The rehabbed exterior of neighborhood mainstay Sandy Springs Plaza draws on turn-of-the-century, European and early American village-style aesthetics such as stacked stone walls, awnings and period lighting as cornerstones of its new look, according to Sandy Springs Plaza Associates, LP General Partner Jan Saperstein.

The recent renovation was intended to transform its once dated exterior from what Saperstein referred to as a 1980s strip mall feel to a bustling commercial center.

“Our group bought the property in 1996,” Saperstein said. “The market shifted and we had to take the challenge of finding a way to lease these spaces. The old lady needed a face lift.”

Another cornerstone of the Plaza’s new curb appeal is its variety of storefront facades.

“I really wanted each tenant to have its own individual storefront look,” Saperstein said. “The challenge is developing the center architecture so each tenant has its own look, but it doesn’t pigeonhole us into finding only tenants who fit.”

Gay Construction Company and Silverman Construction Program Management began the revitalization project January 2006 under the leadership of Sandy Springs Plaza Associates, LP and the locally headquartered architecture firm Portman Fruchtman Vinson Sunderland Architects, Inc., with which Saperstein contracted.

“Renovations are challenging,” Brett Sunderland of PFVS said. “You’re messing with something that has a place in the community, but he – Saperstein — wanted to do it right and was acceptable to spending the money to do it. We were just fortunate that he let us take the ride with him.”

Sandy Springs Plaza has undergone renovations several times through the years but was originally owned by The Womack family. It is perhaps the oldest center in the area, according to Neil Kaplowitz, owner of Buckhead uniforms, a tenant in the retail center.

“I think they had just paved the roads — when the center was built –,” Kaplowitz said. “This was considered really far out, and Mr. Womack was taking a chance.”

According to Kaplowitz, Womack himself asked Buckhead Uniforms, then Buckhead Men’s Shop, to make the transition to the Plaza when first completed, and the merchant has been there since.

“As people change, retail changes,” Kaplowitz said. “I think the present owners have done a great job with a center that used to be a big eyesore but has always been the best location in Sandy Springs.”

The Plaza’s central Sandy Springs locale was one of the catalysts for Saperstein’s decision to renovate.

“When I was growing up Sandy Springs was a dominant regional area but, as Perimeter Center built up, the regional appeal went there, and Sandy Springs became more of a neighborhood market,” Saperstein said. “As Perimeter Center built out and land became scarcer, I thought it was a good time to put Sandy Springs Plaza, which is the dominant center in the market, back on the map.”

When the dust cleared in September and the center’s new elevation was in place, Saperstein seemed to have been successful in his endeavor to put the Plaza back on the map.

“Sandy Springs Plaza is a success story. That parking lot is pretty full most of the time, and that’s a good sign,” said Sandy Springs Business Association Executive Director Donna Gathers. “I commend Jan Saperstein for renovating because I’m not sure he had to do it. He had a thriving business there as it was, but he saw the handwriting on the wall.”

Current tenants include the second of only four southeastern Trader Joe’s Neighborhood Grocery Stores, Party City and Plaza staple and local favorite Ray’s Pizza, among others. Only one small service-oriented space currently remains vacant, according to Saperstein.