Officials leading the planning for Buckhead’s park over Ga. 400 said they were not surprised that a study of potential donors came back recommending the expected donation amount be lower than originally anticipated.

Initial planning has suggested that $75 million of the $250 million projected construction costs be funded by philanthropic donations, but the study suggested it be scaled back to $25 million.

Jim Durrett
Jim Durrett

Jim Durrett, the executive director of the Buckhead Community Improvement District, which originally envisioned the park, said the CID “expected” the amount to be lower than $75 million. The $75 million was used as baseline, but the park is still possible with $25 million, he said.

The proposed park would cap Ga. 400 between Peachtree and Lenox roads, provide green space and bring a redesigned Buckhead MARTA Station.

Barbara Kaufman Fleming, the chair of the nonprofit that was set up to oversee the park’s creation, said that the nonprofit was already aiming for $25 million in donations.

“It was my understanding that $25 million was our goal number,” she said.

Fleming said that number could grow if interest grows over time.

The initial planning done by Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers earlier this year suggested the $75 million amount.

The case statement sent to the potential donors said that the park would “act as a catalyst to spur successful development of complete communities in Atlanta.”

Several potential donors questioned if the park is worth donating to, given the other infrastructure needs in the city, the high estimated cost and the possibility it will be seen as a park only for Buckhead, according to the study.

Durrett emphasized that the study included only doing an interview with potential donors. The consultants did not try to persuade and encourage the interviewees about the worthiness or need of the park, he said.

An illustration of what the park over Ga. 400 might look like, as shown in the draft concept study.

The study recommended the size and plans for the park be scaled back to align with the level of funding available.

Corporate sponsorships, not philanthropy, should be expected to provide the highest level of funding, the study said.

Bill Murray, the NPU-B zoning chair, said he was surprised to hear that the study showed donors are not bullish on the idea.

“Most residents and people I talk to seem to like the project,” he said.

Barbara Kaufman Fleming

He said he does understand the concerns the donors expressed about the high cost and that he has heard residents express concerns and questions about funding sources.

“It’s just such a big number. It’s going to take a while to get there,” he said.

The study also called for rolling back the nonprofit’s role in the project. Some donors said they believe the CID is more equipped to handle such a large infrastructure project, according to the study. The nonprofit should instead play an advocate and fundraising role, they said.

Fleming said she was fine with the CID playing a larger role again.

“I think whoever can raise the money should raise the money,” she said. “We’re working as a team.”

The CID initially created the nonprofit to push the park to an independent organization. The CID board will discuss how to move forward, he said.

Fleming said the nonprofit is still working closing with MARTA and the Georgia Department of Transportation to work out plans and that she is confident the park will be completed.

“It will get done, it’s just going to take a little longer,” she said.