Sandy Springs City Council members and Mayor Rusty Paul concurred at a Feb. 4 work session that a proposed “Gateway Park” across from City Springs should have a veterans’ memorial as part of the project, as well as art and landscape elements.

“I don’t think any one of the three concepts are necessarily mutually exclusive,” Paul said. “I think there’s an opportunity to be creative in that way and see elements of all three there.”

Architect firm Barge Design Solutions has designed three concepts for the park, pegged for a vacant triangle of land at Mount Vernon Highway and Roswell and Johnson Ferry roads. One concept is centered around the landscape, one is for a veterans’ memorial and one is a public art space.

“Since the original planning of City Hall, we have considered that to be a veterans’ memorial park and I think there’s been a lot of support for a veterans’ memorial park,” City Councilmember

Tibby DeJulio said. “But I think it might be interesting to see a combination of a veterans’ memorial park with art.”

“Having a veterans’ park on that side of the street I think is a good idea, I’d rather we do it that way,” City Councilmember John Paulson said. “I like the idea of having water on both sides of [Roswell Road].”

“Having a memorial park, definitely art,” City Councilmember Chris Burnett said. “The topography is…perfect terrain to do a waterfall down into a water feature, so I think we can incorporate all three.”

“I like the combination,” Paul said. “We’ve always talked about that being a veterans’ park and I think that’s very appropriate and necessary, but I like the incorporation of art into it.”

City Councilmember Andy Bauman stressed the importance of accessibility with the park being in a busy part of the city.

“This is the middle of a really busy intersection,” Bauman said. “So, I’m all for it…but in particular what I’ll focus on is the accessibility then we’ll have some opportunity to be creative.”

The city bought the land several years ago for the project, once dubbed “Triangle Park,” and for a reconstruction of the Mount Vernon/Johnson Ferry intersection.
In 2017, former city manager John McDonough said the future park may include flags and some type of veterans’ monument.

The idea for a park reappeared in the city’s comprehensive plan for the recreation and parks system, which was released in February 2019.

The city has long aimed to spruce up the area with a park and paths, but projects have been stalled due to a lawsuit over booting three billboards from the property.

A legal case between the city and the owner of the billboards, OutFront Media, has continued for over a year. In November, a judge issued an order that allowed the city to take down the billboards. But OutFront filed an appeal and the city has been waiting for a new ruling since.

On Jan. 17, the city filed an “emergency order” in the Fulton County Superior Court for the billboards to come down.

That was shortly after the city announced a plan to open a temporary fire station on an adjacent lot at 6189 Roswell Road, a former car rental business, which the council approved purchasing in December for $1.2 million. The site would be a temporary location for the aging Fire Station Two at 135 Johnson Ferry Road while a replacement fire station is built there.

The city says that traffic is too bad for fire trucks to enter and exit the temporary site on Roswell Road. Instead, the city proposes creating a new driveway that would cut through the triangle of land where the billboards stand. The city says the billboards must be removed for that plan. According to city spokesperson Sharon Kraun, the city will keep the property in their possession after the new fire station is built because some of the land is needed for right of way for the proposed park design. Kraun said the city does not know the timeline on the park and whether it will include the property needed for the temporary fire station.

Hannah Greco

Hannah Greco is writer and media communications specialist based in Atlanta.