Sandy Springs Mayor Rusty Paul presents his annual State of the City remarks to the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce at their luncheon at City Hall on Tuesday. (Bob Pepalis)

Sandy Springs plans to find a development partner by early 2023 to help expand the City Springs “campus” across Mount Vernon Highway, Mayor Rusty Paul said during his State of the City Address on Tuesday.

Paul delivered his annual message to the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce at a city hall luncheon on Oct. 18.

The mayor said the city has been buying the property and plans to have a request for qualifications (RFQ) out to the development community this year. A development partner will be chosen early next year, Paul said.

“We really want to create a walkable, family-friendly, family-oriented dynamic around this campus,” he said.

Becoming an arts community

Paul said when he couldn’t find consensus on what Sandy Springs should become, he decided that as mayor he should figure it out.

“Let’s build it around the arts. Let’s talk about the performing arts, which we do in these facilities around us now, on the Green and down on the Society Lawn at Heritage,” he said.

The city annually chooses sculptures to purchase from artists in its ArtSS in the Open project and installs them at public parks like Abernathy Greenway Park and Marsh Creek Rain Garden.

The city also got an unexpected gift from Fulton County with the transfer of the Abernathy Arts Center deed. Millions of dollars of work must be done, including tearing down the old buildings, which Paul called “unsalvageable.” A water detention facility needs to be cleaned out as it resembles an old-growth forest.

Public works projects completed, more on tap

Plans are to open a new Veterans Park across Roswell Road from the Performing Arts Center on Veterans Day in 2023. Work is about to begin on utility relocations and burials around Veterans Park.

The latest work on I-285 hasn’t been as bad on traffic as the mayor expected, though he said that might be similar to when everyone was told to stay off the roads during the Atlanta Olympics and the highways were empty.

“But in the end, it’s going to have a major transformational impact on our community,” he said.

The city completed $22 million of its own transportation projects using local option sales tax dollars, Paul said. Projects included the Spalding-Trowbridge intersection, the Mount Vernon and Long Island safety project, and the Roswell Road-Glenridge intersection working with the Georgia Department of Transportation.

“That was a very dangerous intersection with a lot of loss of life because of the angles and other things,” he said.

The Hammond Road widening project may begin construction in three years. The city began buying property several years ago and now owns much of what it needs for right-of-way, he said. More acquisitions and design work is necessary before construction can begin.

Many sidewalk projects were completed, he said.

The city also is trying to figure out if they can make Roswell Road more beautiful with plants, trees, and shrubs in the median. The challenge is to do that without damaging any of the businesses along the corridor. Installing medians can block access to parking lots for motorists looking to turn left across the opposite lanes of traffic.

Twenty-one miles of streets have been paved and the city is starting work on Trail Segment 2A, part of a loop trail from Morgan Falls Overlook Park to Roswell Road.

Affordable single-family homes needed

“It’s not fair that we’re cutting off access to the American dream of homeownership to young families just with the cost of the house,” Paul said. “We’ve got to figure it out.”

Developers are beginning to understand that to bring more apartments into projects they must include single-family housing like townhomes or condos.

Tom Mahaffey may have thought he was retiring when he resigned from president/CEO role with the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce, but Paul said he was putting him to work helping to figure out a retail strategy for the city.

“Our biggest obstacle to success is finding the quality people that will come here and work for us,” he said.

James Holmes of Truist, a sponsor of the State of the City address, speaks with Mayor Rusty Paul after his presentation. (Bob Pepalis)

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.