By Maggie Lee
After a year of studies, meetings, measurements and research, the Brookwood Alliance has got a draft plan in hand and is working on building support for a Peachtree Street redo to rival Buckhead and Midtown.
“We see Brookwood as a calm oasis between highly intensely developed Midtown and Buckhead,” explained Alliance chair Joe Gardner, “but we should still have a nice streetscape.”
Their vision includes generous sidewalks, bike lanes, and on-street parking, all backed by buildings not of dark, solid blocks, but of tall spires surrounded by sunlight. A 115-page plan details the year of community discussion and the urban planning studies undertaken by Georgia Tech.
Peachtree between the Amtrak station and the Peachtree Battle Shopping Center is the only unplanned part of the thoroughfare left in the city, Gardner told a group of about 20 people at the Mar. 1 Neighborhood Planning Unit C meeting.
The Alliance plan aims to do three things: offer a pleasant Peachtree Street accessible to bikes, pedestrians and perhaps a streetcar; develop building standards that are fair to businesses and the single-family homes behind them; and improve traffic flow.
Ideally, Peachtree would be 120 feet wide, including 15-foot-wide sidewalks on both sides of the road. But actually, the city does not have that much right-of-way and there are several narrow choke points. The study recommends relaxing sidewalk, landscape strips and bike path widths in those spots.
Thus the plan in those areas essentially depends on the private property owners to allow space for the improvements, or not, Gardner explained.
As for buildings, Gardner denounced the “canyon effect” of large, flat building faces right on the road. The Brookwood Alliance supports the so-called “spire” concept. “It’s the same density but has setback from street and sides,” he explained, which “creates a taller and slenderer structure that allows light to filter into neighborhoods.”
Traffic-wise, unlike Midtown and Buckhead, Brookwood has no major cross streets over Peachtree. Much to the immediate east and west are residential neighborhoods where there are a lot of streets that don’t connect to anything. Yet, much traffic stops in center lanes to turn left and delivery drivers have a habit of clogging up outer lanes with parked vans.
So the plan proposes a Peachtree with left turn “reservoirs” — places where the planted median gives way to a left-turn or U-turn lane. In some places, there could be on-street parking and landscaping along road shoulders.
Gardner admitted it sounds counterintuitive to speed traffic by cutting three-lane Peachtree down to one or two lanes plus turning reservoirs. However, he argued if people making left turns or parking in a lane of traffic are moved out of the way, traffic will actually move faster.
But permission is many a meeting away.
Gardner said Brookhaven would probably have to form a Community Improvement District like the one in Buckhead, in which businesses would agree to some extra taxes to pay for the street works. Then permission would probably work much like a zoning case.
The proposal would first have to be agreed to by residents in the area. Then the two NPUs in the area, C and E, would need to okay it; and perhaps NPU B, depending on the north limit of the CID. After that would come hearings with the city zoning board, and finally, Atlanta City Council.
The next immediate step is to draw up a zoning proposal that could be submitted to the city.
“It’s a long, long, long-term plan,” Gardner admitted. “A lot of these improvements will only take effect when [commercial] redevelopment happens, it could be 20 years.”
The entire plan is available at http://www.ardmorepark.org