With leases on Brookhaven’s city office space and municipal court set to expire Dec. 31, officials are still on the hunt for a more permanent facility for the city to call home.
When the city began operations in December 2012, officials moved into two temporary offices, each with a one-year lease. City Hall is located in Ashford Center North, a Dunwoody office building, while Municipal Court is housed in Corporate Square, a complex on Buford Highway at the southern edge of the city.
City Manager Marie Garrett said Brookhaven officials are having trouble locating space within the city limits that will meet all the city’s requirements. “There’s not a lot of inventory available for our needs,” Garrett said.
Garrett said she has been looking at Brookhaven properties for the past six months.
“The plan now is to narrow that search down to two to three sites and negotiate lease rates,” Garrett said.
If the city isn’t able to find a suitable property before the end of the year, Garrett said the city likely will negotiate for a month-to-month leasing agreement. However, she said, “I hope we don’t have to do that.”
Garrett said she is looking for one building that could house the City Hall, Municipal Court and police department.
Finding such a building is a challenge. For example, the police department requires ample parking for patrol cars and the ability to operate 24 hours a day.
“Because our departments are so diverse … it’s trying to accomplish all their special needs into that one house that can accommodate them,” Garrett said. “All of these unique needs further narrow the field of what’s available.”
The city is not looking for a permanent home yet, though.
“The goal is one day to own City Hall, but not in the next five to seven years,” Garrett said.
Jed Beardsley headed the committee to find a city hall for the Governor’s Commission on Brookhaven. Beardsley said he encountered many of the same obstacles the city is experiencing when searching nearly a year ago for temporary facilities.
Many landlords aren’t comfortable with government tenants, Beardsley said, due to the potential for heavy traffic at contentious City Council meetings, Municipal Court or a busy permit department.
“We learned the hard lesson that we weren’t considered a very desirable tenant,” Beardsley said.
The other issue was the dearth of vacant office space in Brookhaven.
“The first thing we encountered was, except on peripheral areas of the city, there is very little suitable office space available for either a City Hall or a police facility,” Beardsley said. “In the center of the city, you look up and down Peachtree, there’s just not any large chunks of space available.”
Beardsley said the other challenge of searching for a temporary space is finding something that won’t need too many adjustments.
“The more work you have to do on the space to get it ready for the city, the longer term the lease typically needs to be,” Beardsley said. “While the landlord may be willing to finance a build-out, they want to amortize it over a long period of time, otherwise the rent gets out of line.”
Beardsley said finding a temporary space in Brookhaven that will meet all of the city’s needs will be a challenge.
“It’s going to take some hard work, and I think some creativity,” Beardsley said.