With a new study of widening central Hammond Drive coming soon and the city buying up houses for right of way, residents are voicing fears of the neighborhood’s destruction.
“At this point, the rallying cry is, ‘Save the neighborhood,’” said Steve Oppenheimer, president of the Glenridge Hammond Neighborhood Association, adding that the road-widening is an old and controversial idea never supported by a traffic study.
Residents and city officials met at City Hall in early March in what both sides described as a positive first step in communications. Since the meeting, Mayor Rusty Paul and other leaders have expressed renewed interest in seeing a mass transit line running on Hammond, while Oppenheimer said any widening is a major threat to “one of Sandy Springs’ original and largest neighborhoods.”
“They wanted to hear what we are doing and reassurances we have not made plans without letting them know,” said City Councilman Tibby DeJulio. “They were concerned, and rightfully so.”
Officials said the city has been approved for an Atlanta Regional Commission grant to conduct a Hammond traffic study. “Of course, one of the options is always [to] do nothing,” DeJulio said. “The plan is that we need a plan.”
Oppenheimer said if the study is done objectively, residents are willing to consider it. But if it supports widening, that means demolishing homes. “The Number One problem is, widening Hammond Drive would destroy our neighborhood,” Oppenheimer said. “It will remove 100 homes, more than 100 homes, from our neighborhood and sever our neighborhood into two disconnected pieces.”
Hammond Drive is a major east-west connection between Mount Vernon Highway in Sandy Springs and Ashford-Dunwoody Road in Dunwoody. Most of Hammond has been expanded to various widths over the years, but the section between Roswell Road and Glenridge Drive in the Glenridge Hammond neighborhood remains two lanes. Government officials frequently call it a traffic bottleneck. Oppenheimer says it’s a street that maintains its residential character.
Plans to widen that section of Hammond go back a decade, and so does neighborhood distrust. “This project has a dubious history,” Oppenheimer said. “This has had a life of its own with no [traffic study] support for so long.”
Residents remain unhappy that a 2009 transit plan came without studies and with little public input, he said. Fears of a similar situation were sparked by the city’s recent purchases of three residential properties along Hammond as land-banking for the possible widening.
“We’ve said we’d look at the results of the [upcoming] study,” he said. “But we’re also asking for transparency to see what’s in the request for proposals.”
The shorter-term impacts of the widening discussions are a concern, too. Oppenheimer said the “cloud of uncertainty” about widening gave the city “an excuse not to install sidewalks” and led homeowners to not improve their houses. Some properties now are being redeveloped, and the city’s purchases “disrupt the natural renewal,” he said.
“We’ve very upset that they’re removing homes and neighbors from our neighborhood,” Oppenheimer said. “The city has already spent close to $2 million on land speculation” and removing properties from the tax roll, he said.
The city calls those purchases “protective buys” that save money in the long run, and more may be on the way if the price is right, DeJulio said.
With all due respect to Mr. Oppenheimer, one need not look far to recognize that Sandy Springs south of Abernathy is becoming a much more urban environment. This is a normal part of the evolutionary life cycle of development which abuts large employment centers. Perimeter Center is the largest employment center in the Southeastern United States, and Hammond Drive is a primary east/west interior road connecting Perimeter Center (urban) to the new “downtown” Sandy Springs redevelopment (urban). The Glenwood Hammond neighborhood will not look the same in 10 years because your aging housing stock will eventually be torn down and redeveloped. The character of your neighborhood is going to change — for the better. Georgia 400 bifurcated several residential areas north of 285 when it was constructed and both sides survived and are doing very well — and the same result will be seen on Hammond Drive. Hanging on for the “good old days” in an area that is rapidly changing due to population growth tied to proximity to mass transit and employment centers is simply futile. As parents we want our children to progress from teenagers to exemplary adults — we don’t pine away hoping they will forever stay as they are. Similarly, please embrace the idea that your neighborhood will also change, evolve, and “grow up”. Knowing this, perhaps your HOA can redirect its energies and be more visionary in thought. What a wonderful opportunity to be the group that makes a lasting mark for decades by promoting first-in-class streetscape design, linear parks, art-walks, or sculpture gardens that could accompany a street widening! Despite political chatter to the contrary, Hammond Drive will be widened — it simply must be widened to better serve the City of Sandy Springs and the Perimeter Center Business District (which funds a very large percentage of Sandy Springs property tax revenue). I’ve lived in Sandy Springs since 1988 and it has changed dramatically since that time. It will continue to do so….that is what evolution is all about! Nothing stays the same forever, but to have the chance to be a part of what it can become….priceless!
