The city of Sandy Springs continues to purchase rights-of-way and properties to improve its intersections and streetscapes, but the price keeps going up.
“We have a lot more property we’re going to be buying there,” District 5 Sandy Springs City Councilman Tibby DeJulio said, referring to the latest piece of land the city has purchased to make way for its Mount Vernon Highway/Johnson Ferry Road/Roswell Road intersection improvement project. “These prices are getting to where we won’t be able to afford (it).”
At its meeting Dec. 17 at City Springs, the council voted 6-0 to approve purchasing the 0.317-acre former Enterprise Rent-a-Car property at 6189 Roswell Road for a whopping $1.2 million. The acquisition is one of the final steps the city is taking to redevelop one of its major intersections into a compressed-grid improvement project that is expected to cost up to $31.6 million.
On a night when Fire Chief Keith Sanders unveiled design plans for revamping the 50-year-old Fire Station 2 nearby, Sanders said the Enterprise lot will serve as the location for the temporary Station 2.
He said the temporary station, which will house only one fire engine due to its size, is expected to open by late February because it must be open before the old station closes in March for renovation. It will cost $200,000 and will be open for at least 12 months. Station 2 is the busiest station in the city, getting about 6,500 calls a year, Sanders said.
The new station will be 20,000 feet and two stories tall. It was planned by the architectural firm Hussey Gay Bell, which was awarded the design contract for $351,700 earlier this year.
According to a news release, it will have at least three features related to firefighter safety and health, with the first being a 1,000-square-foot gym. It will also have a decontamination area with a separate HVAC and airlock system to give firefighters a space to change out of and clean dirty turnout gear, and an infrared sauna to help with firefighters’ detoxification process.
The facility will also include a training stairway with a repelling wall and a confined space simulator, supplying firefighters with critical in-house training they currently must do away from the station.
Buying the land for the temporary station comes less than three weeks after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams ruled in the city’s favor on a settlement regarding a lawsuit with Outfront Media, the billboard advertising company, over its leasing of billboards on land the city had already purchased to pave the way for the intersection improvement project. That decision means the billboards will be torn down soon.
Council members and city officials said a portion of the old Enterprise lot could be sold to a developer once the temporary station closes, making the purchase price a bit easier to swallow.
Earlier in the meeting, the council voted 6-0 to approve buying a 0.152-acre piece of land at 6025 Sandy Springs Circle for $465,000 for the city’s streetscape project. Two council members asked if city staff did enough to negotiate with property owners in its efforts to gobble up land, adding they felt staff members may not have done enough to keep prices down.
City Attorney Dan Lee said the appraisal for that land was “challenging” due to its location, adding it was reappraised three months ago and went up $19,000 then. The city was scheduled to hold condemnation hearings with a judge and the owner in January if a purchase agreement wasn’t made soon.
“In my opinion, saddled with the appraisal we have, we could pay a lot more in court,” he said.
And the city continues to pay more with other properties such as the Enterprise one. The opening of the City Springs complex in 2018, while a positive for the city, has had a negative effect by raising property values around the development.
“Real estate is red hot on Roswell Road,” said District 3 Councilman Chris Burnett, a banker by day.
Mayor Rusty Paul added the price of land is going up in Sandy Springs and elsewhere in metro Atlanta.
“I’ve been shocked at what the apartment complexes are selling for these days, and it’s not just here,” he said. “I heard about a complex on the BeltLine that was sold for $330,000 per unit. … It’s high (and) it’s not going to get any cheaper.”