The annual Food That Rocks event is the perfect time for a sneak peek at the new City Springs Civic and Cultural Center in Sandy Springs, a two-hour road trip away.
A city redesigning itself by creating a new core and working from the inside out, obviously has innovative leadership. ℹ Sandy Springs, Georgia is that place. Snapshots of its evolution are in plain sight. ℹ Abernathy Greenway Linear Park, where sculpture is part of playground and path, is one place to get a feel for this urban community, bordered by 22 miles of the Chattahoochee River on the north and the city of Atlanta on the south. There are over 950 acres of parks offering shoreline activities, light hiking and organized sports. From kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing on the river, to the artistic play experience here in this upscale neighborhood, residents and visitors alike enjoy a high-energy community.
Chattanoogans are quite spoiled with great access to exciting whitewater rivers like the Hiwassee and the Ocoee, but Sandy Springs offers a bit of river action, too. ℹ Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) has two outposts there—at Johnson Ferry and Powers Island in the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area—offering rentals for tubing, kayaking and standup paddle-boarding. The recreational amenities have been made available through coordinated civic efforts.
Abernathy Greenway Linear Park was a collaboration of the Sandy Springs Conservancy and ℹ Art Sandy Springs. The two organizations sponsored a playable art sculpture contest and received submissions from artists around the world. The Conservancy has also collaborated on the development of nearby ℹ Morgan Falls Overlook Park on the Chattahoochee River which opened in 2010. Hiking trails, pavilions and ballfields bring recreation to the riverfront and the riverfront to the people.
These are just a few examples of the teamwork that has proven effective since the city was incorporated in 2005. Sandy Springs has taken a non-traditional approach to governance by sharing resources and staff among various departments and by partnering with private organizations and nonprofits.
Now it’s time for a drumroll! The crowning achievement of the past few years will be unveiled early this summer. The City Springs Civic & Cultural Center, is a 14-acre comprehensive mixed use development that includes a performing arts center with a 350-seat studio theater and a 1,070-seat main theater, a conference center, a four-acre outdoor commons called City Green, residential apartments, retail space, community meeting rooms with moveable walls and civic offices. There is a concessions area and a full catering kitchen.
“The Byers Theatre has the versatility to house a variety of performances,” says David Daly, director of programming. “The orchestra pit is state-of-the-art. It can accommodate a pit orchestra, it can be raised to provide additional seating or the added platform may be used to extend the stage.”
The facility has daylighting features throughout and has achieved basic LEED requirements, although the city will not apply for certification due to the high cost. Design and building partners include Rosser International architectural firm, Holder Construction and jB+, a landscape architect. A great deal of attention has been focused on storm-water runoff, storage and retention. All event parking is underground. The Performing Arts Center opens with select performances in June and residents are excited.
“It is an honor to have such strong partnerships as we launch City Springs Center, leading with a solid foundation to bring world-class programming to Sandy Springs and the North Fulton area,” says energetic Mayor Rusty Paul.
Visitors from Chattanooga may want to combine a Braves baseball game with a getaway since Atlanta SunTrust Park at 755 Battery Avenue is on the way. The new $622 million ballpark, just off I-75, opened a year ago and has an excellent parking infrastructure surrounding it, with hotels, shopping and restaurants at nearby Battery Place. The ℹ Omni Hotel at the Battery Atlanta is on site; however, many enjoy ℹ Hotel Indigo in the nearby unincorporated village of Vinings, Georgia. According to baseball enthusiasts, Atlanta SunTrust Park has the classic feel of a baseball park with all the modern amenities. The organization strongly suggests fans buy their parking online at MLB.com before they come.
One of the first events of the summer season is the perfect impetus for driving another 10-15 minutes from SunTrust Park to Sandy Springs. Local musicians and area chefs shine during the annual Food That Rocks festival which takes place Saturday, June 9 with food, wine, beer and cocktail tastings from more than 20 Sandy Springs restaurants.
This year’s ticketed event takes place under the tents at City Green and is presented by ℹ Taste of Atlanta. Visitors may go online to foodthatrocks.org to buy their tickets.
Year-round entertainment is reason enough to visit this Georgia town, but there’s more. Our visit included lunch at ℹ Rumi’s Kitchen, serving distinctive and delightful Persian-inspired food and we checked out local shopping at ℹ Susansnaps bakery, ℹ Calyroad Creamery and ℹ The Swell Shop on Hildebrand Drive. Each of these shops has an active online store and an interesting story to tell.
Over on Roswell Road we stopped at ℹ Nandina Home & Design. Nandina’s was having an informal quarterly design symposium, where vendors come in to give color and trend presentations. Owners John Ishmael, Susan Victor and Sue Shannon have created a beautiful resource for professional or amateur interior designers.
Sandy Springs is a place where retail chains are all represented, but the town works hard to cultivate home-grown business and art, too. It also seeks to preserve its history. So, is there really a spring at Sandy Springs? In fact, there is. The Heritage Park nonprofit manages a four-acre park in the heart of the city that is home to the historic Williams-Payne house and is the site of the original springs, for which the town is named. Heritage Park is the stage for many intimate community events.
This summer, the new hub, unveiled in the form of City Springs is a vibrant, walkable and green mixed-use facility functioning as a civic and cultural center. And the glue holding it all together—strong community leaders with a plan!