The public had more than a month to give the city of Sandy Springs ideas about where to put its future City Hall.
On Feb. 21, Sandy Springs officials said the city is back to where it started: the city-owned former Target property located at 235 Johnson Ferry Road.
City Manager John McDonough on Feb. 17 wrote a memo informing council members the city essentially received no usable responses to its Request for Information issued on Jan. 5. The RFI was intended to prompt new ideas about where to place a City Hall. The city received a total of two responses to its request but the responses did not follow the submission guidelines, McDonough wrote.
Council members gave varied responses about whether the city should continue to look for alternatives.
Mayor Eva Galambos said the city should quit looking.
“I think the development of our municipal complex is the most important economic development initiative that we can take and I’m hoping that this will clear the way for us to move full speed ahead on the Target site,” Galambos said.
The City Council did not discuss the latest developments in its City Hall plans during its four-hour Feb. 21 meeting devoted to zoning issues and city park projects. McDonough gave a reporter a copy of the memo after the meeting ended. Behind the scenes there has been disagreement among council members about whether the Target property is still the best site.
Some on the council are against shifting gears from the current plan. Three members of the council – Chip Collins, Gabriel Sterling and John Paulson – weren’t serving in 2008 when the council paid $8 million for the property.
The property has been vacant for more than three years.
“I wish we would’ve gotten more responses,” Collins said. “I thought we would have … That was just an RFI and I don’t think there’s anything stopping anyone from bringing a proposal to the city.”
Councilwoman Karen Meinzen McEnerny said the tepid response is proof that the city had the right plan all along. She said doesn’t support reopening the RFI process.
Councilman Gabriel Sterling said he’s not sure of the next step the city should take.
“There’s some feeling on the council we would like to continue to look at other options besides the sole target site,” Sterling said.
Councilman Tibby DeJulio said the lack of responses didn’t surprise him.
“Let’s be honest, there’s not a whole lot of property available in the city center area,” he said.
Council members said they asked for the RFI because they just wanted to make sure the city had the best site before it invests millions to build a new City Hall and buy nearby parcels.
McDonough’s memo said the city received one RFI submission by the 2 p.m. Feb. 10 deadline from Arnold Development, an Atlanta-based real estate development firm. The company’s proposal suggested the city develop the Target site and adjacent parcels. The offer wasn’t considered because the company could not demonstrate current owners of these parcels are supportive and committed to the city’s redevelopment project. A list of frequently asked questions about the RFI process on sandyspringsga.gov told people interested in responding to the RFI that the city wasn’t asking for suggestions involving property it owns.
The city also received a second proposal after 2 p.m. from MidCity Real Estate Partners, headed up by president Kirk Demetrops. The city did not evaluate this proposal, McDonough said.
There appeared to be substantial interest in providing the city with other ideas. The city held a public information session on Jan. 18 at the Heritage Bluestone Building in front of a standing-room only crowd.
The city did receive submissions on Jan. 30 for a Request for Qualifications to develop the downtown master plan. McDonough said those submissions are under review. Council members said the city might be able to explore alternatives through the process of developing the plan.