The chair of a new nonprofit formed to oversee the creation of a park capping Ga. 400 in Buckhead said she does not anticipate raising or creating taxes for the project.
“We do not want to raise taxes or anything like that for this project,” said Barbara Kaufman Fleming, an entrepreneur and former MARTA board member newly named as the park nonprofit chair.
The Buckhead Community Improvement District, a group of self-taxing property owners who came up with the idea for the park, announced on Jan. 7 the members of the nonprofit that would manage the project’s fundraising, operation and construction. The placeholder name of the nonprofit is POG 400, LLC.
The proposed park would cap Ga. 400 between Peachtree and Lenox roads, provide green space and bring a redesigned Buckhead MARTA Station.
The budget estimate from a CID study is $250 million.
The board hopes to raise $15 million by June 1 to hire engineers and other consultants to begin designing the park.
“We’re not going to even start until we have that in the bank,” Fleming said.
Fleming said the board anticipates funding the park with $75 million from private sources, including the philanthropic and corporate donations. The remaining amount, $175 million, would come from public money, including the city of Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Transportation, MARTA, federal funds and other grants.
The board may use a funding mechanism similar to the brick campaign used to fund construction of Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta that allowed people to have their names etched into bricks used in the park, she said.
“We want to get the entire city excited about it,” she said.
A special tax district for neighboring residential and commercial tenants was previously floated in the CID’s park studies. Fleming acknowledged that the General Assembly is considering legislation that could create new tax districts that could be used to fund the park and other projects, but said neither the nonprofit or the CID is behind it.
Since the park’s inception, it has been referred to as the “Park over Ga. 400,” but discussing the name is on the next meeting’s agenda, Fleming said. But they may decide to leave the name as-is until someone buys naming rights to the park.
Coxe Curry & Associates, a consulting firm, is contacting “major players” in the city that could be interested in the naming rights, but Fleming would not say who that could include.
“We are fairly confident we’ll be able to raise the money fairly quickly,” she said.
The estimated schedule remains the same as previously released, with two-and-a-half years of planning and designing the park, and two-and-a-half years constructing it, she said.
Most of the newly named board members hold high-level positions in organizations including the automobile business, real estate, engineering and activism for women’s equality. Jim Bacchetta, who represents Highwoods Properties on the CID board, is also a member of the nonprofit.
Other board members include Mark Hennessy, the co-owner of Hennessy Automobile Company; Maxine Hicks, a partner and head of the Atlanta real estate practice at DLA Piper; Theia Smith, the founding executive director of the city of Atlanta’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Initiative; and Jerry C. “Jay” Wolverton Jr., CEO of the engineering firm Wolverton & Associates. The board voted Fleming to be its chair.
“I am honored that these incredibly talented Atlanta professionals are lending their expertise to the board that will oversee the development of Atlanta’s Park over Ga. 400,” Jim Durrett, the executive director of the Buckhead CID, said in the release. Durrett is a MARTA board member with whom Fleming served.
Fleming, who described herself as a “serial entrepreneur,” is a motivational speaker who owns a small business consulting firm called BBK Enterprises. In the 1990s, she cofounded Chapter 11* The Discount Bookstore, a chain that has since closed. She is a member of Georgia State University’s Board of Advisors.
Fleming said she is a strong supporter of the park because it would increase walkability in the area, provide connections to current and future trail networks and build a park in a part of Buckhead where there isn’t one.
“This is a park for the city of Atlanta. It is not a Buckhead park,” she said. “It is going to bring people from everywhere.”
“To use a space that is unusable by anything else is brilliant,” she added.
She said the board plans to host more public meetings, create a project website and be active on social media to gather more input from the public.