By Alex Ewalt
Some Buckhead business owners are watching warily as work begins on a new phase of street construction along Peachtree Road.
Gary Merriman, owner of The Fish Hawk at 3095 Peachtree Road, reserves judgment about the plan. But he worries about the effect the construction will have on his business.
“I’m sure they have the best in mind for the area, and they’re doing it to make things better,” Merriman said. “It’s just going to be a long process that the businesses in Buckhead are going to have to live through with the traffic problems until it’s done. When it’s done, we’ll see how traffic flows then.”
Construction during the holiday season, Merriman said, would affect his bottom line. “If we’re not able to get a customer here, it’s going to hurt financially.”
The Buckhead Community Improvement District and the Georgia Department of Transportation plan to add medians, sidewalks, bike lanes and landscaping, and bury utility lines through the Peachtree Improvement project.
The number of through lanes on Peachtree also will change from six to four in most stretches, with a middle lane becoming a two-way turn lane, according to designs presented during a public meeting April 3. The BCID says the changes will reduce the risk of car accidents and make traveling easier for pedestrians in the area.
Mimi Woodruff, owner of Beverly Bremer Silver Shop at 3164 Peachtree Road, is skeptical about plans to reduce the size of the road, but is hopeful new turn lanes will make navigating Buckhead Village easier.
“We watch [traffic] build, and ebb and flow all day long, and it is interesting the lane changes that they have made,” Woodruff said. “Hopefully it will help the access to West Paces Ferry, which is what backs up all the way down to our shop.”
Woodruff said she was looking forward to the aesthetic changes. “I do love the idea of the buried [utility] lines,” she said. “They are an eyesore. This is our trademark street, so it should be inviting and appealing visually.”
BCID Executive Director Jim Durrett said he is reaching out to business owners to assure them the disruptions due to construction will be minimal.
“The streetscape work is pretty in-and-out in front of a business,” Durrett said. “Also, the construction between the curbs and in the roadway, that’s actually going to be a fairly quick project, too.”
The BCID hosted its second open house for the project at Peachtree Road United Methodist Church to a healthy turnout of community members.
The organization will host a third and final open house in May where it will unveil the third generation of plans. The date has not yet been set. Durrett said the organization will distribute handouts at the meeting to address concerns raised by residents and business owners.
“The comments we’re getting are fairly evenly split between positive and suspicious,” Durrett said. “Everyone’s in favor of redoing the sidewalks and having street trees and that sort of thing. But people are concerned about what you’re going to be putting between the curbs.
“I’d say half the people are supportive and half are incredulous that you can remove a lane of traffic and it won’t completely throw off how traffic flows in the Village.”
The organization plans for construction on Phase 4 to begin this fall, with completion sometime in 2015. The Phase 4 portion will cover Peachtree Road from Shadowlawn Avenue to Sheridan Avenue. Phase 3, scheduled to begin in 2015, spans from Maple Drive to Shadowlawn.
The renovation of Charlie Loudermilk Park in the Buckhead Village, already under way, has a target completion date sometime this summer, Durrett said.