As the second annual Dine Like a Local program opened in Sandy Springs on Jan. 2, already the foodie affair appeared to be pulling in more people than last year’s inaugural event. As of Jan. 3, 272 signups were counted, compared to 188 on the same date last year, according to Jennifer Cruce, executive director of Visit Sandy Springs, which sponsors the program. A total of 1,406 signups were made last year. The program runs through March 31.

Several improvements were made for this year’s Dine Like a Local which encourages both Sandy Springs residents, the wider Atlanta community and visitors from out of town to sample the two dozen restaurants that are participating in this year’s passport program.

Process is easier this year

Jennifer Cruce, executive director of Visit Sandy Springs, said Dine Like a Local “helps our reputation locally and regionally as having a dining scene.”

Cruce said the whole process has been simplified this year. Diners sign up online to receive a free digital Dine Like a Local passport. Then passport holders can visit any of the participating restaurants and check in at each stop for a chance to win a number of prizes throughout the duration of the program, including restaurant gift card giveaways.

Last year the check-in process included a promo code that restaurants had to provide. “This year, people check-in on their phones via GPS. It’s much easier,” said Cruce. “Every two weeks, a $25 gift card to one of the participating restaurants” is given out. Each month, passport holders can win other gifts such as picnic baskets full of branded merchandise.

There are no visas required, nor are the passports actually stamped. When the holders visit a participating restaurant, they must click the check-in button to earn points. According to the instructions, “Your visit to any participating restaurant will only count for points once a month, so make sure to diversify your palate!”

Three levels of giveaways are offered

There are three separate giveaways to choose from: bi-weekly, monthly and the one-time grand prize giveaway, which is a Yeti Roadie cooler stuffed with prizes. Passport holders “can buy multiple entries into each giveaway, and the more entries, the better chance to win.”

Three winners will be selected at random every other week to receive the $25 gift card.

As much as Visit Sandy Springs wants to tempt residents to eat out more often, Cruce notes that the organizers are very much focused on the hotels in the area. “You can’t attract people to the area without a good dining scene,” she said. “This introduces people to the restaurants they never tried before.” Her group has distributed postcards with QR codes to hotels to give out to patrons. “It helps our reputation locally and regionally as having a dining scene.”

Also, when dining patrons post pictures or reviews on social media, it “helps to build excitement about a new place to go,” said Cruce, who has worked at Visit Sandy Springs for nine years. She pointed out that she has seen a lot of changes in Sandy Springs since she started. “It’s been a lot of fun.”

She added, “Sandy Springs has one of the best restaurant scenes in the metro area. We hope residents and visitors will come out to experience all this great food this city has to offer.”

Several restaurants are returning from last year

The restaurants that have returned to the program from last year include Banana Leaf Thai + Bar, Big B’s Fish Joint, Breadwinner Café, Chef Rob’s Caribbean Café, Cubanos ATL, Food Terminal, it Giallo Osteria & Bar, Just Love Coffee Café, McDaniel’s QN2, O’Reilly’s Public House, Sunnyside Pizzeria, The General Muir, The Select, Tre Vele and Under the Cork Tree.

New this year are Baraonda, Cupanion’s, Fuego Mundo, Mutation Brewing Co, Okiboru, Ray’s on the River, SabaRaba’s, Strive Foods, Zafron and Zambawango.

The Dine Like a Local campaign is presented in partnership with the Economic Development Department of the City of Sandy Springs. For more information, visit https://www.visitsandysprings.org/dine-like-a-local/

Cutlines:

Food photos from General Muir, Norifish, The General Muir and The Select

Sandy Springs saw a rise in home sale prices during the 3rd quarter of 2023.  As mortgage rates continue their rapid ascent, we are seeing substantial reductions in inventory year-over-year.  While there are many who are reluctant to give up their +/- 3% mortgage rates, Sandy Springs home values are holding remarkably strong due to our gorgeous neighborhoods with oversized lots, fine restaurants, retail, and entertainment, all within its close-in location along Atlanta’s perimeter.  

Year   July – Sept 2022 July – Sept 2023 Difference YOY
 Single-Family Homes  Total Sold 172 132 23.2% Decrease
Average Sales Price $1,075,182 $1,161,418 8% Increase
 Condos/Townhomes  Total Sold 210 171 18.6% Decrease
Average Sales Price $346,806 $383,663 10.6% Increase

Hirsh Real Estate is enjoying another great year of sales in Sandy Springs, and here are the attributes our clients have been drawn to:

Buyers who are dependent upon a mortgage are stretching to get the most they can for their dollar, so they are unable to come out of pocket to renovate.  
One sold listing in Princeton Square is a great example of this…  The kitchen and master bath had been renovated about 15 years ago.  The entire interior sheetrock, kitchen cabinets, and primary bath vanity were painted a beautiful Benjaman Moore white.  Old brown carpeting was replaced with fresh light carpet, all windows cleaned until sparkling, and the entire main level and primary bedroom were staged with fresh, current, neutral interiors.  The exterior was pressure washed, and shutters and fresh paint were added.  We received 6 offers and sold the house over asking price.  The sellers spent $25,000 to gain an additional $100,000 over what the house would have fetched in its pre-listing condition. The buyers were willing to overlook features such as a drive-under garage, unfinished basement, and sloped, wooded backyard just to be able to have the interior and exterior refreshed, charming, and move-in ready!

