Buckhead will focus, Starling said, on seven key program areas: resource consumption/reclamation, social and cultural vibrancy, access and mobility, green space development, public safety, housing and innovative approaches to energy conservation.

The first project Livable Buckhead launched is an effort to expand the amount of green space in the community. Shook’s district has the smallest amount of parks and green space of any council district in Atlanta. The parks expansion project is being managed on a daily basis by Starling, who also is executive director of BATMA.

Another of the organization’s early efforts is the partnering with Shook and Dist. 8 Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean, as well as nonprofit organization Live Thrive, to organize a two-day eco-collection event in late March to provide Buckhead residents and businesses an opportunity to safely dispose of household hazardous waste items such as pesticides, pool chemicals, old computers and unused medications.

Livable Buckhead also has plans for a community assessment to measure energy consumption, water usage, waste and other things as well as community perceptions of Buckhead’s sustainability efforts in order to establish benchmarks for progress and developing programs, Starling said.

Additional initiatives planned for the organization include a certification program to recognize properties and businesses that employ exceptional sustainability practices, community education programs on green practices, incentives to encourage implementation of green strategies and a quarterly recycling program for goods that require special handling.

John Schaffner

John Schaffner was founding editor of Reporter Newspapers.