“It really is a joint effort of public-private partnership,” the former Atlanta mayor said during his annual State of Buckhead address today at the Buckhead Business Association’s weekly breakfast meeting at the City Club of Buckhead.
“I’m just humbled that the organization still has that close connection with the unofficial mayor of Buckhead,” as Massell is often referred to, said Brian McGuire, association president.
Massell said there are 44 neighborhood associations, 34 houses of worship and 13 parent-teacher associations in Buckhead.
“They have leadership in there — people who are trying to build a better environment for us all,” he said.
Massell said Buckhead’s population has increased to about 80,000 residents, with a growth spurt from 2000 to 2010 nearly four times greater than the rest of Atlanta, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Since Jan. 1, 2012, 8,391 apartment units have been added, he said.
Though an increase in residents tends to come with added traffic and crime, Massell said community leaders are working to address those issues.
The coalition was instrumental in negotiating a road project to build ramps connecting Ga. 400 south to Interstate 85 north and 85 south to 400 north, completing the interchange that was never finished when 400 was extended south of I-285 more than 20 years ago. The ramps are scheduled to open in mid-March.
“That will not only improve the flow of traffic on Ga. 400 and Interstate 85 and in doing so decrease pollution and accidents, but dramatically it will reduce the congestion on the surface streets like Sidney Marcus [Boulevard], Buford Highway and Piedmont [Road] and others,” Massell said. “That’s a tremendous benefit to the community.”
In response to the issue of increased crime, the coalition has set aside $5,000 as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for a rash of robberies and other crimes that have occurred in Buckhead since Jan. 1.
Massell said though Buckhead only represents about 20 percent of Atlanta both in population and land area, the community accounts for about 45 percent of ad valorem taxes, because the property values are higher than in other parts of the city.
While some have questioned if Buckhead should become its own city, Massell said the coalition does not support that.
“It would not be the same as these [other new cities] that are being created because they’re incorporating an unincorporated area,” he said. “We’re in an incorporated area of the city of Atlanta. To take [Buckhead] out of Atlanta — to take that 45 percent of the taxes — could bankrupt Atlanta.”
The Buckhead Business Association’s next breakfast meeting will be March 6 at 7:30 a.m. at the City Club of Buckhead, 3343 Peachtree Road, Suite 1850.