John Schaffner

“Buckhead is hot!” exclaimed Scottie Greene to kick off the ceremony Aug. 3 which officially marked the beginning of destruction for the old Buckhead Village and the start of putting “Buckhead back together again.”

Developer Ben Carter, addressing a group of more than 200 civic and business leaders inside an air-conditioned tent on the hot August morning, that as a youngster he was always saddened that Humpty Dumpty could not be put back together again after falling off the wall.

“We have put Buckhead back together,” he declared as he announced five high-end fashion boutiques, two restaurants and two hotels for the new $1.2 billion Streets of Buckhead mixed-use development his company, Ben Cater Properties LLC, is undertaking for eight blocks of Buckhead.

Carter began by thanking the more than 34 Buckhead Village property owners that “gave up their prized assets” to help bring Atlanta and the Southeast this vision. Carter reportedly paid about $200 million for those assets to help make the dream come true.

He also thanked the 26 retailers and bars “that could have stood in my way, but realized that this was a vision of not just mine but a whole lot of people. I think that is why this room is packed today. There are a lot of folks who have been planning for years and years in hopes that this would happen,” he added.

One person who was missing from the big event was the man many call the “mayor of Buckhead,” Sam Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition and one of the early shakers in the movement to rebuild the old Buckhead Village. He as on a cruise but sent a message which Greene, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, read: “Aug. 3, 2007, will go down in history as the start of a new focus for Buckhead.”

Carter shared the stage with Buckhead Alliance President Robin Loudermilk, who first began the campaign to stop the violence in the Village and remove some of the troublemaking bars; Zone 2 Atlanta Police Commander Major James Sellers , who has partnered with business leaders to reduce crime in the area; Sally Silver, volunteer committee chair of Neighborhood Planning Unit-B who works with developers as an intermediary for the neighborhoods; Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook, Mayor Shirley Franklin and Greene, who oversaw the groundbreaking program.

Neighborhood leader Silver was the person who struck the first demolition blow at the ceremony, maneuvering a piece of heavy equipment to smash into the roof of what once was C.J.’s Landing bar.

“Ben, remind me never to play Monopoly with you,” said Shook in what was probably the funniest comment of the morning. “He owns all the streets, and he has a hotel on every street.”

Although Carter had announced that the Streets of Buckhead would feature the first 1 Hotel & Residences, a brand that is being developed by Barry Hotel Partners and Starwood Capital, and also the 100-key Paces Plaza Hotel and Residences, the Streets will ultimately have four hotels, according to Carter. Also included will be up to 1,000 residential units and office space along with 500,000 square feet of retail space.

The 1 Hotel property will be a 175-room five-star hotel at the corner of Peachtree and Pharr Roads, with 100 condominium units atop the hotel. Construction is expected to begin in mid-2008 and open in 2010.

The five-star Paces Plaza boutique hotel will have 40 condos on top and will have a restaurant fronting on Peachtree Road, with another restaurant and bar, spa and meeting rooms.

When it comes to retail, Carter envisions Rodeo Drive, Worth Avenue and Manhattan and what he likes to call SoHo retail, chic boutiques.

The five retailers announced at the groundbreaking included Hermes, which Carter said was moving there to a 4,000-aquare-foot shop from Phipps Plaza, AG Adriano Goldschmied, Domenico Vacca, Etro and Bottega Veneta. The two restaurants he announced were the French bistro La Goulue and Italian white tablecloth Bottega del Vino.

But Carter was not finished with his surprises for the morning. He announced he is personally putting up $3 million to start an “Art on the Streets” program that will be operated through a non-profit. He said he hoped other developers will pick up the idea and install more art in the city.

Carter’s first acquisition under the program was on display outside the tent at the ceremony and its artist Frank Stella was sitting in the audience. Stella’s piece, “K.3” is a 12-foot display of colored metal tubing that cost $1 million.

Mayor Franklin described Carter’s commitment of $3 million to providing street art as “huge.” She said that when she was the city’s commissioner of Cultural Affairs some 20-plus years ago and was buying art for Hartsfield Airport, she was very happy to have $500,000 in her budget.

“Artists give us a window to the possibility of peace and friendship and love,” Franklin said pointing out Stella in the audience.

Referencing the boutiques and restaurants that Carter announced, Franklin said she was excited “to bring Milan and New York to Buckhead.”

Franklin stated: “Today we are celebrating the resurgence of Atlanta.” Citing predictions that by 2030 Atlanta is expected to add over 200,000 new residents, making the city the largest it has ever been. “Where will people live? Where will they shop? Where will they eat? Where will they invest?” the mayor asked. “There is no question after today that Buckhead is going to be at the top of the list,” she stated.

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