Buckhead’s new master plan will aim to please well-off millennials with better public spaces, transportation and housing, organizers said at an Oct. 17 kickoff meeting at the Atlanta International School.
Branded as “BUCKHEAD REdeFINED,” the planning process for Buckhead’s commercial core drew about 90 people to hear market statistics and weigh in with improvement ideas. The process also folds in previous independent plans to improve the Lenox Road streetscape and for a possible park capping Ga. 400 between Lenox and Peachtree Roads.
“We want to point out a little bit of the obvious—Buckhead is a district in transition,” said Eric Bosman of Kimley-Horn, the company contracted by several civic and business groups to conduct the master plan.
Part of that transition is from a car-oriented shopping area to a home for apartment-dwelling, high-income millennials—a demographic Buckhead leaders want to retain and attract. In marketing-speak, that demographic is called “Uptown Individuals,” explained market analyst Geoff Koski of Bleakly Advisory Group.
“Basically, these are the golden millennials…These are the millennials you want,” Koski said, presenting a slide that illustrated the “Uptown Individuals” with a photo of a young white woman.
Budgeted at about $200,000, including Atlanta Regional Commission grant funding, the six-month master plan effort applies roughly to Buckhead Village, Buckhead Forest, Lenox and Peachtree Park. The rough boundaries are Old Ivy Road to the north, Peachtree-Dunwoody/Roxboro roads to the west, Garden Hills to the south, and the Atlanta History Center area to the east.
The plan is coordinated by Livable Buckhead, the Buckhead Community Improvement District, the Buckhead Business Association, the Buckhead Coalition and the Rotary Club of Buckhead. There’s also a steering committee with more than 40 community members and a technical advisory committee with representatives from the city, MARTA and the state Department of Transportation.
The planning teams for the Lenox Road and park over 400 efforts are also involved and will get direct public input data. “So we’ve got quite the brain trust,” said Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling.
BUCKHEAD REdeFINED is a reboot of an existing master plan, the Buckhead Action Plan, which wrapped up in 2002. The earlier plan was focused on rezoning and development. One of its major goals, Bosman said, was clearing Buckhead Village of its nightclubs and redeveloping that section into what is now the “Shops Buckhead Atlanta” luxury shopping center.
Bosman called the results of the 2002 Action Plan “15 years of success” and said there is no reason to change that kind of basic zoning. Instead, the new master plan will focus on public spaces—like parks and streetscapes—and the transportation network.
Koski provided some statistics about the master plan’s target area:
- Of about 6,800 households, 52 percent are renter-occupied, 32 percent owner-occupied and 16 percent vacant.
- Rents are skyrocketing to around $1.90 per square foot and vacancies are shrinking. Koski said “the demand is there” for Buckhead’s apartment-building boom to continue and increase capacity by 40 percent in about five years. However, the plan also needs to address housing affordable to all “income bands,” he said.
- While Buckhead’s apartment boom gets a lot of notice, the number of jobs is growing much faster than the number of residents, Koski said. The master plan area has about 68,600 jobs, or roughly 10 for every household. He said that 98 percent of the area’s employees live outside its boundaries—a big reason for commuter traffic congestion. The solution: “Add additional residents” to balance it out, he said.
With all of that in mind, meeting attendees gathered at four displays to give input via stickers, notes and conversation with planners. One display station focused on “placemaking”—public spaces, parks and streetscapes. Another focused on “connectivity”—ways to improve travel for drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. Two other stations focused on the specific Lenox Road streetscape and park over 400 projects.
The park over 400 is a Buckhead CID concept debated by its board for over a year. Its design was finally unveiled publicly last month. Tyler Swanson of Roger Partners, the lead design firm for the park, said he is glad the master plan’s input will help them refine the concept “so it’s actually the community’s park and not just the vision of some designer somewhere.”
The park over 400 display let people sticker-vote on a wide variety of possible programming options. The presentation did not address the CID’s internal controversy about whether the park is a good idea. But the display also let people vote on the essential source of conflict: potential funding sources.
While much of the meeting’s talk was about millennials, most of the crowd was older. But planners will solicit more input through surveys on a master plan website, which also will contain draft ideas in advance of the next meeting, scheduled for Jan. 19. Planners also will survey people on Buckhead streets.
“We’re going to hang out at Lenox Mall. We’re going to hang out on Peachtree Road,” said Bosman.
For more information, see buckheadredefined.com.