Buckhead Coalition president Sam Massell is drawing attention to the growth of apartments in the neighborhood, saying they are a “two-edged” sword that can bring nearly as many problems as they do benefits.
The coalition is touting the apartments in the neighborhood on the cover of this year’s Buckhead Guidebook, an annual publication by the coalition that gives a comprehensive look at the neighborhood. The cover of the book, which was distributed at the Buckhead Coalition’s annual meeting on Jan. 31, is a sprawling spreadsheet of 55 names of apartment buildings that have been proposed or constructed since 2012.
“The multi-use buildings under construction in this region — enough to create a new skyline and surprise residents and visitors alike — has the economy all aglitter,” the coalition wrote in the book’s introduction.
“Although we acknowledge impressive growth in Midtown, as well as real value-added improvements in Downtown, Buckhead doesn’t take a back seat to any of our neighborhoods,” it continued.
There were 12,000 apartment units when the Buckhead Coalition started keeping track in 2012, Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said. Since then, 17,114 apartment units have been built or proposed, with 1,741 of those units later taken off the drawing board.
“Too much of a good thing may have to have some control, but we see it as a major part of Buckhead,” Massell said. “It needs to be included in the community as a part of the formula for what makes it great.”
Massell predicted the continued growth of apartments in his 2016 “State of Buckhead” speech, in which he encouraged audience members to embrace the changes they bring, including an influx of millennials.
The cover of the annual guidebook highlights a different trend in the community each year. Last year, it highlighted Buckhead’s entrepreneur community and “idea incubators” like Atlanta Tech Village. The 2016 cover highlighted millennials.
Massell said that some people are critical of apartments because of their potential effects on the community, but said the apartments are already in Buckhead, so they must be accepted.
“It’s not a question of if we can have them or if we should have them. They are already here. They are us,” said Massell, who spent 20 years in the real estate business before entering public office.
But Massell acknowledged possible downsides to density.
“They are correct that density does generates problems in any community. It generates more crime. It generates more traffic. It generates more pollution,” he said.
City Councilmember Howard Shook introduced legislation last year to deal with worsening traffic issues caused in part by the apartment developments in the Peachtree Road corridor. The legislation would create an overlay district with new limits on parking spaces.
But lack of density can be even worse, Massell said. It can generate poverty, deterioration of buildings and lack of business expansion, he said. That eventually can trickle down to not having enough people living there to generate enough property revenue to provide amenities.
“It’s a two-edged sword, definitely. I’m not trying to deny that,” he said.
Apartments also provide more opportunities to create more affordable housing in Buckhead, which currently does not have many affordable options, Massell said.
Apartments also draw millennials who are more likely to ride bikes or transit and could help push for more transit expansion and other forms of alternative commuting, he said.
“We’re looking at it from the view of, ‘Here’s what we have. How do we make the best of it?’ ” he said.
Another change noted in the guidebook is that the estimated Buckhead population has surpassed the 90,000 mark. The guidebook, which includes data for the previous year, has data that estimates 2017’s population was 90,390. The 2016 population estimated in last year’s guidebook was 87,314.
Meanwhile, Massell is working on the next major event that follows the annual meeting — his “State of Buckhead” address. The speech will continue the same theme of the annual meeting, which was uniting Atlanta politically, he said.