As city staff reviews its short list of candidates for a qualified master planning consultant to develop downtown Sandy Springs, local business leaders believe the city is at a critical point.
Sitting between Perimeter, Alpharetta and the Cumberland area, Sandy Springs is in danger of becoming a town folks pass through on the way to somewhere else, they say. And the city’s fate may only get worse if Dunwoody’s downtown community is developed sooner than Sandy Springs.
“We have something going for us,” said Cheri Morris with the Main Street Alliance, recently. “We’re the ninth wealthiest city in America and that’s hard to kill.”
City staff plans to select a master planner by early March. Last year, staff met periodically with local business owners of the Main Street Alliance to get their take on the necessary components to build a successful downtown.
“One of the things we talked to the city about is aesthetics and a sense of place. [Currently] downtown is unattractive, there is visual clutter, and it’s lacking a major draw,” Morris said.
Her firm Morris and Fellows specializes in planning, design and development of mixed-use, walking communities. They created a walking district in Woodstock of restaurants, retail businesses and condominiums, after purchasing seven and a half acres of land.
“That’s a vision that we’d like to see in downtown Sandy Springs,” she said.
Morris says there’s a phrase in development: “The land wants to be what the land wants to be.”
“Here it wants to be a low rise small town, marketplace and community gathering area. All property owners in downtown know that and want that,” she added.
A good move is said to be moving utility lines and poles to the back of properties and connecting access between businesses along Roswell Road.
Much of the recent focus has been on whether or not the old Target property on Johnson Ferry Road should become the new City Hall complex and the hub of downtown activity.
Jan Saperstein, owner of Sandy Springs Plaza, would like to see a park and a few surrounding restaurants, where the old Target is located.
“We’ve got a city that doesn’t have a tremendous amount of green space. Look at Centennial Park and what it did to the [areas] around it,” he said.
In any case, Saperstein believes its imperative that the city continues to move forward in developing downtown Sandy Springs.
“You’ve got to do something. The city is doing the right thing in bringing in a master planner. This is game changing stuff,” he said.