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John Ruch Posted by on September 29, 2017.

Sandy Springs Innovation Center opens doors to start-up culture

The Sandy Springs Innovation Center, a facility intended to brand the city as friendly to cutting-edge businesses, is opening its doors after more than a year of planning.

Enjoying the Innovation Center patio are Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce board chairman Dan DiLuzio, left, and president Tom Mahaffey. (John Ruch)

Located in a glass-walled, ground-floor corner of the Northpark Town Center tower at 1000 Abernathy Road, the center will hold a grand opening on Oct. 12, 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. But it’s already quietly open for business with its hybrid of shared workspace and start-up incubator offerings.

“Sandy Springs is a good place to innovate,” is the main message, said Lever Stewart, past president of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, which established the center as a spin-off nonprofit. He said that “really the core purpose is marketing … the positives of looking to locate an innovation [or] technology company in Sandy Springs.”

Inspired by such start-up incubators as Atlanta Tech Village and the Alpharetta Innovation Center, the Sandy Springs version took a while to get going. The opening was delayed several months to add an outdoor patio. In the meantime, the name was shortened from the originally announced “Technology and Innovation Center to be catchier and because “technology” sounds “passé,” Stewart said.

The Northpark Town Center tower 400 as seen in a Google Earth image.

The Sandy Springs Development Authority provided $75,000 in buildout costs — $25,000 of which for the patio alone — and Comcast is paying for operating costs in exchange for branding the rooms. Northpark owner Cousins Properties is offering reduced rent and other assistance.

On a recent preview tour, Chamber President Tom Mahaffey and current Board Chairman Dan DiLuzio showed off the 3,500-square-foot center’s modern-styled rooms. The main space includes a seating area and two types of desks for rent: desks in cubicles with locking storage, available for $400 a month, and small “hot desks” available first come, first served for $300 a month. Small offices can be reserved for $875 a month, and the facility includes a conference room, printers, scanners, and a small coffee room along with the patio.

Users gain access to the facility at any time and can also rent Northpark’s upstairs conference room and rooftop garden area.

The “hot desks” area of the Innovation Center. (John Ruch)

The general idea is that entrepreneurs and workers from established companies will use the facility to start businesses and form partnerships. How exactly that plays out in programming terms remains to be seen and is partly depending on getting a revenue stream going for such advertised perks as on-site staffing.

The Innovation Center’s cubicles. (John Ruch)

Mahaffey said that some of Northpark’s other tenants, including the Fortune 500 firms Veritiv and WestRock, have expressed interest in using the center. So has the nearby Art Institute of Atlanta, he said, adding that some of its students provided decorative painting on a center wall and will provide a rotating exhibit of artwork.

Other possibilities include hosting seminars where entrepreneurs can make pitches to investors, and a proposed display explaining how to apply for Sandy Springs business licenses and permits.

Chamber board chairman Dan DiLuzio, left, and president Tom Mahaffey chat in the Innovation Center’s seating area as seen through the front doors. (John Ruch)

Whatever happens inside, the chamber officials says, the center advertises the city as an option for start-up businesses seeking a home, and highlights Northpark as an accessible commercial center standing across the street from the Sandy Springs MARTA Station.

“We’re competing,” said DiLuzio as he sat on the patio under an “Innovation Center” branded umbrella. “We’re the suburban Midtown.”

For more information, see sandyspringstechcenter.com.