Sam Massell

By John Schaffner

 Buckhead was declared in a “recovery mode” from the economic downturn by Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell in his annual report to the Buckhead Business Association.

“Our city of Atlanta has its mythical phoenix—the bird that rises from the ashes to fly again,” Massell said in his “state of Buckhead” address. “Well, we have the buck, which is synonymous with money.”

Massell admitted Buckhead does have “a momentary surplus” of new office space, condo units, retail stores and hotel rooms. But, he said, “absolutely, positively all of it will be occupied. It will just take a little longer than the boom market to which we’ve become accustomed.”

To show Buckhead’s business strength, Massell cited 20 news articles published in the previous month relating what he called “positive” news about growth, development and business openings.

Buckhead remains “undeniably the address of choice for anyone who wants to live, visit, work or play in the southeastern states,” said the former Atlanta mayor, who has lived in Buckhead 57 years. “When you look at the sustainability of the amenities we offer, who else can compete?”

Business representatives attending the association’s weekly breakfast meeting on Feb. 18. heard Massell outline 10 “benchmarks that cemented our foundation of strength” in Buckhead between 1952 and 1999.

They were: annexation by Atlanta; the development of Lenox Square mall and Tower Place office tower; the introduction of fine dining with Pano’s & Paul’s restaurant; the construction of luxury hotels with the Ritz-Carlton; the start of mass transit with the Lindbergh MARTA rail station; the opening of luxury high-rise condominiums at Park Place on Peachtree Road; the formation of the Buckhead Coalition; the opening of Ga. 400; and the creation of the Community Improvement District, which raises over $5 million per year and opens the door to federal and state grants for funding infrastructure needs.

Today, Massell reported, the 28-square-mile area has 76,000 residents, 21 million square feet of office space, 300 food and beverage establishments, 21,000 high-rise residential units, 5,300 hotel rooms, three MARTA rail stations and 16 bus routes, and 1,400 retail outlets. Businesses in the area take in about $1.5 billion in annual sales, “of which 40 percent is by visitors from more than 100 miles away. ”

Buckhead, initially a “sleepy, but sophisticated bedroom community,” now “booms to become Atlanta’s second downtown in every index,” Massell said.

“Credit all along goes to civic pride and organizational leadership. With 41 neighborhood organizations, 33 church congregations, 17 parent-teacher associations, six service clubs and other organized groups, many people are working to reconfigure the status quo and increase vitality,” he added.

“With a foundation like that, I dare anyone to try and knock us off the top of the mountain,” Massell said. “Our stars are aligned, and indicator after indicator shows a positive direction. Our population is continuing to grow and during last year did so at a greater percentage increase than the balance of Atlanta. Business, too, is increasing. Just in the past 12 months, Simon Properties signed leases with 21 new retailers in Lenox and Phipps Plaza malls.”

Buckhead’s noted booster ended the talk with one of his favorite statements: “If you buy a bit of Buckhead and take care of it now, it will take care of you later.”