The idea of a new park capping Ga. 400 in central Buckhead is still a controversial concept on the drawing board. But it has already inspired a similar proposal in Sandy Springs.

The city of Sandy Springs is in the midst of updating its land-use plan and zoning code. A final draft of the land-use plan, unveiled in Nov. 16 community meetings, includes a call to study a possible 20-acre park capping Ga. 400 in the “Pill Hill” medical center area. City-hired consultants likened the concept to Buckhead’s proposed park.

An illustration of the proposed park over Ga. 400 on Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs' Pill Hill medical center area, from the draft Comprehensive Land Use Plan.
An illustration of the proposed park over Ga. 400 on Johnson Ferry Road in Sandy Springs’ Pill Hill medical center area, from the draft Comprehensive Land Use Plan.

The Sandy Springs park concept is focused on the Johnson Ferry Road overpass, to the east of Northside Hospital and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite. That’s about four miles north of where the Buckhead Community Improvement District has proposed its 9-acre park capping Ga. 400 between Lenox and Peachtree roads.

“In order to improve connections across Ga. 400,” the draft Sandy Springs land-use plan reads, “an opportunity for an overbuild park is envisioned above Ga. 400 as a means of connecting residential development west of Georgia 400 to the medical employment center and [Medical Center] MARTA station, while also providing an attractive green gateway to the city and an amenity for residents and workers.”

The Sandy Springs and Buckhead park concepts are both ultimately modeled on Klyde Warren Park, a similar highway-capping park in Dallas. That $110 million, 5-acre park has been a hit and a photo of it appears in the Sandy Springs draft land-use plan.

Highway-capping parks are a popular trend around the country as a way to gain park space by doubling the use of infrastructure. Other notable examples are Boston’s Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway and the Margaret T. Hance Park in Phoenix, Az. Another cap concept under local consideration is Central Atlanta Progress’s proposal for a Downtown Connector cap called the “Stitch,” which would include both park space and buildings.

An illustration of the park's "Garden" area. (Rogers Partners)
An illustration of the park’s “Garden” area. (Rogers Partners)

The Buckhead CID’s concept plan for a park was unveiled in September. The serpentine design curving above a half-mile of the highway in a series of bridges drew attention for its looks, and also for its estimated cost of $195 million to $245 million. The idea has been controversial within the CID’s own board and is now under study as part of the Livable Buckhead-led “BUCKHEAD REdeFINED” master plan for the neighborhood’s business core.

The Sandy Springs land-use plan is set to be finalized and approved early next year. If the final version still includes the park over Ga. 400 concept and city officials decide to follow through, consultants estimated the preliminary study would cost $200,000.

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

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