The Buckhead business district behind an ambitious plan to build a park over a portion of Ga. 400 voted Wednesday to fund the next phase of study and to set up a nonprofit organization to manage future development of the $250 million project.
The 9-acre “deck park,” one of two proposed in Atlanta, would create green space and a central gathering place over a half-mile stretch of Ga. 400 from the Peachtree Road overpass to Lenox Road. Backers of the proposal have said the proposal could provide a “steroid shot” to growth, development and the livability to one of the city’s biggest jobs centers.
The concept has evolved after about two years of study, and Buckhead Community Improvement District Executive Director Jim Durrett said the time has come for the project to move into its next phase and be steered by a dedicated organization – something akin to the Piedmont Park Conservancy — that can manage fundraising, sponsorships, permitting and development.
“The goal would be for us to truly hand this off to the new entity where they could count on some funding from the CID to help stand them up and help attracting additional partners,” Durrett said in an interview.
The Buckhead CID, a self-taxing business district, voted to spend up to $262,500 to continue its contract with the concept’s designers, a team led by Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers, through the end of 2017. The group also plans to establish the nonprofit steering organization to manage design, permitting, engineering and construction.
The vote was narrow, a 4-3 decision. Buckhead Community Improvement District board member and City Councilman Howard Shook said he opposed the plan to move forward because of a lack of key details. Shook said he has asked numerous questions for over a year that have gone unanswered.
He also said he was concerned the vote by the board was a commitment to go forward.
“Today I think we’re making a decision to buy a new car before we know if we can afford it,’ he said.
Durrett said he the Buckhead CID would like to see such vital pre-construction work begin in January 2018, with a ground breaking or “ground-making” occur in 2020. The long-term goal is to see the park open by 2022 and be fully operational by 2023.
But there is a lot of work to do, including identifying sources of funding to build the complicated structure, which would also remake the Buckhead MARTA station.
Buckhead CID officials have previously estimated the cost to be $195 million to $245 million, and said they would seek a mix of local, state, federal, CID and private sector sources. But given the current climate in Washington, D.C., federal sources could be less likely.
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