One of the country’s most ambitious greenspace initiatives, a highway-capping project (Buckhead’s HUB404) in the park-starved commercial core of Buckhead, has been sidetracked by the global pandemic. At least for now.
Backed by a mix of public and private dollars, progress on new sections of the Atlanta BeltLine, as with PATH Foundation projects throughout the metro, has hardly skipped a beat in the face of COVID-19 disruptions and the spring shutdown. That’s not the case with Buckhead’s HUB404, the vision that calls for about 9 acres of parks and trails snaking half a mile over Ga. Highway 400, between Peachtree and Lenox roads.
The HUB404 concept has been percolating for years, but following an official fundraising launch and publicity push in October, it appeared to have more momentum than ever in early 2020—with a goal of being engineered, constructed and fully opened by 2025.
“The short, and the long, of it is that the pandemic forced us to go into hibernation,” said Jim Durrett, who’s long spearheaded HUB404 as Buckhead CID’s executive director and was recently installed as Buckhead Coalition president, following the retirement of former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell.
With its planned connection to MARTA’s Buckhead Station, HUB404 has been labelled by project backers the country’s first transit-oriented park and an urban “crown jewel,” affording Buckhead its own version of Dallas’ highway-topping Klyde Warren Park—at almost twice the size. A $600,000 Georgia Transportation Infrastructure Bank grant helped Buckhead CID gather complex, necessary data related to property boundaries, utilities and topography. All surveying and concept studies were completed, with engineering and final design work planned this year. But like the rest of 2020, nothing’s gone according to plan.
On a positive note, the nonprofit established last year, HUB404 Conservancy, has received its 501.c.3. determination letter from the IRS, which Durrett called an important accomplishment.
“That organization was planning for a big coming-out party and fundraising event in April, but COVID,” said Durrett via email.
Officials have estimated that creating such a park from thin air could cost north of $200 million, even with a more open, cost-friendly concept that would expose highway lanes below. Planned features include shaded groves and lawns for picnicking, braids of multiuse trails, and a grand plaza near the transit hub.
“We have generated support from MARTA and from a few wealthy individuals,” Durrett noted, “but the board decided to take a breather and monitor the environment to determine the right time to pull the plans back out and get back to work.”
Durrett was on the cusp of a long-planned vacation when we contacted him last week. He declined an interview but agreed to field further questions via email about where HUB404 stands, and what the project’s future may hold. This post will be updated should he respond.
All press images are at the bottom of this page (Credit: Buckhead CID/HUB404)
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