The public’s share of the City Springs budget is rising 3.5 percent to over $229 million, as Sandy Springs City Council on Dec. 19 approved its first – and, officials promised, only — increase for construction delays, upgrades and other items.

The decision came the same day that city officials got their first tour of the privately funded and developed residential part of the new civic center. Branded as Aston City Springs, the apartments and townhomes are luxury units that some councilmembers said might lure them to move in.

The main public structure of City Springs as seen from the apartments include the new City Hall on the upper floors and ground-floor retail spaces. (John Ruch)

The City Springs complex is a public-private partnership project — located between Johnson Ferry Road and Mount Vernon Highway at Roswell Road — that also includes a new City Hall, theater and arts spaces, and retail space. It is set to open in phases next year, with the housing in January; the park in the spring or summer; City Hall in the summer; and the Byers Theatre in September.

Budget increase

The budget for the public portion of City Springs is now $229,212,000, according to City Manager John McDonough, after the approval of $6.5 million more in construction and design costs and $1.2 million more in furnishings and fixtures.

The City Springs design and construction budget previously was set at $222,712,000. The furnishings and fixtures are a separate item within the city’s budget, and that total line item now rises from $6.5 million to $7.7 million, according to city spokesperson Sharon Kraun.

The city had never increased the City Springs budget before, though previous internal tweaks sometimes caused a misunderstanding that it had. But this time, the budget really is increasing, and Mayor Rusty Paul spoke in grudging acceptance, saying it’s a relatively small increase on such a large and complex project.

“Staff was told we’re going to do that one time, and one time only,” Paul said of the budget increase, indicating that there had been private discussions before the council meeting.

“Well, nobody likes to raise the budget,” he added, but agreed that it added better security, technology upgrades and some unexpected issues. “And to be able to accomplish all of that with a 3.5 percent increase in the budget is astounding to me.”

Paul was the only official to use the terms “increase” and “raise.” The favored term among others was “budget adjustment,” and the increase was largely discussed in technical terms.

McDonough said that much of the construction and design increase will cover a 57-day delay caused by weather and other factors. City officials originally hoped to have City Springs open by now, but last year pushed the schedule back to 2018.

The view from an upper-floor balcony in Aston City Springs. (John Ruch)

Other items causing the budget to increase include a wide variety of necessities and aesthetic items, from fire code compliance to nicer-looking ceilings. Following new forms of terrorism and mass murder, the city has upgraded security, including vehicle-blocking bollards and security cameras.

Furniture is a big budget item, including rocking chairs for a “porch” along Johnson Ferry Road, where McDonough suggested visitors can one day “drink your coffee, read the paper, meet your neighbors.”

Other items on the fixture list include an $85,000 “water wall” and more than $127,000 for a “media wall.”

Money to cover the budget increase will come from various sources, including available general and capital funds, bond interest income, and money formerly earmarked for buying properties on Hammond Drive for a possible road-widening project, which is now covered by the new transportation-oriented sales tax.

Aston City Springs

The Aston City Springs residential section, built by developers Carter and Selig Enterprises, is on the western end of the City Springs site. Its heart is the intersection of two new roads that aren’t yet open to the public: the brand new Galambos Way and an extension of Blue Stone Road. Some units also overlook Mount Vernon Highway, Sandy Springs Circle and Johnson Ferry Road.

A fountain is under construction in the new intersection, which will sport new businesses, including restaurants in the key corner spaces. The restaurants are expected to be announced next month.

An illustration suggesting what the North Building courtyard will look like when it is finished. (Carter)

Aston City Springs is about 30 to 60 days from completion, said Jerome Hagley, Carter’s executive vice president, but some units will be ready for occupancy in January. No leases have been signed for apartments yet, he said.

The complex contains 294 units, including 19 townhomes and the rest flats, in two buildings known as the “North Building” and the “South Building.”

The townhomes are around 1,500 to 1,600 square feet. According to online listings, the monthly apartment rents start at $1,385 for a one-bedroom and $2,100 for a two-bedroom, topping out at $3,910 for the largest three-bedroom.

In exchange for those luxury rents, residents get luxury amenities similar to those in other new apartment buildings along Roswell Road, including a clubroom, a pool, a fitness center and an outdoor grilling and fireplace area.

The amenity no other complex can boast: The homes are literally across the street from the new City Green park, City Hall and the Performing Arts Center. Some units also sport outstanding views of City Springs and various distant landmarks, such as Kennesaw Mountain and skyscrapers as far as Buckhead and Dunwoody.

For those looking to enjoy peace and quiet at home while traffic, park-goers and events surround them, the windows appeared to be well insulated and doing a good job of blocking exterior noise.

City Councilmembers Chris Burnett, left, and John Paulson said they are considering moving into the complex themselves.

Among those on the tour were City Councilmembers Chris Burnett and John Paulson, both of whom said they would consider downsizing from their single-family homes and moving into Aston City Springs. Burnett said that once his adult children visit home less often, “this could be a great alternative” and allow him to walk to work and to City Hall.

Paulson said and his wife Mary seriously considered moving into City Springs at an early planning stage, when more ownership units were planned as part of the mix. His decision to run for re-election was a factor in keeping them in their panhandle-area home for now, as City Springs is not in his district. But the couple previously lived the apartment life in Minneapolis and enjoyed its conveniences, and moving to City Springs is still a possibility down the road.

“My thoughts are changing about this, and a lot of my buddies are coming to the same conclusion—‘I don’t want to own,’” said Paulson, adding that downsizing remains more talk than action among those friends.

The apartment balcony views of City Springs inspired city communications staff members Sharon Kraun and Marla Shavin to brainstorm some publicity slogans. “From apples to peaches” was one thought, which plays off the city’s idea that the Byers Theatre in City Springs is the equal of any in New York City, the “Big Apple.” Kraun said City Springs is Manhattan-like with its condensed versions of Central Park and theater and retail districts.

For more about Aston City Springs, see astoncitysprings.com.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that the townhome units are for sale, based on Carter officials’ statements of prices in the $270,000 to $300,000 range. Carter spokesperson Burgoyne Frite later said the townhome units are rentals as well and that officials were trying to communicate rents in the $2,700 to $3,000 range. This story also has been updated with city budget numbers.

Photos by John Ruch unless otherwise noted.

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