Some residents on the east end of Peachtree Battle Avenue in Buckhead are concerned about the renovation of E. Rivers Elementary School and told local leaders Thursday night they believe the proposed design by Atlanta Public Schools will further worsen traffic congestion, fail to provide enough parking and pose safety hazards.
Area residents John Deering and Steven Draper, a developer and construction engineer, respectively, coordinated the meeting held at Bobby Jones Golf Course. About a dozen residents concerned about the new 112,000-square-foot school building, which will be constructed on the 8.7-acre campus of the old school site at the corner of Peachtree Battle and Peachtree Road.
With a 186-unit apartment complex also being built across the street with access to Peachtree Battle, the men said they fear traffic will grind to a halt during school drop-off and pick-up hours and parking will continue to overflow into the neighborhood unless a parking deck is built, which is not currently in the works.
“The plans do not attempt to do any kind of work on Peachtree Battle or [Peachtree] Road to help traffic,” Deering said.
E. Rivers is scheduled to be demolished in the next couple of weeks and plans to reopen to students in January 2015. The school has an enrollment of about 650 students and the new campus will be able to house up to 900.
James Worrell, head of the traffic committee for the Peachtree Battle Alliance, said there is no “silver bullet” to solve traffic woes in the area but his committee is working on ideas to improve the flow.
“There’s a lot more volume than the intersection can handle,” he said. “What we’re trying to do… is try to make it as safe and calm as it can be. There are going to be a lot of cars. There’s just no getting around it with 650 kids.”
Draper said he had concerns about newly reconfigured front and rear entrances being too narrow to offer enough room for emergency vehicles, with Deering adding the grading is possibly too steep.
“We are totally in favor of this school,” Draper said. “It’s an historic school and it’s important to this area. The important point is to make a good, safe school for the children.”
Worrell said he would like to see Peachtree Battle widened where it was artificially narrowed in front of the school to allow commuter traffic to exit onto Peachtree Road more quickly and school traffic to filter more easily onto campus.
As for the neighboring apartment complex’s addition to the traffic congestion, Peachtree Battle Alliance President David Ross said the neighborhood had “very little leverage” in working with Alliance Residential Co. developers since the complex did not require a zoning variance from the city of Atlanta. However, the complex will require all visitors to enter via Peachtree Road and deliveries and waste disposal will “be encouraged” to do the same.
“We knew that this was a perfect storm,” Ross said of the two neighboring projects.
District 4 school board member Nancy Meister said she has already brought up adding a parking deck with Superintendent Erroll Davis.
“I can’t understand why it can’t be something similar to what [the Cathedral] Christ the King has,” Meister said. “We did that for their situation there, so I am still pressing on that.”
She said would also check into grading concerns and discuss with district officials erecting a privacy fence barrier for the adjacent neighbors.
Betty Bowering, who has lived in her home next to E. Rivers for 47 years, said she thinks right turn lanes and a widened road would be good steps toward improving accessibility. She also appreciated Meister’s offer to build a privacy fence between the school and her home.
“Think of the fumes.” Bowering said. “Think of the look of the big tall buses. That’s why I want a wall.”
What’s next: E. Rivers Elementary School’s reconstructed campus will open in January 2015.