Out of curiosity, what part of Sandy Springs do you live in? Probably not near Hammond so you are not directly affected. There are are many suburban communities in the nation near major cities that have remained as is and didn’t urbanize. And those communities are sought after. East Cobb is an example here in Atlanta. There is no mantra there to urbanize. They are suburban and everyone loves it. You are incorrect that an area must urbanize. Density is being proposed by a developer as a way to squeeze as much money as possible from a small tract of land. They try to convince us that it is needed and town leaders end being hoodwinked and believing and approving this. Sandy Springs is succesful as a suburban community. It has homes, apts, mansions. It has a $75 million budget. It could go on as is without these silly projects and do just fine forever. This whole notion that a farm must be become a town then a city then buckhead then midtown then brooklyn then bronks then hong kong is silly. Each community needs to have limits. Urbanization belongs in Atlanta not in suburbs. We love what we have and where we live so let’s fight to keep it. BTW, the monster project at Hammond and Roswell is out of control and never been approved.
Sandy Springs isn’t the suburbs anymore. It’s an urban area. As more people work here, more people will want to live here. Those people will look for a variety of housing – mansion, townhouse, apartment, family home. Along with housing people will want restaurants, shops, recreational opportunities. There is demand, so developers will create the supply.
What is your solution? Tell Mercedes they can’t build here? Put up gates to block traffic?
Widening a road does not necessarily help congestion because a wider road brings more vehicles. Mr Oppenheimer rightly points out a fair unbiased study is needed. I have my doubts our city will produce that as they have their plans and don’t want the possibility that they may be foiled.
Our household adds practically nothing to Atlanta’s traffic woes. We live AND work in Sandy Springs. But I often have to drive down Hammond and it is absolutely a bottleneck. Anyone who says it is not must be on the streets in the middle of the night, or at 10:30 am.
I’ve lived in inner city urban areas all of my life and those that thrive are the ones that recognize that the landscape is changing and they change with it. If the community association insists on keeping Hammond at 2 lanes there will be more people like me, who know their way around the area, who will cut through on quiet residential streets to avoid Hammond. You’re going to see a spiders web at some point.
My family has LIVED on Hammond Drive and Lorell Terrace since 1965. The people that claim to have the best interest of the neighborhood don’t actually live on the road in question. Either Fulton County government or Sandy Springs city council has taken the ‘do nothing’ approach for years, probably because they fear the HOA members will vote them out of office. The result of this standoff is that probably 90% of the houses in question are rental houses and a significant number of adjoining properties are as well. No offense intended towards the renting population (I have been there myself), but this status is not conducive to the 1960’s lifestyle the non-Hammond Drive residents are alluding to. This emphasis on keeping the neighborhood the way it is may apply to those that live two or three blocks off of Hammond Drive, but not to those of us that live on the “autobahn” of Sandy Springs. The traffic volumes on this road are not too much less than that of Roswell Road, have been such for years, and consequently need to be addressed as such. At this point, those of us that truly are impacted by the decisions on this strip of road would like not to be held hostage by the city council, nor the HOA. The owners of these properties need an answer so we can obtain the zoning and densities needed to sell the properties and move on. And yes, Sandy Springs is now an urban environment like so much of the metro Atlanta area and high density developments are here to stay. What is amazing to me is that everyone throws up their arms in fear of the words ‘high density’. The real estate between Glenridge and Roswell Road would bring significantly more tax revenues to the city to use towards the development of sidewalks, bike trails, and other infrastructure necessities, and I think it is actually somewhat irresponsible for the city council not to let the development go this way and collect the increased revenues for the areas development. If nothing else, let the homeowners on Hammond have the zoning needed for the higher densities and let these higher density homes be the buffer to those who live NEAR Hammond Drive.
SS is not urban. Seriously, drive around and you will see that it is as suburban as suburban can be. Some larger office buildings exist but 99% of it is suburban which is why you, me and everyone else chose to live here. If we didn’t like it as is, we wouldn’t have moved here. If you want urban, move to Buckhead. They have tons of apts. and they are urban. And they have trains. East Cobb doesn’t feel it needs to urbanize. No, we don’t need Mercedes. SS is succesful as is. We do not need another company to locate here although they are welcome. But we don’t need to go gaga over them as we are already sucessful as is. And we don’t need to mow down what remaining trees we have as part of that. We do not need to increase density. Developers want to make a buck but that doesn’t mean we should allow it. Folks that come here from urban areas think we need to get with it and urbanize- move to buckhead as this isn’t for you. When you are ready to get away from density, we will welcome you here. By the way, Mercedes is recommending that their workers buy homes in East Cobb due to better schools. The extra tax money from density is not needed to make the area livable as we have a $75M budget which is plenty to add sidewalks etc. We are spending $100M on a new city hall development so we have money. Unfortunately, they decided to add apts next to it. The dense type with large parking decks that are ugly, have no sense of place, and uglify a nice area. Like the ridiculous apt at Hammond and Roswell. BTW I don’t live near Hammond. Those who advocate density are no friend to those who made SS what it is. And we say to thee – farewell gentle soul. move as thy heart contents. into or against the wind to find the density that thy craveth and needeth….to Buckhead.
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