By John F. Schaffner

Is it possible that high-end apparel retailer Barneys New York might set the stage for the rebirth of Buckhead Village as Atlanta’s answer to Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills or Worth Avenue in Palm Beach.?

That apparently is one name that has been dropped as being sought by Atlanta developer Ben Carter as part of his overhaul of about four blocks of prime Buckhead Village real estate—redevelopment which might begin within months with demolition of the old closed and boarded up bars and shops presently on the land.

In the second half of last year, Carter, who may be best known for developing the Mall of Georgia in suburban Gwinnett County, spent months quietly buying up property in the Village. Now he owns most of the land bounded by Peachtree Road on the west and north, Pharr Road on the south and North Fulton Drive on the east. It encompasses a lot of what most people think of as Buckhead Village.

Meanwhile, in another recent positive step toward moving forward with the revitalization of the Village, Silverman Construction Program Managements has been named as the firm selected to head up the Village’s Streetscape Project, which was initiated by the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID). That project is intended to transform the area east of Peachtree Road and between Pharr and East Paces Ferry Roads into a more harmonious environment for vehicles and pedestrians. The $3.5 million project is being funded by the Buckhead CID and grants from the Woodruff Foundation.

Silverman has formed a joint venture with Kimley-Horn and the Atlanta office of EDAW for the project. Kimley-Horn will concentrate on traffic patterns and drainage concerns while EDAW will assist in executing the beautification of the area into a walking experience. Work is expected to begin this summer and last through the summer of 2008.

Carter has said he plans to redevelop his area of the Village into upscale streetscapes of two- or three-story architecturally pleasing buildings that would give the feel of a Rodeo Drive or maybe a Georgetown-style neighborhood in Washington, D.C.

Recognizing that parking is a problem in Buckhead Village, the plan includes three parking decks tucked behind buildings to hide them from walking traffic visibility. The proposed plan would also include a mid-rise boutique hotel and at least one mixed-use high-rise of possibly 20 stories.

There have been no prospective tenants actually confirmed, but at least one Buckhead leader told the Reporter that he had heard the name Barneys as a high-end retailer being pursued by Carter’s people, with the idea of using a big name such as that to open the door to other potential high-end retailers.

That same source suggested that demolition of existing buildings on the Carter site could begin by summer.

The Carter development plans coincides with the vision of Buckhead Alliance President Robin Loudermilk, the president of Aaron Rents who has bought up several parcels in the Village over the past few years.

In the late 1990s, Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell began calling for a crackdown on what was considered to be out-of-control nightlife in the Village and advocated a rollback of bar hours. Then in early 2004, Loudermilk joined the chorus and began efforts to persuade property owners to stop renting space to bars and nightclubs.

It now appears that the redo of the Buckhead Village is going to come sooner, rather than later.