By Amy Wenk
Car enthusiasts have taken the wheel on a plan to bring people to Sandy Springs.
“I’d like to see us put Sandy Springs on the map,” long-time resident Gail Ripans said to members of Sandy Springs City Council May 18.
That night Ripans and Oliver Porter presented council with their idea to make the city an automotive center.
“Any kind of encouragement you can give us will help us move forward,” said Ripans who chairs the board that is working to launch Sandy Springs Unique Vehicles, or SSUV for short.
The group wants to create a museum and community activities that celebrate modes of transportation.
“We’d like to build an attraction for the city,” Porter said.
A permanent facility would house a collection of classic cars as well as vehicular memorabilia and artwork. Patrons would enjoy car-themed gift stores and food vendors during their visit.
He said the grounds could be used for car club meetings where people park their collectible cars for discussion and viewing. Porter said many of those clubs have trouble finding a home in Atlanta.
He said SSUV would encourage corporate and educational programs related to transportation. It also might bring activities related to car racing to the city.
There would be offerings for all ages, Porter said, to ensure good attendance. “We are going big or not at all.”
Mayor Eva Galambos said the city wants more attractions to encourage visitors.
“This is something new,” she said. “No one else in the Atlanta area has one … We would be unique. It would be a real trophy.”
Early this year, the city’s first tourist attraction, the “Anne Frank in the World” exhibit, opened just north of I-285 in a shopping center on Roswell Road. The exhibit operates with money raised in the community, but the city is on the hook to cover operational expenses if there are funding shortfalls.
Porter said SSUV has filed for nonprofit tax status. The group is not seeking money from the city to pay for startup or operational costs, he said, but wants the city to support the project through endorsements letters to help entice corporate sponsors. The facility would be paid for by community fundraising efforts, Porter said.
Galambos said the city needed to discuss how it would express its support. “Let us work on this,” she said.
The board steering SSUV consists mostly of Sandy Springs residents. Many have car expertise, Porter said. Members include a cofounder of “Car Collector Magazine,” a collector car judge and appraiser, a race car driver and a man with a classic car collection. Kym Hughes, executive director of Sandy Springs Hospitality and Tourism, also sits on the board.
“We have in this community so much talent,” Porter said.
The board wants to acquire property for the permanent facility by the end of the year, he said.
A proper facility would have space for at least 20 vehicles, meetings rooms, maintenance areas, a gift shop, food court and administrative offices. The site would need a parking lot for several hundred cars as well as a prominent, accessible location in the city, Porter said.
“I think you have a great start on this,” Dist. 2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries said.
The group has developed a business plan, adopted a budget and created a timeline for the project.
“It would be a tremendous asset to the city if we could make this happen,” Porter said.