Most of Dunwoody’s City Council members seem opposed to the idea of renovating the abandoned theater in Brook Run Park into a brand new community theater.
“The elephant in the room is Brook Run Theater,” said Councilman Terry Nall during the city’s Feb. 5 retreat at Staybridge Suites Atlanta Perimeter Center. “We’re doing a disservice to the community if we don’t say if there is a consensus or not a consensus. I’m of the opinion there is not a consensus for a theater at the park. We need to move on.”
Brook Run Conservancy, which is pushing for a community theater in city-owned Brook Run Park, is slated to make a presentation on the theater to the council at its Feb. 22 meeting. City engineers and planners are also expected to weigh in with their thoughts of what to do with the building that has sat shuttered for more than two decades.
“Besides being the wrong location … I don’t believe the Conservancy should be making the presentation,” Nall added. “They have no ties to the city, they are a private organization and they have no agreement with the city. We should have our engineer make our presentation.
“I think it’s a dangerous precedent to have private group make a presentation to the city for what is essentially going to be a sales pitch,” Nall added.
Council to discuss theater plans Feb. 22
The Brook Run Conservancy in January sent the Dunwoody City Council a feasibility study it had done to determine costs of renovating the building. That study estimates rehabilitating and equipping the theater would cost, on the low end, about $7.5 million, and on the high end, approximately $18 million.
“There’s no money to do it unless someone funds it from outside,” said Councilman Doug Thompson.
“I don’t want the issue to fester forever,” he added. “We need to put it to rest. It needs to go through a hearing … but I don’t want it dragging out through summer and fall. Let’s hit it and hit it hard and get it done.”
Mayor Denis Shortal said he supports giving $1 million to $1.5 million of the $4 million settlement the city reached with DeKalb County to the Brook Run Conservancy for renovation of the theater.
The $4 million settlement was reached last year after a long-standing court battle and came about after $11.5 million was promised for Brook Run Park to DeKalb County voters in 2005 as part of a $96-million bond package. The county spent $4 million on the park, city officials said.
“I’m with everybody else – let’s solve it,” Shortal said of the ongoing Brook Run Theater debate. “I envision part of the $4 million going to [Brook Run Conservancy] … and then putting a time limit on it to allow them to get private sources to match the differential.”
“If you’re wanting to throw X million dollars at it from park funds, like $1.5 million, that’s a drop in the bucket and is a smallish fraction of what is needed to renovate that facility,” said Councilman Jim Riticher. “If we go that route we effectively kick the can down the road again.”
“Do we want to give these guys more time?” asked Riticher. “They should have been coming up with the money in the past six months …”
“Six years,” interjected Thompson. “Where have they been raising the money for the past five or six years? I don’t mind giving them some period of time but I don’t want them to ask for three years.”
Council members agreed at the retreat to delay sending out a parks survey to residents until Feb. 28 to allow time for the Brook Run Theater presentation to be heard and included as part of the survey.