With the Sandy Springs City Council approving a $1.8 million purchase of an auto repair business with the intention of building a cultural center, a local organization expected to have space in the building is excited at the prospect.

“The Chamber is looking forward to working with the city on the new cultural [center],” said Tom Mahaffey, president and CEO of the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce. “It will be a great asset for the city and the Chamber. The building will fit right in to the architecture of City Springs. We are looking forward to the opening.”

The neighboring cultural organization Heritage Sandy Springs is also excited, according to Bob Beard, chairman of its board of trustees

“Heritage Sandy Springs is thrilled the Cultural Center is planned to be located contiguous to our facilities,” Beard said in an email. “The Cultural Center’s mission is aligned with our mission of promoting history and culture throughout the community. It also is a great way for Heritage Sandy Springs to partner with the city of Sandy Springs. We are custodians of an array of historical artifacts and possess a large collection of community archives. The Cultural Center will be a great gateway, both physically and intellectually, to our resources.”

A map included in Sandy Springs’ bid document for cultural center design services shows a potential specific location at 145 Hilderbrand Drive, currently occupied by Buckhead Auto Works and Heritage Sandy Springs. (Special)

City officials previously said that the cultural center would serve as a new home for the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust’s “Anne Frank in the World” exhibit, which is currently housed in a Roswell Road shopping center, along with the commission’s office and possibly a new Holocaust memorial mandated by state legislation. 

The concept also included leasing office space to the Chamber and Visit Sandy Springs, the city’s tourism promotion agency, which would run a visitors center. The Chamber is currently located in the Concourse Center and Visit Sandy Springs is in the Northside Tower on Roswell Road.

A conceptual illustration of the Sandy Springs Cultural Center as shown in a city presentation. (Special)

The Commission declined to comment. Visit Sandy Springs deferred comment to the city.

The property approved for purchase at the April 7 meeting at 151 Hilderbrand Drive is currently a BMW auto repair business called Buckhead Motor Works. The property consists of approximately half an acre at the corner of Blue Stone Road and Hilderbrand Drive and is near the city’s City Springs civic center.

The property was previously pegged as a “preferred location” for the city’s cultural center in a June 2018 request for proposals. The RFP also included a house owned by the city that is a part of Heritage Sandy Springs. In a 2016 master plan, Heritage identified its part of that site as a possible location for a new museum for its own exhibits. That property was not discussed by the council during the repair shop purchase approval.

The city and Heritage did not immediately respond to a comment request about whether the cultural center plan will include the house.

In November 2018, the city privately approved an architecture firm’s contract of $153,900 to create designs for a cultural center. City officials said in November 2018 that no specific location had been determined and a presentation showed a general area of several blocks surrounding City Springs.

Later in November 2018, the city held a community input meeting, where residents met with the design team and provided ideas for the cultural center.

Update: This story has been updated with comment from Heritage Sandy Springs.

Hannah Greco

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