Residents showed support and gave feedback for what they would want in the Sandy Springs’ proposed “cultural center” at a Nov. 29 public meeting, suggesting the space include art education and music, among others.
Groups interested in being part of the center, first discussed publicly at the City Council’s Nov. 6 meeting, include Visit Sandy Springs, the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust and its local Anne Frank exhibit. The groups would need about 10,000 square feet split among them, with 7,000 more for an art gallery or museum and 2,000 for shared space. The center has also been discussed as a location for the state’s required Holocaust memorial.
The organizations using space in the building would be required to pay a portion of the design and construction of the building, as well as part of the cost to run the building.
Several people at the public meeting held at City Springs asked about the location, which has not been determined. Mayor Rusty Paul said that the site selected as the “preferred location” in a bid document, which included the current location of Buckhead Motor Works and part of Heritage Sandy Springs’ property, was never a firm decision.
“We just pulled a parcel out of the air,” Paul said. “We had to put a stake in the ground for the architect.”
The city owns several parcels in that area, but not that location, and the city has not had serious discussions with the owner about buying it, he said. The center is planned to be in that area and close to City Springs, he said.
The city owns the Heritage Sandy Springs piece, which the group, in a 2016 master plan, identified its part of that site as a possible location for a new museum for its own exhibits.
A budget for the center has not been determined, Paul said, and won’t be until programming decisions are made following the residents’ input. The city has already spent $154,000 on the design contract with Houser Walker Architecture.
Architect Greg Walker led the meeting, which split residents into small groups to provide feedback on what should be a priority when building the center and what its programming should include.
Around 50 residents attended, whose wish list for the center included music, possibly small outdoor concerts, classes that correlate with the art exhibits, workshops, speakers and community meeting space for small groups like book or garden clubs.
Randy Young, an architect involved with Art Sandy Springs, said the center is “a great idea” and encouraged including an art teaching component in the center, including possible hands-on classes and interactive gallery spaces.
Some residents had concern about the proposed shared parking arrangement, saying there already isn’t enough in the area and that parking and drop-off space for school buses would be needed.
Another supported an outdoor garden space, saying it could be a good place for reflection following a visit to the Anne Frank exhibit.
“It would be nice to have a garden to walk into to think about what you’ve seen,” one resident said.
Having food there could make the center a destination or place to stay after visiting exhibits, one resident said.
The center could bring more personality and identity to the city, which has begun to form with City Springs, some residents said.
“I kind of think Sandy Springs never had an identity,” one resident said, “We need it to be more than commercial and shopping strips.”
Paul addressed some residents’ opposition to the entire idea of building the center, saying, “We can’t make everybody happy. We’re never going to get unanimity.”
“But based on the input we’ve gotten, we’re comfortable there’s a consensus on doing this.”
The architecture firm will next put together all the residents’ input into a report that is expected to be presented to the City Council at a January work session. A concept design is expected to be discussed at the council’s retreat later that month.