Anatomy of a Community Improvement District Capital Improvement: Piedmont Road
By Jim Durrett, Executive Director and Tony Peters, Director of Capital Projects and Programs
While we know that some people may not know what a Community Improvement District is or what it does, we thought that we could illustrate the impact that a CID has on a community by delving into detail on one significant project.
In 2008, the Buckhead Community Improvement District (BCID), what was then the Buckhead Area Transportation Management Association, now Livable Buckhead, the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT), the City of Atlanta, and stakeholders within the Buckhead community completed a comprehensive transportation study of the Piedmont Corridor from I-85 to Roswell Road. Since then, numerous improvements have been completed within this corridor to benefit both mobility and accessibility within the district.
One of the identified opportunities was to widen Piedmont Road from Peachtree Road to Lenox Road converting it from a five-lane typical section (two travel lanes in each direction with a dedicated middle turn lane) to a seven-lane typical section with three lanes in each direction with a dedicated middle turn lane with an 8-10 foot multi-purpose path on the west side of this section of Piedmont Road. If we could be successful in accomplishing this heavy lift, we could eliminate a choke point for automobiles within the corridor, improve the streetscape, and greatly improve opportunities for people on foot and on two wheels.
In 2017, the BCID along with our sponsor, the City of Atlanta, applied for federal funds through an open call for projects from the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) to fund the design and engineering phase of the project. We were successful in receiving that funding in 2018. To be eligible to receive federal funds, a local match of at least 20% of the cost of the project needs to be funded locally. The BCID provided that funding. We did a competitive qualifications-based request for proposals to select a transportation engineering design firm and in late 2018 we entered into a professional services agreement with Croy Engineering.
In 2018 and 2019, we got to work identifying other funding sources to leverage with our BCID tax dollars to pay for the work to be done after the project’s design and engineering phase. That work includes significant utility relocation, acquiring needed right-of-way, and the ultimate construction of the new road and streetscapes. We were able to attract funding commitments from the City of Atlanta’s Renew/TSPLOST Transportation Infrastructure Programs, a grant from the Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank, and funding from the Georgia DOT by way of monies from House Bill 170 funding. Ultimately, six different funding sources, including BCID tax dollars, were cobbled together to make this improvement possible.
Once the engineering design process began, we took the preemptive approach of starting dialogue with the property owners on the west side of Piedmont Road where all the widening will occur, and the multi-use path will be constructed.
The intent of this early coordination was to learn from these property owners of any short-, mid- and long-term development or improvement plans that we could then accommodate within our design. This approach has proven incredibly valuable as more than half of them were either underway with a new development or enhancement or about to embark on one.
The early coordination with these property owners then allowed us to engage Georgia Power at the onset of the project, knowing that it would require us to relocate four large transmission poles, not an easy or inexpensive task. Because we had assumed the role of the lead coordinator for the project, this allowed us to partner with Georgia Power on the best placement for these poles for our design, for the property owners and for Georgia Power.
Another positive result of this coordination was the determination to remove the overhead clutter of the Georgia Power overhead distribution lines attached to the wood poles, and to take those utilities underground. This will be another feature of the enhanced streetscape for Piedmont, improving the overall attractiveness of the corridor and enhancing walkability.
The right-of-way plans have been approved by the Georgia DOT and we expect to be able to approach those affected property owners at the beginning of July to start the negotiation process.
Earlier this month we were made aware that we were successful with our sponsor, City of Atlanta, at getting another federal funding commitment from the Atlanta Regional Commission. This commitment will contribute towards the needed right-of-way acquisition.
The schedule calls for all the right-of-way needs to be acquired by March of 2021 and then the project will be advertised to construction bidders by the Georgia DOT in June of 2021. Construction should start in early fall of 2021 and should last 18 short months with the first major activity being Georgia Power relocating the four transmission poles and burying the overhead distribution lines attached to the wood poles below ground.
That’s a complex capital project with lots of pieces and parts. It takes partnership and collaboration, built on trust, to bring a project like this to fruition. The total cost from design through construction is estimated to be just north of $25 million. $12.8 million, or just over 50% of the total cost, will be paid for with BCID tax dollars, leveraging the remainder from our funding partners.
Taking the lead in identifying the need and benefits and putting our money where our mouth is has allowed us to leverage our tax dollars with other dollars to make improvements for everybody in the district, whether they live here, work here, shop here, or are just passing through. That’s what community improvement districts are all about, and now you know how we get it done.