Mired in a traffic jam in the heart of Buckhead, I had doubts about ambitions to make the area a walkable urban oasis.
The effort to turn Buckhead into a mini-Manhattan is lurching forward with construction of another high-rise near the triangle where Buckhead supposedly was founded.
Near the traffic chokepoint where Atlanta's signature Peachtree Road veers away from Roswell Road and West Paces Ferry juts in, the new colossus rises where low-rise buildings once stood, housing longtime Buckhead businesses like Chuck's Firearms, Hi-Fi Buys and the Fish Hawk.
The new building abuts San Diego developer OliverMcMillan's shops of Buckhead, a "live-work-play" project that has sputtered since its opening. The development was touted as a pardigm of walkability and New Urbanist ecstasy. As my car fumed in the traffic, I observed that construction workers in their day-glo vests and hard hats outnumbered cool Millennials.
A Google search revealed that the new project that often blocks lanes on Peachtree is backed by the old-Atlanta Loudermilk family, which has regained its dominance of the Buckhead "village" after losing control a couple of years ago.
Along with the new building rising on the East Paces Ferry corner, the Loudermilks are finishing off an apartment high-rise on the west side of Peachtree besides the Buckhead Theater, which they also own.
Rather than enhancing walkability, these projects have increased auto traffic forced to go through the bottleneck at the square named for family patriarch Charlie Loudermilk. A statue of Mr. Charlie presides over the rarely used park, surrounded by turgid rivers of traffic.
Ardor for high-density walkable development rages in cities across the United States, often with negative results. The fever also burns a few hundred miles away from Atlanta in Nashville, as New Yorker writer Justin Davidson diagnoses in a piece for New York magazine.
As I sat in the clogged traffic, I remembered desultory plans to run a streetcar line up Peachtree. That brought the expected howls from Peachtree merchants and condo developers, represented by the Buckhead CID, whose board consists of developers like Robin Loudermilk, Charlie's son.
As Buckhead reaches its saturation point for new buildings, and high rises sprout in the nearby suburb of Sandy Springs just out Roswell Road, the Ressler brothers want to bring the urban buzz to downtown Atlanta. Richard Ressler, the brother of Hawks owner Tony Ressler, seeks to develop a "live-work-play" monstrosity in the Gulch, long a frightening concrete wasteland.
According to an article by the AJC's intrepid Scott Trubey, it appears that Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and council members want to aid the Resslers' dubious plan by closing down the Eastside tax allocation district and give the benefits to the ultra wealthy Resslers. The Eastside TAD, one of several in Atlanta that use a clever tax scheme to funnel public money to developers, pledged to build affordable housing, which doesn't seem an option for the Resslers.
Some seem to believe that the Ressler plan will entice Jeff Bezos to place his second Amazon headquarters in the Gulch.
I'm skeptical that a man worth billions would tie his fortunes to that desolate place in the shadow of railroad tracks.
My advice to Mr. Bezos: Look at Buckhead. The Loudermilks are always ready to make a deal. And Buckhead folks are used to sitting in traffic.