Another buyer’s experience was an exercise in patience, as she searched for over a year to find her perfect dream home within limited inventory.  It needed nothing except her interiors at move in, which is why this Sandy Springs townhome won her over.

Yet another Hirsh RE listing boasted a gorgeous lot with a totally unique home.  It sold inside the perimeter in Sandy Springs for $1,335,000.

Of course, Hirsh RE also sold the most expensive home in Sandy Springs to date this year!  The Loudermilk estate, which is 15,000 square feet and sits on 14+ acres, sold for close to $9,000,000.

What do all of these sales have in common?  Each property was either move-in ready with no work required or had a unique feature which could not be shopped.  The request we repeatedly have this year from our buyers is to find them a home that does not require any updates.  Our best advice to sellers in this market is to retouch and freshen all blemishes before listing.  Do not overlook the details!  Have every window professionally cleaned, clean everything else until it’s gleaming, and have the home professionally staged.  If you need to, consider taking out a home equity loan to do the minimum work required to make your home move-in-ready, and you will certainly get a premium price in today’s market.

And now for the top 10 homes sales in Sandy Springs for the 3rd quarter, 2023!

It’s true. It’s somewhat sad to see the hulking remains of old, reliable, favorite restaurants dotted around Sandy Springs over the past year, but a closer look reveals a more pleasing plethora of new restaurants that have opened in the city in the last few years.

Despite the lingering effects of the pandemic, which admittedly cast a shadow on the restaurant industry nationwide, Sandy Springs restaurateurs and industry executives are wholeheartedly optimistic about their eateries. And Sandy Springs reflects the overall picture for restaurants in the State of Georgia.

Two-thirds of Georgia’s restaurants are in Atlanta/Sandy Springs

“The average restaurant makes five percent profit,” said Karen Bremer, CEO and president of the Georgia Restaurant Association.

Karen Bremer, CEO and president of the Georgia Restaurant Association, said the state actually has more restaurants now than before the pandemic hit Georgia in early 2020. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, she said, there were approximately 19,000 restaurants in Georgia in 2020, while now there are more than 21,000 restaurants in the state. That’s despite more than 4,000 restaurants that closed in the state in 2020. Of the 21,000, “two-thirds are in the Atlanta/Sandy Springs area,” she said, adding the notable tidbit that some counties in the state don’t have any restaurants.

[The Georgia Restaurant Association includes Sandy Springs with Atlanta in its statistics.]

Bremer said that some of the restaurants that closed during the pandemic, since reopened with a new concept.

59 restaurant establishments have opened in the city since 2020

The Economic Development Department of Sandy Springs – the state’s 7th largest city – reports that 59 new restaurants or food establishments have opened since 2020. Of these, 30 are full service, 24 are limited service, three are snack bars, one is a retail bakery, and one is a brewery. 

Restaurateurs are “fairly optimistic,” said Bremer, despite continuing concerns about labor availability and costs. In the past two years, labor expenses, which include workers’ compensation insurance and payroll taxes as well as salaries, have jumped 21 percent, she said. Food prices have risen 18 percent, as of the end of 2022.

“The average restaurant makes five percent profit,” she added. So, a restaurant that made $45,000 before the pandemic, would be losing $120,000 if it kept its prices the same.

Marketing to restaurant patrons has changed

A former restaurant owner and operator, Bremer said more people are dining out nowadays, but they are “value engineering”. Restaurants “need customer loyalty programs to reward existing customers” which are much more cost-effective than seeking new customers.

Forget old-time advertising in newspapers or coupon-dropping in mailboxes. “People are doing their marketing on social media. The largest percentage of the population is young and they don’t read newspapers,” Bremer said.

Dine Like a Local will be held again in January 2024

Jennifer Cruce

Earlier this year, Visit Sandy Springs – a destination marketing organization – held its Dine Like a Local digital dining passport and campaign with 21 participating restaurants. According to Jennifer Cruce, CEO of Visit Sandy Springs, the campaign, held in partnership with the city’s economic development department, was considered a success. The organization had 1,163 sign-ups and 550 check-ins.

