Buckhead Atlanta Opens
Buckhead Atlanta, the high-profile, mixed-use development in Georgia’s capital city opened this fall after four years of development led by Oliver McMillan. The expansive, 10-acre district is located at the intersection of Peachtree and Paces Ferry, two of the city’s main arteries. Upscale and sophisticated, the new $600 million district, which has been dubbed “Rodeo Drive of the South,” is a mix of 1.5 million square feet of luxury retail, restaurants, office space and residences set within the existing neighborhood of Buckhead Village. Earlier this year, the Urban Land Institute Atlanta awarded Buckhead Atlanta Project of the Year for an urban design that prioritizes a vibrant street experience.
Hoerr Schaudt led the design of the streetscape for the entire development. “Oliver McMillan focused on the streetscape as a key way to differentiate Buckhead from other developments,” said firm partner Douglas Hoerr. “We focused on making the landscape distinctive and welcoming, with mature trees to give shade, beautiful plantings that celebrate the seasons, and quality materials that identify Buckhead as a special place,” he said. Together, these components infuse the street level with the energy and vibrancy that are typical of a thriving urban environment.
In his review for Arts Atl, Michael Kahn describes the finished Buckhead streetscape,
As with the facades, the streetscaping and landscaping emphasize pedestrian scale and circulation. While roads bisect the development, cars are deemphasized. Large planting beds and street furniture buffer the sidewalks from the narrowed roads in the development, and even extend along the edge of Peachtree Road. Side laneways between some of the smaller buildings provide refuge for those on foot; it is easy to forget that you are only a block off of Atlanta’s spine. Restaurants and shops open onto the lanes and small plazas.
To define the streets as distinctive and mature from opening day, Hoerr Schaudt recommended purchasing large tree specimens years before they were ready to be installed. The size of the 140 specimen trees planted in Buckhead are typically two times larger than the 3” caliper trees required by the city of Atlanta. Their generous shade gave Buckhead’s streets a feeling of maturity and graciousness from the moment it opened.
Larger still are four, 30,000 pound Oak trees located in the center plaza of Buckhead that is home to the French bistro Le Bilboquet. Each of these 40’ tall trees provide a 25’ diameter canopy of shade. Installation of these trees was complex. The plaza is built over a parking garage, limiting the amount of weight it can support. Placing trees this large required equipment that was too heavy and wide to fit into the installation area. Instead, the contractor used a 450-ton crane anchored midway down the block to lift each tree (over buildings) and place them without a sightline using only flagmen and radio communication.
Advanced planting techniques for the mature trees in Buckhead help them thrive in their new environment. Over time, urban tree roots often suffer from compacted soil, leading to stunted growth or tree failure. Buckhead’s trees are planted in sand-based structural soil, which is specially designed to support tree roots under the urban sidewalk and prolong the life-span of the tree.
The lush plantings beneath the trees and along the sidewalk are more like gardens than streetscape plantings in their complexity and design, and they make Buckhead distinctive. The gardens create a soft and beautiful buffer between strolling pedestrians and cars driving into the neighborhood.
There are seven species of street trees throughout Buckhead, including Oaks, Elms and Crape Myrtles. Streetscape shrubs and perennials include hydrangea, loropetalum, yucca, boxwood, and roses, and they are accented by more than 40 different varieties of annuals, changed out three times a year. In total, more than 33,000 plants were installed in the right of way parkways and planters for the opening of Buckhead.
Hoerr Schaudt developed three planting styles especially for the parkway garden spaces to create a street experience with variety and texture.
- The ‘Michigan Avenue’ style features abundant layers of bright and bold annuals like those found on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.
- The ‘Classic Southern Garden’ style is framed in boxwood and features plants and colors that are found in the trusted foundation of traditional gardens, like white cosmos, pink roses, iris, and white zinnia.
- The ‘Bold and Graphic’ style features fresh geometric blocks of perennials and shrubs accented with low flowering annuals for less trafficked areas of the development.
Project oversight and consultants
The Hoerr Schaudt team, led by Douglas Hoerr with Michael Skowlund, Simon Prunty and John Evans, collaborated with Pappageorge Haymes, Gensler, and Smallwood, Reynolds, Stewart, Stewart & Associates Inc. to develop the design of the project. Douglas Hoerr, Partner of Hoerr Schaudt, commented: “Oliver McMillan had a clear vision for what Buckhead could be and we are very pleased to have worked with them to turn that idea into a beautiful, memorable place.”