by Dyana Bagby | Reporter Newspapers March 14, 2019
A one-mile segment in Chamblee of the planned 12-mile long Peachtree Creek Greenway is a crucial link to creating the regional multi-use path now under construction in Brookhaven, say city officials. But questions when the link will be built, and by whom, remain unknown at this time.
The Peachtree Creek Greenway nonprofit advocacy group held a March 7 meeting at an office building at Century Center. Century Center is a private office park at the southernmost tip of Chamblee bordering Brookhaven and is where nearly all of Chamblee’s portion of the Greenway would be constructed. But Chamblee City Council members attending the meeting said building the section, even if it is just one mile, is not a simple task.
The meeting was called to boost advocacy for the Greenway in Chamblee and follows a misunderstanding that the city was leaving the trail out of a new transportation plan, including a social-media spat the mayor called inflammatory.
“There’s a lack of understanding that almost all of area is entirely on private property,” Councilmember Thomas Hogan said at the meeting. “This is not something the city can necessitate unilaterally even if we wanted to.”
Chamblee is currently undertaking a multi-modal transportation plan and the Greenway is slated to be included as part of that plan, Hogan said. The city is focusing much of its efforts on extensions of its Rail Trail, a paved pedestrian and bicycle path in downtown Chamblee that connects its residential and commercial districts to Kenswick Park and the Chamblee MARTA station.
Extension plans for the Rail Trail include incorporating it into a Peachtree Road streetscape project and connecting it to a multi-use trail in Doraville. There are also plans to connect the Rail Trail to the Greenway that is slated to eventually connect to the Atlanta BeltLine.
Hogan said the city has no idea when Highwoods Properties, developer of Century Center, plans to redevelop its property that would include making way for the Greenway. The Greenway, he said, “is fundamentally going to happen when the developer is ready to do it.”
Jim Bacchetta, vice president of Highwoods in Atlanta, said in a recent interview his company is dedicated to bringing the Greenway to fruition, but did not have a concrete timeline for redevelopment of the office park.
It is incumbent on Chamblee officials to ensure its plans for connectivity include an alternative plan should it take 10 to 15 years before the “vital connection” of the Greenway in Chamblee is built, Hogan said at the meeting. The city’s multi-modal plan is intended to plan for pathways to all city parks and to DeKalb-Peachtree Airport, its downtown business district and to green spaces in the northern section of the city.
The Greenway remains a high priority of all Chamblee officials, Hogan added. “We are 1,000 percent dedicated to making this happen,” he said.
Chamblee Councilmember John Mesa said it is also important for Peachtree Creek Greenway advocates to not only focus on the Greenway because where it would be constructed if isolated from where residents live, work and play. Instead, he suggested, more advocacy should be focused on how the Greenway would connect to the Rail Trail in the city’s downtown center.
“If you look at the Greenway by itself, you lose 75 percent of the citizens of Chamblee,” he said.
Betsy Eggers, board chair for the Peachtree Creek Greenway nonprofit group, said while the Chamblee portion of the Greenway is small, it is critical to the overall vision. She said more community help from the others cities and DeKalb County is needed to make the Greenway a reality.
“This is a tiny little piece down at the south of city and is just one mile of the Greenway,” she said. “But for rest of the community it is really important to provide connectivity. It is a priority to the rest of us interested in connecting this whole long trail.”
The Greenway has been on the books in some form since 1999 when it was included in a DeKalb County multi-use trail plan. Eggers and the Peachtree Creek Greenway group have dubbed the approximate 12-mile long path as being the “A, B, C and D” of a regional trail system by connecting Atlanta, Brookhaven, Chamblee and past Mercer University in unincorporated DeKalb County.
When the Peachtree Creek Greenway advocacy group formed in 2013, its focus was on building the approximate 3-mile stretch in Brookhaven. The “model mile” in Brookhaven between Briarwood Road and North Druid Hills Road broke ground in December and is slated to be finished by the end of this year.
The second phase, which has already received a $2.7 million Atlanta Regional Commission grant, is slated to be built from North Druid Hills Road to the Atlanta border in Buckhead; the third phase is to be built from Briarwood Road to the Chamblee border. Brookhaven has committed to build all three sections as part of a $35 million Peachtree Creek Greenway master plan approved in 2016.