The Buckhead Community Improvement District is looking at the finish line of its biggest project to improve Peachtree Road, but is gearing up for multiple projects that will extend its lifespan for years into the future.
The Perimeter Community Improvement Districts also are making headway on projects, and Communications and Development Consultant Susan Long said she doesn’t “see any end in sight” for transportation projects in the Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and DeKalb County area.
Buckhead CID Executive Director Jim Durrett is certain the CID is here to stay. Its future plans include walking bridges, green spaces and zoning changes. And years after that, the tax money the CID collects from businesses within the district will be used to maintain the structures the CID is building with it now, Durrett said.
“We’re responsible for the upkeep of all of the investments we’ve made,” he said. “There will be a point where we’re budgeting more and more dollars to the maintenance. There will be new needs that will be recognized down the road.”
The avid cyclist and MARTA board of directors member uses his hands to illustrate the finer points of the big projects the CID has planned for the future. Peachtree is in its second phase and Durrett hopes the third final phase will begin in 2012. The project included wider sidewalks, better medians and bike lanes.
“Phase 3 is the last part of the Big Kahuna,” Durrett said. He said Phase 3 would pick up where Phase 1 of the project began – at Maple Drive Northeast and stretch southward toward West Shadowlawn Avenue Northeast. He said it would include new traffic signals, sidewalks and shade trees.
Much of the CID’s funding comes from a property tax paid by the commercial property owners. In 2010, that brought in $4.43 million according to CID records, and the money is leveraged with other sources of money, such as grants.
Once the Peachtree project is complete, the Buckhead CID plans to take that money and spend it on a variety of different projects.
“The PCIDs have contributed $5.5 million to build an access ramp north and an exit ramp south between Hammond Drive and Ga. 400,” Long said via e-mail. “The Georgia Department of Transportation has funded a new, nine-lane bridge, replacing the previous four-lane Hammond Drive Bridge across Ga. 400 with an auxiliary lane to Abernathy.”
Other projects include:
• Peachtree Dunwoody North – Improving and upgrading sidewalks and intersections on Peachtree Dunwoody Road from I-285 to Mt. Vernon Highway. Completion: Fall 2011.
• Fulton Phase I – Project improves and upgrades sidewalks and intersections along Peachtree Dunwoody Road at Northpark Place, at Costco access, and at four intersections along Mt. Vernon Highway. Completion: January 2012.
• I-285 – Ashford-Dunwoody Road Interchange – The “Diverging Diamond” design concept, the first of its kind in Georgia, will be constructed to relieve congestion along Ashford-Dunwoody Road and in the road’s interchange with I-285. Construction is expected to start in the fall. Completion: summer 2012.
The next big project Buckhead residents will see is a planned pedestrian bridge across Ga. 400 that will connect to a new entrance to the Buckhead MARTA station. Durrett said the project, estimated to cost more than $20 million, will most likely begin by the end of the year. CID funds will be shored up with Federal Transportation grants and money from the city of Atlanta, Durrett said.
Other projects the Buckhead CID is involved in aren’t quite as visible. The CID recently finished a project to rezone the Buckhead Village area to encourage development. Another project to rezone the core of Buckhead centered on Ga. 400 is under way, Durrett said.
Other future projects include a pedestrian and biking trail down Ga. 400 and a redesign of the intersection of West Paces Ferry, Roswell and Peachtree roads.
“The strength of a CID is we’re able to attract other partners so that money can be stretched to go further,” Durrett said.
Long said “maybe in 100 years” the Perimeter CIDs will become maintenance only, but for now there are plenty of transportation projects in the districts’ future.
Atlanta City Councilwoman Yolanda Adrean said CIDs in general will be around for a long time to handle specific road projects. Whether the Buckhead CID will work further south on Peachtree is uncertain, she said, because business interests there are “not as deep.”
“If you drive south along the corridor, I don’t know if the business base is deep enough to support it,” Adrean said. “It would require a concerted effort by everyone. There’s a lot of density where they are right now. There’s a lot of strong support in the business community.”