It was a year for New Things. The year 2014 brought lots of new things to Buckhead: a new trail, a new park, new high-end shops, new ideas for ways to look at local history, new controversies, new elected officials.
Here’s a look at some of the big stories told in Buckhead during the past year.
Rectory plan ignites neighborhood
When officials at the Archdiocese of Atlanta decided to convert a home at 136 W. Wesley Drive so it could house six priests, neighbors objected. Residents argued the building, called a rectory, didn’t belong in a single-family neighborhood, and that it would be too big and too busy for the area.
Officials from The Cathedral of Christ the King responded that the rectory would, in fact, be the priests’ home. “The rectory will be a home for the priests,” Monsignor Francis McNamee, the rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King, told board members. “It will not be an extension for the work of the cathedral. It is our home.”
Members of the board of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B and the Atlanta Board of Zoning Adjustments sided with the archdiocese and upheld the permits the archdiocese needed to convert the house to a home for the priests.
Atlanta History Center re-imagines itself
The Atlanta History Center has begun a dramatic overhaul of its West Paces Ferry Road facilities that will bring up to $50 million in new projects and programs to its Buckhead campus.
The center has begun working on a new entrance for its museum building, plans a new display of Atlanta history, will add an historic log cabin to its collection, and is negotiating to provide a new home for the historic Cyclorama painting. History Center leaders say they intend for the work to lure more visitors and to open the facility to the community.
“It’s definitely an exciting time,” History Center Vice President Hillary Hardwick said. “It’s a great time for Atlanta and it’s a great time for the Atlanta History Center. We used to say we were one of Atlanta’s best kept secrets — and we didn’t say that proudly. We want to open up.”
Buckhead Heritage proposes magical history tours
Tourists could walk a park trail surrounded by ghostly Civil War soldiers cut from metal, see a modern building through a clear panel etched with a photo of how that very spot looked 50 years ago or be photographed on a shopping spree alongside life-sized images of shoppers from a half century ago. Those are some of the ideas the Buckhead Heritage Society developed as ways to illustrate the community’s history.
“We want people to ask, ‘What’s going on?’ ‘What’s the story here?’” said Erica Danylchak, executive director of the nonprofit group created to identify, preserve and promote Buckhead history.
The nonprofit proposes organizing Buckhead history around five timelines that include its early years; the Civil War and War of 1812; African-American history; periods residents pursued in less savory pursuits, such as moonshining; and the community’s shift from farm country to suburb to urban community.
Maria Carstarphen takes control of Atlanta Public Schools
The new superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools, Meria Carstarphen, arrived in August and set off on a charm offensive that included several stops in Buckhead. She chatted with the Buckhead Council of Neighborhoods in August and appeared at North Atlanta High Sept. 9 for her first “State of the Schools Address.”
Her message was direct and clear: It’s time to remake a school system battered by a cheating scandal that led to criminal charges and trials of teachers and high-level administrators. “We need to embrace a fully-functioning school system,” Carstarphen told members of the BCN. “We are all APS, and what we have to ask ourselves is, How do we make the entire system strong?”
Community gets more green space
Residents long have claimed that Buckhead has too few parks for a community of its size. This year, several groups began addressing the community’s parks problems by expanding or improving green spaces.
The nonprofit Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy announced plans for a $10 million to $15 million renovation of the park, including the Bobby Jones Golf Course and Bitsy Grant Tennis Center, that is expected to take 10 to 15 years, and said the update would be the first at the golf course in eight decades.
Meanwhile, the Blue Heron Nature Preserve added 4 acres fronting Land O’Lakes Drive; the city of Atlanta opened for public use a 15-acre site on the Chattahoochee River at the historic location of Fort Peachtree; and Livable Buckhead announced the first phase of a trail along Ga. 400, known as PATH400, would open Jan. 9.
North Buckhead Civic Association plans its future
The North Buckhead Civic Association says its neighborhood is one of the largest in the city. This year, association leaders hired consultants and held community meetings to draw up a long-range plan for the community.
The plan, designed to guide development in the area for the next quarter century, calls for new sidewalks, trails, bike lanes, crosswalks, greenspace and mixed-use zoning along Roswell Road. Association leaders intend to present the plan to Atlanta city officials for adoption early in 2015.
“Most of the things in the plan I will never see,” resident Bob Young said after looking over the proposals. “But we’ve got to look beyond that and do the best we can for the folks who will still be here.”
New elected officials take office
Buckhead is being represented by new faces in the state Legislature and on the Fulton County Commission. After veteran Rep. Ed Lindsey decided to seek a seat in the U.S. House, Republican Beth Beskin won a three-way race to claim the seat representing House District 54, which takes in much of Buckhead. Meanwhile, Buckhead resident Lee Morris, a former Atlanta City Councilman, takes the recently redrawn District 3 seat on the Fulton Commission.