Livable Buckhead, a nonprofit based in the Tower Place skyscraper, spends a lot of time trying to convince local corporations to work greener. Now it aims to practice what it preaches in a new ground-level office space that may open late in the summer.

“It’s shifting us to a whole different kind of way of operating… We’re not in the ivory tower anymore,” said Denise Starling, the executive director of Livable Buckhead since its 2011 founding.

Core Properties, the Tower Place manager, plans a renovation of an unused courtyard atop the AMC Dine-In Buckhead 6 theater in the complex at Piedmont Road and Tower Place Drive. The space “has been dead for 20 years, never activated,” Starling says.

An architect’s illustration of the Tower Place courtyard where Livable Buckhead would make its new home. (Special)

The plan would build retail spaces into the courtyard, as well as a fitness center and conference room for the building. Outdoor seating covered by shade structures would encourage use and offer some type of programming.

Livable Buckhead would get one of those retail spaces, with garage-style roll-up doors opening into the courtyard. The nonprofit might be able to hold some events in the courtyard as well. That’s a big change for a nonprofit that has spent its entire life on the 16th floor of the skyscraper.

But it’s also a plus for a group whose mission includes environmental sustainability and alternative commuting, including spearheading the literally ground-level work of building the PATH400 multiuse trail through the neighborhood. The plan is “moving us from sort of an office-type mentality down to retail,” Starling said.

The courtyard as it appears today, in a photo from a city zoning application. (Special)

Scoring a good home locally is important in another way. “It’s very difficult to be a nonprofit in Buckhead” with the high rents, she said.

The nonprofit plans to make its build-out meet various private and government standards for energy efficiency and environmental friendliness, including those of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED, Fitwel and Energy Star. “It’s just practicing what we preach,” Starling said.

Pro bono design and permitting work helps, too. For now, permits are undergoing city review and lease negotiations continue.

John Ruch

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