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Sandy Springs Sets Up Downtown Vision and Criteria for Investment

Ideas were presented to the Economic Development Advisory Committee, last week. This evening, master planning consultants present the criteria for development and investments, during the work session of the City Council meeting.

 

Goody Clancy consultants, hired by Sandy Springs to create a concrete vision for a new downtown area, said they plan to hold more community input meetings in September.

A date has not been set. However, this evening, City Manager John McDonough plans to present criteria, suggested by Goody Clancy, to move forward with development and investments in Sandy Springs downtown, during the work session of the City Council meeting. The goal is for City Council members to approve the criteria at the following meeting on Sept. 11.

Today's meeting starts at 6 p.m., at City Hall.

Framework for downtown

Last week, the consultants enlisted feedback from the Economic Development Advisory Committee, after a presentation of the criteria. 

Public/Private partnerships and reinvestment in Sandy Springs is key, they said. “You want to pace public investment to private investment,” said David Dixon, of Goody Clancy. “You want to build as they come.” Potential developers would go through a qualifying process.

Where would Sandy Springs' "Canton Street" Go?  See an idea below.

Dixon and Ben Carlson suggest mixed-use developments covering 25 to 40 acres. That would include 600-1,000 housing units. Forty to 50 housing units per acre is suggested, costing $1 million-$1.5 million per acre.

“More than $1.5 million purchase cost per acre is unacceptable and would not provide a lot of opportunity for reinvestment,” said Carlson, during the presentation.

Dixon added, “The more mixed-use this development is, the more each of the uses will be worth [for investment]. Retailers will pay more to be in mixed-use, residential will pay more; a hotel will be more interested in being in mixed-use.”

Other suggested criteria includes:

  • Keeping the city center area to one side of Roswell Road. Otherwise, having two thirds of the project on one side is acceptable. 
  •  Frontage of the city center on Roswell Road, Sandy Springs Circle and two to three east, west streets.
  •  A transit-ready community on a bus route, with connections to MARTA rail.
  •  Walkability, new streets, connectivity to eight to 12 nearby streets, green space, and a cultural center.

What about parking?

Parking is a fundamental part of the planning. Goody Clancy suggests at least two-story structured parking over developments. Surface parking is more expensive and offers less uses.

Local developer and Advisory Committee member Charlie Roberts said he is currently learning the hard way that four stories is less costly than two.

“We unfortunately are building three two story decks and losing money,” Roberts said. “…The site plan worked. We thought it was great. It’s costing a million extra dollars.”

Where would our “Canton Street” be?

Roberts said that having seen several plans for city development over the last 30 years that didn't pan out, he advises Goody Clancy against a "grandiose" plan that would take another 15 years.

“Cleanup Bluestone Road. Enhance that street. Put in sidewalks,” he said. “City Walk [shopping center] is a plus.”

Roberts said he does not believe the City Walk structure will be demolished and it’s good planning to connect the shopping center, which has been in foreclosure, with a walkable Bluestone Road.

“It takes a lot of money to build this project for Sandy Springs…[The question is] what can we do in your plan immediately that starts to show the community and sets the tone,” he said.

Dixon agreed with Roberts' concept. What do you think? Tell us in the comments. 

Danny Martin August 21, 2012 at 01:54 PM
I agree that we have to start with a "center" to this development, but we also need a strong vision and good planning/zoning for a total downtown Sandy Springs. Development can work from the center outward in phases to make "walkable" connections to Heritage sites and an improved City Walk. It may take 15 years or more and a lot of money, but phase 1 can be completed within 5. It's not an either/or situation.

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