Everything from affordable housing to major road projects are on the table for “BUCKHEAD REdeFINED,” an updated master plan for much of the neighborhood. A six-month process to develop the plan is scheduled to begin with an Oct. 17 public input meeting at the Atlanta International School.

It is technically an update of a 16-year-old Atlanta Regional Commission Livable Centers Initiative plan laying out how and where redevelopment should happen. But it is also taking a broader scope and folding in other efforts, such as a planned Lenox Road redesign and a potential park over Ga. 400 proposed by the Buckhead Community Improvement District.

The logo of the "BUCKHEAD REdeFINED" master plan.
The logo of the “BUCKHEAD REdeFINED” master plan.

“It might as well be a brand new plan… [because] things have changed so dramatically,” said Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, describing the master plan to the Buckhead CID Oct. 5. “We are not the same community that we were even five years ago.”

Livable Buckhead and the CID are among a core group of organizations leading the master plan effort, along with the Buckhead Business Association, the Buckhead Coalition and the Rotary Club of Buckhead. There is also a stakeholder committee with more than 40 members, which recently held its first meeting.

The plan is focused on Buckhead’s commercial district, but could affect much of the neighborhood with policies and projects.

“This community is now a diverse mix of commercial and retail developments, multifamily highrises and single-family homes,” Starling said in a press release. “Our population is younger–in fact, nearly half are between 20 and 39 years old. We have to formulate a plan that takes these changes into account and gives Buckhead the chance to maximize opportunities and minimize the potential negative effects of our growth.”

According to the press release, “Recommendations could include additional access points and ramp metering for Ga. 400, new road connections to improve traffic flow, [and] strategies to create housing options that are affordable for Buckhead’s workforce.”

Also included are Lenox Road and Ga. 400 park efforts. Starling told the CID that folding those projects into the master plan makes them “stronger together” and avoids overwhelming members of the public with multiple planning processes that could “confuse and exhaust” them.

The master plan is intended to lay out development and improvements for the next five to 10 years, and will include a 100-day “action plan” of quick fixes.

The name “BUCKHEAD REdeFINED” is intended as “brand” that will last beyond the actual process, like the Midtown Alliance’s “Blueprint Midtown,” Starling told the CID. According to Livable Buckhead spokesperson Tracy Paden, the name “BUCKHEAD REdeFINED” is intended to combine the words “refined” and “redefined” as “the two aspects of Buckhead’s personality.”

“Buckhead has always been synonymous with refinement and luxury,” Paden said, while the neighborhood is now being redefined by younger residents and more urban-style development.

The stakeholder committee held its first meeting Oct. 4, Starling said. Some CID board members were surprised to hear that in its early feedback, traffic was not the top concern—“place-making” is. That means how to make Buckhead more walkable and otherwise retain millennials as long-term residents. Starling added that Buckhead’s millennials are not those “living in the basement…it’s the cream-of-the-crop millennials.”

But traffic still a neighborhood concern. Early stats show Buckhead has a ratio of 6.5 jobs for every 1 resident, Starling said.

“That’s crazy. What that means is [commuter] traffic,” she said.
The Oct. 17 public meeting is the first of three in a master plan process running through April 2017 and largely funded by the Atlanta Regional Commission. The meeting, running from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., will include an overview of the process, then breakout sessions focused on five areas: “vision,” “place-making,” “connectivity,” the park over Ga. 400 proposal, and the Lenox Road corridor improvements.

“It’s important for the public to turn out for this first meeting so they can help shape the vision,” Starling said in the press release. “While the plan will focus on Buckhead’s commercial district, it will really have a community-wide impact. The more voices and viewpoints that we can get involved with BUCKHEAD REdeFINED, the better.”

Information and a survey will be available online as well on a project website that will go live shortly after the meeting at buckheadredefined.com.

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John Ruch

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.