I have to admit, when I first read about the idea of building a park over Ga. 400 in Buckhead, I took it as seriously as I would a story about colonizing Mars. Then last week I read the Buckhead CID is building the launch pad.
The Buckhead Community Improvement District officially deemed this project viable last week and moved it into the design and engineering stage. The project is estimated to cost around $250 million and could open in 2022.
The idea is to essentially build a 9-acre park over a half-mile section of Ga. 400. The park would go a very long way in connecting east and west Buckhead, would make the Buckhead MARTA station more accessible to riders and would significantly increase park space in a metro area that has very little.
Leaders in Buckhead do not have the luxury other suburban cities do in finding undeveloped land. So they are thinking outside the box to try to improve the walkability and livability of the city. A new set of renderings were released last week. They show swaths of grassy parks, trees, bike trails and restaurants, as well as a very futuristic looking update to the Buckhead MARTA station. The project would run between the Atlanta Financial Center and Lenox Road.
When people talk about Ga. 400 as a problem, they are usually talking about traffic. But another issue that is getting more attention as of late is that the highway is acting as a significant barrier between the communities it bisects. With relatively few bridges connecting those communities, it is difficult for anyone without a car to get from one side to the other. In this way, it’s creating two unique communities on either side – each taking on its own personalities. So in addition to just adding park space, this new park idea would make more seamless the transition from east Buckhead and west Buckhead.
The idea is being championed by the Buckhead CID, who is the governing board managing the funds collected within the geographic area where its taxes are collected. They are working with Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers. They hope to have the plan fully into engineering and design by early next year and believe they could start construction in 2020. The board will have spent more than $1 million in studying this project by the end of the year.
According to the Atlanta Business Chronicle, they are planning to tap a variety of funding sources including federal and local governments, MARTA, GDOT, as well as raising money from foundations, corporations and individuals.
Buckhead isn’t the only metro area looking to do a project like this. Leaders in intown Atlanta are proposing a similar project for a ½-mile stretch of I-75 and I-85. This intown project would cap the downtown connector from the Civic Center MARTA station to Piedmont Avenue. While there is no name for the Buckhead project yet, the intown project is being dubbed “The Stitch.” It would help fill the void between Downtown and Midtown. And with some park land, it could also include more space for office building construction.
If these projects would have been floated 15 years ago, it really would have seemed as feasible as a colony on Mars. But the city has grown significantly over that time. And Atlanta is a town looking to do what it takes to keep ahead of other major metropolitan areas.