The city of Sandy Springs is set to move forward on the next phase of Roswell Road sidewalk improvements funded with federal money in the coming months after long delays due to stalled negotiations with a property owner.

The project is the third phase of sidewalk improvements the city has built out using federal funds from a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development program. The city first began using HUD program funds in 2008. The first two phases of the Roswell Road sidewalk improvements have been completed in the north end.

A map shows the two sections of the current phase of sidewalk improvements within the area eligible for federal Community Development Block grants. (Special)

This third phase is on the south section and runs on a stretch of Roswell Road south of I-285 from Northwood Drive down to Long Island Drive.

The land needed at Southern Trace apartments was one of the main pieces holding up the project, said City Councilmember Tibby DeJulio, who represents the area.

The Sandy Springs City Council unanimously approved using eminent domain to take the piece of land fronting a Roswell Road apartment complex needed for the project at its Aug. 7 meeting. The appraisal for the about 1,500 square feet fronting Southern Trace Apartment Homes at 5320 Roswell Road came in at $43,000, according to the city.

The property was left to several different people after the owner died, making negotiations difficult, DeJulio said.

“It was nearly impossible to get them all to agree,” he said.

The owner wanted double the city’s offer, City Attorney Dan Lee said. The city had “exhausted all options” to negotiate purchase of the property, he said.

The project was initially scheduled to begin last winter, with the first section from Long Island Drive to The Prado Shopping Center at 5600 Roswell Road, wrapping up by this fall and the second section, from Lake Placid Drive to Northwood Drive, starting this fall and finishing next spring.

Now, the city is hoping to start the first phase “in the next several months” before beginning the second, DeJulio said.

“It’s a project that’s been on the books for many years,” DeJulio said. “We’ve been systematically redoing Roswell Road, redoing all of the sidewalks for years now.”

The project is budgeted to use $625,188 of money the city has received through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant program.
DeJulio said that although the project is delayed, the money won’t expire before it can be completed.

“It doesn’t go on forever, but it’s not like some projects where you have to spend it or lose it within a certain amount of time,” he said.

The first phase was completed in 2012 and the second in 2015. Combined, the projects ran from Dalrymple Road up to the Chattahoochee River, according to the city.

HUD awarded the funds to the city for the project because the sidewalks are intended to help low- and middle-income residents living in the apartments along Roswell Road, according to project documents.

DeJulio said the project is meant to encourage people to provide connectivity and encourage people to walk.

“More and more are walking around in Sandy Springs, and we just want to go ahead and encourage people to have a mobile community where they can walk rather than have to drive everywhere,” he said.

The city plans to construct 1.2 miles of sidewalk, install required ADA improvements and make other improvements to the existing sidewalk network, according to project documents. Streetscape improvements, including trees and lighting, are also planned.

Construction for the first phase is planned to include 6-foot wide sidewalks, except for a half-mile section between Mt. Paran and Glenridge drives that is planned to be 10-feet. The second phase is planned to be 9-foot wide sidewalks, according to project documents.

The city applications for HUD grants notes that the sidewalks in this area of the city particularly need more support because of the lack of new development, which is mostly responsible for bringing new or updated sidewalks.

“Because the target area is built-out, relying upon development to meet the mobility needs of the area is not an option,” the application said.