The Buckhead Community Improvement District hosted a walking tour Oct. 17 and showed participants an aerial view of the proposed park over Ga. 400 site and an overview of several major CID projects.
Hosted by Jim Durrett, the executive director of the CID, it was part of the “Walktober” program held by PEDS, a local nonprofit that advocates for pedestrian access and safety. The free tour was limited to 25 participants and all spots were reserved.
The first stop on the tour was a vacant suite on the 14th floor of the Tower Place 200 building on Peachtree Road, a short walk away from the Tower Place 100 building where the tour began. Participants were able to get a look at the site of the proposed park over Ga. 400, which would be built over the highway from Peachtree to Lenox roads.
The CID is currently putting together a steering committee that will make recommendations on building a nonprofit that would ultimately run the park.
The park, which was proposed by the CID two years ago, would bring nine acres of park space to Buckhead and would include remaking the entrance to the Buckhead MARTA Station. Construction is estimated to cost about $250 million and the CID plans to rely on a mix of public and private entities to fund the park, although specific sources and their contributions have not been determined.
Two CID board members, Robin Suggs, the general manager of Lenox Square mall, and District 7 Councilmember Howard Shook, have expressed concerns about funding the park, but Durrett said he believes their concerns will be addressed and they will be on board by the end of 2017.
“I predict by the end of the year we will have 100 percent support,” Durrett said.
The tour ended at Charlie Loudermilk Park, where Durrett explained the renovations recently completed by the CID, including a sculpture designed by Atlanta architect John Portman.
Skateboarders have been causing damage the sculpture, Durrett said. Scuffs can be seen along the sculpture and on its base. Skateboarding is allowed in the park, but to deter damage to the sculpture, two new security cameras were installed and aimed at the park, he said.
The CID this month installed a shade structure over the seating area in the park, replacing umbrellas that were previously there.
“The umbrellas were a nightmare in terms of maintenance,” Durrett said.
Durrett also noted a sign installed in the park that displays a 1943 photograph of the nearby Buckhead Theatre aligned to overlap the view of today’s building. It was installed by the Buckhead Heritage Society in May in partnership with the Buckhead CID.
Laura Jackson, a tour participant, asked Durrett why the iconic sculpture, “The Storyteller,” that used to be in the park was moved.
“People wanted it moved. Art is appreciated and reviled and that is an example,” Durrett said.
The sculpture is now installed outside of the Buckhead Library, but Jackson said the placement at the library makes the sculpture hard to see.
Most of the tour consisted of walking down Peachtree Road to the park, a corridor the CID has spent the last decade improving.
Durrett challenged participants to point out at what point the CID’s improvements on the road end, which was easy for a participant to do as the landscaped medians and wide sidewalks end suddenly. On one section, there is no sidewalk, so Durrett led participants through a nearby business breezeway.
The CID is currently obtaining right of way for third phase of the Peachtree Road improvements, which would run from Maple Drive to Shadowlawn Avenue. However, the improvements will be different than those made on other parts of Peachtree Road. Because right of way will cost more on this section of Peachtree Road, the CID scaled back plans and will now eliminate one northbound lane to create a center turn lane, but a median will not be created. There will still be three southbound lanes, Durrett said.
“Traffic will flow better than it does today,” he said.
Jackson, who asked the question about “The Storyteller” sculpture, said, as a nearby resident, she enjoyed the tour and hearing about the CID’s projects, including the park over Ga. 400.
“It was great. We learned a lot,” she said.
Alex Pigg recently moved to the metro area and started working in Buckhead one week ago.
“It was a good way to learn a lot about the area,” Pigg said.