Sandy Springs City Council members in January asked the city staff to see if there is a better site for a future a City Hall than the property the city owns on Johnson Ferry Road. The two companies that submitted ideas said they faced a daunting task.
MidCity Real Estate Partners principal Kirk Demetrops, whose proposal was rejected, said the process shows how difficult it will be for the city to turn a cluttered stretch of Roswell Road into a downtown.
Arnold Development President Marty Arnold, whose proposal was also rejected, said the city’s tight deadline made it tough to submit an acceptable plan. The city put out a request for information, called an RFI, on Jan. 5, with a Feb. 10 deadline.
City spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said the city’s position on the companies’ proposals was outlined in the RFI documents.
Arnold submitted two ideas. One was to use the city-owned property at 235 Johnson Ferry Road, the former Target property. That is the city’s existing plan. His other idea involved real estate located at the northwest intersection of Roswell Road and Hammond Drive. Arnold said the city required responses to show owners of the properties were interested and committed to redevelopment, and have “control of the property.”
The city’s RFI guidelines said the applicants must have, “Demonstrated control of the property on which the development is to be placed either through fee simple title, enforceable options, long-term ground lease, contract to buy or other documents acceptable to the city.”
Arnold said the timeframe was too short.
“The city wanted us to submit sites we had control of and we weren’t going to get control in that short time,” Arnold said. “It was not feasible.”
Demetrops’ proposal wasn’t considered because it was submitted after the 2 p.m. deadline on Feb. 10. Demetrops said he submitted the plan after the deadline because he wanted the city to know about his proposal. Like Arnold, he could not demonstrate control over all the properties listed in his plan.
“It’s tough to assemble property in downtown Sandy Springs because all of it is leased and has tenants,” Demetrops said. “Even if it’s partially vacant, it’s somewhat occupied. It shows the challenges of repositioning properties in Sandy Springs.”
Demetrops proposed a plan similar to one his former business partner, Joel Griffin, proposed in 2008. The mixed-use development, called MainStreet Sandy Springs, was along Roswell Road and included the Bank of America building. That plan stalled when the economy crashed, and Griffin passed away in 2009.
“The concept we were hoping to propose was similar to what we announced in 2008, a completely new construction development with new city streets …” Demetrops said. “The development would create ‘a place’ with diverse, thriving restaurants and shops, residents and offices, great architecture, and old fashioned streets.”
He said the potential properties to be used would be north of the Northside Tower, excluding the building itself, up to Hilderbrand Drive.
The city’s current plan is to build a municipal complex on the Target property, which is bordered by Johnson Ferry and Roswell roads and Sandy Springs Circle and Mount Vernon Highway.
The city will have to buy adjacent parcels, possibly using eminent domain. Kraun, the city spokeswoman, said the city has $9 million in its “City Hall Fund,” to develop the municipal complex. This money does not include the $8 million the city paid for theTarget property in 2008.
Using eminent domain to buy the parcels would require votes by the City Council on a case-by-case basis, according to City Attorney Wendell Willard.
Some property owners and businesses have said they aren’t interested in selling.