Buckhead Coalition President Sam Massell said the community remains “the address of choice” for some Atlanta residents, and he’s working with leaders with the Atlanta Police Department and other organizations to keep it that way by curbing crime in the area.
“Though Zone 2’s crime rate is down 5 percent year to date, one crime is too many,” he said. “The good fortune is we have the Atlanta Police Foundation that was originally founded by the coalition, and it helps with police reforms. … We have helped with reducing nightlife hours, conducting public safety forums, offering rewards (for information leading to the arrest and conviction of a suspect) and more.”
Massell spoke on that subject and more Feb. 28 during his annual State of Buckhead Address at the Buckhead Business Association’s weekly breakfast meeting at Maggiano’s Little Italy in Buckhead.
The coalition is a chamber-like, invitation-only organization of 100 CEOs. Massell, a former Atlanta mayor, has served as its president since its inception in 1988. When asked about Buckhead’s development over the next decade or two, Massell half-jokingly said he wouldn’t be alive to see it.
“If you are guessing (on my age), I’m 91 and a half,” he said.
In an interview after his speech, he talked about the coalition’s more recent efforts to stop crime.
“We’ve been in touch with the Zone 2 commander (Maj. Barry Shaw),” Massell said. “We have a reward program you know about. In fact, once we gave a $50,000 reward, which was the highest reward ever given in the state of Georgia in a murder case. We look at instances (of crime).
“The latest crime (the coalition is focused on) involves the (Feb. 16) jewelry store heist (at) the Ice Box. We’re waiting to see what evolves in their initial investigation as to whether we will issue a reward, for instance.”
At the coalition’s executive committee meeting Feb. 27, Dave Wilkinson, the foundation’s president and CEO, “briefed us on the new study being undertaken on recidivism,” Massell said. He was referring to the problem of repeat offenders, including those who have been released by judges on little or no bond and commit more crimes.
“There’s one new thing I can’t tell you about yet,” he said of the coalition’s crime-fighting initiatives.
Massell also spoke on Buckhead’s growth in terms of population and development. Referring to large-screen slideshow photos, he said Buckhead’s skyline last year had 60 mid- to high-rise buildings, 50 more than in 1988.
“Our population increased over 6,500 last year to 96,918, which projects to almost a 100 percent increase in the next 10 years,” he said. “… Since developments started gearing up after the recession in 2012, at which time we had 12,704 apartments, 16,466 new units have been started, a 130 percent increase.”
During a Q&A session after his speech, one association member asked Massell what he thought of the Park Over Georgia 400 project, which is expected to cost at least $245 million and open as early as 2022.
Massell said the $351,464 fine a Buckhead apartment developer is to pay the state for having a construction crane illegally block part of Peachtree Road in Buckhead for five days in December could be used for the planned park.
He said the coalition is in talks with the Georgia Department of Transportation, which levied the fine, about possibly using the money for the new greenspace.
Providence, Rhode Island-based Gilbane Building Co., the company contracted by the developer, Preserve Properties, and owning the crane, is appealing GDOT’s fine, so it’s not a done deal yet. But Massell said GDOT has “responded favorably” to the idea of allocating those funds to the park project, if it gets them.