Monte Wilson of Jacobs Engineering, left, and Jay Scott of GreenRock Partners show an early rendering of the park.
Monte Wilson of Jacobs Engineering, left, and Jay Scott of GreenRock Partners show an early rendering of the park.

Board members of the Buckhead Community Improvement District got their first glimpse of what a park built over Ga. 400 might look like.

But it will be another two weeks before they learn whether the project can get off the ground.

Two firms have been hired to develop feasibility studies on the project. They are Jacobs Engineering Group of Pasadena, Calif., and Atlanta-based GreenRock Partners. Acknowledging that the project is nowhere near the design process, representatives from both firms provided a general outline of what they envision for the park.

“I refer to it as ‘the art of the possible,’” said Monte Wilson of Jacobs Engineering. “What could happen here programmatically?”

Following the presentation, CID Chairman David Allman recommended the engineers move forward with the feasibility study to determine its scope and a ballpark figure on its cost. That information should be gathered within a couple of weeks, Wilson said.

The initial outline presented to the CID board on May 26 calls for the park to cross Peachtree and include the entrance to the Atlanta Financial Center. The idea, Wilson said, would be to make Peachtree part of the park, instead of bordering it.

“You’re looking at about 10 acres … a significant piece of property,” Wilson said.

Next to the gateway would be an active urban plaza, with a re-envisioned MARTA portal to the train platform, public art and possibly a children’s play area. There would also be opportunities for shops so commuters could get off the train and grab a sandwich or a cup of coffee.

The central portion of the park could be composed of a series of garden rooms, creating a sense of variety, Wilson said. Beyond the garden rooms, an expansive lawn area could be dedicated to walking, throwing the Frisbee or just relaxing. The area could be bordered with food trucks and a small performance pavilion.

The northern end of the park would also lend itself to some sort of beacon, a sculpture or other piece of art that announces the park to southbound traffic on Ga. 400, Wilson said.

Using other urban parks as benchmarks, Wilson estimated the cost per acre for the park would be around $20 million, making the total cost in the neighborhood of $200 million.

“This typically takes a public-private partnership,” Wilson said.

Mark Banta, president and CEO of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, spoke briefly about his experience in building urban parks, including Centennial Olympic Park and most recently, Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, a 5.2-acre deck park built over the Woodall Rodgers Freeway between Pearl and St. Paul streets.

“You are not the only group contemplating this,” Banta said. “Since my name is associated with that project [Klyde Warren Park], I get two to three calls a month from cities wanting to do these types of projects.”

There is such a lack of green space in Dallas, Banta said, that the car is indisputably the king of the city. If you go to city-based parks, small plazas or pocket parks, nobody but the homeless are using them.

“When a foundation said ‘We will build this park out of magic in mid-air and program it so it will be clean, safe and active…’ people at first didn’t believe it,” Banta said. “The first thing they asked was whether the city was going to be involved, and we said ‘partially.’”

But, the project came together when the private foundation assured residents that it would build the park and make certain that it was taken care of, Banta said.

“I think there will be some similarities here when that conversation starts about how that private-public partnership works, and you will be in control of the reins to make sure it’s clean, safe and active,” he said.

–By Pat Fox

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