By: Tonya Layman | Atlanta Business Chronicle – With two suburban-like shopping malls and several parking-lot-heavy shopping centers surrounded by office buildings and hotels, Buckhead is not known as the most pedestrian-friendly community in Atlanta. But that is changing, and a number of high-rise residential developments hitting the market are playing a role in that transformation.
According to Denise Starling, executive director of Livable Buckhead, developers are seeing the value in vertical development.
“Essentially what is happening in Buckhead, all the new high-rise developments have created a new neighborhood, a whole new group of people turning our streets into a 24/7 need. The new residents in our commercial core have created walkers within the district,” she said. “Developers are looking at the demands and seeing there is a need and that they will do well here.” Therefore, more development is slated for the community – a lot more, she said.
Atlanta Business Chronicle has reported previously on several Buckhead projects. Atlas Capital Ventures has plans to build a 32-story hotel and condo tower at Peachtree and Peachtree Dunwoody roads, while Kolter Urban is building the 22-story The Graydon Buckhead. The Ardent Cos. has a high-rise project set for a nearly one-acre property at Lenox and East Paces Ferry that could include apartments. Mill Creek Residential plans to build a 21-story apartment tower on a recently purchased 3.8 acre tract, expanding its Modera Prominence project on the Buckhead Loop. Varden Capital Properties is redeveloping the 16-story Darlington Apartments in south Buckhead, and The Charles is a 20-story, 57-unit, $115 million luxury project located at Peachtree and East Paces Ferry Roads that was completed last fall by Atlanta-based The Loudermilk Co. In April, Portman Holdings announced a plan to embark on a $300 million redevelopment in Buckhead Village that will include a hotel and up to 225 high-end apartments.
For Starling and her team at Livable Buckhead, creating a safe, walkable environment is top of mind, and doable.
“We are looking at ways for walking to become an experience instead of just a mode of transportation,” she said, adding that they are utilizing street-level retail activation, streetscape enhancements, creative programming and the use of artwork to accomplish that goal.
Geoff Koski, president of Bleakly Advisory Group, has for years kept a close eye on Buckhead’s residential offerings, including the recent increase in high-rise housing opportunities.
“Significant demand for high-rise living in Buckhead has been driven largely by the professional class employment” there, he said. “Not everyone who works there wants to live in a high-rise next door, but there are significant numbers who do, and we know the leadership of Buckhead has embraced the additional residential.”
More people living and working in the district will ultimately keep people out of their cars, which would help with Buckhead’s traffic problems, he added. Having more high-rise condos and apartments also follows a national trend, Koski said, where “old school retail is struggling” and repositioning itself into more mixed-use concepts.
For example, noted, “We are seeing plans for new residential at Lenox and already have some residential on the property of Phipps.”
According to Bleakly reports, there are about 1,600 residential units under construction within the Buckhead Community Improvement District (CID), along the Peachtree Road spine, with another 3,000 proposed units.
“That is good news for the overall city of Atlanta,” Koski said. “Buckhead represents about 12 percent of the overall Atlanta tax digest, but with the development that has occurred there in the last 10 years, they have added 17 percent of Atlanta’s tax digest growth. They are contributing more than their fair share of the growth and that is largely because of the new residential happening there.”
This growth does not come without challenges. Both Starling and Koski agreed that getting the long-time Buckhead residents to adapt to new neighbors has been a struggle, and as the residential segment of the population grows, the area’s infrastructure has to keep up with the demand.
A positive on the infrastructure side are Buckhead’s two MARTA stations – Buckhead and Lenox – as well as its proximity to GA-400, Koski said.
The demographics of Buckhead are changing, Starling said, adding that the area is misunderstood.
“The perception [of the residents] is rich, old and white, and that is not the case. When you look at our commercial core and daytime population, we already have a mix of people in Buckhead, so that is a huge opportunity, and the high-rise residential is helping with that,” she said. “We just have to make sure we have a diversification of costs and that units are affordable to the average Joe.”
Buckhead at a glance
• Buckhead has gained over 5,000 new residents since 2000. 10% of Atlanta’s new residents since 2000 live in Buckhead.
• Since 2000, Buckhead has been growing at a 4.4% growth rate, over six times the citywide rate.
• Buckhead is home to Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza, which contribute to the more than 1,400 retail units there. Some 40% of shoppers to Buckhead come from more than 100 miles away.
• For transportation, the area is 18 miles from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, has two MARTA stations (Buckhead and Lenox) and sits at the beginning of GA-400. Brookhaven MARTA station also can be considered part of Buckhead.
• There are 43 “officially designated” neighborhoods in Buckhead, including North Buckhead, Tuxedo Park, Brookwood, Peachtree Battle Alliance, Garden Hills and Chastain Park. Its neighborhood coalition comprises about 75% of its residents.
SOURCE: Atlanta Business Chronicle