By John Schaffner
D.J. DeLong, chairman of the board of Sandy Springs Revitalization Inc., announced Sept. 17 the redirection of the organization to promoting arts in the community through a Sandy Springs Arts Alliance and working toward developing a small performing arts center in the city.
The announcement was made during the annual breakfast meetings of SSRI and its sister organization the Sandy Springs Business Association at the Westin Hotel.
The past mission of the SSRI has been to improve the quality of life in Sandy Springs through the design and installation of streetscape investments in the business district.
“With the formation of the city, it made a lot of sense for that sort of pubic works function to be taken over by the city,” DeLong said. “We had the money and they had the staff.”
He told the more than 100 business and community representatives at the meeting that SSRI has been working with the city over the past couple of years to transfer those functions to the city. “On July 17, Revitalization transferred the streetscape responsibilities to the city and also transferred the first $200,000 to the city to work on the Abernathy Park project,” DeLong said.
He explained that SSRI had over the years received state and federal matching monies and within the next 2-3 years, there will be almost $5 million of streetscapes projects done in the city, “thanks to the work of members of this organization. We are happy to see now the opportunities to get these monies transferred to the city and to get some of these projects done.”
He said this will remove SSRI from involvement in any future capital projects….”All the initiatives we have in zoning and city design and that stuff. Those activities now are part of the city of Sandy Springs process.”
So now SSRI will move on in a new direction. One of the things the group is going to work on is promoting arts in the community—visual arts and performing arts.
“We feel very strongly that there is a need for a performing arts center in this community,” DeLong said. “We are going to continue to work on that and see what we can do to raise funds and bring something like that to the city of Sandy Springs.”
SSRI plans to do a market research effort to talk to the various performing arts groups that are within the region and talk to the Fulton County Arts Council to determine what is appropriate.
“We certainly do not want to duplicate something as huge as the Cobb Energy Centre and we are not going to duplicate the 10,000 person amphitheater in Alpharetta,” he added. “Early indications are there is a market for a small performing arts center.” There also are companies that might want to use that space during the daytime for meetings, he explained.
He said it has been estimated the couple of Blueprint campaigns run by SSRI and the matching funds have brought about $30 million into the city over the past few years. “It has been a great public/private partnership.
“The formation of this Sandy Springs Arts Alliance, which will let us look at this performing arts center, I believe is not a re-vitalization, but a vitalization with a capital V,” DeLong stated. “I think it can bring a whole new level of life to the community.”
During the meeting, which coincidentally followed the Sandy Springs Festival by one day, both SSRI and the SSBA named their new board for the coming year and DeLong announced that the SSRI board is being reduced from 17 members to eight.
During her report annual report to the group, SSBA Board Chairwoman Wanda W. Buckley said the SSBA during the past year increased its emphasis on economic development in the city and increased cooperation with elected officials.
She also pointed to the production of the second annual Sandy Springs Guide book, management of the Business & Civic Expo at the Sandy Springs Festival, the Leaders and Lunch Program that featured Bernie Marcus at the Georgia Aquarium and the production of the first annual Celebrate Sandy Springs event at the Art Institute of Atlanta as a few of the organizations major accomplishments.