The city will soon move forward on a plan to build its downtown almost from scratch, a project that will cost taxpayers $84 million over the next decade.

During its regular meeting City Council voted to approve the first phase of the city center plan after receiving assurances that they’ll be informed of the progress and costs as it unfolds. The price does not include the cost of building a city hall.

The vote was unanimous.

“Go for it,” Mayor Eva Galambos told City Manager John McDonough after the vote.

“It’s going to be fun,” Councilman John Paulson said.

The resolution gives McDonough permission to move ahead, but the council will have to approve all costs over $250,000.

The city already has $25.6 million budgeted and would need an additional $58 million. The costs, which will be spread out over the next decade, will require the council to set aside $7.5 million a year for the next seven years. There’s a possibility city hall could be constructed with bonds or in partnership with a private investor.

These are the costs for building Phase 1 of the city center plan, and will cover the area north of Hammond Drive and west of Roswell Road.

City Council approved a broader redevelopment plan in December. When all phases are completed, future development will move the center of city life to what has traditionally been considered the heart of the community along Roswell Road near I-285.

The plan seeks to make the city more walkable and provides for a mix of uses, expands green space and seeks revisions to the city’s zoning code to achieve the desired downtown aesthetic.

So what would taxpayers receive for the $84 million.

The big ticket items include:

– $25.5 million to buy land;

– $4 million for professional services;

– $9.6 million to build a segment for Mount Vernon Highway west of Sandy Springs Circle to Roswell Road and extending Bluestone Road from Heritage to Mount Vernon Highway;

– $11.3 million for infrastructure costs;

– $5.5 million to relocate utilities;

– $12.5 to provide parking;

– $4.4 million to build a playground next to Heritage Green.

In other business, the city council voted to appoint David Nickles to the city Planning Commission to replace David Rubenstein. Rubenstein was up for reappointment but withdrew his name after city council members asked whether he could continue to serve on the commission while acting as the city’s broker in real estate transactions.

Rubenstein joined the Sandy Springs Planning Commission in 2006 and he’s also been the city’s real estate broker since 2006. City Attorney Wendell Willard researched the issue after Councilman Tibby DeJulio and Councilwoman Karen Meinzen-McEnerny questioned the reappointment during a Jan. 15 meeting.

Willard concluded that Rubenstein could continue to serve but “He would be limited by the ordinance to work he can do for the city, not to exceed $2,500.” It’s not clear how much Rubenstein has profited from his work as the city’s broker. He represented the city in 2008 when it paid $8 million for the old Target property at 235 Johnson Ferry Road, and records show he made $80,000 on the deal.

Rubenstein told the city he would like to continue working as its broker.

Council members said there were no questions about Rubenstein’s actions while serving on the Planning Commission.

“He has been totally open every time there was something at the planning commission where he might have had an in interest,” Mayor Eva Galambos said. “In the interest of meeting the ordinance he doesn’t want to have any questions, so we’re retracting that nomination.”

Dan Whisenhunt wrote for Reporter Newspapers from 2011-2014. He is the founder and editor of