Brookhaven officials believe redevelopment is coming soon to Buford Highway and are coming up with strategies to guide it.
“I really feel we are going to have a run on real estate in two years,” City Councilmember Joe Gebbia said, of what he calls the city’s “crown jewel in the rough.”
At City Council’s Jan. 22 retreat, city officials said they believe the potential use of “opportunity zones” and a new Buford Highway Livable Centers Initiative, known as an LCI, will improve the chances.
Opportunity zones, offered through the state Department of Community Affairs, are designed to revitalize older commercial and industrial areas. They offer tax credits of up to $3,500 per job that a business wants to bring into the area. They are only offered in areas considered “blighted” and where poverty rates are 15 percent or higher according to U.S. Census figures.
Brookhaven officials hired consultants and looked into opportunity zones for Buford Highway in 2013, said Gebbia, but the process is an arduous one and, with delays and budget cuts, the chance was missed.
“There are areas still that still qualify as blighted according to the 2010 Census Bureau and with a new city manager and new director of Georgia Department of Economic Development … we’re going for another review,” Gebbia said in an interview. “It’s time.
“We feel like we can get something in the near future and we certainly do qualify,” he added.
Executive Park near Buford Highway is undergoing substantial development, including the addition of a new sports training facility for the Atlanta Hawks and Emory Healthcare, the expansion of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, and the construction of Emory’s planned massive mixed-use development for Executive Park. Gebbia said these indicators should attract quality development and businesses to the popular corridor known for its ethnic diversity and restaurants.
“I can see this as a great opportunity for a business to bring in their headquarters. The main point is to incentivize business and to create employment. This is one more way to entice development along Buford Highway,” he said.
“CHOA is going to announce soon its plans for a world headquarters [in Brookhaven] and then Emory’s mixed-use development is going to include a hotel and a conference center,” he said.
“But we don’t want the developer to dictate to us. I think the council has the responsibility to ensure quality development,” he said.
The city is also using past reports it has conducted on Buford Highway to complete an LCI to tie into similar districts recently undertaken by Chamblee and Doraville.
“The city’s application also will piggyback on the joint LCI study currently being completed for Buford Highway by the cities of Chamblee and Doraville.” Community Development Director Patrice Ruffin said in an email.
Gebbia said he hopes Brookhaven’s LCI on Buford Highway can be completed this year so it can be used in the future to apply to the ARC for grants to use on Buford Highway.
“Buford Highway is our crown jewel in the rough,” he said. “It’s got room to grow. It’s a six-lane highway and it can handle growth. This is pristine ground and we have to create the standards by which we get the quality development we are demanding.”