Praise, and some pushback, greeted the unveiling of the “model mile” design for the Peachtree Creek Greenway, the first leg of the approximate 12-mile linear park that is expected to connect Brookhaven with Chamblee, Doraville and eventually the Atlanta BeltLine.
An Oct. 16 open house at the Salvation Army’s massive southern territory campus on Northeast Expressway attracted about 30 people. They were able to see and provide feedback on the first specific designs of the first mile of the Greenway, from Corporate Boulevard to Briarwood Road.
Groundbreaking for the project is expected early next year.
“This trail is being built for the average person, not for the Spandex crowd,” Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation, said of the Greenway. The City Council hired the PATH Foundation this year to design its portion of the Greenway. Other PATH Foundation trails include the Atlanta BeltLine, the Silver Comet Trail and PATH 400.
While the word “trail” was used, McBrayer said the Greenway is more of a linear park. Economic benefits of similar trails have shown that property values increase for those along a trail and businesses are created to exist alongside them, he said. The Atlanta BeltLine is an example of “economic development on steroids,” he added.
Jeri Breiner, who lives in the Pine Hills neighborhood that lies along the path of the Greenway, said while she supports the trail, she has serious concerns about how the city will deal with crime, parking, traffic and privacy in residential areas nearby. She also said she’s raised these issues for months with city officials and Greenway designers, but has been ignored.
“We are all ‘pro-this,’” she said of the Greenway, “but we want it done correctly. I know I am talking for many who did not want to come tonight. I’m pro-trail, but I’m first pro-community that already lives there.”
McBrayer said in his 27 years of experience of building trails, crime rates have never gone up.
“That’s not a reality,” he said. “That’s your perception. If you go to any police department, they will say trails decrease crime.”
“Ridiculous,” said one of several people sitting near Breiner who shook their heads. Four people stormed out of the meeting.
Brookhaven Fund Development Director Patty Hansen said the city is working with Jackson Square townhomes and Villas at Druid Hills, two multi-family complexes on Buford Highway and along the first phase, to ensure privacy for their residents. She said police will patrol the trails.
Greta deMayo of KAIZEN Collaborative, which is working with the PATH Foundation on the Greenway design, said plans are in the works for gated access to the trail for those living at Villas at Druid Hills. “People will want to live at the Villas so they can get on the trails,” DeMayo said.
Hansen said the city is working with property owners and HOAs of Villas at Druid Hills and Jackson Square and they are on board with the Greenway’s plans. Villas at Druid Hills is home for many Latino residents and is adjacent to Northeast Plaza, a shopping center that caters to a largely Latino demographic.
One-bedroom apartments at Villas at Druid Hills currently rent for about $850 a month, according to information from its website. Jackson Square is a gated 60-unit townhome community with a one-bedroom unit selling for about $100,000, according to website information.
No residents from the complexes appeared to be attending the meeting. All information was presented in English, though the city’s bilingual public engagement specialist, Claudia Colichon, was in attendance.
In an interview after the meeting, Breiner said she lives near Victor Road and that plans for a future phase of the Greenway show a small trailhead is to be built near Victor Road. She said the trail would allow people to easily see into residents’ homes and she said statistics she has reviewed for the Silver Comet Trail show an uptick in crime.
“To ignore [crime] is nonsensical,” she said. “I do want parks. I just want them safe.”
She also said she worried about the displacement of largely Latino residents now living on Buford Highway.
Others praised the linear park. One resident noted that people will likely begin using it immediately, likely leading to it being crowded. He asked why work has not begun on portions of the trail in Chamblee, Doraville or Atlanta.
Hansen said the other cities are working on their own timeframes, but the hope is that the groundbreaking and completion of the first mile will spur activity in neighboring jurisdictions.
Another attendee said she works at the CDC at Corporate Square and wondered if there would eventually be access from the Greenway to Inman Park or Candler Park because many employees, she said would like to ride their bikes from those neighborhoods to work. Eventually, yes, that would happen, McBrayer answered.
The “model mile” will run from the Salvation Army property near Corporate Boulevard and end at Briarwood Road. Construction is expected to begin in early 2018. Most of the Greenway will be a 14-foot wide concrete path. There will be some “pinch points” that are 12-feet wide and there will be some non-paved sections of the trail as well. Estimated cost for this section of the Greenway is approximately $9 million and is being funded through hotel/motel tax revenue.
Estimated construction time for the first phase is seven to eight months, McBrayer said.
Major design takeaways from the meeting:
- The proposal for the first phase includes a trailhead on the Salvation Army property close to Corporate Boulevard. An upper and lower trail are proposed at the trailhead where the upper trail can be accessed via Corporate Boulevard and a future lower trail extension is proposed to be built toward North Druid Hills Road. The two trails would be connected by steps at Corporate Square.
The trailhead would include some parking and possibly an upper plaza area with tables and chairs. The city continues to work with the Salvation Army to obtain an easement on property behind its headquarters that runs along the creek to North Druid Hills Road. The Salvation Army’s Board of Trustees supports the Greenway project but has not yet voted on granting the easement, according to Hansen.
- A “major bridge crossing” is also planned from Corporate Square to the north side of the creek to the Jackson Square townhome complex on Buford Highway, explained deMayo. There is a small parcel of land where the bridge ends near the residential property that is proposed to become a green space, she added. The small lot was acquired by DeKalb County via FEMA Hazard Mitigation and ownership is currently being transferred to the city of Brookhaven. The pedestrian bridge would allow access to the green space.
- The Greenway would continue alongside the north side of the creek to the Villas at Druid Hills apartments on Buford Highway. DeMayo said the Greenway would run behind the apartment complex’s privacy fence, a “pinch point” where the path will narrow from 14 feet to 12 feet. DeMayo said there are also discussions taking place to restructure the apartment complex’s parking lot to improve the back of the property and allow connectivity to the trail via a coded gate.
- The Greenway would then “piggyback” on a road DeKalb County uses for sewer maintenance. DeMayo said there are several sewer lines in this area and designers are working with the county on such issues as lowering manhole covers. Connecting the Greenway to Northeast Plaza during the first phase is not financially feasible because of the steep slope from the Greenway to the shopping center’s property, deMayo said.
- The Greenway would continue to parallel the DeKalb road used for sewer maintenance and end at Briarwood Road, where a trailhead is planned, with an upper and lower area, including an area for some parking. A pedestrian-activated signal at Briarwood Road that would allow pedestrians and cyclists to get to the Greenway is also planned.
Branding and signage for the Greenway is being designed with input from a steering committee. A logo design that includes the first letter of each city — Atlanta, Brookhaven, Chamblee, Doraville — as well as a more generic design are being considered, DeMayo said.
Meanwhile, a deal to add a connection to the future park at a new QuikTrip gas station is hitting a snag, according to Greenway advocates.
The presentation provided at the Oct. 16 meeting: