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I. Welcome & Introductions
Chair Tom Tidwell called the meeting to order at about 6:45 PM. A quorum was present.
II. Approval of Minutes
Minutes for the October were approved.
III. Admit New Member Neighborhoods
No neighborhoods asked to be considered for BCN membership. Tom Tidwell reminded neighborhoods that BCN membership dues are now payable for 2017. The amount is $100 per neighborhood.
IV. BCN Resolution and Election Results
- T-SPLOST, supported by BCN, received 68% of the votes
- MARTA, (BCN neutral), received 71.5%
- Amendment 1 (Opportunity School District) received 40%
- Amendment 3 (Judicial Qualification Committee) received 62%
- Amendments 2 and 4 both received more than 80%
Denise Starling – Executive Director, Livable Buckhead
Marsha Swider – Kimley–Horn
Eric Bosman – Kimley–Horn
Denise Starling outlined the need for an updated Livable Centers Initiative (LCI) master plan for Buckhead’s commercial core area. The last plan was done 15 years ago and much has changed since then. Five organizations are sponsoring the new effort: Livable Buckhead, Incorporated (LBI), Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID), Buckhead Coalition, Buckhead Business Association, and Buckhead Rotary.
In addition to the commercial core, the master plan’s scope includes the ongoing initiatives for a Park over 400 and improvements to the Lenox Road corridor from East Paced Ferry Road to Piedmont Road. A Technical Advisory and Steering Committee, involving about 40 stakeholders has been organized. It includes representatives of all the adjacent neighborhoods, NPUs, schools, commercial real estate, retail, high-rise development, GDOT, MARTA, etc.
Two main areas are the focus of the plan: connectivity and place making. She noted that one of the big changes to the area is that a lot of people are now living in the core. She said they are also taking a detailed look at the area’s demographics and market analysis.
Marsha Swider outlined the Atlanta Regional Commission’s role in this LCI planning effort. She also outlined the consulting team supporting the planning. It includes Kimley–Horn, TSW, Bleakly Advisor Group, and Blue Zones. Teams are in place to support the Park Over 400 and Lenox Road Corridor studies. She provided a brief overview of the area’s market characteristics and demographics. She reviewed the scope of the study area:
|BUCKHEAD REdeFINED Master Plan’s “Buckhead” Map
Neighborhoods included by this map’s boundaries includes all of Buckhead Forest and Buckhead Village as well as parts of Garden Hills, Lenox, North Buckhead, Peachtree Heights West, Peachtree Park, Pine Hills, Ridgedale Park, and South Tuxedo Park.Key boundary streets are Peachtree Dunwoody Road on the east, Old Ivy Road on the north, Roswell Road and Andrews Drive on the west and Pharr Road and East Paces Ferry Road on the south.
As part of the process, they reviewed all previous planning efforts and planned transportation improvements in the area. The focus of the project is to assess the market for economic development of the area. They are also working to assess the support of and funding opportunities for the Park Over 400. A web site to document the BUCKHEAD REdeFINED project has been set up at www.buckheadredefined.com. Public surveys are offered at www.buckheadredefined.com/survey. Two surveys are available to the public: “Placemaking and Connectivity” and “Park over GA 400”.
The Park Over 400 survey asks about preferred funding for the park and levels of support for aspects of the park. (That survey was closed for additional inputs as of early January.)
While Peachtree Road is the spine of the Buckhead study area, it offers limited opportunities for pedestrians. The plan’s attention in the Peachtree area focuses on safer pedestrian crossings. Lenox Road from Piedmont to East Paces Ferry Roads, on the other hand, is a major focus of the study. Outreach meetings to solicit public inputs on what can/should be done to improve Lenox Road were planned for November.
Eric Bosman spoke about the “celebration of the past”, what had been accomplished in the area in the last 15 years. In 2001 the BCID had just recently been founded and Denise Starling was with BATMA. The BCN got an LCI grant from the ARC. That plan had the BCID, BBA , the Buckhead Coalition, and NPU-B as sponsors. According to Eric, that plan aided the transition of the Buckhead Core from a suburban office center to a more mixed-use, walkable district. Everyone agreed that the Buckhead Village needed to be improved. There was a focus on Peachtree Road and how to make it more walkable and multimodal. The plan also provided for a transition from the urban core back to single family homes. The Buc shuttle was established in 2003. It provided the planning for the Peachtree Road improvements, with Phases I and II completed. Then the Great Recession. SPI-9 and SPI-12 were updated and a Greenspace Action Plan was created. PATH400 was planned and started. Loudermilk park was updated.
With all this success, the need has become apparent for common community space. Eric said Buckhead is distinguished from other successful urban areas in Atlanta and the country by its lack of a common greenspace/public space. The second need is dealing with connectivity and “the traffic issues that plague Buckhead”. He said our Buckhead urban district only has about six major roadways, and few of them connect. The area lacks the grid needed for current traffic.
To illustrate the market potential for Buckhead, he showed a map which highlighted older buildings (35+ years old) which could be redeveloped, perhaps as roadways and greenspace. He said that they are conducting a market analysis to make sure what they plan is realistic. He said there now about 7,000 housing units within Buckhead’s urban core. He said that last year, about 16% of those units are vacant (not yet occupied or under construction). The larger (total) Buckhead area as 45,000 housing units, of which is about 48% rental (including the Peachtree Corridor and Lenox Road).
