By Denise Starling
After working on some of this area’s most exciting challenges for nearly two decades, I’m thrilled to say that Buckhead isn’t what it used to be.
When I started working here, Buckhead was divided. The construction of Ga. 400 had split one side of the community from the other, both literally and figuratively.
Today, Ga. 400 still cuts through the heart of Buckhead, but PATH400 now runs beside it, and the people who live and work here can enjoy the area on foot and by bike — a rare treat in this car-dominated city. PATH400 is now 50 percent complete, and we’re moving forward at full steam to finish the full 5.2 miles as soon as we can.
Another of Buckhead’s notable changes is that it is much younger than it used to be. In fact, nearly half of Buckhead residents are between 20 and 39 years old.
This is largely due to the fact that we have transitioned from a bedroom community to a thriving urban center. Our diverse mix of commercial and retail developments, multifamily high rises and single-family homes is enviable, but making all the pieces fit together requires coordination.
Livable Buckhead is working with Buckhead Community Improvement District, Buckhead Coalition, Buckhead Business Association and Buckhead Rotary on a master plan update dubbed “BUCKHEAD REdeFINED” that is meeting that challenge head-on. With valuable input from the community, we are creating a plan to increase connectivity and ensure that Buckhead is a place where people want to live, work and play for decades to come.
Parks and greenspace will play a big role in Buckhead’s future livability. Do you live within a five-minute walk of a park? If not, you will soon. That may sound like a promise too big to keep, but the truth is that Buckhead is already well on its way to achieving that goal.
A little more than six years ago, Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook spearheaded the Buckhead Collection planning effort, which called for 106 acres of greenspace to be added to the community. Since then, Livable Buckhead and its partners have identified and acquired more than 40 acres toward the overall goal.
The largest portion of that new green space acreage comes from the progress we’ve made on PATH400, but it isn’t the only greenspace game in town. Last year Livable Buckhead negotiated the acquisition of two parcels – one on Burke Road and the other at the D.F. McClatchey School site near Loridans Drive.
The Burke Road site is adjacent to Darlington Nature Trail, a 1-acre park in the Peachtree Park neighborhood that includes a community garden and exercise areas. The additional acreage gives the neighborhood and the city an opportunity to add a new feature to the park.
The McClatchey School site offers even more exciting opportunities. Its location between PATH400 and a historic cemetery give us a chance to create a park that connects people to nature and to the history of their community.
Buckhead is full of opportunity and making the most of it is the foundation of all of Livable Buckhead’s programs.
In 2016, our Buckhead Recycles program worked with 15 office buildings to divert more than 1,000 tons of trash from landfills. More than half of the Buckhead office market worked with us to reduce water consumption by 20 percent and energy consumption by 17 percent as part of the Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge. And we helped nearly 3,500 commuters find a better way to get to work, keeping cars off of Buckhead’s crowded roads and helping to improve our air quality.
New parks and trails, a younger population, better transportation options, and greener office buildings. It all adds up to a Buckhead that isn’t what it used to be … and that’s a great thing to see.
Denise Starling is executive director of Livable Buckhead. For more information, see livablebuckhead.com.