SANDY SPRINGS, GA — Wednesday’s visioning session for the North End of Sandy Springs proved to be the start of a long-term discussion led by residents on how they want to see their neck of the woods redevelop over the next two decades.
Sandy Springs’ North End Redevelopment Task Force held the visioning session July 25 at Sherwood Event Hall. The gathering space quickly filled to capacity, as more than 200 attendees spanning various racial and ethnic, socioeconomic and age groups jockeyed for seats to embark on the journey to breathe new life into their side of the city.
The North End Redevelopment Task Force is made up of 15 residents and stakeholders appointed by Mayor Rusty Paul who will explore ways to promote revitalization in the area that stretches from Dalrymple Road along the Roswell Road spine north to the Chattahoochee River bridge.
Led by facilitator Otis White of Civic Strategies, residents were rounded up and separated by those who live north or south of Dalrymple Road. White and other city leaders were surprised and amazed at the turnout.
"I gotta tell you that I’m…so happy that so many of you have showed up tonight," said District 2 City Councilman Steve Soteres, who chairs the Task Force.
Once they were divided into groups, White asked each of the residents to share a few details about themselves, including how long they lived in the city. These groups were then asked to come up with what they believe would be the ideal image for the North End in 2043. While White explained how this exercise would work, one woman shouted her response in jest, "We’ve solved the traffic problem!" Unsurprisingly, this comment drew applause and laughter, as many in the room know all too well the traffic woes they have to battle on a daily basis.
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Soon, the Sandy Springs residents got down to work, politely discussing with each other why their ideas made sense and asking their fellow citizens to expand upon their suggestions, when needed.
As the Patch editor made her way around the room, many of the boards had the same themes and/or suggestions offered up by residents. Some of these ideas include coordinated public transportation; connectivity to the Big Creek Greenway in Roswell and Alpharetta; improved walkability; entertaining/dining/shopping options along the banks of the Chattahoochee River; rent-controlled and/or affordable housing; farmers market options; low-density development; flourishing arts scene; more pedestrian crossings; preservation of greenspace and the areas surrounding the river; more bike-friendly areas; lowering the speed limit on Roswell Road; improved traffic management; a new MARTA station; aging in place options; excellent public schools; a new library; community center; and arts center that could host classes.
Phil Klein, who has lived in the city with his wife, Betty, since the 1960s, said he floated the idea of having three central points where buses can pick up and drop off people who want to get around the city without relying on their vehicles. The city could have passes for residents who wanted to have bus access for an entire day. This, he said, would allow residents on the northern end of the city to easily visit City Springs and the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area on the western side of the city.
Resident Andrea Sharper, who has lived in the city for 10 years, told Patch she was encouraged to attend Wednesday’s meeting by a neighbor.
"I’m excited that they are taking community suggestions," she said.
As for her suggestions, Sharper said she’d like to see vacant storefronts not remain dormant for a long period of time. She also said she’d like to see diverse housing options that would accommodate residents of all income levels.
Susan Cornish, who marveled at the turnout, added she was also glad to see many residents chime in with ideas of protecting the environment, preserving green space and adding more shopping options.
Civic Strategies will continue working with both city management and the task force, assisting with facilitating community engagement events and providing assistance with final recommendations and reports that will be submitted to city leaders. A final report is due to the City Council prior to its January 2019 retreat.