The Gist

- Fulton County transferred the Abernathy Arts Center property to Sandy Springs.
- The city will hold a community meeting Dec. 13 to gather input from residents.
- Renovations to the arts center could cost $1.5 million.

Expect the Fulton County logo to disappear with the transfer of the Abernathy Arts Center property to Sandy Springs.

Sandy Springs officials want residents to tell them what kind of arts programs they want at Abernathy Arts Center.

Fulton County is transferring the 4.1-acre property, which has four buildings, two tennis courts, a parking lot and a playground, to the city. The center has been used for community arts classes, camps and cultural events.

A meeting to collect public input is set for Dec. 13, from 6-7:30 p.m. It will be held at the Studio Theatre at City Springs, located at 1 Galambos Way.

“Rather than rely on emails to me and council members, we thought it better to go to the community to find out what kinds of programs they want. And also how to deliver them,” Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul said.

After city staff makes a short presentation, the public will be asked for input on programming and how to make the Abernathy Arts Center a vital asset to the community.

“We’re not going to go out and hire a lot of staff to run an arts program. We’re more likely to find instructors who want to provide private sector classes providing those services,” Paul said.

Turning to the private sector is what the city does with many other recreation programs, such as gymnastics instructors who come into city facilities and provide services, he said.

“Before we do that, we don’t want to go out and contract some services only to find the community doesn’t have any interest in that,” Paul said. The choice of programming will be guided by community input, he said. 

The city doesn’t have full possession of the Abernathy Arts Center property yet, as Fulton County hasn’t handed over the keys. As a result, a full assessment of the three older buildings is not yet complete.

“The newer building we think is in pretty good shape,” Paul said.

It could cost $1.5 million to renovate the older buildings on the arts center property, according to an early estimate. But first, Paul said the city must hear from the community. “We’ve got to look at the kind of services they want before we spend $1.5 million on the buildings,” he said.

An architect will need to be hired to evaluate the buildings and what work is required to make them safe and functional, as well as meet building codes and ADA requirements. Among other repairs, a detention pond on the site is filled with trees, and a retaining wall is crumbling. Given the age of the buildings, asbestos and lead-based paint could also be a problem.

“We’ve got a lot of work. We are not going to be offering arts classes in January,” Paul said. But he does expect classes to begin in 2022.

“Fulton County really hasn’t put any money into those facilities in quite a while. We’ve got to go in, make an assessment and make sure those facilities are safe,” Paul said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Reporter Newspapers.