ATLANTA — An increase in the number of apartments in Atlanta’s Buckhead community will change the area’s “population image,” former Atlanta Mayor Sam Massell told the Buckhead Business Association (BBA) on Thursday.
But, Massell, president of the Buckhead Coalition, urged community members “to make our new rental residents feel at home, and we will benefit from their contributions in many ways.”
“Buckhead will no longer be a commune of just private homeowners,” Massell said. “It will be a mixture of old money and fresh thinking. It will be exciting if we join in rather than try a failing fault description. We will need to nurture their quality of life, so they will realize they made the correct decision.”
Massell’s remarks were part of his annual “State of Buckhead” address. Delivered to a packed house at the City Club of Buckhead, Massell recalled his own apartment-dwelling days after moving to Buckhead in 1952.
He rented an apartment on Adina Drive for $50 per month because he couldn’t afford to buy a house in Buckhead. Today, more and more millennials are moving to the area, opting to settle in an apartment.
“After the economy turned around, we began to notice the number of developers jumping into the apartment investment arena at the start of 2012,” Massell said. “I’ve always been very optimistic about Buckhead so we reported this growth with great pride, competing as we do with midtown and other surrounding submarkets. This meant related real estate jobs on site; living quarters for a labor market; accommodation of the increased population to attract expanding businesses, relocated businesses and new businesses.”
But, Massell expressed some concern about the rapid rate of construction in the area. He estimated Buckhead could see upwards of 24,000 new residents in the next four to five years, a 30 percent increase over the community’s current population.
“I’m concerned by the number of strip shopping centers with neighborhood convenience stores being demolished for the apartment buildings, and I’m concerned by some of the four and five story stick-constructed buildings that won’t look very good in 10 years,” Massell said. “I’m also concerned by some of the high-rises that show little concern for the character of their surroundings.”
He added: “I’m mostly concerned, however, that we have not acknowledged the dramatic change taking place in what will become Buckhead’s population image.”
Massell served as Atlanta’s mayor from 1970 to 1974 and as president of the City Council for eight years before that. Since leaving office, Massell, 88, has remained in public view, and in 1988, he was tapped by a dozen business leaders to start the Buckhead Coalition, an invite-only civic organization comprised of 100 local CEOs.
As mayor, Massell is credited with establishing many of the icons that helped Atlanta grow into the city it is today, from the Omni Coliseum to Woodruff Park to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) to Buckhead’s Charlie Loudermilk Park (formerly Triangle Park). He is also credited with opening City Hall opportunities to minorities.
Massell served as BBA president in 1983. During his remarks on Thursday, he urged visitors to join the civic organization and for members to embrace the community’s new residents.
“Those here who are visitors, I want you to know that BBA is the best civic investment you can make in Buckhead, and I urge you to join before you leave today,” he said.
For more information, visit buckheadbusiness.org.