By Jason Massad

The Georgia Music Hall of Fame, now located in Macon, displays artifacts from great musical acts like REM

The Dunwoody Music Hall of Fame could benefit from the exposure of a temporary location at Perimeter Mall – which attracts 18 million people annually – while a newly formed Dunwoody nonprofit raises funds for a 10,000-square foot facility near the Spruill Center for the Arts, said Councilman Danny Ross.

The group already has a preliminary agreement with Perimeter Mall to host the museum for three years should Dunwoody be successful in luring the Georgia Music Hall of Fame to Dunwoody. The Georgia Music Authority is expected to select from a list of several bidders on or before April 15.

An agreement with the mall is a necessity because Dunwoody doesn’t have a 10,000-square-foot building to immediately house the museum. However, locating the museum in a similar-sized space at the mall could mean people from all over metro Atlanta would see it, Ross said.

“That high traffic is what I think is what’s going to be necessary to attract the kind of people we’re talking about attracting,” Ross said, adding that merchants in the mall could promote the museum while it is located there.

Dunwoody is competing with Athens, Dahlonega, Woodstock and Macon, which have all pitched bids for the museum. This month, the bid documents from Athens, Dahlonega, Woodstock and Dunwoody were released to the public. Macon won a court order to keep its bid documents private.

Macon currently hosts the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, but it has struggled to remain financially viable. Last year, the museum attracted less than 30,000 visitors. The museum, which pays tributes to greats such as TLC, “Blind Willie” McTell, Ray Charles and Jerry Reed, requires a heavy state subsidy to operate.

Dunwoody officials think they have a proposal that could make the number of visitors more than quadruple in the first year to 125,000 people. The following year’s projections jump to 260,000 visitors, which would bring a multi-million dollar economic punch to hotels and eateries in Dunwoody and Sandy Springs.

“Using the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland (which creates an annual $107-million impact on the local economy with 500,000-plus annual visitors) as a model, it is reasonable to expect the economic impact in Dunwoody to approach $50 million in the initial year,” according to the proposal.

Backing the proposal is the newly minted Dunwoody Music Conservancy, Inc., a nonprofit that would administer the Georgia Music Hall of Fame if it located in Dunwoody.

The conservancy is chaired by Ross, who is described as a fundraiser and successful venture capitalist in the group’s proposal. Other members include William McCahan, a corporate market executive with Olympic fundraising experience; Bill Grant a Dunwoody builder and president of the Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce; and Yvonne Williams, executive director of Perimeter Center Community Improvement Districts.

The Dunwoody group, if selected as host, plans to locate the facility on Ashford-Dunwoody Road near The Spruill Center for the Arts, which has dedicated a property for the museum. The Spruill property is estimated to be worth $3 million, according to the proposal.

The Dunwoody bid boasts of the community’s access to 5 million people in the Atlanta metro area and the fact that it can help fulfill the stated mission of the museum in attracting children to the museum.

The proposal promises an interactive museum filled with flat-screen televisions and interaction with smart phones, traveling exhibits to keep people coming back to the museum and satellite facilities in different parts of the state to host Hall of Fame exhibits.

Ross said that the venue – through the use of smart phones – could lead the museum visitor through a one-of-a-kind experience. A GPS tracking device on a phone, for instance, could be tied in to the technology offerings of the museum. Say a visitor was interested in Ray Charles. By tracking the visitor through the museum, a favorite song selected by that visitor could be played on a flat-screen television at the appropriate time.

The Dunwoody proposal also suggest that satellite facilities across the state be invited in as partners to display some of the offerings of the museum, like a Gretsch guitar display currently being exhibited.

Ross said that his fundraising experience and that of McCahan could become important in the formative years of raising the capital to build a permanent facility near the Spruill Centre for the Arts, which has nearby property for the museum that would house an 800 to 1,000-person performing arts space and professional sound studios.

Naming rights, sponsorships and memberships could all create a base of revenue to build a facility and keep it operating.

But for now, Ross said that it’s best to keep the hype to a minimum because the proposals are not supposed to be lobbied for in the public arena.

“What they don’t want us to do is a lot of public relations on the side here,” he said.