Building for Today and Tomorrow
By Jim Durrett – executive director, Buckhead Community Improvement District
I tend to wake early. As I lie in bed, trying not to disturb my wife Pat and hoping that it is after 4 a.m. and (please!) closer to 5 o’clock, where once I reflected on my good fortune and opportunity, I now sometimes experience a twinge of anxiety as I consider the day ahead, how to navigate this sui generis moment and deliver on my promise to improve conditions in my orbit.
In the world of community improvement districts, the time it takes to get from idea to implementation of a solution can take multiple years, if not decades. When the world suddenly changes, as it has in the past few months, you should ask yourself the question, “Is what we are working on right now the right thing to do given the uncertain future before us?” In other words, might future conditions in the public realm require some other response inconsistent with what you are about to do?
My conclusion regarding our mission in Buckhead – to make meaningful improvements in the transportation network and public realm that connect people and places, and thereby create and maintain a safe, accessible and livable urban environment – is that what we are doing is still absolutely necessary in a COVID-19 world.
So, what are we doing? A LOT! You can go to our website to learn about everything that we invest our tax dollars in to improve our 2.5 square miles. But I want to focus on seven capital improvement projects underway right now that you can see from Peachtree.
East Paces Ferry, between Roxboro and Lenox roads, has long been known as a bumpy ride. When the City of Atlanta proposed repaving of the road using Renew Atlanta funding, the CID jumped at the opportunity to partner with the City and combine resources to repave the road from Roxboro to GA 400 and redesign it for people – not just cars. As of last week, it is now 100% complete, with final road striping just applied.
Also included in the Renew Atlanta bond program was funding to address Americans with Disability Act (ADA) requirements throughout the city. Again, we jumped at the opportunity to partner and by mid-summer we will have finished repairing and upgrading sidewalks, ramps and street crossings on Maple Drive, Pharr Road, Piedmont Road, Roswell Road, Lenox Road, and Peachtree.
We call the area bounded by West Paces Ferry, East Andrews Drive and Roswell Road the West Village. Sidewalks are in poor condition, if not absent, the streets have needed re-paving for a while, and the area has experienced severe flooding in recent years due to a lack of sufficient stormwater infrastructure. Construction is now underway to vastly improve the walkability of this area, improve the streetscapes and address flooding. Work should be substantially complete by November.
The Buckhead CID’s creation 20 years ago was spawned out of a desire to address the traffic sewer that Peachtree, Atlanta’s “Main Street,” had become. The CID was behind the transformation of Peachtree from Maple Drive, just west of Piedmont, up to Peachtree Dunwoody Road. This month, we will kick off the construction of the third phase of Peachtree’s transformation from Maple Drive to Shadowlawn. This project should be complete by September of 2021.
Travel a block north on Peachtree and you arrive at the intersection with Piedmont. We have almost finished redesigning the Piedmont corridor between Peachtree and Lenox roads to improve traffic flow while better accommodating people on foot and on bicycles. Construction of this project is projected to begin in the summer of 2021. I will be writing more about this project in a few weeks to give you a view into how complicated and complex a project of this magnitude can be.
Lenox Road is a major artery into Buckhead from the south and from GA 400. We are in the process of redesigning Lenox Road, from the Lenox MARTA station, on East Paces Ferry Road, all the way up to and across Peachtree. I am very excited about this project because of a particular element that we are incorporating: a generous bicycle and pedestrian facility on the west side of Lenox Road right next to Lenox Square (see the rendering). In the coming years, we will carry the effort further north, but for now, the project’s design is 60% complete with construction targeted for late 2021 or early 2022.
Head toward Brookhaven on Peachtree, past Phipps Plaza, and you come to the Wieuca Road intersection. Turn left on Wieuca and you come to a confusing and unsafe intersection where Wieuca splits off to the right and Phipps Boulevard bends to the left. We are partnering with the City of Atlanta to design and build a multi-lane roundabout at this location. We spent nearly two years determining that a roundabout was the best alternative here and we are now close to completing the preliminary design. Construction could begin as early as the end of 2021.
When all of these projects are completed in just a few more years, Buckhead will be more walkable, accessible and safe for people on foot, on bicycles and in vehicles. To deliver these seven vital projects, from initial studies through construction, we will have spent $52 million in local, state and federal tax and bond dollars with $32 million coming from the CID, resulting in a better built environment for the people of Atlanta and those who come to visit us here in Buckhead.