Will Smith said his 43-year-old cleaning business in Sandy Springs is a fixture in the community.
Employees tend to stay. He said some of his customers have visited the Master Kleen on Roswell Road for 30 years; he’s washed their children’s band uniforms and gave them part-time jobs.
But if the city of Sandy Springs has its way, Smith will have to pack up his business – and his memories – and move. The city is eyeing the Master Kleen property and several other tracts around a vacant Target building to build a large government complex.
District 2 Councilwoman Dianne Fries said the hope is that the municipal building will give downtown redevelopment a jolt of energy.
“It’s kind of the heart of Sandy Springs,” Fries said. “It’s about smack dab in the middle of it. That’s kind of our downtown area and we thought putting the municipal building there might energize the downtown area and encourage some new development.”
Smith joined Master Kleen in 1978, going into business with his father-in-law, who started the company in 1968. It has always been a family business that has been active in the community.
The city purchased the Target building for $8 million in 2008. It currently wants Smith’s business as well as a local tattoo shop, a Waffle House and a bank, among other tracts. The planned complex would include city hall, a police department and a municipal court. Sandy Springs currently leases office space and hasn’t had a permanent home since the city formed five years ago.
Smith said he has hired an attorney and said the building’s owner, who lives in South Carolina, has told the city “no deal.” The city is trying to acquire the property by the end of the year.
Smith said he has 10 full time employees to think about and he’s concerned about losing a location his customers know, saying 90 percent of his customers stop by as they travel down Mount Vernon Highway.
“The main thing is the city is taking prime real estate for government use,” Smith said. “Not only are they taking it, they’re deleting money from the tax rolls. Government is a net user of tax dollars. It is not a net provider.”
Joe Rogers, the CEO of Waffle House Inc., said he’s not interested in selling the company’s location behind Smith’s business.
“We can’t figure out why they would want to put the government center at the prime spot in Sandy Springs,” Rogers said. “We think commercial is by far the highest and best use for that property and you would think they’d want to keep all that property on the tax base.”
Fries said the move might benefit businesses.
“Depending on where they move, it may actually help their business with having the city municipal center there and creating that downtown we’ve been so hungry for,” she said.
District 6 Councilwoman Karen Meinzan McEnerny said she wouldn’t comment on Smith’s situation, but said the city will treat everyone fairly.
“We’re following a state law and we’re also following a law of fairness,” McEnerny said. “That is what we do in Sandy Springs.”