A planning effort to find ways to increase the amount of green space in areas of Buckhead is rapidly moving along, proponents said during a public meeting.

“We’re at the point where planning meets real estate,” said Denise Staling, executive director of Liveable Buckhead Inc., a new non-profit created to promote the green space efforts. “This has not been an uphill conversation from the development perspective. It’s real. It’s not some half-baked scheme. People get it that green spaces increase your property value.”

The proposal was developed after City Council District 7, which covers the eastern portion of Buckhead, was identified as the most “under-parked” area of the city, or, as Starling called it, “the bottom of the barrel of the bottom of the barrel” in parks.

The plan, called the “Buckhead Collection,” calls for development of a network of neighborhood parks, trails, dog parks and other public spaces. It calls for a large community gathering space and proposes connecting north and south Buckhead by an $8.5 million trail in the right-of-way of Ga. 400. Planners also propose using historic sites and public art as ways to organize the parks.

The proposal was approved by the steering committee on June 10, Starling said.

Initial community reaction to the plan has been positive, Starling and others said during the public meeting at the Atlanta International School on June 8 that about 20 people attended. The Ga. 400 trails have drawn interest from the PATH Foundation, which is building the city’s BeltLine project, and has financial support from the Buckhead Community Improvement District, the Buckhead Coalition and the Buckhead Business Association’s “Bucks on the Street” fundraiser. “We’re moving forward,” she said.

“We’re going to get a lot of this stuff done,” said City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents District 7.

Rob and Mora Hostetter liked the proposals they saw. “We just moved to Buckhead a few months ago [from a neighborhood fronting the Presidential Parkway in Atlanta] and we definitely felt the lack of green space compared to where we lived before,” Mora Hostetter said.

“I’m interested in what the trail along Ga. 400 actually looks like,” Rob Hostetter said. “I like the idea of more trails and more green space. I’m definitely interested in having it more pedestrian- friendly.”

But resident Jim Cothran said he’s grown discouraged through the years as plans have been made for Buckhead and then left undone.

“I just worry about the implementation,” he said. “It’s a terrible time to do things. I’m surprised they didn’t deal with some of the basics – streetscapes, tree plantings. I’m just worried about the implementation and the maintenance. It’s almost too ambitious.”

But Starling said the plans are quickly drawing support because they create connections.

“One of the things that struck me as we went through this process is it’s not only about green space,” she said, “it’s about social connectivity. How do I get out and meet my neighbors?”

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.