Nothing seems to stay the same for very long in Buckhead.
Last year, civic leaders, working with several Buckhead organizations and representatives of the city of Atlanta’s Planning Department, completed an almost two-year project to update the future development standards for the old Buckhead Village area, technically known in zoning nomenclature as Special Public Interest Area Nine, or SPI-9.
The object was to create a better planned, move livable community by adopting standards of development based on the character of the community. The standards were based on input from a steering community representing various stakeholders in the community as well as people who live, work and play in the community.
The focus of that same type of review and update of development standards has now turned to the commercial core of the Buckhead community that surrounds Lenox Square, Phipps Plaza malls and major high-rise office developments.
Most people would think this area is pretty much built out at present and there will not be much new future development. Not so, says Denise Starling, executive director of the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Authority (BATMA) and coordinator for the zoning review and update project.
“There are nodes within the area that could well be ripe for redevelopment in the future, such as along Lenox Road and the buildings across from Lenox Mall,” Starling said. “The idea is to set standards now for what we as a community want that future development to look like.”
Technically, the area is known by the city’s Planning Department as SPI-12 and SPI-19.
SPI-12 was the one of the first zoning overlay districts written in the city and one of the last to be incorporated into the underlying zoning for the city.
The Buckhead Community Improvement District currently is seeking to update this district and SPI-19, which sort of runs through the center of SPI-12, to provide guidelines for future development that will: ensure high quality redevelopment consistent with current market offerings; maintain a high-density mixed-use transit-oriented node; simplify administration; simplify general understanding and consolidate zoning; protect the adjacent residential neighborhoods; address quality of life issues; identify potential common elements that can be incorporated to help achieve cohesive community identity and sense of place; and incorporate a combination of regulations and incentives to achieve the type of development consistent with the character and value expected for Buckhead.
A steering committee of almost 30 people representing commercial property owners, retail property owners, representatives of residential neighborhoods, representatives of Buckhead parking, restaurants and hotels, city planners and representatives of BATMA and the CID, as well as City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents the districts, kicked off the planned 11-month project on Feb. 17.
At present there are 12 zoning districts within the two SPIs—everything from R-3 single family residential to PDOC planned development office commercial, with three more residential districts, an office institutional, a couple of community business and residential districts and three planned development districts.
Starling said many of those within the two SPIs that can be consolidated.
“The toughest piece is that the neighborhoods have worked hard during the past 20 years to put a lot of conditions on development,” Starling said. “The trickiest piece will be to make things as simple as possible, but not lose sight of the complex needs of the various stakeholder groups represented.”
Through the process, SPIs 12 and 19 will effectively be combined, but will still retain their specific character areas.
SPI 19 essentially runs along the spine of Peachtree Road through the commercial district of Buckhead from Piedmont Road to Roxboro and Peachtree-Dunwoody Roads. SPI 12 Actually encompasses areas both north and south of SPI-19, stretching north to the Buckhead Loop, west from Piedmont Road to Lenox Road on the east and south to East Paces Ferry Road.
The first meeting of the steering committee, Starling said, was to get an idea of the scope of the project.
In March, the committee will discuss streetscapes, including sidewalks and public art.