The proposed park over Ga. 400 in Buckhead received a blow as a survey of potential park donors came back showing many are not bullish on the idea. The report recommended scaling back the donation expectations.
Initial planning has suggested that $75 million of the $250 million projected construction costs be funded by philanthropic donations. The philanthropic feasibility study, conducted by Coxe Curry & Associates, suggested that be scaled back to $25 million, with more funding coming from public sources.
Several potential donors interviewed questioned the worthiness of the park for philanthropic donations, as it would benefit surrounding private businesses. They also questioned if it is worth the large investment given that other infrastructure projects are needed in the city.
The proposed park would cap Ga. 400 between Peachtree and Lenox roads, provide green space and bring a redesigned Buckhead MARTA Station.
The Buckhead Community Improvement District, which originally envisioned the idea, set up a nonprofit to manage the park’s formation after questions over the appropriateness of the CID’s involvement as a group set up to reduce traffic congestion. However, the Coxe Curry report and other feedback suggested the CID be more closely involved because of its capacity and history of handling large-scale infrastructure projects, said Jim Durrett, the CID’s executive director.
Twenty-one potential donors were interviewed and, despite their concerns, 17 said they would consider donating to the park, according to a summary of the report read by Durrett at the May 23 CID board meeting. The names of the entities or individuals interviewed were not released.
Grants and funds are planned to be requested from several public entities, including the city of Atlanta, the Georgia Department of Transportation and MARTA. New special taxes were once floated to help fund the park, but the CID and nonprofit have since said they don’t want or expect to use taxes.
Some interviewees suggested naming rights and other sponsorships be considered to help fund the park.
Several of the concerns have been previously expressed by two CID board members, District 7 Councilmember Howard Shook and Lenox Square mall manager Robin Suggs. No comments were made by board members at the meeting. Shook was not present.
The concept and park design was viewed positively by most interviewees, but they questioned if it would help solve what they see as Buckhead’s biggest problem, which is traffic, Durrett said.
Some interviewees expressed that, although the park would connected to MARTA with the Buckhead Station located inside it, the park would likely be perceived as park for Buckhead, not the city or region as a whole, the report said.
Some wanted to know what the CID’s involvement in the project will look like going forward, which Durrett said will be determined by the board using the feedback from the report.
“Some questioned if the nonprofit was the most appropriate entity to take on the technical things that needed to be taken on in order to deliver a big capital project,” the report said.
The nonprofit board is chaired by Barbara Kaufman Fleming, an entrepreneur. Other members include business owners, an engineer and real estate attorney.
The report recommended the nonprofit serve as more of a park advocate and fundraising arm rather the project manager.
Concerns that the park would be seen as an economic benefit to the adjacent property owners hurts the case that it is “a community asset worth of philanthropic support,” the report said.
Many said the expected $250 million is a “huge investment” and questioned if it was appropriate given the other needed infrastructure investments around the city, according to the report.
Many argued that large philanthropic donations for parks are often made when the park will serve to revitalize an area. The park over 400 would be in an area already developed and economically stable.
Durrett said the consulting team is reviewing the project to see if some proposed parts, such as streetscaping, can be scaled back to lessen the costs.