New projects mean change for Buckhead, Sandy Springs

This will be the year of creating a downtown out of thin air, attempting to reset a tangled mess of a central business district, a corporate headquarters opening its doors on the grounds of what had been the last great Atlanta estate and Georgia’s effort to build a better golf course.

These are projects that will either wrap up this year or, in one case, will hopefully take root in a meaningful way. They will all be transformational for our neighborhoods, for their cities and for the region. The big question is will they improve our community?

The Mayson family land bisected by Abernathy Road totaling 76 acres was put on the market in 2014. On that property sat a stately old home, Glenridge Hall, which dated back to 1929. The property sold, the historic home razed.

The single sliver of sunshine from this otherwise completely depressing and demoralizing tale is in the buyer: Mercedes-Benz USA. The German auto maker will open its North American headquarters on the site – not of the home itself, but on the former Mayson property – this year. The $93 million project is expected to house as many as 1,000 employees.

There were some incentives to get the luxury car maker to set up shop in Sandy Springs, but I expect this will be a good thing.

The made-from-scratch Sandy Springs downtown, City Springs, officially wraps up this year. This is the 15-acre site at the intersection of Roswell Rood and Mount Vernon Highway that housed my beloved Waffle House and a rapidly deteriorating Target store. Over the last three years, developers have built government offices, apartments, a performing arts space and parks totaling about $229 million in investment.

If there ever was a downtown of Sandy Springs, it was nearby, the area surrounding the Williams-Payne House. The springs from which the community draws its name are within a stone’s throw – a really good throw – of the new development.

City Springs is on the highest ridge on Roswell Road. It is cool-looking and I imagine – I hope – it will be well-received and well-used by residents.

In Buckhead, which has never suffered from too little use, the Buckhead Community Improvement District is trying to get its arms around the traffic, connectivity and greenspace issues that have plagued the area for the last two decades. It is called Buckhead Redefined.

There have been community meetings. Plans have been unveiled and tweaked. It is a transformational vision. The highlights are a string of parks that would connect the Atlanta History Center to Lenox Square, and some big changes to Georgia 400 access.

Buckhead Redefined is incredibly exciting. It will require some real leadership. I am eternally an optimist. Even so, there are so many competing interests that I have my doubts. For the curious, I encourage you to Google “Buckhead Redefined.” A lot of work has gone into this, and the more people – like you – who get behind it, the better its chances.

And finally, the state has taken a sledgehammer to Bobby Jones Golf Course in Buckhead. In the fall of this year, we will see what a $23 million renovation looks like. It will have a new clubhouse, which will feature the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame. There will be a parking deck, much to the delight of Haynes Manor residents. And the course itself will be a reversible, nine-hole one with a driving range.

Personally, I would have preferred a scalpel. There were plans to tweak the design, make it safer. This is a much bigger solution, and I am curious to see what becomes of the old clubhouse. If we, as a community, do not find a use for it I fear for its future.

This year will undoubtedly be one for the history books. I’m excited to see these momentous projects and concepts move forward, and to see how they will continue to transform our communities.

Thornton Kennedy

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