Heritage Sandy Springs has added new faces to the team as the nonprofit dedicated to preserving city history gears up to execute its updated master plan. City projects have changed some of the nonprofit’s plans, including having to move some major events.

“We’re trying to be forward-looking and not be that little, sleepy nonprofit down the hill,” Executive Director Carol Thompson said. “Our goal is to increase visibility of Heritage within the community, as well as let people know what a worthy cause we are celebrating.”

An illustration shows the planned improvements include Heritage Sandy Springs’ master plan. (Special)

The plan calls for a new band shell for the amphitheater, outdoor restrooms and creating better entrances and connections the streets. City staff said at the City Council’s Jan. 22 retreat that it had reviewed the master plan and thought the recommendations were appropriate.

Some other city projects in the works intended to improve and add to the City Springs district are affecting some of Heritage’s programs and plans. Heritage is located 6110 Bluestone Road, a block away from the city’s massive City Springs civic and arts complex.

Added to the master plan by the city is a proposed “cultural center,” which would hold several community groups and potentially a new Holocaust memorial. Heritage Sandy Springs once pegged part of the site for its own museum. The city has eyed replacing a car repair shop currently on another part of the site during planning for City Springs.

Heritage is not officially a partner on the cultural center project and would not have space inside it, but it will work to connect the two, Thompson said. A building that was previously used as Heritage office space will be removed, she said.

“We look forward to being part of it,” she said.

The nonprofit plans to emphasize its historic programming “because that’s really who we are,” Thompson said. Heritage will put a focus on its artifacts, oral history and museum, she said.

As more groups offer outdoor concerts and entertainment programs, including the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center, there is less need for Heritage to host them, she said. But the popular “Concerts by the Springs” and other music events will not be going away, she said. And the nonprofit is still “excited” about and planning to build the new band shell.

“We are doing things a little differently,” Thompson said. “We’ve seen all this coming with City Springs changing the neighborhood.”

The Sandy Springs Circle streetscape project, which is part of the 2012 City Center Master Plan, required Heritage to move its annual Sandy Springs Festival last year and will need to again this year due to the construction.

The nonprofit had to change the footprint of the arts and culture festival, and it did not work as well as expected last year so they are working on a new configuration, she said.

“That was a main thoroughfare, so that’s caused some changes,” she said. “We certainly did our best, but in reality it didn’t flow as well.”

The city also requested Heritage move its popular farmers market to City Springs and provided additional funding.

There have also been some changes in the city agreement allowing Heritage to operate on the land. A five-year operating agreement will replace a 30-year lease the city had signed with Heritage after incorporating in 2008.

Mayor Rusty Paul said at the Feb. 5 City Council before the change was approved that the new agreement would allow more coordination between the Heritage and City Springs programming. The city and Heritage will know in advance what is planned to avoid conflicts, such as a wedding at Heritage and an outdoor concert on the City Green, Paul said.

“We see them as one big happy location,” Paul said. “We want to make sure everybody has an enjoyable experience.”

The city had to tweak the agreement due to state law change, Thompson said. The only other major change Thompson expects is for the city taking a more active role in maintaining the park.

Improving the Heritage site is on the project list for the new recreation and parks master plan the City Council approved at its Feb. 21 meeting.

Other recent changes include reopening the museum after renovations and adding new staff members.

Heritage announced in January it has hired a new marketing manager and event sales coordinator. It also created and filled a new position of chief external affairs officer.

“We are so pleased to bring this talent to our staff,” Thompson said in a press release announcing the staffing changes. “Everyone hired is on point with expanding our mission and making Heritage a thriving place for the community to gather.”

The museum is within the Williams-Payne House, an 1860s farmhouse that was relocated to 6075 Sandy Springs Circle, now part of Heritage’s historic site. The renovations, all interior, included changing the layout and upgrading systems to better protect historic objects. The museum reopened in September 2018 and in January, Heritage announced it would expand open hours and offer new guided tours.

Reconstructing the city’s namesake spring, a project that was originally expected to be finished by early 2018, is expected now to be done by the end of 2020. Issues getting approvals from the city and needing to wait until the popular summer season is over have led to the delay, Thompson said.

The new design would replace the metal grate covering the spring with a glass-enclosed fountain and abstract canopy.

“We are excited about that project and making it a point of pride,” she said. “It just seemed time to make sure the spring was relevant as City Springs opens.”

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