Emory Healthcare jumped on the Peachtree Creek Greenway bandwagon as the presenting sponsor for a recent fundraiser that attracted dozens of supporters who sipped wine and snacked on hors d’œuvres on a recent sunny Sunday afternoon.

The fundraiser, held at the Urban Art Collective in Chamblee, featured speeches by Brookhaven City Councilmember Joe Gebbia, Chamblee Mayor Eric Clarkson, DeKalb County Commissioner Nancy Jester and State Rep. Megan Hanson. Also attending was Lee Harrop, program director for the Atlanta BeltLine.

Betsy Eggers, center, chair of the nonprofit Peachtree Creek Greenway board of directors, said Emory Healthcare’s support of the Peachtree Creek Greenway as a presenting sponsor for a recent fundraiser is exciting news for the planned linear park. (Dyana Bagby)

The Emory speaker at the fundraiser was Mark Rapaport, chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University School of Medicine and Chief of Psychiatric Services at Emory Healthcare.

Rapaport spoke of the health benefits of having a linear park system like the Greenway. With Emory Healthcare’s recent purchase of more than 60 acres of Executive Park near North Druid Hills Road and I-85, connectivity to the planned Greenway over I-85 “is critical to all of us at Emory,” he said.

No other specific details of how Emory plans to assist in the Greenway were immediately available from Emory, but Betsy Eggers, chair of the nonprofit Peachtree Creek Greenway board of directors said the board would love to see Emory connected to the linear park.

“They support good public health and the Greenway is a good example of providing good public health,” she said in a later interview.

The nonprofit serves solely as an advocacy group trying to gain support for the project, she said, and it will be up to Emory, and the city of Brookhaven, to hash out details to make the connection.

At the fundraiser, Eggers noted all of the land along the Greenway in Brookhaven is privately owned. The city is using eminent domain to acquire 19 acres on Briarwood Road, where a trailhead is planned, after not being able to reach a deal with landowners to buy the land earlier this year. The case goes before a special master, a person appointed by a judge to hear evidence from both sides, in early November, according to Brookhaven City Attorney Chris Balch.

Brookhaven officials plan to break ground early next year on a “model mile” of the Greenway between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road.

The 1.2-mile stretch of the first phase is the central link of the entire 2.9-mile Greenway section in Brookhaven. The Greenway is planned to run through Chamblee and Doraville, and its proponents want it eventually to connect to PATH400 in Buckhead and then to the Atlanta BeltLine.

Also attending the fundraiser were several Georgia Tech graduate students who are taking a semester-long class, or studio, on the Peachtree Creek Greenway and Buford Highway.

Several days after the fundraiser, the students held a community meeting at the Briarwood Park community center to solicit community feedback on some of the students’ main goals. They include exploring a complete street design for Buford Highway; incorporating multi-modal transit and affordable housing to promote a healthy environment and people; and preparing a development guide for the corridor that encourages mixed-use development, preserves affordable housing and balances jobs and housing.

About 20 people showed up to the event, which was advertised on social media.

Kelsey Waidehaus, a project manager for the studio, said students are working with the Latin American Association and Center for Pan Asian Community Services to reach members of the immigrant community who live and work on Buford Highway. The students are also working with Claudia Colichon, the city’s bilingual outreach specialist, to translate documents and surveys into Spanish.

City spokesperson Burke Brennan said Colichon also is translating city documents related to the Greenway into Spanish.

Eggers, who also attended the students’ community meeting, said she was excited to see young people looking “outside the box” to tackle issues along Buford Highway and to find ways to connect the corridor to the Greenway. Outreach efforts by the Greenway board to the LAA and CPACS have also been made, she said.

The 13 students, seeking master’s degrees in city and regional planning, are going through six previous plans to cull information specific to the Brookhaven portion of Buford Highway. Among them are the Peachtree Creek Greenway Master Plan, the city’s bike and pedestrian plan, the city’s 2034 Comprehensive Plan, and this year’s Doraville and Chamblee Buford Highway Livable Centers Initiative.
Brookhaven resident Michael Runestar suggested the students take their project to the people who will be impacted the most by Buford Highway redevelopment. One woman said the bus stops on the MARTA 39 route are packed every morning and could be a good place to start.

The students’ workshop included breakout groups during which people used different colored dots to show their preferences on topics such as the kind of development they would like to see on Buford Highway and wrote on pieces of paper what they love about the corridor (many people praised the highway’s cultural diversity and restaurants).

Joe Hurd, who said he works for a company that owns residential property along Buford Highway in Brookhaven, was at the event with Judy McManus, senior director of Berkadia, a real estate company. He declined to say what property the company owns.

“I want to understand what the future will look like for our residents,” Hurd said.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.