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Buckhead businesses band together to leverage buying power, help environment
by Gloria Love
May 10, 2012 02:37 PM | 1172 views | 0 0 comments | 29 29 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Denise Starling
Denise Starling
Denise Starling, executive director of the nonprofit Livable Buckhead, spoke to the Buckhead Business Association Thursday about the work that remains to be done where “the economy meets the environment.”

At the weekly breakfast meeting at the City Club of Buckhead, Starling said the organization — which early initiatives included a residential hazardous waste collection program — is looking to ramp up its connection with area businesses.

“The next phase is geared toward the commercial community,” she said.

The first step is a recycling initiative for area office buildings which, in addition to its environmental impact, would help the businesses save money by leveraging their collective buying power, Starling said.

“[At first], we found it was almost impossible to do because every building had a different trash collector … Nobody was doing anything the same [way],” she said.

The group worked with the Canton-based Sustainable Solutions Group, which helps industries design waste reduction programs, in order to make a standardized plan for trash hauling contracts.

So far, eight of the major office towers have joined in, Starling said.

Additionally, the group is tasked with helping implement a $40 million Buckhead greenspace plan Starling said would help supply “some missing pieces in the community and some opportunity to position things better for the 20-somethings who are coming in.”

District 7 Atlanta City Councilman Howard Shook, who represents part of Buckhead, spearheaded the plan after he cited a city study showed his district as being “dead last” when it comes to public greenspace with only 2.14 acres of parks for every 1,000 residents, Starling said.

“We’re supposed to have at least 10 [acres per 1,000 residents] in order to be remotely OK in terms of greenspace,” she said.

The plan identifies several needs including commercial plazas to support workspaces, sports facilities to house area groups like the Northside Youth Organization as well as neighborhood parks, dog parks, trails and civic spaces for festivals.

Altogether, that equates to 106 acres.

“That only gets us to being mediocre,” Starling said. “That doesn’t get us to world-class, which is why this is a must.”

Association member Rick Hamilton questioned Starling about the origin of the problem.

“I don’t know if Buckhead is the most affluent section of the city, but you’d think it’s in the top three or four,” he said. “How did we get to the point where we have so little?”

Starling said the area’s high-than-average income and larger yards may have worked against it when it comes to making public parks a priority.

“If you look at it, it looks like we’re very green,” she said, adding that bigger properties cannot replace abundant public spaces. “Parks are about social interaction, they’re about meeting your neighbors.”

However, the scheduled Ga. 400 trail, which is expected to stretch 5 miles in Buckhead from Loridans Drive south to the Atlanta Beltline’s Peachtree Creek spur trail, will up that quotient.

The group also will continue to seek out land with a focus on overlooked areas in a community where space is tight.

“Where we’ve got what seems to be leftover or problem areas, that’s a chance to reimagine that space,” Starling said.

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