The website analytics indicated that the Dine Like a Local landing page on VisitSandySprings.org out-performed its second closest page by more than 350 percent (14,851 sessions vs. 4,240 sessions). The page also led in goal completions for a single page with 3,900. And the campaign produced 579 E-newsletter opt-ins at sign-up.

Cruce added that “we gave away 18 gift cards purchased from participating restaurants, three Dine Like a Local branded insulated baskets full of picnic gear and treats – one each month – and one gorgeous Yeti cooler to the grand prize sinner.”

The campaign was so successful, “we are partnering to do it again starting Jan. 1, 2024,” Cruce said, referring to the Sandy Springs Economic Development department.

Jeff Trump, who along with partner Mike “Shooter” Horosh have worked together in the restaurant industry for more than 25 years, said he remains very optimistic about the industry. “We have had Brooklyn Café in Sandy Springs for 18 years. Sandy Springs is a vibrant and incredibly supportive community that truly embraces small businesses. We feel fortunate our restaurant is in such a wonderful place with great citizens and community leadership. Our City will only get better.”

Sandy Springs is one of the wealthiest cities in the state, so many of its residents may be surprised to learn that over 50% of students in the community’s public school system are economically disadvantaged.  Sandy Springs public schools were thrilled when a nonprofit organization reached out personally to each school to see where their specific needs were.  Sandy Springs Education Force provides free supplemental programs within the city’s public school system to support students to excel in high school and to assist and encourage them to move on to higher education or vocations upon graduation.  Any child attending Sandy Springs public schools is welcome into SSEF programs.

SSEF Works With Every School Individually To Tailor Programs For The Specific Needs Of Each Public School In Sandy Springs

SSEF began by sponsoring after school programs.  These programs run for two hours at the end of every school day.  The first hour is focused on academics, and free tutoring and time for homework are provided.  The second hour consists of a variety of enrichment opportunities.  These programs are open to all students at no cost to the family.  SSEF covers the full expense.

Sandy Springs public school administrators and teachers are extremely grateful for the assistance provided by SSEF.  The organization helps with everything from providing school supplies, which in many cases would otherwise come from the pocketbooks of the teachers themselves, to donating books, covering SAT/ACT and college application fees for those in need, and helping students decide which path they may wish to take beyond high school, whether that be which colleges to apply to or matching these high schoolers with potential employers and training programs following graduation.

Career Fair For High Schoolers Planning To Enter The Work Force Upon Graduation Is SSEF’s Newest Initiative Assisting Sandy Springs Public Schools

What is the best course of action for a student who plans to enter the workforce upon high school graduation in lieu of continuing their education?  How do these students know what training programs are out there and how to connect with employers other than blindly sending out resumes over the internet?  One of the more exciting initiatives new to SSEF is the High Demand Career Fair scheduled to take place this November at Riverwood High School for both North Springs and Riverwood students.  There will be companies and organizations in attendance offering jobs, apprenticeships, internships, and training programs designed for high school students and graduates!  Companies such as UPS and Northside Hospital will participate, and students who attend are all offered help with their resumes which they will provide to the employers.

How Can I Get Involved?

2023 Georgia State University Perimeter College Dunwoody campus Cradle to College

What can be more important than the futures of our children?  If you are looking for a way to give back to our community, SSEF makes it rewarding, easy, and fun!  SSEF is happy to train volunteers to help coach students along the pathways to succeed through college.  Volunteers are needed to assist students with the college application process as well as to help match soon-to-be graduates with colleges or careers.  There are volunteer opportunities for those who would like to be trained to work directly with students, one-on-one, as mentors, coaches, tutors, reading buddies and more.  If you prefer to volunteer behind-the-scenes, there are also opportunities to help by collecting books, school supplies, etc. for various literacy programs within SSEF, and still larger roles filling much-needed help with their major fundraising efforts, the Lightning Run and STEAM Showcase.

“Everyone can do ONE thing.  And if everyone does just one thing, we can move mountains, we can change the world.”  

Irene Schweiger, executive director of Sandy Springs Education Force (SSEF).  

In spite of declining home sales in Sandy Springs, prices of single-family homes have continued to rise.  However, we are seeing prices flatten during the first half of 2023 for the condo and townhome market in our community.

While the number of single-family homes sold in Sandy Springs the first 6 months of 2023 dropped 27%, prices rose almost 12% from the first half of 2022.  Tight inventory is preventing the price decreases we expected to see from the mortgage rate hikes.

The condo and townhome market here, shows a slightly larger drop in number of homes sold at 32%, but an almost flat average sales price at less than 1% increase from the same period last year.  

