Sandy Springs considers Abernathy Arts Center property for cultural center and Holocaust memorial

Sandy Springs has a potential site for a new multimillion-dollar cultural arts center for the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust.

A location near the Performing Arts Center was considered earlier this year but rejected by some residents. A new consideration is the Abernathy Arts Center property at 254 Johnson Ferry Road. The city is acquiring the land from Fulton County.

A statement from city Communications Director Jason Fornicola said officials are considering several uses for the nearly 4-acre property, including the new cultural arts center that would house a Holocaust memorial and state-of-the-art exhibit on Anne Frank by the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust.

City Council approved transfer of the land from Fulton County through a quit claim deed during a Public Facilities Authority special called meeting Tuesday.

Sandy Springs is receiving the land at a cost of $1. City Attorney Dan Lee said the deal includes a Fulton County condition that the land be used for public activities.

“I am also extremely thankful to Fulton County for their donation of this property to be used for art development in Sandy Springs,” Mayor Rusty Paul said in a statement. “We sincerely appreciate their partnership and generosity.”

Paul added during the meeting that a discussion on the use of the property, which has three aging buildings, would take place during the next City Council meeting on Oct. 5. He added that the buildings would likely be demolished.

The Commission, a state agency that educates the public on the mass killing of Jews by Nazi Germany, has been working with The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam to create rotating exhibits for a new cultural center that would attract people from outside of Sandy Springs, Commission member Chuck Berk told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in April.

Last spring, residents opposed plans for the city to pay $2.4 million for construction of a new cultural arts center near the Performing Arts Center at the City Springs campus. Plans were for the city to own the building and included the Commission renting a portion of the building for $150,000 annually for 40 years.

On Wednesday, Berk said it’s premature to know or discuss the Abernathy Arts Center as an ideal site and there was no official offer by Sandy Springs for a new location.

The Commission operated The Anne Frank in the World exhibit at the Parkside shopping center in Sandy Springs. It closed in March 2020 due to the pandemic.

“We will build a terrific world-class center and have exhibits attracting people from around the Southeast,” Berk said. “Where it will be located, I can’t say.”