Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul told the Rotary Club of Sandy Springs on July 14 that a performing arts center would be the “biggest project we’ve ever undertaken.”
He was referring to a study commissioned by the Sandy Springs City Council in January and released to the public on July 9 exploring whether a performing arts center could be a viable part of the future City Center. The study by Johnson Consultants urged the city to look at a 750-to-1,000 seat facility, preferably closer to 1,000.
Paul said that size is the sweet spot where revenue and expenses could meet and break even, while also putting “us in a very competitive position.”
He said he was gratified by a public outpouring of support following the study’s release. Paul urged public participation during upcoming meetings and open houses regarding the project.
It’s “very important you provide feedback to the council,” he said. “We’re only going to get one chance to do this right.”
Paul said the council is toying with the idea of going to the business community to see if private capital can be raised for the project. “If this is something that the community really wants then we believe the community will step up . . . and maybe help us pay for it.”
At a special called meeting on July 23 the mayor and council will discuss the pros and cons of options for a performing arts center, and a public information open house will be held on July 24, with the city council providing direction to the development team in August. The meetings will take place at Sandy Springs City Hall, 7840 Roswell Road.
Paul also spoke about the Northpark 100 rezoning case going before the council on July 15. The rezoning request is to change the area at Peachtree Dunwoody and Abernathy roads from office to mixed use. That action would clear the way to add 500 apartment units to a mixed-use development that also includes a 50-story office tower and hotel and retail space.
“The great recession of the mid-2000s is apparently over and we have an enormous amount of significant projects that are coming through the process,” Paul said. “It starts tomorrow night with the Hines (Northpark) project.”
He said that while Sandy Springs is going into its ninth year of incorporation, the city is still dealing with the zoning legacy of Fulton County. “A lot of these areas that are now beginning to come online were zoned for high density back in the late 1900s and early 2000s . . . As a result zoning is embedded as a property right that landowners have,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of tools to manage these high-density development projects.”
Paul said that while the council may not have the power to fix some of the high-density issues, the council does have some leverage. Paul said he is encouraging high-density developers to show the city their transit plans and incentives, and apartment developers to have marketing plans for people working in the city. He said he’s consulting with the city’s legal department to see if conditions like these could become part of the rezoning process.
“If we’re going to declare this a true live-work community, I want to the people who are working here to live here because it doesn’t help us to allow residential to be built in these high-density areas if the people who go into that housing drive to Kennesaw to work, and the folks who are working in those offices to come from Kennesaw to go to work.
Paul also looked to the Braves’ future move to nearby Cobb County. “It is going to have an impact on our community,” he said. “If you look at where the Braves’ ticket sales are, about 80 percent of them are from Sandy Springs eastward.” Paul said the city will meet with the Braves soon. “Unless we have realistic numbers from them, then the bad numbers that they say we have are what we have to operate from. We need to get those good numbers so we can make better judgments about infrastructure.”