Residents want to see more shopping and dining options, an inclusive community and a connection to the natural resources in the city’s north end, they said at a July 25 public meeting.
Over 200 residents packed Sherwood Event Hall, located on northern Roswell Road, to provide input on the north end that is intended to guide the city’s new “North End Revitalization Task Force.”
The North End Revitalization Task Force was set up by the city in March. Intended to be focused on practical solutions, the task force is heavy with developers and financiers, along with some advocates for affordable housing and community-oriented development. The group met for its first official meeting July 11, discussing what they need to do to achieve the goal of attracting upscale retail and residential developments without gentrifying the area.
One resident said at the end of the meeting that she hopes the task force truly intends to redevelop the north end without pushing out existing, lower-income residents.
“I really hope the folks are really seriously intent on making it an inclusive community,” Gnosisia Johnson said.
The meeting split residents into small groups to voice what types of improvements they think are needed on the north end and how they should be done without displacing residents. The attendance at the meeting far exceeded city officials expectations, causing them to add chairs and create new small groups during the meeting.
The residents who attended lived in diverse housing types, including the aging apartments, several condo buildings and houses in the upscale Huntcliff neighborhood, according to residents’ introductions at the meeting start.
Most groups said they want affordable housing for low and middle incomes, including affordable houses; much more dining and shopping options; more greenspace, including a better connection to the Chattahoochee River; better transportation options, including more walkable and bike-friendly streets; and a continuation of the diverse community.
One group drew applause with its a demand to keep the north end inclusive, including for all races, incomes and ages.
Some of the groups, including ones with mostly Huntcliff residents, said they desire high-end retail, restaurants and grocery stores to make the north end more upscale.
Johnson, a resident who lives in the north end on Morgan Falls Road, said she doesn’t believe that should be a focus.
“I don’t see the need for it to be high-end. Buckhead is a few miles down the road,” she said.
Otis White, the facilitator for the task force and public meetings, said the city wants this redevelopment done without causing gentrification, and asked the residents what the city could do to prevent that.
Many groups proposed tax incentives for business and homeowners. Businesses could receive tax incentives to encourage them to come to Sandy Springs, and existing residents could receive a property tax break, residents said. They also encouraged a property tax exemption for seniors from the school tax, similar to Cobb County’s exemption.
State Rep. Deborah Silcox, who represents Sandy Springs and is a lifelong resident, attended the meeting and said tax incentives could be a good idea for north end redevelopment.
“Sandy Springs continues to grow and I think that’s great,” she said.
Another resident criticized the meeting for being to vague and with too large a group. He would rather see smaller meetings with stakeholders.
“The intent was great, but when you bring in this many individuals, there is a limit on what you can say,” he said. “We’re going to need actual projects.”
The next public meeting is planned to be held Oct. 18.