Last week, the Buford Highway Steering Committee met for the first time to brainstorm ways to transform the corridor.
“The city is 15 months old and is very aggressive in our planning efforts right now,” said City Manager Marie Garrett, who serves as the staff liaison on the committee. “This study will be part of the greater comprehensive plan.”
Dale Jaeger, landscape architect with The Jaeger Company and Jim Hartling, partner with Urban Partners, were there to present to the committee regarding their prospective expertise in assisting the city with the future redevelopment of the area.
Jaeger said city leaders and the community have an interest in Buford Highway, which is a gateway into the city. The focus is primarily on employment, living, retail and dining, with creating sustainable redevelopment opportunities and diverse workforce initiatives, she said.
After completing the three-mile walk of the corridor herself, Jaeger said she could feel the diversity of the population, which she said is an exciting aspect.
Speaking on that, committee member Luke Anderson said no other hub in the area has the diversity that Buford Highway has.
“It would be nice to have an area that people around Atlanta would want to go there,” he said. “It just strikes as an opportunity for something there.”
While Jaeger is focused on the look and feel of the corridor, Hartling’s expertise is dealing with the economic base of the area and how that might translate for an opportunity to improve certain projects.
Hartling said there has been a very strong housing development occur on the periphery of Buford Highway that seems to be getting positive market response.
Other factors include the heavily Latino community market, which Hartling said should be incorporated as a market niche in part of the overall plan, as well as the various levels of commercial properties along the corridor.
“I think it’s crucial in understanding how underperforming properties can become more developable,” he said. “Smaller underperforming properties put together can become much more attractive to developers. We’re looking for those economic opportunities to create enough value to support transformation of these properties.”
Councilman Joe Gebbia, whose District 4 includes the corridor, said it is not a one-size-fits-all plan and that officials will have to prioritize what comes first.
“Buford Highway is what it is today because the market has spoken — so enhance those market forces without really upsetting what’s really there,” he said. “In my mind they’re a great workforce so that could be a resource for economic development.”
Gebbia mentioned several ideas that could help transform the area, including turning the Peachtree Creek area into a park — which the area lacks — and making it into a statement park for Brookhaven, partnered with the Atlanta Beltline.
The committee members all agreed that maintaining the international aspect of Buford Highway was important to any future redevelopment.
“I would like to see a concerted effort with the Hispanic community for us to understand what their desires are and what their aspirations would be — because without that we’re going to fail,” said committee member Pat Hoban.