By John Schaffner

Some 300 or so public officials, business leaders, state transportation officials and involved residents gathered in front of the Intercontinental Hotel on Peachtree Road on the afternoon of Oct. 16 to celebrate the completion of Phase I of the Peachtree Boulevard streetscape project, which took over a decade to come to fruition.

The Peachtree Boulevard transformation enhances a stretch of Peachtree Road—from Maple Drive to the Buckhead MARTA station—into a more livable, walkable, bikeable and drivable promenade.

“This is an important Peachtree day for Atlanta,” stated former Atlanta mayor and Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell.

What was being celebrated was the transformation of about 1.5 miles on Peachtree Road through the heart of Buckhead with 11,500 linear feet of new 11-foot-wide sidewalks, 186 willow oak trees and 50,000 square feet of green space, 83 modern benches, 188 modern light posts, 48 newly painted crosswalks, bike lanes, enhanced transit stops and a six-foot-wide, tree-lined median with flower plantings.

Phase I is only the beginning. Phase II is longer and extends from the MARTA bridge to Roxboro Road north of Phipps Plaza. The Buckhead Community Improvement Distrect (CID)? is working with the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to acquire the right of way through purchase and donation. Pending the acquiring of state funds, development of Phase II is set to begin in 2008.

This project to date has been the most extensive urban retrofitting GDOT has attempted. It was initiated by the Buckhead Coalition, conceived by community stakeholders and partially funded by the Buckhead CID.

“Since its inception in 1838, Buckhead has frequently led the way, whether in luxury homes, amazing retailing, stately houses of worship, the best in hotel options, delightful art and dining, modern office skyscrapers, rental and condo multifamily high rises or other,” Massell told those gathered to hear speeches and sip champagne in celebration. “Here it is leading the way in un-matched mobility.

“This fine boulevard project is not just beautification, but it enhances pedestrian safety and accelerates the flow of traffic,” he added.

“I thank the city of Atlanta and the state of Georgia for the roles they performed,” Massell said. “But most significantly, I thank the business property owners in this district for voluntarily agreeing to be taxed extra for these improvements. There could be no finer example of public/private partnership.”

Scotty Greene, executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID), who was master of ceremonies for the program, pointed out many of the people who had contributed to making the project a reality.

David Allman, chairman of the board of the Buckhead CID, explained that the CID members had not only contributed millions of dollars in taxes to the project, but also donated valuable right of way property toward the project.

“The CIDs served a great role in facilitating the coming together, the prioritizing of projects and ultimately the implementation,” Allman said. “You can look around you and see the impact that this project is having and will continue to have—billions of dollars in new development, escalating real estate values.

“Projects like this change the way Atlantans feel about this corridor,” Allman added. “This Peachtree corridor is our future….This is our growth corridor. We must continue to invest in this corridor.”

Georgia DOT Commissioner Harold Linnenkohl joked about Greene talking him into putting money into planting bushes, but stated, “This is a really good project.”

Saying this is a great way to launch the transformation of Peachtree Road and Peachtree Street over the next 20 years, Mayor Shirley Franklin told those gathered on the wide, tree-lined sidewalk, “We know that Peachtree can be beautiful, can be vibrant with activity and with business, it can be safe, there can be bikers, it can be great for pedestrians,” she added.

“This is a great project,” Franklin stated. “It is just the beginning of what Atlanta can do. And, we don’t need to take a decade to do it, because Buckhead has led the way.”