As Sandy Springs’ North End Revitalization Task Force gears up its effort to spark redevelopment along northern Roswell Road, some local residents are starting to express concerns about gentrification, displacement and the task force’s representation.
The task force held its first public meeting July 11 at City Hall, starting a roughly six-month process to brainstorm was to improve the retail areas without gentrifying what are perhaps the city’s most diverse neighborhoods.
Task force members said they will seek input from the larger community, including at a July 25 meeting that will run 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Sherwood Event Hall, 8610 Roswell Road.
A few residents attended the July 11 City Hall meeting. One resident, who asked not to be identified, said he lives in the area and was interested in what the task force was planning for the north end.
Another resident who also did not want to be identified said he was dismayed to learn that the task force does not have minority representation. While task force members represent different industries and interests, all appear to be white, and none are local apartment tenants or owners.
The meeting began with a warning from Otis White, a consultant hired to facilitate the process, who cautioned the press would be covering the task force’s meetings and decisions.
“Please err on the side of kindness and thoughtfulness,” White said. “You may not like how it looks in print.”
The meeting did not formally begin until over half an hour after its scheduled start time, as officials waited on some members to arrive and to serve themselves dinner that was initially only offered to the task force. City Councilmember Steve Soteres, the task force’s chair, later invited the residents to have some of the catered meal.
The task force process is open to input from residents elsewhere in the city as well. Tochie Blad, one such resident, expressed concern prior to the meeting that a Mercedes-Benz dealership in the north end was permitted by the city to cut down large trees that had been planted by a nonprofit group years earlier in an effort to beautify the area.
Sandy Springs has devoted funds in its budget to north end beautification efforts like tree plantings, and Blad said she is frustrated the city allowed removing a beautification project already in place.
The Reporter visited several residents, business owners and workers in the north end area for their reactions to the task force and its goals. Most were unaware of the city’s redevelopment priority, and while they had some different thoughts, all were concerned about the cost of housing, displacement and gentrification. The following are edited excerpts of their quotes from interviews.
‘I’d ask them to build a community center’
Love is a 26-year-old manager at a UPS store on Roswell Road and lives in an apartment on Dunwoody Place.
I am a little concerned about the people. I deal with a lot of people who live in the rented apartments around the area. I understand they are trying to redevelop the area and make it more fancier, but I do have a slight concern for the people that already live here and can only afford to rent. I like the idea of people owning more, but I’d have to know more about the plan and when it’s going take place…
[For business,] I absolutely believe it will be a positive impact, extremely positive… if everybody worked together to rebrand and put a more positive [image] on the area. I was talking to my boss right before you walked into the door about how all the owners need to work together and eliminate the negative things going on.
We have quite a few homeless people that like to hang around and badger the customers. I personally understand, but I also understand the customers. No one wants to be haggled and begged for loose change all the time…. I feel like if we all got together and discussed what we wanted out of the area, we could come together with a better plan to rebrand the area, because it has a bad stigma.
[The area could use] better security. We have to raise the morale on how everything looks around here. They don’t treat it like it’s Sandy Springs. They treat it like it’s the Bluff. We have to be more respectful of other people’s space… I feel like if we came together and paid someone to clean the area every couple of days, it would help.
I’d ask them to build a community center. The government is spending all their money on these government buildings and roads, stuff people really don’t care about. If they [built] the community center, it would bring the community together… We need more recreation in the area.
‘You deserve the area as much as anybody’
Perez is a 26-year-old manager at the Dunkin’ Donuts at Roswell and Northridge roads and has lived in Sandy Springs since 1996. He thinks the new City Springs is “cool” and “putting a spotlight on a very vibrant community,” but he has concerns about north end afforability.
I see changes along the lines of cost of living is going up… And one of the key things about this city, the metro Atlanta area, is that the cost of living is one of the key points of our growth. And it will stunt our growth in comparison to New York and L.A. and other major cities.
My first kids were born in this area. It means a lot to me. It’s not just an area, but it’s a community that I enjoy, and I feel like a lot of the residents that feel the same will be pushed out of the area.
I wanted my kids to experience what I experienced, because it helped shape me into the person I am today, but I can’t afford it. [Gentrification is] definitely active in Sandy Springs, for sure.
I’m so disappointed in the city right now. I am not attached to the city….The truth is the city doesn’t necessarily care about each individual resident as intended.
I recommend you get to know your politicians, because you can’t have people forcing us to move wherever just because they want certain people occupying the area. You deserve the area just as much as anybody. To the city of Sandy Springs, I’d say think of both sides. It’s not just a one-sided thing.
‘I am losing my customers’
Sanogo has operated the Chevron gas station at Roswell and Northridge roads for nine years.
I am losing my customers. I hear about rent going up and people moving out. You go from seeing them every day to not seeing them at all… When I don’t see them, I worry.
I want to maintain the people that are here….You see each other every day, it’s like a family you. You don’t see them, you ask what’s going on.
Redevelopment is not good for Sandy Springs. It’s good to make nice, but it’s like they push people away.
‘…Sandy Springs is turning into Buckhead’
Cummings is a 45-year-old operator of a Roswell Road barbershop and has lived in Sandy Springs since 1989.
The growth of [the city] is cool, but I don’t know how they are going to deal with the demographic [change] and funneling where they are going to place certain people of Sandy Springs.
I don’t know if they are trying to gentrify, but they are trying to take it to the next level… I think Sandy Springs was better as a family neighborhood, but now Sandy Springs is turning into Buckhead.
You can tell the difference of what side of Sandy Springs you’re in when you go to the north side. You know where you are and that’s why [there is] re-gentrification and where the crime is going to be.
…When you are trying something new it’s got to be be a change, and the only difference with Sandy Springs they do it and they don’t care [about gentrification]…. When you are thinking of it with a business mind, you got to do business and take the feeling out of it sometimes, and I think that is what Sandy Springs is doing. They are cleaning house.
‘I would say you need to look out for the little guy’
Brady, a 51-year-old hotel employee, lives in an apartment near the North Springs MARTA Station. His complex is about a mile outside the specific area under consideration by the city task force, but transit-oriented redevelopment is among the possible concepts that could affect his area as well.
They are going to make the housing [across the city] more appealing as far as putting more into it. Eventually, Sandy Springs will be where only people with big bucks can live on it, and others will have to move to places that they do not want to live.
I think they don’t care [about the city’s past]. They just want to make more things that are available to those who have more money. The people who have no money, they are just going to be like, “Welp”… It’s like the rich get rich and the poorer get poorer. It’s like all you’re doing is taking all this development and making it for the people who have money but not for the less fortunate.
I would say you need to look out for the little guy. If you are a councilman or in politics, you need to remember where you came from and … that not everyone can afford the prices you’re placing…. I think politicians should go around and …. talk to some the people in the [apartment] complexes and ask them how they feel about the rent and revenue going up and how it has impacted them to be able to do things with their spouses and loved ones.
–Evelyn Andrews, Marenda Scales and John Ruch