So, what does this mean for sellers?  Right now is the perfect time to sell!  While homes that are new or renovated are typically the first to sell in this market, some sellers are now able to get away with doing slightly less work in more dated properties as inventory is low and buyers in lower price ranges are more forgiving than in recent history.Scroll down past our market stats for the first half of 2023 to see the Top 10 Sales in Sandy Springs for Q2!

Year Jan – June 2022Jan – June 2023Difference YOY
 Single-Family Homes Total Sold39730223.9% Decrease
Average Sales Price$1,126,550$1,255,59611.5% Increase
 Condos/Townhomes Total Sold47432930.6% Decrease
Average Sales Price$355,373$357,7740.68% Increase

Throughout the City of Sandy Springs there are springs, streams and creeks flowing by, including in residents’ front or backyards. They are tributaries that feed into the Chattahoochee River whose more than 20 miles of shoreline are located in the City of Sandy Springs. These branches of waterways are part of Georgia’s natural water supply.

Barely seen spring in Sandy Springs resident’s yard

But that does not mean residents can drink from these natural springs. According to Sara Lips, director of communications and community engagement in the Environmental Protection Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, “There is no drinking water permit issued using a spring as a source of water in Sandy Springs.”

Lips also noted that her DNR division does not have an inventory of springs in the state. So it’s not clear if anyone has an idea of how many natural springs there are in the city. But as one Sandy Springs resident pointed out, the spring in her yard is not always visible. Only after heavy rains does water trickle out of her spring, which isn’t far from a stream.

While the 38.52 square miles of Sandy Springs might be dotted with these waterways, it is the original underground spring located between what is now Heritage Sandy Springs and Williams Payne Museum, near City Springs Center from which the 18-year-old city derives its name.

Original Spring was Watering Stop

Sandy Springs Parks
Original spring provided watering stop for citizens, Native Americans and travelers.

Two centuries ago, the natural sparkling sandy spring provided a watering stop for Native Americans, travelers and citizens, as well as a meeting place and campground area. Sandy Springs United Methodist church was built nearby in 1851. According to one history, residents of Dunwoody would travel to the area for a camp meeting every year. The land under the church was owned by W.E. Spruill and included an easement which led to the spring.

According to a sign in what was once the camp area, members of the Mabry family for years were stewards of the site. “Living beside the spring, they added marble and concrete to make the surroundings less muddy and removed the shelter to open the spring to the sky. In 1984, an attempt was made to rezone the property as commercial. Had it been successful, the spring would have been buried in storm sewers and underneath mounds of dirt and concrete.”

Today it is a tranquil area with a bubbling brook bounded by beautiful foliage and flowers, and an integral part of the Heritage Sandy Springs Museum and Park. The four-acre park centered in the heart of Sandy Springs’ downtown area includes a 14,000-square-foot Entertainment Lawn with a permanent stage where summer concerts are held. The nearby structure offers rentals for weddings, parties, company picnics, business meetings and retreats.

How to test the water

For the curious or the thirsty, however, there should probably be signs for the safety of residents who might be enjoying the lush area. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, before water from natural sources can be approved for drinking, a manual filtration process is required because the spring water may have some impurities.

For residents wondering about their backyard streams, county health departments can help test for bacteria or nitrates. Or, water can be tested by a state certified laboratory. [Call Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or visit www.epa.gov/safewater/labs]

If one insists on drinking their natural spring water, it is advised to boil it first. Boiling is the safest method to kill disease-causing germs, including viruses, bacteria and parasites. And it is recommended that one add a pinch of salt for each quart or liter of boiled water.As summer’s hot, humid weather swamps the area, however, residents wanting to cool off either internally or externally might want to pour a cold glass of water from an indoor faucet or turn on a hose and sprinkler system to run through outdoors.

It may be a telltale sign. If you are seeing bright-colored red, yellow or blue lines – speckled with same-colored flags – lining the boundaries of your yards, it just may mean that one of the companies providing internet and cable TV is about to lay down fiber optics in your neighborhood.

While it’s possible that the lines may suggest a different type of excavation, the presence of various colored lines arranged in a tic-tac-toe pattern throughout an entire residential area typically implies an advancement in next-gen technology.

Fortunately for Sandy Springs’ neighborhoods, much of the basics have already been accomplished. According to Alex Horwitz, vice president of public relations at Comcast NBC Universal, “We’re already in Sandy Springs and have been for quite some time. We cover the vast majority of that city.” However, he added that “we are in the process of simply upgrading our existing network,” which, he explained, is a mix of fiber and coaxial cable.”

Comcast announced upgrade in April

In April, Comcast announced that its latest Xfinity 10G Network upgrade is rolling out to homes and businesses across greater Atlanta. “With these improvements, Comcast is deploying new download speeds of up to 2 gigabits-per-second (Gbps), and up to 5x-to-10x faster upload speeds in Atlanta.”

