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Razing the Bars

Mon August 27, 2007 - Southeast Edition
Matthew Willett

Veteran demolition contractor Price and Sons is razing the bar.

No stranger to high-profile jobs, the team that handled demolition at Centennial Park prior to the 1996 Summer Olympics began work Aug. 3 at the former Buckhead Village, a district in Atlanta known for years for its bars and wild nightlife.

When all’s said and done, the area once known for seedy boozing will be elevated to the top rung of the uber-glitzy. At its inception, Price and Sons Vice President Ron Price said, the project already stands out because of its scope.

“It’s very unusual to be able to get all of the buildings in an area torn down,” Price said. “We pulled 112 demolition permits — that’s a pretty good sized project.”

Price said the company has begun asbestos abatement work that will extend through September. Demolition activities began Aug. 20.

Scheduled for completion in December, the demolition project will end up recycling approximately 1,500 tons (1,360 t) of concrete with an on-site rock-crusher and more than 120,000 cu. yd. (91,746 cu m) of lumber.

“We’ll have a couple of John Deere 400 processors out there,” he said, to break down portions of two parking decks into manageable pieces for the rock-crusher set to come on-site around early November.

The landmark urban renewal project is the brainchild and young charge of Atlanta developers Ben Carter and Robin Loudermilk. When completed, the urban foot-traffic-friendly mixed-used development will include an eco-friendly hotel, 360 multi-family units and more than a quarter of a million square feet of retail space occupied by the hyper-chic: Hermes (french scarves and accessories), Etro (clothing), AG Adriano Goldschmied (vintage-inspired denim) and Domenical Vacca (classic Italian clothing), just to name a few.

The Buckhead neighborhood is composed of more than five blocks and is contained by Peachtree Road, Pharr Road, North Fulton Drive and East Paces Ferry Roads.

On Peachtree Road, called “Atlanta’s Rodeo Drive,” InfraSource is currently involved in a widening project to create planted medians and improved curbs.

Buckhead Community Improvement District Executive Director Scotty Green said the groundbreaking ceremony was a party nine years in the making that marks the beginning of another long process.

“My organization represents almost all the commercial property owners in the area, and when you have an area get a reputation for crime and that one pure use, bars, which was all that was there, you can get too much of a good thing,” Green said.

Known at its inception as The Residences at Buckhead, the massive project took its current name after a stint being called Buckhead Avenue. Price and Sons is handling demolition as a subcontractor for U.K.-based Balfour Beatty.

The urban redevelopment is set to include a variety of lodging and dining choices in addition to blue-chip retailers, and could be home to up to four hotels.

Coincidental to the beginning of Price and Sons’ work was the announcement by Barry Hotel Partners, a division of Atlanta-based Barry Real Estate Companies, and Starwood Capital Group of the development plans for a 100-condominium, 175-key 1 Hotel & Residences location at the corner of Peachtree and Pharr Roads. Plans call for the hotel to break ground in mid-2008 and for an opening date in 2010.

“1 Hotel & Residences Atlanta/Buckhead will bring a level of sophistication that has not been seen in Atlanta’s hotel industry but has long been desired,” Barry Hotel Partners Executive Director and Founding Principal Butch Ross said in a press release.

The 1 Hotel & Residences brand is touted as a leader in four- and five-star accommodations, and the installation in Buckhead promises to be LEED-certified. The LEED rating system is the nationally-accepted benchmark for construction and operation of high-performance green buildings created and administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

“I’m just excited to get it started,” Green said. “The Ben Carter Properties work has been fairly recent, but the plan and the vision for the redevelopment of Buckhead Village has been an ongoing effort since the mid-90s.”

Price said his primary concern during demolition and asbestos abatement is the safety and security of the job-site environment, a challenge that’s made more difficult by the site’s placement in the business- and shopping-intensive area of Buckhead.

“This used to be what was considered the bar district of Buckhead because that’s what it consisted of,” he said. “There was a village of bars that people could go from one to the other without getting in their cars, and then they started having some shootings and the neighborhood complained about the noise.”

Fencing and off-duty policemen will ensure the site’s security at night, Price said, but during the day the challenges continue. Lucky for the demolition company that’s worked in Atlanta since 1961, experience counts.

“Safety here is more of an issue, I think, than even in the Centennial Park project,” Price said. “That project was pretty much surrounded and shut down, but on this one Peachtree Road runs on one whole side of it. It’s a strange experience, sort of, because we’ve got more pedestrians and more cars going by this site than at Centennial Park. It just means more of a thought process is involved in re-routing and relocating streets.”

Twenty to 30 workers per day are involved in the project, he said. He plans to use four John Deere 450 trackhoes and two rubber-tire Cat 980 loaders to handle the bulk of the demolition work.

Price added that the company will certainly realize a significant quantity of recyclables during the demolition, but he couldn’t estimate the total yet.

“Size-wise we don’t know exactly how much we’ll be able to get to, but it’s five city blocks. It’s a big area,” he said.

Price said the activity will take a toll on traffic in the general vicinity.

“There will be street closures,” he said, “Peachtree will stay open, but the rest of the side streets, those three or four, will be closed at all times.”

Price said Metrac Inc. of Atlanta and Yancey Bros. are his equipment suppliers. He’s confident that any problems that might crop up on site will be dealt with swiftly.

“We’ve had to call them late in the afternoon and they went out at about six the next morning,” Price said. “It’s great turnaround — that’s what makes them so good. They’re great people to work with.”

Despite its scope, Price said, the project has run smoothly since it began.

“It makes us more concerned that the project is run as smoothly as possible,” he said. “If everyone identifies Price and Sons with it then those are the main goals: safety and making it run as smooth as possible so that everybody can sit back and not have anything negative to say about it.

“We’re used to it,” he laughed.

Does being in the spotlight put an undue pressure on the dirty job of demolition? Price said it comes with the territory.

“The Centennial Park project really opened some doors for us. Most all of the projects in Atlanta are going to have some kind of coverage to it.” CEG

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