The Dunwoody City Council has awarded a $65,000 contract to a consulting firm to evaluate and analyze the conditions of North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center and the soon-to-be former Austin Elementary School site to help determine how best to use the facilities.

The council voted unanimously July 8 to award the facilities assessment contract to Sizemore Group as part of the consent agenda. The facilities assessment will include site and building analysis, user group interviews to determine space needs, and conceptual site and floor plans, according to a memo to the council from Parks and Recreation Director Brent Walker.

The money to pay for the contract will come from the city’s $50,000 master plan for Austin Elementary and $15,000 from the Tourism Facility Fund.

The $50,000 Austin Elementary master plan funding was approved in this year’s city budget. The money is designated to determine how to use the property once the DeKalb County School District closes the current Austin Elementary at 5435 Roberts Drive and opens the new version now under construction. The new 900-seat school is located less than a mile away on Roberts Drive, adjacent to Dunwoody Park and the Dunwoody Nature Center. The school is slated to open in January 2020.

Preliminary talks about the current Austin Elementary’s 9.8-acre site have generally focused on creating a park.

In 2017, the City Council voted to set aside 15 percent of revenue brought in when it raised its hotel-motel taxes from 5% to 8% into a “Tourism Facility Fund.”

The Spruill Center has been located at the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center at 5339 Chamblee-Dunwoody Road for approximately 40 years. Spruill Center CEO Bob Kinsey has made several presentations to the City Council about the need for more space.

The Stage Door Players and the Chattahoochee Handweavers Guild are also located in the arts center, and the Dunwoody Library shares space in the building as well.

The city paid $86,000 for “Create Dunwoody” arts and culture master plan approved last year, which calls for the city to solve the lack of space at the North DeKalb Cultural Arts Center. Kinsey has said the Spruill Center is continually turning away people wanting to take jewelry-making, ceramics and painting classes due to overcrowded classrooms.

The handweavers guild has been squeezed into one classroom, forcing some students to use their large looms in the hallway. The Stage Door Players currently has a 125-seat theater, but the board would like to find space for 300 seats, according to the arts master plan.

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