Noting that Sandy Springs is included in this upgrade, the Comcast’s announcement notes that the “region now has the foundational next-generation network in place to begin introducing new symmetrical multi-gigabit Internet options late this year that can be delivered across Comcast’s existing networks with less cost.”

And Comcast is not the only service provider actively adding the fiber optic technology that is used for long-distance and high-performance data networking.

Thousands of Sandy Springs customers receive AT&T Fiber already

AT&T Fiber is available to thousands of customer locations in parts of Sandy Springs, according to Ann L. Elsas, AT&T’s lead public relations manager for the Southeast. “This is part of more than 1.5 million customer locations in the State of Georgia. Early in 2022, we launched and expanded our multi-gig services to offer up to 5 Gbps symmetrical speeds to consumers and businesses. With multi-gig speeds, we’re able to provide our customers with a first-of-its-kind internet experience.”

How does AT&T determine where it will next lay its newest technology? Elsas said that “we’re constantly evaluating our network and coverage to deliver the best, most reliable network to our customers, no matter where they are. We look at a number of factors when deciding to add fiber to areas, including – but not limited to – topography, distribution of demand and property availability.”

Fiber is more expensive and more fragile

For many residents and business owners in Sandy Springs, understanding the technology behind fiber optics might be too much of a challenge. Simply put, fiber cables are comprised of thin glass or plastic. They use light to transmit data, empowering faster speeds and higher bandwidth than traditional copper cable, which depend on electrical signals. Because they provide faster data transmission, fiber optic connections remain strong even during heavy usage times.

Fiber optic cables are more expensive to produce than copper and installation is more expensive. And, because they are made of glass, they are more fragile.

According to one homeowners’ association president, it is totally worth it for the customers. Fiber optic cables are critical as the use of the internet continues to increase, he said. Both speed and bandwidth are improved significantly. “More and more of our everyday lift depends on high-speed connectivity which will be possible with fiber.” He added that he doesn’t know if having fiber optics in one’s neighborhood would actually increase property values, but it may cause a buyer to choose one subdivision over another.AT&T’s Elsas said that her company is committed to connecting people to what matters most to them by delivering “reliable, high-speed internet across the country.” And, she added, to see if fiber is available in one’s neighborhood, they can go to att.com/notifyme and enter their address.

For a few years, colorful turtles appeared to be the mascot of the City of Sandy Springs. Just as easily, it could have been cranes. Whether they were the blue herons on the Chattahoochee River that are often mistaken for cranes, or the tall, strong, but graceful machinery that dotted the skyline of the city symbolizing more luxury housing under development.

Then it seemed the ubiquitous cranes, with their hoist ropes to lift heavy objects, suddenly disappeared. Hundreds of luxury apartment units were built in Sandy Springs between 2017 and 2020. The most recent of these mid-rise apartment complexes, Adley City Springs at 6075 Roswell Road in 2020, and The Alastair at Aria Village at Abernathy Road and Georgia 400 in 2019 claim enviable occupancy rates. The former has an occupancy rate of 97 percent while The Alastair is at 94 percent.

New project under construction

Developers took notice of the strong occupancy rates, leading to the construction of a new luxury apartment complex, Wayfern Apartments, in north Sandy Springs. The project, formerly North Springs Center, has been under construction since August at the corner of Roswell Road and Dalrymple Road. The approximately nine-acre site had most recently been anchored by a Big Lots, but the shopping area had gone through many retail phases over the last 50 years or so.

Matt Hallman is the vice president of development for Georgia and Tennessee at San Diego-based Fairfield Residential. He said the 286-unit rental complex is planned to include studios, one- and two-bedroom apartments, as well as some two-story townhome-style units.  The first units will be available in either the first or second quarter of 2024. Rents will range from $1,700 up to approximately $2800, with the townhouse units in the mid to high $3,000s.

The complex will include three-story apartment buildings plus a structured parking deck, Hallman said. Amenities will include a fitness center, clubhouse, office space for lease and a pool. Perhaps unique to the project will be a dog park and dog run.

Current luxury apartments available

Wayfern will face stiff competition from existing luxury apartments. The apartments – starting with studios up to two-bedrooms — at Adley City Springs feature nine-foot ceilings with ceiling fans and lights, carpeting, granite countertops in bathrooms, washer/dryers, digital programmable thermostats and home intrusion alarms. The kitchens include stainless steel appliances and granite countertops. Rents range from about $2,200 to $2,900.

The Adley City Springs public areas include a two-story fitness center, rooftop salt-water pool, an outdoor kitchen and golf simulator lounge.

