The following is in response to the city of Sandy Springs issuing a RFP for ideas to revitalize four under-utilized shopping centers that will provide “detailed concepts for how each property could be developed to attract developer interest” quote from: Sandy Springs to study redevelopment of four north end shopping centers. (Sandy Springs Reporter dated 5/31/2019)
Response from Melanie & David Couchman:
We are pleased that the city has decided to pursue the redevelopment of the North End by focusing on “repurposing” four underutilized shopping centers, an alternative approach that was outlined by the three dissenting task force members in the Appendix of the Task Force Plan.
Rebuilding outdated shopping centers will be a welcome addition to our city’s infrastructure but as we have seen in town after town — including Atlanta’s well-intended Beltline — the danger of gentrification and displacement is very real. We can even point to examples here in our own city of Sandy Springs with the demolition of apartments for the Gateway project and Provence North apartments.
If we are to avoid negative consequences of gentrification that will surely follow this redevelopment, we must first address affordable housing. The city shouldn’t go from one alternative to another without conducting a full impact study of the city’s affordable housing needs and its ramifications.
What other cities have realized too late is that by replacing old retail and affordable housing with trendy retail and market-rate housing the property values have soared to the point that affordable housing is now out of reach, without a significant new investment to rebuild it, this results in:
- Schools and businesses have difficulty filling positions and/or have high turnover;
- Traffic congestion increases as employees must commute farther;
- Public school enrollment is impacted by reduction and disruption as the population shifts.
In addition, for Sandy Springs the loss of affordable housing means significant rebalancing of socioeconomic and racial diversity in the community, a loss of our families who attend our schools and places of worship, our community activities and adds to the rich fabric of our city.
Sandy Springs does not have to make the same mistake.
We have an opportunity to learn from our own history and from other cities before redevelopment begins, to place a value on the still-affordable housing that we have and make sure that it remains affordable for ALL our residents. Forward-thinking cities that value their workforce and see benefits in accommodating all incomes in their city’s housing inventory choose to create policies to protect residents and puts the needs of citizens first, ahead of developers.
What is the rush?
Will Sandy Springs choose to be a city that values all its residents, and values the diversity those residents represent? Shouldn’t we take our time and get this right for our children and grandchildren? What values does our city have? And where are we going? Once we have answers to these questions policies and ordinances will flow naturally.
David & Melanie Couchman
Founders, Sandy Springs Together