A packed house of business representatives, city staff and guests listened the morning of June 13 as Bob Begle, co-founder and principal of Urban Collage, Inc., discussed how Sandy Springs might approach “Making a New Downtown” by redeveloping a portion of Roswell Road.

Begle defined the downtown area of Sandy Springs as bordered by Cliftwood Drive on the south, Cromwell Road on the north and the spine of Roswell Road flanked by Sandy Springs Circle and Boylston Drive to the west and east, the same area the city’s comprehensive plan refers to as Town Center.

The urban architect and planner told the breakfast meeting of the Sandy Springs Business Association that at the moment, the “postcard” for Sandy Springs would likely be the historic site or the strip centers along Roswell Road.

But, he said the focus should be on creating a specific, walkable downtown, with greater density than exists today, and mixed-use development, but not a great deal more retail or office space than at present. He sees more quality residential mixes in the downtown area creation and possible some civic uses a mixture of open spaces and public art.

Begle cited the challenges as being the absolute need to redevelop existing properties, such as some outdated strip malls; the abundance of small parcels, which need to be combined in order to become prime for more dense redevelopment; the high cost of land, which now reaches to $2 million per acre, and the high value of the land, which he refers to as highly successful strip centers and retail that has real value.

As far as opportunities, he cited the potential for overall increase in density and height of development, taller buildings in select locations, placing the greater height in the interior of the block and stepping it back from the street and using height and density transitions to single-family neighborhoods.

–John Schaffner