By John Schaffner

The city of Sandy Springs has had its five-year celebration and we applauded its accomplishments to date. Now it is time to hunker down and get serious about developing a new and exciting downtown Sandy Springs.

Let’s make 2011 the year we begin to develop a real plan—a vision for redevelopment—and create a public/private partnership to make it begin to happen.

During 2010, commercial property owners in the area between I-285 and Abernathy Road formed a group called the Main Street Alliance, with the purpose of developing a common vision for the city’s commercial center.

In May, the Sandy Springs Reporter hosted a forum to discuss creating a vision for downtown. That forum included several members of the Main Street Alliance, the city’s now-retired Director of Community Development Nancy Leathers and a representative of the residential community. Every word was recorded and the newspaper published two summaries of the discussions.

On Sept. 7, the Main Street Alliance made a presentation to city officials, which Mayor Eva Galambos hailed as “the beginning of a new world.” Beginning means the start of something. It is time to move on to the next steps.

Just about everyone agrees the crucial centerpiece of a new downtown lies between Hammond Drive and Cromwell Road and Sandy Springs Circle and Boylston Drive. The center of this area is the location for a future City Hall, at the intersection of Sandy Springs Circle and Johnson Ferry Road.

There is much that can be done in that area to improve the environment of Sandy Springs.

For starters, there is a lot of empty commercial space—some of which just needs some tweaking to make it attractive to retailers. Other properties simply need to be replaced. City leaders need to find ways to energize and work with commercial landlords to make Sandy Springs attractive as a destination for shoppers, diners and such.

One of the key focal points of this area of Sandy Springs is the vacant eyesore lot at the corner of Hammond Drive and Roswell Road. Perhaps it sits vacant because of the poor economic climate for development. That is understandable, but doesn’t make that location any prettier.

Let me suggest that the city work the owner to develop a “temporary” greenspace oasis—trees, benches and grass—while waiting for the planned development. Can we at least make that happen in 2011?

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