It took more than 30 years for the leaders of Sandy Springs’ incorporation efforts to accomplish that mission, in November 2005. Now, nearly 13 years later, it has its own City Hall complex, City Springs.
“So like most dreams we’ve had in Sandy Springs, it’s been a long time coming,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. “… But after four years of intensive planning, designing, public meetings, public input and construction, we’re finally here.”
Paul spoke at the city’s grand opening event last week for City Springs, a mixed-use complex which will include not only a new City Hall but also a performing arts center, a park, restaurant and retail space and an apartment building. Since incorporating, the city had used space at the Morgan Falls Office Park for its City Hall. The city’s police and magistrate court departments will remain there.
City Springs, a 14-acre, $229.2 million complex, has had 18 change orders, with a 19th expected to be approved at the next city council meeting May 15, said City Manager John McDonough. McDonough also serves as project/general manager of the Sandy Springs Public Facilities Authority, the council acting on City Springs’ behalf.
The project’s public-portion budget was set at $222.7 million when it was approved by the council in 2013, but it had a $7 million budget increase passed by the council in December to cover extra costs. No other budget hikes are expected.
Dignitaries attending the grand opening included county commissioners, state legislators, local consul generals, past and present city council members and Dr. John Galambos, husband of former Mayor Eva Galambos, who died in 2015.
City Springs was a partnership between the city and four private companies and individuals: George Bushey, lead architect with Rosser International; Holder Construction Co. construction manager; Carter, program manager; and John Fish, landscape architect with jB+a. McDonough worked with those partners every step of the way.
“It’s exciting to me to see the response of the community, the excitement, the fact that the vision the community had when they did the master plan for (the) city center back in 2012,” he said of the opening in an interview, adding he’s looking forward to the other components of City Springs opening. “Here we are, almost six years later, and the vision’s become reality. It’s very fulfilling to me to have had a small role in helping to bring that vision to reality and just to see the excitement on people’s faces is what it’s all about.”
Paul said he was pleased Eva Galambos could have a role in City Springs’ creation right before her tenure as mayor ended.
“In an official sense, what you see here started on a very cold, 10-degree day in January (2014), when Eva Galambos mounted the cab of a backhoe and took a few bites out of the western wall of the old Target store. … We’ve come a long way from that period,” he said. “… While she can’t be with us today, we know she’s here in spirit.”
Paul said long before that day, residents had already recommended that site for the new City Hall.
“I can’t count the number of conversations I’ve had with people who said, ‘And a perfect place for City Hall is the old Target spot.’ I had to start fining people 25 cents every time used the Target spot (name), to change the terminology,” he jokingly said.
Paul said the original plan was for just a City Hall but that quickly changed.
“During the community meetings, it became clear that the residents had higher aspirations,” he said. “They wanted more than government offices. They wanted a place to could come together as a community to build what I call the connective tissue of community. … They wanted a place that was everybody’s neighborhood.”
City Green, the complex’s park, will open in June, and the public meeting spaces and the Byers Theatre, City Springs’ performing arts center, will open in August. Paul said Brandt Blocker, executive/artistic director of the new City Springs Theatre Company, told him about 3,000 tickets have already been sold for its 2018-19 season, which starts in September with “42nd Street.”
Paul said City Springs would not exist without Eva Galambos.
“I’ve been asked many times what Eva would have thought about this project,” he said. “(Longtime Councilman) Tibby (DeJulio) and I both agree that wherever she is, she’s beaming with pride. Her passion about incorporating Sandy Springs revolved around taking the resources generated here and reinvesting them in the community that she’s so deeply loved in ways that strengthened its sense of purpose and identity.”