After Buckhead residents grappled with the collapse of I-85 in early 2017, a new master plan proposed major changes for the neighborhood and a plan to build a massive park capping Ga. 400 continued to move forward. Some residents pushed for a stricter tree ordinance and others for improved sidewalks. Meanwhile, the Atlanta History Center worked to preserve Civil War era artifacts while residents pursue restoring and renovating historic properties.
Elections bring new leadership
Elections held in late 2017 brought new leadership to several posts covering Buckhead.
By a razor-thin margin, Keisha Lance Bottoms, a southwest Atlanta resident, defeated Mary Norwood, a Buckhead resident, in the Dec. 5 runoff election to choose a new mayor for Atlanta. Both served as city councilmembers. Norwood, alleging voting irregularities and illegal votes, refused to concede in the weeks following the election and considered legal action, but finally conceded to Bottoms on Dec. 20.
On Atlanta City Council, Howard Shook was re-elected in District 7; J.P. Matzigkeit was elected in District 8; and Jennifer Ide was elected in District 6.
Robb Pitts, a Buckhead resident, was elected chairman of the Fulton County Commission in a runoff election with Keisha Waites. Both are Democrats.
Jen Jordan, a Democrat and an attorney from Cobb County, was elected to the state Senate District 6 seat in a runoff victory over fellow Democrat Jaha Howard.
Major updates announced for park over Ga. 400
The Buckhead Community Improvement District released several updates throughout 2017 on the proposed park that would cap Ga. 400. The reports included new renderings, an updated timeline and the members of a steering committee that will guide the creation of nonprofit that would oversee the park.
While there is no guarantee that the park will be built, as further studies and approvals are needed, the CID announced an updated timeline of an expected 2020 groundbreaking and 2022 ribbon-cutting, sooner than previously projected. The park would be operational by 2023. Construction is estimated to cost about $250 million.
The CID also announced that it plans to form a nonprofit that would oversee the park, taking the operation and construction out of the CID’s control.
Two board members have questioned whether the CID should be spearheading such a major project.
In early 2018, consultants are expected to present the final stage of a study funded by the CID.
Buckhead master plan unveiled, adopted by City Council
“Buckhead REdeFINED,” a master plan that targeted the neighborhood’s problems with traffic congestion and housing affordability, was unveiled in August and adopted by the Atlanta City Council in December.
Among its “Six Big Ideas” were recommendations to build the park over Ga. 400, improve Lenox Road and further study adding a new Ga. 400 interchange at East Paces Ferry Road. Other ideas included developing a public art program, creating a history-themed, multiuse trail and addressing the lack of affordable housing in Buckhead.
Portion of I-85 collapses in fire
A March 30 fire that spread to plastic tubing stored under the I-85 overpass near Piedmont Road collapsed a 100-foot section of I-85 northbound. Repairs cost more than $16 million and a portion of the interstate highway was closed for more than a month.
Three sections on both directions of the interstate had to be repaired or replaced, causing the up to 250,000 commuters who typically traversed the road each day to find different routes until May 15, when the interstate was reopened.
Property tax surprises
A sudden increase in assessed property value in Fulton County sparked outrage and concern over the higher-than-expected taxes homeowners were faced with paying. The Fulton County Board of Assessors later reversed the increases and used the lower 2016 values instead. But that temporarily affected cash flow at local school districts. New Fulton Chairman Robb Pitts said he’ll modernize the appraisal system, while some state legislators are proposing a tax-increase cap.
Debate over protecting trees
Infill housing and the loss of trees in a public park spurred calls for a stricter city tree ordinance.
City Council approved a request from Ashton Woods, a developer building an apartment complex on Peachtree Hills Avenue, to route a new storm water drainpipe through Peachtree Hills Park, cutting down nine trees in the process while separately removing hundreds of trees to build the nearby complex.
Meanwhile, large homes under construction in Tuxedo Park sparked an ordinance to curb infill housing in the neighborhood after residents voiced their frustration at the loss of trees in the neighborhood.
New police commander’s changes credited with crime decrease
Maj. Barry Shaw became commander of Zone 2, Buckhead’s police zone, in the final days of 2016, and since then has made major changes to officers’ roles, which police say led to decreases in residential crime in some neighborhoods.
An analysis of crime reports found that residential burglaries in Buckhead have decreased dramatically after a spike in crime last year, with the 2017 numbers down by a third across Atlanta Police’s Zone 2.
Pedestrian safety improvements pushed
Residents and advocates pushed for sidewalk repairs along Piedmont and Peachtree roads after a pedestrian was killed by a car and many disabled residents reported that using wheelchairs on Peachtree Road was unsafe.
Assisted by PEDS, a local pedestrian safety advocacy group, and the Shepherd Center, a brain and spinal cord injury hospital, disabled residents prompted the city of Atlanta to repair sidewalks on Peachtree Road and are hoping the improvements continue.
PEDS also separately held a rally advocating for Piedmont Road improvements in August after a pedestrian was killed a month earlier at the road’s intersection with Lindbergh Drive.
Atlanta History Center collects major artifacts
The Atlanta History Center, a museum in Buckhead, added three notable artifacts to its collections in 2017.
The “Battle of Atlanta” cyclorama, a gigantic, 130-year-old painting depicting the Civil War battle, arrived at the museum in February 2017 and will be presented as part of a new exhibit planned to open by fall 2018.
The historic “Solomon Luckie” streetlamp, named for an African American barber who was killed by shrapnel during a Civil War battle, was moved from Underground Atlanta and will be displayed in the cyclorama building.
The “Texas,” a locomotive dating to 1856 that was on display at Grant Park for nearly 90 years, was moved to the Atlanta History Center in May.
Preservation planned for clubhouse and ‘Pink Palace’
Plans to renovate the now vacant Bobby Jones Golf Course clubhouse and the “Pink Palace,” a historic home on West Paces Ferry, are two examples of local preservation efforts.
The Bobby Jones clubhouse recently became vacant after a new clubhouse was built as part of golf course renovations, and was considered by some to be in danger of demolition. A resident is leading an effort to transform the clubhouse, which was built in 1941, into a recital hall. The plan has received praise from preservation groups.
Meanwhile, the new owner of the “Pink Palace,” a historic home designed by Philip Trammell Shutze, the designer of the Atlanta History Center’s Swan House, says he plans to restore the home and bring it back to its “former glory.”