By Amy Wenk

Put on your dancing shoes. A new ballroom for community events could come to Sandy Springs.

At a March 16 meeting, architects with the Sizemore Group presented Sandy Springs City Council with design plans for the renovation of Heritage Sandy Springs’ Bluestone building off Sandy Springs Place.

The city has not yet financed the estimated $1.375 million project, but could apportion funds in the 2011 budget.

Heritage Sandy Springs, a nonprofit group that raises money by renting space for corporate events and weddings and through events like the Sandy Springs Festival, hopes to boost rental income and provide public gathering space with the improvements.

“We are maximizing every inch of this relatively small building,” said Sizemore principal Bill de St. Aubin, who presented the proposal to council.

The renovation is largely focused on the lower level of the Bluestone Building, which was the former home of the Suburban Tool and Supply. Heritage Sandy Springs moved into the facility early last year after the top level was configured for offices, a conference room and a small library.

Proposed is to add a large ballroom, catering kitchen, sitting room, restrooms and storage for community events on the lower level, which encompasses about 4,500 square feet. The gathering space could accommodate as many as 300 seats.

“After finishing our $700K renovation of the upper level of the building, we have seen the demand grow for this type of facility,” Carol Thompson, executive director of Heritage Sandy Springs, said in an e-mail. “Every community needs and uses a community center. This will complement our existing facilities, making Heritage Green a more complete gathering place for the community in the heart of the city.”

Thompson said the ballroom could hold business retreats, public hearings, association meetings, receptions and celebrations. “We will finally have a ‘rain option’ for the outdoor spaces of the park that people have enjoyed for years,” she said.

Also part of the design is the addition of a two-story veranda that faces Heritage Green, a 4-acre park and entertainment lawn where the annual festival and other events are held. The deck would be about 1,600 square feet and accommodate between 60 and 80 seats.

“I thought the plans were attractive,” Mayor Eva Galambos said in an interview.

But she said it was premature to discuss whether the city would fund the renovation in its next fiscal year. The 2011 budget, she said, is going to be lower than in 2010 due poor economic times and that “there are a lot of things valuable” to spend money on in the community.

Heritage Sandy Springs asked the city for $1.825 million during the 2010 budget process to complete the renovation. But after heated discussions, City Council decided to allot only $150,000 to the nonprofit group. That money paid for the project design.

The remaining $1.675 million was split equally between the city’s sidewalk and repaving programs.

Thompson said the city Department of Parks and Recreation would again present the renovation to council during budget discussions.

“The council responded positively to the drawings that were presented,” Thompson said. “We appreciate their thoughtful response – the design committee wanted their input.”