A recent sunny Sunday afternoon brought more than a dozen people together on Briarwood Road, just down the street from Northeast Plaza, to take a walking tour of where the new Peachtree Creek Greenway is planned to be built.
The city must still acquire one more piece of land before construction on the “model mile” between North Druid Hills Road and Briarwood Road can begin, but its recent purchase of 17 acres of undeveloped land on Briarwood Road brings the reality one step closer. The land was purchased for more than $2 million after the city lost its attempt to take the land using eminent domain, and is now pegged for a new city police and court headquarters.
“This is the eminent domain property,” Betsy Eggers, chair of the Peachtree Creek Greenway advocacy group, said at the beginning of the tour.
Lush greenery surrounded the path area, including large patches of bamboo. At different portions of the walk, the back of Northeast Plaza and Jackson Square Condominiums could be seen from the trail.
Eggers explained a 14-foot wide paved path is to be built over a mostly gravel and dirt path used by DeKalb County trucks and crews to check on the sanitary sewer pipe that runs under the property. Several large, circular cement above-ground structures with “sewer” marking the manhole covers dot the path.
The paved multiuse path will travel from two acres the Salvation Army donated to the city from its Northeast Expressway property to a parcel near the
Pink Pony on Corporate Boulevard and then to Briarwood Road. As part of its legal settlement with the city in 2014 to remain open until 2020, the Pink Pony donated a small parcel of its land for the Greenway.
Another 2.6 acres of property at 3119 Buford Highway behind Corporate Square was also purchased by the city this year for $142,000. This parcel will serve as the launching area for the Greenway bridge as well as provide over two acres of community green space that is currently a flood plain.
Eggers said after the last piece of land is acquired from the city and a few tweaks to the design of the Greenway are completed, the groundbreaking could happen as soon as this fall and possibly be completed in six months. The Path Foundation is handling the design of the first mile of the Greenway.
The multiuse path is in part designed to help employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offices in Corporate Square or Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta out of cars and off roads and onto bicycles as part of their commute, Eggers said. Because the Greenway is designed as a transportation modality the city is able to receive federal funding for the project, she added.
One woman raised concerns about the Greenway becoming popular and crowded like the Atlanta BeltLine even though its original intent was also to provide alternative modes of transportation. Now it’s a “tourist attraction,” she said.
The city is hoping the Greenway becomes a tourist attraction, with major funding for its construction coming from hotel-motel taxes. Last year, the state legislature gave Brookhaven the OK to raise its hotel-motel tax from 5 percent to 8 percent specifically to fund the Greenway and bring tourism to the city.
Eggers said building more trails all over Atlanta metro would help ease congestion on popular trails. Regional connectivity is a larger goal of the Greenway plan. While the Greenway is getting a start in Brookhaven, the ultimate goal is a park and trail along the entire north fork of Peachtree Creek, which runs from Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County to near the PATH400 trail in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood and eventually connect to the Atlanta BeltLine.
Brookhaven residents Stephanie Kahn and her husband, Jonathan, walked along the path with their two children, Alex, age five months, and Isabelle, almost three.
“It’s important to support the Peachtree Creek Greenway because we want more green space in our community,” Stephanie Kahn said. “It’s good for people’s health.”
Jonathan Kahn recently opened a veterinary clinic on Lindbergh Drive in the former Varsity Junior site and named it Peachtree Creek Animal Hospital.
“We expect this project to do well and we want to be part of it,” he said. “Look at the success of the Atlanta BeltLine. This can replicate that.”
Sayali Birari and Bharya Bhandari are soon moving into the Pine Hills neighborhood — on the Buckhead side, not the Brookhaven side. “Great!” Eggers said when they asked Eggers to show them a map of where the Greenway will go. “We need people in Atlanta to advocate for this,” Eggers told them.
Birari said she wanted to see the Greenway come to fruition “badly” because every weekend she enjoys walking on trails and looks forward to another option close to home. She also said she looked forward to the development the Greenway could bring to Buford Highway.
“We are rooting for this,” she said.