City Springs, the civic center of Sandy Springs, has been praised by city officials and a local urban planning expert for its walkability, including an underground parking garage to make room for a new park. But city vehicles do not have a central hub and are parking in various locations around town, some the city already owns and some rented.

The city parks some vehicles at a gravel lot that was purchased for nearly $686,000 for land-banking purposes and has a parking agreement with a church across the street from City Springs for $12,000 a year. The city is also planning on extending its annual lease through June 2023 at the old City Hall for its police headquarters and parking, averaging $271,000 a year.

The city is using land it acquired at 140 Hilderbrand Drive, about a block from City Springs, as a parking lot. (File)

“We don’t have one group parking area for city vehicles,” city spokesperson Sharon Kraun said. “We use various locations to park city vehicles when they are not in use.”

City Springs is home to apartments, several restaurants, shops and other retailers, as well as the city’s Performing Arts Center and City Hall. It has a total of 1,125 parking spaces: 750 are in an underground deck and 258 are surface parking.

To Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul, City Springs brought the walkability, community gathering space and apartments for young renters and families Paul envisioned.

“This would have never happened before. Nobody walked here before,” Paul said during a July tour of City Springs.

Ellen-Dunham Jones, director of the Urban Design program at Georgia Tech, praised the city for its design of City Springs at an Oct. 3 Thought Leader’s Dinner hosted by the Sandy Springs Conservancy and said it was an innovative way to bring the city to the suburbs through a mixed-use complex.

Kraun said the alternative spaces for city vehicle parking are used to provide as much space for City Springs visitors as possible.

“We consciously use these alternative spaces, apart from the deck at City Springs, to maximize the parking…for guests visiting City Springs,” Kraun said.

The city uses Morgan Falls Overlook Office Park, about four miles from City Springs, for overnight parking at 7840 Roswell Road, the building that used to house City Hall prior to the opening of City Springs.

“The decision to use Morgan Falls as a landing area was made prior to the opening of [City Springs] so that we could maximize the spaces within the parking deck for guests at City Springs,” Kraun said.

Kraun said a majority of the 302 city vehicles use the office parking spaces for overnight parking. Of the 302 vehicles, 185 belong to the police, city spokesperson Dan Coffer said.

The police department headquarters and the Municipal Court remain at Morgan Falls. The city has a lease with the office park that covers the police headquarters, court and parking spaces mainly used for the police fleet.

“Many of the police units are not driven daily, such as the training vehicles, the command post and the SWAT vehicles,” Coffer said.

The current lease will end on June 30, 2020. According to city documents, the city will extend the contract until June 30, 2023 and will spend $265,994.40 in year one, $271,314.24 in year two and $276,740.52 in year three.

Creating a new public safety headquarters is in the city’s long-range plan, but the city did not respond to inquiries about any updates on finding a location or other plans in the works.

The Parks and Recreation department uses Hammond Park, about two miles from City Springs at 6005 Glenridge Drive, to park some of its vehicles, Kraun said.

Around City Springs, city vehicles primarily park in the South Lot at the corner of Hilderbrand Drive and Mount Vernon Highway, which was part of the construction of City Springs. But city vehicles also use a gravel lot that was a parcel acquired by the city for the cost of $685,934.10.

The property was purchased in 2017 as Antiques & Clocks of Sandy Springs for land-banking purposes but has since been used as an office for the Performing Arts Center and, now, after being demolished, a parking lot for city vehicles. In September, the Reporter saw around a half dozen vehicles, including police, parked in the lot.

“When we have multiple large events taking place on the same day, we ask staff to use alternate spaces, including the gravel lot on Hilderbrand,” Kraun said. “This has successfully supported the additional parking needs.”

In May 2017, the city was eyeing a lot at a public works facility at 7447 Trowbridge Road about three miles from City Springs to store the city’s dozens of vehicles needed for road work, inspections and similar functions.

“We’d like to build an adjacent lot,” former City Manager John McDonough said at a May 16, 2017 city budget meeting at City Hall. “We simply don’t have space at City Springs to park 85 or 90 vehicles there.”

But at an Oct. 15 meeting, the council approved a $547,000 contract to turn the facility into an emergency operations center for the field service crews and to extend the building by 3,000 feet.

The renovated building will include separate female and male bunkrooms with restrooms and showers, a conference room and a breakroom, according to city documents.

Kraun said the city currently uses the current space on Trowbridge for limited city vehicle parking and no changes are planned for the upcoming renovations.

“The facility itself is not used as a routine parking area, although city vehicles are able to park there,” Kraun said.

Coffer said the city does not have any long-term plans for unified city vehicle parking because the existing layout works well.

City Springs parking

The city has made changes to its parking fees for visitors of City Springs since its 2018 opening.

In February 2019, the city approved a change providing free parking in the surface spaces, which includes 17 immediately outside the businesses in City Springs, as well as the South Lot. This also includes various parking spaces on Blue Stone Road, Galambos Way, Mount Vernon Highway and Sandy Springs Circle.

Originally, surface parking cost $1 for each half hour and was capped at two hours to encourage turnover and to keep the spaces open for patrons of the businesses.

The fees for the surface spaces were expected to bring in about $90,000 annually, McDonough said in February.

Although the parking is free, it remains capped at two hours with strict enforcement and fines of $25 for the first three offenses. Cars are towed at the fourth offense.

The underground deck is encouraged to be used for long-term parking. The first two hours are free in the underground deck, as well, with fees charged beyond that.

In May, parking, which is combined with the PAC on the city’s financial records, earned $47,175, but cost $61,852.

Hannah Greco

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.