Rick Davis pointed to large calendars filled with blue and pink sticky notes lining the walls at Heritage Sandy Springs. The notes contained a wish list of sorts showing how local arts groups would like to use a performing arts center in the city.
The notes bore suggestions such as “dress rehearsal,” “auditions,” “musical,” “adult show,” “AJFF [Atlanta Jewish Film Festival] opening” and “Georgia Philharmonic Young Artists’ Concerto Competition Concert.”
“As you can see, it’s a vibrant artistic climate that would only get better [with a performing arts center],” said Davis, executive director of the Hylton Performing Arts Center in Virginia.
Davis was asked by Sandy Springs City Manager John McDonough to lead an Oct. 7 workshop so representatives of local arts, education and other nonprofit groups as well as business owners could discuss what kind of performing arts facility and meeting space they could use.
“It was very validating to actually hear the artistic community say, ‘Yes, we need this,’ ‘We want it,’ ‘We can use it,’” Davis said.
In August, the city approved a site plan for its future City Center. As the city works to finalize its plan – which now includes a performing arts center containing up to 1,000 seats, municipal offices, greenspace, shops and multifamily housing – consultants are looking through residents’ suggestions about what should be included in the facility, expected to cost up to $196 million.
McDonough told participants in the workshop, who responded to a city request that local groups join the discussion, the performing arts center will serve as the “anchor of the project.”
Later that day, McDonough told the Sandy Springs City Council he was pleased with the turnout for the workshop.
We’re “very pleased with the level of interest in using this facility,” he said. “You should feel good about the direction that you are going with on this project.”
A report from the workshop as well as an online survey will be presented to the Sandy Springs City Council on Oct. 21.
Davis asked participants what role a performing arts center could play in their community.
“I recently returned from Europe and one of the things I found in most of the major cities is that the cultural center, the performing arts center, is kind of the hub,” said Phil Geminder of Graphic Packaging International.
Geminder said a performing arts center could prevent residents from “constantly going somewhere else” for leisure activities.
“As an employer here, when we have people transfer in, they only look at Sandy Springs because of the convenience to work,” he said.
Brian Talarico of Enterprise Holdings said that he doesn’t think of Sandy Springs right now as having a central area. “I would think now if you gave a poll to the general public and asked what the center of Sandy Springs is, you would get a lot of different answers and a lot of ‘I don’t knows,’” he said.
Linda Bain, with the Sandy Springs Conservancy, said the complex could also be an economic engine if it were “well-designed,” “well-built,” and “well-run.” She also suggested a sustainable building.
“I’m here to talk about meeting space,” said Lib Thompson of the Sandy Springs Society.
She said her group is in dire need of a large facility to host meetings and events. “We do not have a facility in the area that can host us,” she said, explaining that the group has to travel to locations in Buckhead and East Cobb County.
“We will adapt our function to your space,” she said. “We can promise you a great deal of events.”