Peter Drey, who owns the company d + e = design environment, presented to members of the district’s board the benefits and projected costs of turning what board chair David Allman calls “Buckhead’s marquis” into an aesthetically appealing and pedestrian-friendly area, at the board’s monthly board meeting Tuesday at Tower Place in Buckhead.
Drey said the goals of his plan include four main points: transforming Lenox Road and 400 into a “positive experience,” creating a “Buckhead gateway” visible from a distance, using elements “adaptable for use elsewhere in Buckhead” and planning for “evolution of bridge usage over time.”
His proposed plan rounds out to cost about $5 million initially. It would include elements like light towers, which would cost about $1.9 million alone.
“The balance is a collection of installations, like ornamental fencing, gabions and pedestrian crosswalks,” Drey said.
He said there are usable raw materials already present, including “wasted concrete,” a “rhythmic pattern of concrete beams”, as well as tree canopies or “green buffers all around which create an invitation to build on that with intensified landscaping and maybe pulling greenery across.”
Denise Starling, executive director of the nonprofit Livable Buckhead, said she is hoping to have a visible entrance there, leading to the future Ga. 400 trail.
"The two things coming together really makes some sense," she said.
However, there was discussion among the board about whether or not, for safety concerns, pedestrians should be encouraged to walk there.
“The game plan will be you guys give us a feel of this concept. Then we sit down and work with the [Georgia] DOT to make sure we satisfy their requirements,” said district Executive Director Jim Durrett.
Additionally, board member Robin Loudermilk questioned if the space should be turned into a larger greenspace and made to be both “usable and aesthetic.”
“I think you’re missing a huge opportunity to cover those exposed beams,” Loudermilk said. “Should you create the little green islands for $5 million that no one can use?”
But Allman said the initial move should be “digestible,” to break up the asphalt jungle first and foremost.
“If you’re really going to think of the big idea, you should think about how you can bridge all the way up to Peachtree and have a real usable public space, but you’re talking $100 million,” Allman said. “If the eagles fly, it’ll be something to look at it. … Maybe we need to study it and put something on the shelf until we have a big funding idea.”
In other news, the board voted unanimously to approve $2,400 over the district’s budget for contributions and sponsorships, as well as $150 for professional registration and dues.
Starling and Durrett requested an updated de-commitment of $519,541.46 from the district toward the Buckhead Uptown Connection shuttle program, down from $585,269, and the board approved it unanimously.
Additionally, Durrett introduced a walkable urban places study, in which Buckhead will collaborate with other districts to analyze “walkability” in Buckhead and to ultimately increase it to match that of cities like Washington.
"D.C. has something like 60 to 70 existing and emerging walkable places," Durrett said. "Atlanta has, like, six."
He requested the district allocate $25,000, which was also unanimously approved.