Depending on who you ask and where their business is located near the new City Springs “city center” in Sandy Springs, you might get a different reaction to the mixed-use project.
Most are hopeful about positive changes to the area, but there are still some lingering concerns about traffic.For Cecily Ross, owner of Veronica’s Attic, traffic has improved in more ways than one.
A new traffic light at Sandy Springs Circle and Galambos Way at the entrance to the shopping center that houses her store, along with the creation of a walkable city, more restaurants and retail stores, have all driven more foot traffic to her store, said the South African businesswoman. “I’m very positive about what’s going on in Sandy Springs.
“I’m glad you didn’t call me 1 ½ years ago.” That was when construction may have slowed down traffic,” she said. “At the time many customers may have stayed away from the area. It did play a little part.” Traffic lanes were blocked and there were power outages. But she said she didn’t suffer as much as other businesses.
“I did feel the effect. But not to a great extent. Business during construction pretty much stayed the same. After construction, business got even better than it was before construction. It’s truly been, to date, a positive effect.”
From customers’ points of view, it’s much easier coming in and out of the shopping complex with the new traffic light. She also has started to see more walk-in traffic from people working at City Springs and homeowners moving into apartments there.
Near her, in City Springs, she’s noted an influx of new specialty restaurants, apartments, two workout places and a new theater. “If new people come to look at the area, they want to know what retail, restaurants, what health and fitness is around. People see what all is in the area.”
She said she is looking forward to having new restaurants, concerts at the new theater and the new Heritage Sandy Springs Farmers Market, previously in a different location.
“Certainly, I’m looking forward to being able to close the store, go and catch a bite to eat and going to the theater, all the new activities the City of Sandy Springs will be offering. There’s going to be new and exciting venues across the road. That means many more people to explore the area. Exciting that they made the city of Sandy Springs a very walkable community.”
Planning for the future, she’s already considering the idea of staying open later. “If traffic demands it, if people want us to stay open for early evening shopping, we’re looking into that.”
Not all businesses paint a rosy picture about the newly constructed city center. Bob Brourman, owner of Fragile, has seen business drop by about 25 percent as a result of the construction.
“I had a customer who we had special ordered something for and we were holding it for her and she said: ‘When construction in Sandy Springs is over, I will come over and pick it up.’ And that was not for another 10 weeks. “It’s been a struggle for us.”
Detours, one-way streets and traffic jams prevented customers from getting to his store without going a long way off their normal route, he said. Construction crews also parked in the shopping center, leaving less spaces for customers.
Most of the construction is completed, so he’s hopeful customers will return to the area. But he still has concerns about future traffic congestion with more people living in the apartment complexes.“We think we are in a good position” to benefit from the growth. But so far, he hasn’t seen it.
“We hope it gets better. It’s been a rocky road to this point. We know there are hurdles to jump and hopefully we are over the worst of it. We all hope there’ll be progress in Sandy Springs. We hope it will improve when, in the next couple of months, the entertainment arts complex opens. There is a lot left to be determined. For me, the jury is still out.”
There’s no reason to be concerned, said Steve Selig, president and chairman of Selig Enterprises, one of two developers of the City Springs project. “There was interruption with traffic congestion when the streets were closed, but now it’s pretty much rectified.” He admits some may have temporarily lost business, but he suspects the project has reinvigorated the area now. “I think it should get slightly better, but time will tell.”
Just replacing the old Target, Goodwill and lots of small businesses with seven curb cuts along Roswell Road was in improvement, Selig said. “The congestion was horrible then and now it’s better there.”
There is now underground parking, and three access roads to the development will help with the traffic instead of pushing it toward Roswell and Johnson Ferry roads, said Selig Enterprises chief operating officer and project lead Jo Ann Chitty. “Traffic congestion is bad; traffic counts [for business] are good. Congestion during the day can be frustrating.”
As the owner of several Sandy Springs commercial and retail properties, Selig said he believes the project “will enhance the value of real estate, without a question. Selig Enterprises has already seen rental rates go up in the area in its office and retail space he said. “We are getting more calls from brokers. Rental rates are easing up because of the new focal point in Sandy Springs, and a lot more people are interested in the area.”
Re/Max Realtor Jon Shapiro also has a mixed reaction to the growth. “Basically, the pedestrian aspect has been a plus. People like the walkability. If there’s one negative, it’s that there’s more traffic, a lot more congestion and a change in the feel of the area. Sandy Springs has become more urban. Sandy Springs had sort of a suburban kind feel to it. It used to be quiet and now there’s a lot of hustle and bustle.”
The traffic hasn’t hurt his business, he said. “I haven’t personally noticed a difference. Our business was doing well the whole time. We work with a broader geography.” The main difference is the traffic on Roswell Road and the city center, he said. “It’s more densely populated, creating more traffic.”
In terms of property values, Shapiro believes growth will have a positive impact in Sandy Springs. “Actually, with the growth it should become more desirable. It has been steadily performing. There’s been no drop in home sales. The trend should continue in a positive way.”
From Selig’s point of view, “The project is going to change Sandy Springs for the better and give everyone a focus point. It will be a gathering place for everything from business meetings and city council meetings to high school graduations and concerts. Part of the inspiration for the project was to make Sandy Springs more livable, appealing, and a place for city government, concerts, a better lifestyle.”