The new Sandy Springs City Hall will make its long-awaited opening at City Springs on May 7 with a 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours expected to draw 200 official guests and more members of the public. The way Mayor Rusty Paul sees it, it will be more than a new place for permit-issuing and City Council meetings — it’s the opening of “everybody’s neighborhood.”

“We wanted this to be not only the most publicly accessible, but the most publicly usable, City Hall … in the area,” said Paul during a recent preview tour, where finishing touches were still underway. “This is not just a warehouse of governmental operations.”

Mayor Rusty Paul enjoys the “city’s front porch,” a terrace area that will be open to the public. (Phil Mosier)

That means everything from cozy meeting booths in the lobby to a third-story terrace, open to the public and sporting soft-cushioned couches, that the mayor calls “the city’s front porch.” And free Wi-Fi everywhere, too.

Towering five stories tall in the middle of the City Springs complex, the new City Hall is intended to be easier to navigate than the labyrinth of faceless offices the city has occupied in a northern Roswell Road office park. A new permit office — one of the most frequently used city spaces — is easily accessible from the main entrance off the new City Green park and from elevators running directly from a new underground parking garage.

The new City Hall as seen from the City Green park. (Phil Mosier)

The building also feels much larger and grander, from a large theater doubling as the City Council chamber to hotel-style conference rooms that have already attracted Kennesaw State University business classes slated to begin later this year. Paul said it’s one way to connect the corporate community closer to the city. The spaces are available for community meetings, too.

“I feel like the Jetsons,” Paul said of some of the modernist furniture. His fifth-floor office is among the building’s most modest, though it sports a nice view of the north Georgia mountains.

The Studio Theatre, which doubles as the City Council chamber, nears completion. (Phil Mosier)

About 200 employees will work in City Hall, with some room for staff growth if necessary; they have their own private terraces on the fifth floor. The police department and the city courts will remain at the Roswell Road office park.

The new City Hall has floor-to-ceiling glass walls and an open feeling. Paul said it has security measures he declined to specify that are unobtrusive, but can quickly lock down the facility. “We’re in a world where security’s very important, but you don’t want it too much in your face,” he said.

The City Green park as seen from City Hall’s rooftop terrace. (John Ruch)

The official address is 1 Galambos Way, a new street named after the city’s late founding mayor, Eva Galambos. Her husband John is expected to be among the ribbon-cutting guests.

City Hall is just one part — and perhaps the least attention-getting, despite its size and significance — of City Springs, a $229 million mixed-use civic center opening in stages this year on a site bounded by Roswell Road, Johnson Ferry Road, Sandy Springs Circle and Johnson Ferry Road. The Aston City Springs apartments opened earlier this year and are 20 percent reserved, Paul said; a slate of restaurants was just announced; and a massive Performing Arts Center will have its own grand opening in August.

Mayor Paul tries out the desk in his new office. (Phil Mosier)

Looking out on City Green from the terrace, Paul pointed to City Springs’ reshaping of the downtown landscape. Along with such nearby redevelopments as Mill Creek’s Modera, he said, City Springs will “transform this from a sterile, car-choked corridor to more of a walkable environment.”

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.