Alastair at Aria Apartments. Photo by Rob Knight

Another recent luxury apartment complex, the six-story Alastair, has one-, two- and three-bedroom units renting from about $2,000 to more than $5,000. Many have private balconies or patios. The units include built-in bookshelves, wine racks, quartz or granite countertops and digital thermostats. Again, a salt-water pool with fire pits and lounge spaces, a two-story fitness center, private game room, full catering kitchen, electric car charging stations and on-site concierge are included at The Alastair, which is within walking distance of the Mercedes-Benz U.S. headquarters.

Also built since 2017 is the 550 Northridge Apartments with 220 units on Northridge Parkway, the Arabelle Perimeter at 1110 Hammond Road with 384 units, and Juniper Sandy Springs at 6558 Roswell Road. The latter includes townhomes. Other notable properties include The Collection at 4600 Roswell Road was built in 2015, Bell Glenridge on Glenridge Point Parkway also built in 2015, and 1160 Hammon Road in 2014.

City of Sandy Springs predicted renters would pay for luxury

When the City of Sandy Springs adopted its comprehensive development plan in 2017, it was noted that the housing availability at the time consisted of mostly single-family homes and aging rental apartments. The report stated, “Because of the high cost of land in Sandy Springs, the single-family homes are affordable to only the highest-income earners, while the rental stock does not satisfy the preferences of many renters who are willing to pay more for updated finishes, amenities, and better access to MARTA.”

The city realized that “the key to providing more housing at a range of price points will be to adopt policies that allow developers to fill in or redevelop parcels with a greater range of housing products, such as smaller-lot single-family homes and townhomes as well as midrise apartments and condominiums, because if the price of land is spread over more new housing units, developers can offer the housing at lower prices.”

The City also noted that by attracting more professionals and families to the city, demand for high-quality retail and dining will follow. The Roswell Road corridor and Perimeter Center were pointed to as the city’s target for both residential and retail development. Code changes created a new zoning district called North End mixed-use that is just north of Dalrymple Road where Wayfern Apartments is under construction.

All of this means that residents of the northern end of Sandy Springs will most likely become accustomed to the dirt-moving, concrete-lifting cranes once again.

Once again, our own Ben Hirsh sold the most expensive home in Sandy Springs for the 1st quarter of 2023!  Before we get to our list of the top 10 sales in Sandy Springs, Q1, we have all the stats for the state of the real estate market year-to-date in our community…

The number of homes sold for both single-family and multi-family units continues the substantial downward trend we saw building in 2022. In terms of sales price, Q1 was a roller coaster, therefore it is nearly impossible to predict how the remainder of 2023 will go in terms of the long seller’s market we have been experiencing.  The market saw a slight rise in prices in January, a very sharp increase in February, and then a decrease in average sales price year-over-year in March. The jump in February was largely due to two $8 Million+ sales, a $6 Million sale and a $4 Million sale in the same month.

Here are the number of sales and average close price for single family homes in Sandy Springs 1st quarter 2023 and 2022:

1st Quarter, 2023 Single-Family Home Sales

MonthTotal SalesAverage Close Price
January26$1,050,981
February35$1,723,733
March48$1,040,382

1st Quarter, 2022 Single-Family Home Sales

MonthTotal SalesAverage Close Price
January52$953,008
February55$1,064,302
March66$1,197,725

No surprise, attached housing thus far in 2023 also showed a dramatic slowdown in the number of units sold year-to-date.  However, the average sales price decreased a bit in January, then rose in February and March year over year.

Number of sales and average close price for attached housing 1st quarter 2023 and 2022 in Sandy Springs:

1st Quarter, 2023 Multi-family Home Sales

MonthTotal SalesAverage Close Price
January33$309,633
February51$369,509
March58$374,939

1st Quarter, 2022 Multi-family Home Sales

MonthTotal SalesAverage Close Price
January69$315,544
February69$292,659
March78$341,959

After years of steady increases in housing prices in Sandy Springs, will the slowdown in the number of sales finally begin to impact rising prices?  So far, this does not appear to be the trend.  The future remains to be seen, but Sandy Springs continues to be a powerful draw due to great schools, thriving restaurants, retail, entertainment, strong community interaction and so much more!

Children who choose a cause within the community, and then create and execute an event to raise money for that cause…  What can be better than that?!  Kids Boost is an amazing organization whose mission is “to empower future philanthropists and social entrepreneurs ages 8 to 14”.  “So many kids want to give back, but they just don’t always know how”, says Kristen Williams, the founder and executive director of Kids Boost.  The organization gives children in the program $100 to help fund their events, and a professional on-staff coach who meets with them weekly to ensure follow through.  The coach will ask questions and encourage the participants to come up with personal and meaningful ways to give back philanthropically.  

