"Ladies and gentlemen, the future is now!" proclaimed former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell to a crowd at the Grand Hyatt on Peachtree Road in Buckhead. The longtime neighborhood resident, current president of the Buckhead Coalition and all-around Buckhead cheerleader opened the "Future of Buckhead" panel discussion yesterday morning with a report on just how good of a year the 28-square-mile district is having. Hosted by Bisnow, the event attracted close to 300 movers and shakers in Atlanta development, architecture and real estate circles, with the two panels offering overwhelming affirmation that the Buckhead boom we have been reporting on for the last couple of years isn't a ruse. But the optimistic outlook was tempered by some sobering statistics and a bit of a reality check by the former mayor.
Let's be clear: The overwhelming majority of news at the event was positive. Massell led the morning with some downright staggering numbers: Office sales in Buckhead grew from a paltry $10 million back in 2010, to an unbelievable $1.1 billion this year. Jim Durrett, director of the Buckhead CID, reported that plans are in the works for a major reevaluation of the business district's master plan, thanks to support by the Atlanta Regional Commission's Livable Centers Initiative. And Herb Ames, a VP for development company Edens, even hinted at a growing support for funding transit initiatives in the area and support of walkable (but apparently not bikeable) streets.
But with the positives like sales growth, soaring rents and booming construction, many of the panelists acknowledged that traffic is becoming a bigger issue every year. To Massell, however, there's one thing in particular that is making him downright "uneasy." Apartments.
According to Massell's statistics, Buckhead has seen a 110-percent increase in apartment units in the last four years, with 36 percent being delivered in just 2015. And there seems to be no end in sight for what he views as overbuilding, with a total of 13,976 units in 44 buildings by 36 developers in some form of planning or construction. It's not just a flooded market that Massell has worried about; the quality of some of the stick-built low-rise construction that's been sprouting up across the area (though admittedly the two construction related incidents this year happened at concrete high-rises) has kept Buckhead's unofficial mayor up at night.
But with so much market optimism, will the stern warning by one of the patriarchs of the area go unheeded? Time will tell if Buckhead's boom will be doomed by overbuilding.