Following Wednesday’s special called meeting at City Hall to discuss possibly adding an arts venue to the city center, the Sandy Springs City Council will hold another special called meeting at City Hall July 23 at 6 p.m. to review potential options and their impact in terms of space and costs. An open house is scheduled for 6 to 8 p.m. at City Hall the following day, thus allowing residents to review those plans and provide feedback.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the findings of a city-commissioned study conducted by Chicago-based Johnson Consulting about the attributes of a performing arts center and pertinent market analysis were presented. Council members visited two sites — Gwinnett Cultural Center (750 seats) and Roswell Cultural Center (600) — prior to the meeting, essentially as research on comparable venues.
“This is a 50-year hit,” Mayor Rusty Paul said. “This is something that’s going to change this community. The most important judge for me is 25, 30 years from now as our kids and grandkids are looking back, if they look at it and say, ‘Alright, they made the right decision.’”
Charles Johnson, the firm’s president and CEO, recommended a 750- to 1,000-seat facility be erected. It would come with an adjoining lobby and meeting space — allowing for multiple group use.
“A number of arts and culture groups have developed in Sandy Springs organically,” Johnson said. “There are a limited number of facilities for these groups to use and those that exist limit the number of people that can attend any one event.
“So, those [limited or left out] get frustrated and take their activities elsewhere.”
Officials identified the solvency of a performing arts venue within the city’s borders as a key issue moving forward.
“Obviously, construction costs are important,” Paul said. “But the most important costs are life cycle costs — the operation costs. You have to weigh that.”
Potentially saddling the city with an operational deficit runs counter to his administration’s objectives, the mayor added.
“We might be able to afford it on the front end, but if we can’t break even in a couple of years we’re going to have to reexamine the model,” said Paul. “The real focus of the city center project is to give the community a place to meet and a common place to come together.
“Anything else, in my mind, is ancillary.”