A group of Sandy Springs business owners are reminding the public of their vision for the city’s downtown while the city works to complete its master plan.
The business owners call the previous efforts at downtown development “well-intentioned but ineffective” and say the city has a “difficult regulatory environment.” The business owners are part of the Main Street Alliance, a group of 30 companies that own 130 acres of property in downtown Sandy Springs.
Downtown redevelopment has been largely on hold since the city in 2008 bought the former Target site on Johnson Ferry Road. The discussion picked up again in January as city leaders decided to consider alternatives to the original plan to build a large municipal complex on the site.
City spokeswoman Sharon Kraun says city officials are aware of the business owners’ suggestions, noting nearly all come from an April 2011 report published by the city and the alliance. Broadly, the report suggests tackling problems with traffic, infrastructure, regulations, aesthetics and economics.
Alliance member Kirk Demetrops said the group felt the need to release a shorter, simpler version of its 2011 report because of the renewed focus on downtown development.
“We wanted to reinforce that we think there’s a very simple set of solutions for downtown Sandy Springs, and to diverge from that, we think, would be a mistake,” Demetrops said.
Unlike the April 2011 document, however, the latest statement by the alliance puts on record that it no longer wants a large municipal complex at the city-owned former Target property at 235 Johnson Ferry Road.
In May, Sandy Springs City Council approved new parking lot landscaping regulations in response to the April 2011 alliance report. The city has hired Boston-based consultant Goody Clancy to draw up the downtown master plan. Kraun said the alliance’s views aren’t news to the city.
“We know there are challenges within the downtown area,” Kraun said. “That is why we brought in Goody Clancy and are going through this open and inclusive master planning process.”
Main Street Alliance’s suggestions for downtown
Fix Roswell Road, which is a corridor owned by the state, not the city. In addition to fixing major intersections, the group wants the city to widen sidewalks to make the road safer for pedestrians.
Designate some roads for commuter traffic while protecting other roads for local traffic.
Turn the city-owned former Target property into a “Green Town Center.”
Implement “form-based zoning” for the Main Street area of the city to give building designs consistency.
Establishing a Downtown Development Authority to champion downtown issues and investigate a Community Improvement District and Tax Allocation District to pay for infrastructure improvements.
Source: Main Street Alliance
In March, the alliance announced it had changed its official position on the municipal complex idea and its members have been visible throughout the public input process with Goody Clancy.
Alliance member Jan Saperstein said the business group also wants to unify its vision with that of nearby neighborhoods.
“These neighborhoods that surround, that touch, that downtown are going to be the first wave that’s going to be influenced by what happens on that property,” Saperstein said. “Because of that, we are reaching out to the neighborhoods and saying, ‘Let’s talk about this.’”
City Councilman Gabriel Sterling said the alliance’s latest report is a “backwards looking document.”
“Everyone agrees the regulations are an issue, transportation is an issue,” Sterling said. “There’s nothing in there that I find in any way surprising.”
City Councilwoman Dianne Fries said called the alliance’s update a good idea because their original set of recommendations came out more than a year ago.
“I think it will be helpful [information] for Goody Clancy to have,” Fries said.