The Buckhead Plaza office and commercial complex needs a better namesake, according to co-owner Cousins Properties, which plans to remake the central plaza and exterior streetscape with public art, a bicycle commuting facility and more.
Cousins’ plan for the prime property in the heart Buckhead at West Paces Ferry and Peachtree roads got a positive response on Jan. 8 from the Development Review Committee of Special Public Interest District 9, a local zoning district. Cousins believes it needs no zoning variances and is aiming to start construction in March and April on the 12- to 14-month makeover.
Charles Zakem, the project’s engineer, said that “we intend to remove, improve and replace” virtually all of the hardscape in and around the complex, which currently consists mostly of pavers, some interior trees and an unused miniature amphitheater. The overall amount of greenspace will be similar, he said, but one goal is to provide better signage and a more appealing atmosphere along with some programmed events to attract patrons.
The complex is anchored by the One Buckhead Plaza office tower on West Paces Ferry and the Two Buckhead Plaza office building on Peachtree. It also includes standalone buildings for the restaurants Chops Lobster Bar and King + Duke, and a parking deck accessed from Buckhead Avenue. The plaza, which includes open space and storefronts, runs behind One Buckhead Plaza and the restaurants.
Modular pavers will be replaced with “decorative concrete,” Zakem said, and new trees will be planted. At the request of DRC members, John McColl, Cousins’ executive vice president for development, said the company will consider ways to save and replant the existing trees elsewhere.
Among the bigger changes in the plan are flattening the amphitheater and replacing it with artificial turf; installing several sculptures by two artists, one local and one regional; and creating a traffic turnaround circle with a sculpture in the center at the end of the driveway off Buckhead Avenue.
Beneath the King + Duke restaurant is a retail space built into the hillside. McColl said the awkward space made it “very difficult” for retail tenants. Cousins will turn that space into a “bicycle facility” for commuters and visitors of the entire complex, including parking and showers, and possibly charging for electric scooters. “For lack of a better word, we call it the bird’s nest,” McColl said.
The plan also calls for bike and scooter parking along Peachtree Road.
Improved wayfinding signs are another element, including large ones to lure visitors up a stairway on West Paces Ferry.
McColl said Cousins would like to partner on programming with the adjacent St. Regis Atlanta hotel on West Paces Ferry. One possibility, he said, is moving its annual temporary ice skating rink onto the plaza.
A separate project noted on the plan is a potential expansion of Chops. McColl said that project – an expansion of around 1,100 to 1,200 square feet and a repainting – is not a done deal and would need to be permitted separately.