The first 2 questions asked are “What makes your heart happy?” and “What breaks your heart?”  The answers to those questions typically determine how the child can best help the situation or circumstance that is most meaningful to that child.  While each participant has a professional coach, the events are conceived, managed, and carried out by the children.  The kids also get to present the actual “big check” to the recipients!  “Throughout the project, the child will become a philanthropist and social entrepreneur, while learning important lessons in money management, civil engagement and communication.”  Just, WOW!

Future philanthropists

The average age of participants is 11 – 12 years old, and the average amount raised by Kids Boost events is $2,200.  When children this age are asked what their goal is, they typically answer somewhere between $200 – $500.  Just imagine their reactions when they realize they may have exceeded their goals by five to ten times!  Parents are strongly encouraged to step back and let their children take the reins, along with their coaches, to manage the projects themselves.  The most common feedback received by staff from parents is the confidence boost the children in the program gain.  “We get lots of kids who lack confidence or self-esteem, so helping with that is a big bonus!”, says Williams.  

Kids Boost had their offices in Sandy Springs until the pandemic.  After 2020, they kept working remotely, but many of their participants still live in Sandy Springs and host fundraising events here in our community. A pair of Sandy Springs siblings who are passionate about reading and baking, secured baking supplies from local businesses, baked hundreds of treats, packaged them with their own logo, and sold them to friends and family to raise money to help less fortunate students get books to read through a nonprofit called Purpose Built Schools.  They raised over $1,000 which enabled them to help provide a book to every elementary student in a summer learning program.  They were onsite to personally help distribute these books to the students as well.  Another Sandy Springs youngster who wanted to help children without homes chose to support the Atlanta Children’s Shelter.  She organized a yard sale that also featured a bounce house and bake sale.  She turned her $100 start-up money into $3,262 and was super proud to present the giant check herself!

How can I help?

Kids Boosters are typically between the ages of 8 -14, but there are plenty of opportunities for people of all ages to be involved.  While the children organize and manage the events, adults are needed to donate various items such as venues, supplies, etc. Special talents are needed as well.  Adults are paired with their passions, such as art, sports, jewelry-making, cooking, etc. Simply complete the volunteer application and let them know how you would like to be involved!

What makes kids boost different?

This is one of the few organizations where recipients of the fundraising events can, and often do, turn around and host an event of their own to pay it forward.  The $100 seed money given to every Kid Booster combined with donations that the kids go out and procure themselves allows any child to participate in the program.  Kids Boost has created the ability for every child of any background or socio-economic status to become empowered to make a difference in the world.

All of us understand the value of teaching our children “how to fish”.  Here is an organization within our community that not only helps us teach our youngsters how to fish, but also teaches them how they can feed those fish to others in need!  All of us encounter hardship at some point.  There is no question that helping others during their tough times reminds us of the things that we are grateful for in our own lives.  Kids Boost helps children fulfill the desire to help others, and hopefully, ignites a passion to continue service throughout their lifetimes.

www.kidsboost.org

Donate to a current Kids Boost project

Apply to be a Kid Booster

Small Give.  Big Impact. – One day smaller projects for kids’ teams, troops, and groupsThe Big Give – One day bigger projects for families and companies

Music venues in Sandy Springs, like in most cities around the country, took a hit during the pandemic, with several small music scenes closing up.  But as Covid restrictions recede – especially as the city moves into spring and summer — a variety of bands and locations are screaming out for attention and audiences.

It probably doesn’t hurt that the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center at City Springs recently hired an interim executive director, as part of its staff rebuilding, who has placed “no restrictions on types of music” he plans to offer.

Michael Pauken said it was the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center that drew him to Atlanta after having served as general manager/executive director of the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, Ill. for 20 years. When he heard about the opportunity, he thought it would be a good fit for him, having worked for a municipally owned theater like the one here.

The Skokie North Shore Center is a two-theater complex containing a total of 1,185 seats. The Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center also contains two theaters, one the Byers Theatre which seats 1,086 on three levels, as well as the Studio Theatre which has adaptable configurations with up to 400 seats.

History of Attracting International Artists

Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center interim executive director Michael Paulken

In Skokie, Pauken attracted international artists such as Al Jarreau, Art Garfunkel, Graham Nash, Herb Alpert and the Indigo Girls. “We go after whoever is out touring to play in a venue of our size,” Pauken said. “We’re always searching and have dozens of offers in [for] various artists.” His job is made easier by the fact that there are a lot of venues in the Atlanta area that want the same acts.

