Sandy Springs planning a $3 million cultural arts center

Pictured is the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. Sandy Springs is discussing building a new $3.3 million cultural arts center next to it that would be the home of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust. COURTESY CITY OF SANDY SPRINGS
Pictured is the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. Sandy Springs is discussing building a new $3.3 million cultural arts center next to it that would be the home of the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust. COURTESY CITY OF SANDY SPRINGS

Sandy Springs is planning a $3.3 million cultural arts center that would be home to the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust. But some councilmembers are questioning whether the a new building is necessary.

The new 8,300-square-foot cultural arts center would be located near the Performing Arts Center at the City Springs campus. The Commission on the Holocaust would occupy about 6,600 square feet and would include the Georgia Holocaust Memorial, City Manager Andrea Surratt said during a City Council work session Monday.

Sandy Springs staff and the Commission on the Holocaust are still discussing the partnership and no deal has been made, according to the city.

Under the proposal presented, Sandy Springs would pay for construction of the cultural arts center with $2.4 million from the city budget and would own the building. The balance would be covered in rental payments by the Commission.

The Commission on the Holocaust would rent a portion of the building for $150,000 annually for 40 years. Sandy Springs would occupy the remaining space, using it as a gallery with rotating national and regional exhibits. Mayor Rusty Paul said the city wants to continue to own the property because of its value and in order to control what takes place there.

Councilman Tibby DeJulio objected to the 40-year lease and the city’s approach creating a cultural arts center. DeJulio said he’s opposed to Sandy Springs bearing the financial cost of building space that the city doesn’t need.

“This is property that’s owned by the city and owned by the taxpayers and we’re talking about instead of getting the money from (The Commission on the Holocaust), we’re fronting the whole thing,” DeJulio said. “I cannot support giving somebody this property for 40 years for $150,000 a year. God only knows what (it) will be worth in 40 years.”

DeJulio also questioned the wisdom of constructing a new building when Sandy Springs has space already available elsewhere, including the former Heritage Sandy Springs building. The building, which is owned by the city, was operated by the nonprofit of the same name for years and permanently closed last year due to the pandemic.

“We don’t know how much space we have that’s already vacant,” he said. “We’ve got an empty building that we’ve owned and we want to go ahead and build more space.”

Surratt and Performing Arts Center Executive Director Shaun Albrechtson led a presentation on potential uses for the cultural arts center. The center would include rooftop event space and a gallery that would feature exhibits and programs to help establish Sandy Springs as a cultural destination, they said.

Surratt and the mayor want the public to give them feedback on the plans during City Council’s next regular meeting on April 20.

“You’re asking the public to give us their input on something that I’m not sure people really understand,” Councilwoman Jody Reichel said.

A presentation of the city’s plans and a questionnaire for the public about the project is available on the Sandy Springs website. www.sandyspringsga.gov

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