Sandy Springs’ Abernathy Greenway Linear Park project is months behind schedule because of construction delays and attempts to satisfy angry neighbors.
Council members and park proponents say the wait will be worth it. The current plan calls for creating more than 20 acres of green space at the intersection of Abernathy, Brandon Mill and Johnson Ferry Roads.
The city estimates the cost will be $13.6 million, and Finance Director Karen Ellis said the city has budgeted $7.5 million for it. City spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said the city will receive $800,000 in federal money for the current phase of the project.
The park’s showcase feature is “playable art” donated to the city by Northside Hospital and coordinated by the Sandy Springs Conservancy. In July, one artist began installing a dragonfly sculpture, the first of several pieces that were selected for the park as part of a contest.
Sandy Springs Conservancy Executive Director Linda Bain said the city has received the other art pieces and has stored them inside the former Target property on Johnson Ferry Road. The city purchased the Target building in 2008 as part of its plans to revitalize the city’s downtown.
“Ideally we would’ve been able to install these structures in a site that was already prepared and ready to receive them,” Bain said. “This has had some setbacks that were unanticipated, but we were adaptable.”
City officials broke ground on the park in 2010. The Playable Art project was anticipated to open in fall 2012, but was pushed back to spring 2013 because of construction on Brandon Mill Road.
Councilman Chip Collins, whose district includes the greenway, said the park now could be ready by early 2014. The city recently rebid Phase IV of the project, originally scheduled to begin in summer 2012.
Residents’ concerns about the park and the road widening have caused some of the setbacks.
The Georgia Department of Transportation revised its schedule for widening Abernathy Road after residents’ complaints convinced GDOT to lower the grade of Brandon Mill Road. That began in July and was supposed to be completed in September. GDOT reported in its November update that its contractor finished the job. GDOT moved its completion date for the road widening from Jan. 31 to Feb. 28, according to its website.
Residents have also complained about aspects of the park’s design.
In February 2012, the city agreed to revise its plans for adding parking and a pavilion to the greenway after neighbors told the council the project would increase traffic and decrease their property values. The council decided to move bathrooms to the center of the park and to evaluate usage before building additional parking on Wright Road.
City Council said it would still build a 36-space parking lot on the north side of the property along Abernathy Road.
Collins said GDOT’s construction delays for the Abernathy Road widening project altered the city’s schedule.
“We’ll eventually have a park and, hopefully, after it’s done, it’ll all be forgotten whether it opened in 2013 or 2014,” he said.
Bain said the conservancy and the artists understand the situation. “It’s the nature of public roadwork,” Bain said. “I don’t think you can point a finger of blame. It’s just that these things happen and we have had some significant delays.”