Sandy Springs eyes major mixed-use development

Sandy Springs is weighing whether to allow a more than $500 million mixed-use project proposed at Georgia 400 and Abernathy Road.

City leaders say the development, Northpark, will boost economic recovery in the area.

But some residents worry that pedestrian safety and traffic congestion are being overlooked in the process.

“Obviously, building it will have a very positive impact on the economic future of Sandy Springs,” Mayor Eva Galambos said in a statement. She would not comment further because the project faces several zoning votes by City Council.

Sandy Springs’ economic growth has been buoyed by other recent announcements.

In January, tech company AirWatch said it would add 500 to 600 new jobs to its current Sandy Springs operation. Last year, container company Graphic Packaging announced it was moving its corporate headquarters from Marietta, and CBS Corp. said it would relocate its IT Services center to Sandy Springs.

The Northpark project would be south of existing buildings on the northeast side of the Georgia 400 interchange. Plans call for 1.5 million square feet of office space, 150,000 square feet of retail, a 250-room hotel and 500 apartments on 14 acres.

The developer, Hines, says the project is strategically located and near a MARTA transit station.

The Atlanta Regional Commission signed off on plans late last month, though that does not commit the city. The City Council will vote on the project after reviews by the Design Review Board and Planning Commission.

Some residents question the speed at which the project is moving. They point to conflicts, cited in the ARC report, that show the project encroaching into what the DOT sees as its right of way. The DOT says those areas are needed for the planned construction of collector distributor lanes at the busy interchange.

Tochie Blad of the Sandy Springs Council of Neighborhoods said she fears Northpark is not being given a thorough review. She said plans call for pedestrians having to cross three driveways and Peachtree Dunwoody Road to reach the MARTA station.

“Easy access to MARTA is going to be essential,” she said. “You’ve got to make it transit-oriented.”

Sandy Springs resident Dick Farmer said he thinks the city is committing to too much development too fast and may sacrifice residents’ quality of life in the process.

“The city is setting a trap for itself with its excessive attention to revenue,” he said. “We’ve already got stressed infrastructure.”

Yvonne Williams, president and CEO of Perimeter Community Improvement Districts, said the area draws developers because of its central location and transportation access. She said Perimeter CIDs and the Georgia DOT have completed projects at the interchange to improve traffic flow and enhance pedestrian access to the MARTA station.

John Heagy, senior managing director for Hines Southeast Region, said there are always hurdles for major developments, but he feels confident concerns can be worked out.

“You can’t have a project of this significance without having a lot of very well informed people looking over your shoulder,” he said. “We’re very comfortable with that.”