A proposed master plan to revitalize downtown Sandy Springs calls for a new grid of streets, a network of green spaces and trails and mixed-used developments. It drew mixed reactions from residents when unveiled at City Hall on Nov. 13.
“I’m encouraged,” resident Stan Schnitzer said. “I like the fact they’re trying to make it more pedestrian friendly.… It’ll help.”
But Margaret Brown and other residents argued that the plan, drawn by city consultants, includes too little green space. “I’m very disappointed,” Brown said. “From all the meetings I’ve been to, from the beginning, everyone has asked for substantial green space. Everybody has asked for a large park space.”
When city consultants Goody Clancy presented their proposals to members of the public during a public meeting at City Hall, Brown criticized the plan for including only about an acre of grass in a proposed town green.
The consultants described the town green as part of an overall area of connected green spaces that totaled about 15 acres, but residents pointed out the proposal counted as green space a civic plaza and areas now used for parking.
Presenting the master plan to Sandy Springs City Council on Nov. 6, consultants from Boston-based Goody Clancy said Sandy Springs over time could develop a thriving “city center” with the addition of new streets, green spaces and pathways that together would attract new housing and shops.
David Dixon, principal-in-charge of planning for Goody Clancy, said the plan should be market-driven and that the strongest market now was for new housing. He described a new mixed-use “downtown” for Sandy Springs that in addition to new neighborhoods and parks could include more shops, more offices and a boutique hotel.
City Council will consider the proposed new master plan for downtown development during its first formal meeting in December, city officials said. The plan is intended to guide development of the area for decades, city officials said.
The proposed plan, as outlined for council members by Goody Clancy associate Ben Carlson, features the 3-acre “city green,” including the acre lawn, on the city-owned former Target property; new streets, including an extension of Bluestone Road; and designation of the area as the “city center.” The plan also calls on-street parking in some areas and for a pair of roundabouts to handle traffic at the intersection of Johnson Ferry and Mount Vernon roads.
Carlson said 27 percent of the area now is covered by parking lots. Under the proposed master plan, the area covered by surface parking would drop to 15 percent to 20 percent of the total, he told council members.
“This [plan] is all about housing and retail and cultural centers … that work because they work together,” Carlson said. “If they were separated, it wouldn’t work.”
On Nov. 13, consultants and city officials used 26 poster boards and two slide shows to present portions of the plan. Groups of residents gathered around to study the displays and question the consultants. Consultants said the first phase of the project likely would be the extension of Bluestone Drive.
Photographer Eric Bern studied the plans and realized the proposed Bluestone extension cut through his property, so he wasn’t sure what that ultimately would mean for his business. Still, he liked the basic concept.
“I think having a plan for all of downtown Sandy Springs is something needed,” he said. “It’s really a neglected area.… Anything that would revitalize the new downtown would be good.”
Twyla Oaks, who said she owns commercial property on Hilderbrand, also welcomed proposals to revive the downtown area, but worried whether the plan proposed too dramatic a change for the area.
“I like it,” she said. “Something needs to be done, but …. It’s hard for me because I’m sort of in the middle. Yes, I’m willing to go along, but it scares me. It does. It scares me.”