The Buckhead Core has about 70,000 jobs while all of Buckhead as 124,000 jobs. He said that there is a reasonable overall balance of residents and jobs for greater Buckhead. In the Buckhead Core, there are ten jobs per housing unit, which makes it impossible to fill jobs locally. In reality, 98% of the jobs in the Buckhead Core are filled by people who drive or take MARTA into the core. Demographically, residents of the core are typically not the age groups which fill jobs in the core. So, there is a mismatch. Further, while the number of housing units in the core has grown recently, the number of jobs in the core has grown even faster. So we are losing ground. Marsha added that the people who live in Buckhead typically have jobs elsewhere. Tom Tidwell commented that traffic is already impacting job growth – he had the opportunity to locate his office in the core, just two miles from his home but chose the Galleria, which, while farther away, is quicker to get to. Eric agreed that the Perimeter area, given its accessible central location, has seen “explosive job growth” while the Buckhead area has seen “good/steady job growth”. He said the Perimeter job growth was not due to nearby apartment construction but to overall accessibility. Eric said it is an “open question” as to whether the study will conclude that added residential housing matching the needs of the employers is needed for job growth. Tom commented that if Buckhead Core employers need the kind of people who resident in single-family homes, we are not in a position to build enough housing to solve that problem.
Eric said of the 7,000 housing units, the typical Buckhead Core resident (73%) is a Millennial, one with very high levels of education and an extremely high labor force participation rate. They are, however adverse to long-term commitment (living location or future marital partner). They can afford to live in high rent areas. 18% of core residents are Gen-Xers. 7% are “senior style” residents. 2% “upscale avenue” (like Elton John). Eric added that they can see “economic demand” for the construction of an additional 40% of the core’s housing units, which translates to about 9,800 housing units. It is not clear that the 40% increase will happen. Gordon Certain asked how traffic congestion had changed as economic growth had happened within the core area. He also suggested that forecasts of future traffic flow rates should be depicted along with other growth statistics on BUCKHEAD REdFINED presentation charts.
As for spending, $1.2 billion is spent within the Buckhead Core. Of that, 16% comes from Buckhead Core residents; 84% comes from outside residents, including core workers.
Eric said the goal of the plan’s “place making” measures is to make the area a more attractive area for people to live, including walkability, greenspace and traffic congestion (or the lack there of) and that investments can be made to make the area more desirable. This especially means to do things for living conditions in Buckhead’s Core to make them more attractive to existing Buckhead Core job holders who now commute into the area – those changes would potentially reduce traffic.
Many attendees were concerned about changes within the Buckhead Core area having adverse impacts on their adjacent neighborhoods. For example, a Garden Hills representative feared that adding thousands of apartments on nearby Pharr Road will cause traffic and parking issues to Garden Hills residents.
While internal connectivity improvements within the Buckhead area are a focus of the plan’s efforts, little attention seems to be paid to actually improving the existing traffic congestion. One meeting attendee pointed out that it had taken 40 minutes that evening to commute from one edge of the Buckhead study area to the other just to attend this BCN meeting. A major focus change is needed to couple traffic improvements to planned growth. A very limited transportation grid supports the Buckhead Core. While it may be possible to add new connectors within the Core, adding lanes or new roads outside the Core to support its needs is not (without great cost and/or undesired impact on adjacent neighborhoods). Principal north/south corridors outside the Buckhead Core are GA400, Roswell Road, Piedmont Road, Peachtree Road, Roxboro Road, Peachtree Dunwoody Road and Lenox Road. Principal east/west corridors are Peachtree Road, West Paces Ferry Road, and Lenox Road. During rush hour these corridors currently exhibit little unused capacity. Added traffic volumes within the Buckhead Core may be limited by or require changes to roads outside the Buckhead Core. While improvements to GA400 at I-285 may help Buckhead congestion, Buckhead congestion is routinely impacted by congestion of GA400 south of Buckhead which is caused by congestion on the I-75/85 Downtown Connector. The BUCKHEAD REdeFINED planners should consider explicitly advocating needed transportation improvements in other areas (such as the Downtown Connector, especially its I-20 interchange) which directly impact the Buckhead Core.
Secretary’s Note – The reader may notice in these minutes that I had difficulty in using the definition of Buckhead used by the BUCKHEAD REdeFINED consultants. The population of this study area is less than 10% of that of all of Buckhead. We in BCN know Buckhead to be the 28-square mile area made up of our many Buckhead neighborhoods. Its boundaries are simply defined by I-85, I-75 and Nancy Creek as originally published in the Buckhead Coalition’s excellent Buckhead Guidebook annual magazine. At the beginning of these minutes, I used the phrase “Buckhead’s commercial core area” to describe the area being discussed. Subsequently, when addressing the study’s map, I put quotes around the word Buckhead, indicating it didn’t mean Buckhead as it is commonly understood to mean. Toward the end of the minutes, I started using the term “Buckhead Core” to address the area being studied. Sorry for being so inconsistent. I should probably have used the Buckhead Core terminology throughout. In a way it is ironic that the project’s name, BUCKHEAD REdeFINED, turns out to be an accurate description of what is being done or attempted. The danger to us is that people who aren’t as familiar with the actual definition of Buckhead as we are may misinterpret what’s being said when they read that “Buckhead” has agreed in this LCI plan to do this or that.
VI. Community Concerns/New Business/Announcements
During attendee introductions at the beginning of the meeting a booklet of maps documenting a sharp increase in residential area crime in North Buckhead was passed around. By some measures, 2016 serious crime (principally property crimes) in residential areas of North Buckhead is up 80% to 90% over corresponding periods of 2015. Details of that trend were published in the December issue of the North Buckhead Newsletter, available at www.nbca.org/newsletters/2016-12.pdf
VII. Next Meeting
December 8, 2016 (Later rescheduled to January 12, 2017)
– The meeting adjourned at about 8:00 PM.
Note: The opinions expressed by the speakers and individual neighborhood representatives in these minutes do not necessarily represent those of BCN or its member neighborhoods.