Highlights from Brookhaven’s Buford Highway Redevelopment Summit

On Wednesday, January 17th, 2024, the City of Brookhaven hosted a redevelopment summit to address its growing Buford Highway node. The event featured diverse perspectives from public officials, city planners, market analysts, and developers. The Council for Quality Growth thanks the City of Brookhaven for their partnership, and specifically the event’s hosts, Councilmember John Funny and Economic Development Director Michael Johnson.

Highlights

  • Mayor John Park provided an opening address that discussed Buford Highway’s cultural significance, housing needs, and goals for livability and greenspace, and Councilmember Johnny Funny (District 4) dove into his vision for the area. “80% of Brookhaven’s development this decade will occur in this corridor,” he said, and $3.5 billion in private/public investments have already occurred. Funny emphasized that significant commercial developments like Emory and Children’s Healthcare must be received by more residential and retail development. The area needs more housing options and walkability.
  • Sheba Ross of HKS Inc. has played a crucial role in the Master Plan for this node’s reinvigoration. With a focus on density, connectivity, and community, Ross envisions a mix of developments that create 15-minute neighborhoods and cater to the preferences of younger generations that work in nearby commercial developments. Her team’s approach involves detailed site analysis, incorporating elements like wind movement and cellphone data, to design spaces that prioritize pedestrian safety and walkability. Taking advantage of the topography was a major focus of her team. See our HKS Nodal Study writeup to read more.
  • David Laube, representing Noell Consulting Group, shed light on the economic landscape in the Atlanta region and Brookhaven. He emphasized the need for strategic infill and intentional multi-use nodes to encourage “dynamic lifestyle” communities along Buford Highway, acknowledging the demand for redevelopment despite extremely tight builder margins. The housing demand is “definitely there” in this area, Laube said, but he suggested creating the environment for it first.
  • Perspectives from financiers, developers, and workforce professionals added great value to the discussions. JPMorgan’s Marquita Jackson educated the audience on unique ways that local governments finance projects: tax abatement, tax allocation districts, and special service districts. David Payne, VP of Emory University Planning & Development, described how Emory “thinks in decades” for their developments, and what their approaches are to Strategic and Master Plan frameworks for projects like the Executive Park. JR Connolly, CEO of Connolly Realty, provided perspective on his firm’s redevelopment projects on Buford Highway, Peachtree, Terrell Mill, and Dresden, pointing out that “Buford Highway is ripe for redevelopment.” Johnny Clark, Director of Safety for Gay Construction Company, discussed his experiences with Ponce City Market’s Neighborhood Employment Program.