Brookwood Alliance plans revived
A map from the Brookwood Alliance plan shows the neighborhoods adjacent to Peachtree Road in south Buckhead. There is new momentum to see the plan’s suggestions become part of the city of Atlanta’s zoning code for this area. Ideas include taming traffic by creating dedicated left-turn lanes, encouraging developers to build vertically, and making the area more bike- and pedestrian-friendly. Students from the Georgia Institute of Technology’s architecture school have assisted the Alliance, creating the Brookwood Plan. This year there may be a draft zoning ordinance based on the plan’s recommendations.
A proposal to change south Buckhead’s relationship with Peachtree Road looked like it was headed in the direction of many similar studies: a PDF stored on the hard drive of a planner’s computer.
The Brookwood Alliance refused to let it die.
Now there’s a renewed push to get the city of Atlanta to adopt the proposals as part of the city code, more than a year after the last serious discussions about it.
Alliance Chairman Joe Gardner said while the publicity died down, the promoters of the idea soldiered on behind the scenes. Five neighborhoods around Peachtree make up the Alliance: Ardmore Park, Collier Hills, Collier Hills North, Brookwood and Brookwood Hills.
“We have been working closely with the city exploring what next steps might occur, and for various reasons we explored a number of different options, but I think the time is right now to move ahead with the plan,” Gardner said.
So what would Peachtree Road in south Buckhead look like if the plan were in place?
It involves narrowing Peachtree’s driving lanes to two from the current six. The remaining four turn into dedicated left turn lanes and on-street parking, or some variation of that concept implemented along the road. The proposal calls for pushing buildings upward so they become more vertical and leave space in between so sunlight can shine through into the neighborhoods behind them.
The city would make the sidewalks wider. The bikers would have a lane. The residents’ neighborhoods would achieve some level of peace and quiet, or at least as much as they could expect living in a big city.
“The best way to think about what we’re trying to accomplish is to think of the design of streets in both Buckhead and Midtown,” Gardner said. “That’s the same sort of idea we’re going to put into focus here and this portion of Peachtree. It would really just be a continuation of the same sort of configuration that’s been highly successful in Midtown.”
The neighborhoods haven’t been on their own in their effort. Piedmont Hospital has been supportive. Architecture students at the Georgia Institute of Technology created the initial plan for free, though Gardner and his group made a $5,000 donation to the school’s foundation to show their gratitude.
David Green, an architecture professor who also works in his field when not teaching, said this semester three of the students who drafted the plan in 2010 are back in his studio. They’ve picked up where they left off, he said.
Green called Brookwood’s dilemma an “interesting situation” that gave his students opportunities to practice their trade. He said whether the effort succeeds or not will depend on how receptive the city is.
“I think the city has been very interested,” Green said. “I will say that this is a student project, so we have to work hand in hand with the city staff if they decide to move forward with this, and take advantage of their expertise in these processes.”
Gardner said the plan is in Phase 2, which began in January. He said the students will conduct a property-by-property analysis geared toward addressing the concerns of how to balance commercial with residential.
“They’ll be working with property owners on a parcel-by-parcel basis to test out this zoning configuration and how we need to develop it to make it work better for the commercial property owners as well as the neighborhood,” Gardner said. “I don’t think anybody in the neighborhood wants to infringe on the rights of commercial property owners.”
Gardner said there will be a draft ordinance available this year, perhaps as early as May. Where it goes from there is up to city leaders.
Green said the worst-case scenario of the city never implementing the changes wouldn’t be a total loss for the neighborhoods or the students. The ideas could work for other parts of the city.
“We’re hoping it would be a model for a mixed-use district that’s appropriate for both commercial development and single-family neighborhoods,” he said. “And we’re doing it for free. Nobody can complain about the price.”