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Mercedes-Benz USA goes local
In a corporate headquarters coup for Sandy Springs, luxury automaker Mercedes-Benz USA announced in January that it would relocate there from New Jersey. The new headquarters off Abernathy Road is slated to open in 2018, and in the meantime, Mercedes is working out of a Dunwoody office. Mercedes made an Atlanta splash by buying naming rights to the new football and soccer stadium downtown. Locally, it became involved in controversy over a housing development that will accompany its Sandy Springs headquarters. And its pending attempt to rename part of Barfield Road as “Mercedes-Benz Drive” is opposed by a Barfield family descendent. But it also drew thanks for kicking off corporate donations by giving a van to the nonprofit, Community Assistance Center.

Builder picked for interchange
Fixing the I-285/ Ga. 400 interchange had been projected to cost more than $1 billion, making it the most expensive road project in Georgia history. But when bids finally were opened in December, North Perimeter Contractors won the job by offering to do it for a mere $460 million. When all costs were totaled, state Department of Transportation officials said the price of the project would be just $679 million, meaning it only ranks among the state’s more expensive road projects.
The construction will cover 10 miles of highway as the project stretches from east of Ashford-Dunwoody Road to west of Roswell Road and from the Glenridge Connector to Spalding Drive. Contractors will add flyover bridges and connector/distributor lanes to the interchange. Once the work is done, likely to be some time in 2020, the average commuter will save eight hours a year in commuting time and employers will save $100 million in lost productivity, Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said.

High-speed Internet battle comes to town
Google announced in January it would bring a new high-speed Internet service to Sandy Springs, Atlanta and Brookhaven, along with a half-dozen other communities in metro Atlanta. Local political leaders jumped at the chance to get high-speed fiber lines. “It’s a tremendous opportunity for our city, our citizens and business community,” said Brookhaven City Councilman Bates Mattison, who attended Google’s announcement along with then-Mayor J. Max Davis and other city officials. Dunwoody was left out of the Google program, but AT&T stepped in with its own plans to provide its own high-speed fiber network and to include Dunwoody along with Sandy Springs. AT&T’s Internet service found a fan in Dunwoody City Councilman John Heneghan. “[T]he productivity gained on large uploads should cut my processing time way back,” Heneghan wrote in his blog.“I hope it comes to your neighborhood soon.” In December, Brookhaven’s Google Fiber hit a snag when the Zoning Board of Appeals denied a necessary utility hut in Parkside Park, leaving Google to hunt alternative locations.

Restaurant Council grows in Sandy Springs
In its second year, the Sandy Springs Restaurant Council began expanding its mission beyond the typical “restaurant week” promotion to start marketing the city as a foodie mecca. An August football season kick-off cook-out was a hit, and the first of new quarterly dining events the council intends to hold. The Restaurant Council formed in 2013 as an initiative of the Sandy Springs/Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, and could become an influential model for neighboring cities, as there is talk of Dunwoody and Sandy Springs partnering on a restaurant week promotion and the newer city of Brookhaven starting its own.
“People go down Ga. 400 to get to Buckhead and bypass Sandy Springs … when we have over 500 restaurants in Sandy Springs,” said Karen Trylovich, the council’s chair.

Apartment boom reshaping Perimeter cities
A continuing apartment-development boom began reshaping the new Perimeter cities and Buckhead, sparking debates about density, traffic and quality of life.
Residents packed neighborhood gatherings and city zoning meetings in order to push back against apartment plans. The Roswell Road corridor in Sandy Springs alone had more than 2,400 new apartments approved or under construction. Millennials and baby boomers were driving the trend, real estate experts said. About 11,000 new multifamily units—including apartments and condos—have been built in the past seven quarters in metro Atlanta, according to Ron Cameron of Colliers International-Atlanta.

–John Ruch and Joe Earle

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.