Buckhead is big, busy and wealthy. And by 2020, it’ll be even bigger, busier and wealthier.

So said Buckhead Coalition president Sam Massell in his annual “State of the Community” address Feb. 23 at the City Club of Buckhead, hosted by the Buckhead Business Association.

Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition, speaks to the Buckhead Business Association Feb. 23 at the City Club of Buckhead. (Photo John Ruch)

Massell listed several “bragging and branding points” projecting the booms in the neighborhood’s population, real estate prices and business metrics will continue for at least three more years. The projections were admitted “unscientific,” but educated.

“It definitely shows a trend of progress and prosperity that will benefit us all,” Massell said of his projections.

Those Year 2020 predictions included:
• Population: 91,487 (now 87,314)
• Average single-family home price: $1,494,130 (now $1,114,891)
• Annual retail sales: $3,744,125,000 (now about $2.96 billion)
• Average annual office rental rate: $43.18 per square foot (today $32.54)
• Average office building vacancy rate: 3.1 percent (now 11.1 percent)
• Average hotel occupancy rate: 81.32 percent (now 78.9 percent)
• Average commercial land sales price: $141,740 per square foot (now $91.97)

The projections were based on the highly detailed statistics the coalition compiles for its annual “Buckhead Guidebook,” the latest edition of which was distributed to each of the roughly 80 attendees. The coalition is an invitation-only group of 100 CEOs and community leaders.

Whatever the actual numbers turn out to be, Buckhead likely will continue to live up to its luxurious nickname as the “Beverly Hills of the East.”

“Frankly, it’s now been elevated to the point that Beverly Hills can now be called the Buckhead of the West,” Massell said.

Massell repeated one of his favorite statistics: Buckhead covers about 20 percent of Atlanta’s geographical area and pays about 45 percent of its taxes. As he put it, “This is a community that pays the rent,” and that makes the neighborhood a major financial supporter of the city and the region.

But, he added, Buckhead’s success also depends on state and city leadership. Massell, himself a former Atlanta mayor, praised current Mayor Kasim Reed for “able stewardship.” He also urged attendees to become active in the campaigns to replace Reed, who leaves office after an election this fall, to ensure good leadership after a “tremendous musical chairs arrangement throughout city government.”

Asked by an audience member about expanded public transit options in Buckhead, Massell praised MARTA’s current leadership as the best ever and expressed excitement about new sales tax funding that will enable transit expansion. He specifically praised the “Clifton Corridor” light rail plan, which would connect Buckhead’s Lindbergh Center MARTA Station to the Emory University area.

The Buckhead Coalition coin that Massell made disappear in an impromptu magic trick. (Photo John Ruch)

“Can you imagine tying the wealth in Buckhead … to the academic intelligence in Emory” and its area, Massell said. “You can’t get there now. It’s a little two-lane road.”

After Massell spoke, an audience member displayed a recent photo of him performing an impromptu magic trick for a child at a local ice-cream shop. Asked about his magic skills, Massell produced a customized Buckhead Coalition novelty coin from his pocket and, with hand movements, made it disappear.

“Other than a neighborhood variety show I produced at around 9 years of age where I performed some magic, I’ve avoided the call of the stage,” said later in an email. “Or was it magic when I got elected mayor of Atlanta?”

John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.