A flatiron-style mid-rise building would be the fourth and final part of apartment developer AMLI’s massive City Place complex in Buckhead Heights – but would also requiring cutting down a large, old oak tree.

In a first step, AMLI Vice President Annie Evans and a team of architects presented conceptual designs for the five-story, 271-unit building – dubbed the Flatiron – July 11 to the Development Review Committee of Special Public Interest District 12, a zoning area in central Buckhead. The committee met at Tower Place 100.

A conceptual drawing of the AMLI Flatiron apartment building as presented to the SPI-12 Development Review Committee July 11. (John Ruch)

Since 2014, AMLI has been developing a complex of highrise and mid-rise luxury apartments, with more than 1,500 units, in the area of Roxboro and East Paces Ferry roads. Two of the projects are complete: the AMLI Buckhead and AMLI 3464 complexes on the prominent corner, with the new 1.5-acre, publicly accessible Sims Park between them. Under construction is AMLI Oak Valley at Wright Avenue and Oak Valley Road, with an opening expected in 2020.

The AMLI Flatiron is proposed for a site between Oak Valley Road and Lakeside Drive, with a small frontage on Kingsboro Road next to the existing Villa at Buckhead Heights condo tower.

Due to the irregular shape of the property, the building is drawn as having a sharply pointed corner where it meets Lakeside and the driveway for the new AMLI Oak Valley structure. AMLI is trying to take advantage of the situation by putting balconies on the pointed end and branding the building as the Flatiron, seeing it as similar to the historic Flatiron Building downtown.

A map of the City Place projects as presented by AMLI at the Development Review Committee meeting. The Buckhead and 3464 projects are already built; Oak Valley is underway; and Flatiron is in the concept stage. (John Ruch)

The AMLI structure would not be a true flatiron building, a design where a building is triangular – like an old-fashioned clothes iron – to fit on a three-sided lot.

At the Development Review Committee, the possible zoning variances under discussion were largely technical and also related to the lot’s irregular shape, such as the size and placement of loading areas.

However, the committee also made a recommendation regarding something of more human and environmental interest: saving the large oak tree at the corner of Kingsboro and Oak Valley roads. In the current concept, the tree would be cut down for that small Kingsboro frontage.

Committee member Sally Silver made a “personal plea” to save the oak, saying, “It’s a beautiful, beautiful tree.”

Nancy Bliwise, a committee member and chair of NPU-B, said the tree would come down so the building could have four more apartment units.

“It’s a beautiful tree that gives people pleasure,” Bliwise said. “And four units do not give people pleasure…You’re taking away something of value to the community.”

The large oak tree at Kingsboro and Oak Valley roads that would be cut down for the AMLI Flatiron project. (Google Earth)

Denise Starling, a committee member and director of Livable Buckhead, suggested AMLI could offer some mitigation in return for the tree’s loss, such as affordable housing units, but Evans indicated that won’t happen.

“That’s why we need the oak tree—so people can sleep under it,” joked Silver about the area’s housing prices.

Evans said she agrees the tree is “beautiful” and that she will talk to AMLI’s development team again about possibly saving it, but said that is unlikely.

“I do not take joy out of changing the natural environment in that way,” said Evans. “I totally hear you, that it will be a loss to the community.”

She noted that the overall development includes the new Sims Park and “linear green space.” She said the Flatiron building will be built to least LEED Silver status, an industry ranking of energy efficiency and environmental friendliness. The LEED system has been praised for increasing green development but also criticized as vague and ineffective.

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