A new rezoning concept aims to make a portion of Peachtree Road in Buckhead a more human-scale, walkable corridor with street-front retail and mini-parks. And if it works out, it could be a pilot program for similar corridor plans in the city’s forthcoming new zoning code citywide.

The public got a look at the early “Peachtree Corridor” rezoning concepts at a Nov. 30 meeting at the Shepherd Center, where city Planning Commissioner Tim Keane said it fits into Atlanta’s new proactive stance on preparing for redevelopment.

A bird’s-eye view of part of the Peachtree Road corridor, looking north from around Peachtree Valley Road, in a photo from the rezoning plan website.

“The city we have today is awesome, but the city is changing and growing,” Keane said. “It’s time for us to be specific and intentional about how the city takes shape, how it gets greener and how we get around.”

At least one more community meeting will be held as part of the process. The Nov. 30 meeting presentation, including maps, is available on the rezoning website at peachtreezoning.com.

The Peachtree Corridor zoning addresses Peachtree between Deering Road at the Amtrak station and Sheridan Drive in Garden Hills. The intent of the zoning, however, caused some confusion and skepticism from many of the roughly 30 residents and developers in attendance.

Much of the presentation, from city-hired Canvas Planning Group, dealt with the high density of potential redevelopment. That led many attendees to think the rezoning would boost density, when it actually would just change the design standards to require more setbacks and green space.

“It is not increasing any density at all,” Sally Silver of City Councilmember Howard Shook’s office, who sits on the Peachtree Corridor steering committee, said in an interview.

It also wouldn’t allow buildings to go taller than the existing 100- and 250-foot limits on various segments of the street. The one way density might increase is as a bonus if developers agree to do something such as create a mixed-use project, though that incentive is just a concept right now.

Much of the street’s properties are already allowed to have very high-density redevelopment under the most recent zoning, done in 1982, Silver said. The idea is to prepare for dense development by requiring tall buildings to be stepped back so they don’t loom over single-family neighborhoods and to encourage mixed-use projects with retail space along with better sidewalks, green space and amenities such as nicer bus shelters.

One concept for how new zoning might control the dimensions of tall buildings so they don’t loom directly above single-family neighborhoods, as shown in the Nov. 30 Peachtree Corridor presentation.

In short, the Peachtree Corridor rezoning is something like the Special Public Interest, or SPI, zoning districts that exist on the northern half of Peachtree through Buckhead Forest and Lenox. But, Silver said, the city does not want to make more SPIs, with their Development Review Committees. Instead, city officials want to develop a relatively simple zoning code targeting various major streets throughout the city.

As it is now, Peachtree in southern Buckhead lies between SPIs with no design-oriented zoning controls of its own. “This is a missing piece that’s very important,” Silver said.

“More development will come because much of the corridor is not built out,” Aaron Fortner, principal at Canvas, said at the meeting. “More development will come, which is why it’s important for us to have zoning that’s not from 1982.”

Rethinking the design of southern Peachtree began a few years ago when the Brookwood Alliance, a coalition of local neighborhood associations, commissioned a study that came up with ideas similars to the Peachtree Corridor concept.

The Peachtree Corridor process began several months ago with meetings of the steering committee, which includes residents as well as city officials, including City Councilmembers Shook, Yolanda Adrean and Alex Wan.

In June and July, Canvas conducted an online survey about the corridor, drawing 185 responses, according to Fortner.

In terms of transportation, 94 percent of respondents said they mostly travel the corridor by single-occupancy vehicle, and 35 percent of those drivers said they would use another transportation method, if they had the option. About 40 percent said they walk the corridor once a month or less, and 66 percent said they would walk more if the streetscape was better.

In terms of look and feel, 88 percent of respondents said the buildings along Peachtree today are “unattractive” and 60 percent want more small-scale and local shops and restaurants.

The steering committee aims to complete the Peachtree Corridor rezoning and send it to City Council for a vote sometime in the spring. But it’s in the early stages and will take as long as necessary to get it right, Silver and Fortner said.

–Michael Quirk contributed

John Ruch

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

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