Although he said he was not ready to announce a fall schedule, he was more than ready to speak about a few upcoming outdoor opportunities for music lovers. A new entertainment program, Sundown Social, will be held most Thursday evenings in the plaza on the City Green, featuring local musicians, food and beverage, starting May 11 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

The popular City Green Live Friday monthly music series returns on April 28 with the alternative rock band, Better Than Ezra. Another popular music tradition for Sunday evenings, Concerts by the Springs on the Entertainment Lawn at Heritage Park returns May 7 with The Geek Squad.

As in previous years, lawn seating is free and reserved table seating is available for purchase for both City Green Live and Concerts by the Springs. City Springs members enjoy pre-show receptions featuring complimentary hors d’oeuvres and a private cash bar.

According to Pauken, Byers Theatre has been underutilized, partly because it opened just months before the pandemic. He wants to diversify the genres to help increase growth, citing jazz, blues, country, rock and pop.

Music Aficionado Steve Grossman

Steve Grossman wants to build a music culture in Sandy Springs

Helping him attract a variety of artists is long-time Sandy Springs resident and musical aficionado, Steve Grossman. Former owner of Steve’s Live Music which opened in Sandy Springs and closed in 2016, Grossman has “reinvented” himself by booking musicians in different venues.

“I have a passion to create a music culture in Sandy Springs and Pauken supports me,” said Grossman. Most recently he brought Michelle Malone to Studio Theatre to an “almost sold out” crowd. “Michelle plays around the world. She’s one of those local but larger than life people.” He noted that more than 200 attended Malone’s concert while Steve’s Live Music could only hold 100.

In the past few years, Grossman has welcomed artists and small audiences to his home for concerts. People can sign up for his mailing list at steve@steveslivemusic.com. In April, he is showcasing Jimmy Robinson who has been recording and touring for more than 40 years, as well as Hannah Thomas, a local favorite songwriter.

Michelle Malone sang to a nearly sold-out crowd at Studio Theatre

Grossman said he brought five shows to Studio Theatre last year and hopes to double that this year. In discussions with Pauken, Grossman has on his wish list a mini jazz series as well as international music. “I’m exceeding their goal for revenue” for the Malone show, he said noting that ticket sales cover costs.

“I personally love what Steve is doing,” said Pauken, bringing in Atlanta area performers. “I’m excited about what other acts Steve can bring in.”But Grossman also would love more music venues in Sandy Springs. “If you want to build the culture, you can’t just open on weekends,” he said. However, with both the indoor and outdoor areas at City Springs, he said, there could be entertainment every day. “This could be the center” of Sandy Springs’ music culture.

Sure, Sandy Springs is known for its frenetic traffic and ever-sprouting development, but it is also heralded for its devotion to its environment. 

Sweep the Hooch

The Chattahoochee River at Powers Island

For the 13th year – of the city’s 18 – Sandy Springs will be among the dozens of areas throughout the Chattahoochee River watershed engulfed by volunteers who want to keep the areas trash-free. On Saturday, March 25, the annual Sweep the Hooch trash cleanup day will be held at several areas in Sandy Springs: Morgan Falls Overlook Park, Powers Island and Island Ford Walking Site.

Last year, more than 2,300 volunteers collected nearly 60 tons of trash across the Chattahoochee. In partnership with the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, volunteers will spread out at more than 50 sites. Volunteers can choose to be walkers, waders or paddlers, but they must register in advance because there’s a limit at each site.

Walkers are land-based volunteers who will pick up trash in and around the river. Wearing wading boots, waders will collect trash from shallow water areas and along the river banks. Paddlers may use kayaks, canoes or stand-up paddleboards and, according to the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper website, will travel three to five miles while picking up litter. Individuals as well as teams of volunteers can sign up. (Contact tbates@chatahoochee.org with questions.)

Apply for Free Front-Yard Trees

Keeping river areas clean, however, is not the only example of how Sandy Springs residents show their appreciation for nature. Sandy Springs is one of several cities in the metro Atlanta area that encourage more greenery in residential areas.

Until the end of March planting season, homeowners can request to have up to three canopy trees planted in their yard, free. There is no application fee. The only requirements are for the resident to agree to water, care for, and maintain the trees planted in their yard, and they must be planted in the front yard. According to Trees Atlanta, in general, 10 gallons of water should be applied every other week during the tree’s first growing season which is April to October. “This encourages roots to expect infrequent but deep waterings…Watering should be focused where the roots are, which for one- to two-year-old trees is right around the base.”

Why canopy trees? They provide shade, notably cooling the temperature directly under a tree by 20 to 45 degrees. Canopy trees can come in many forms, but in this climate, the only trees available are tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) and sycamore (Platanus occidentalis).

Sandy Springs, along with the cities of Atlanta, Brookhaven, Decatur, Doraville, Dunwoody and unincorporated DeKalb County all require an application form to be filled out. Once a form has been submitted, a Trees Atlanta Coordinator will contact the applicant. Click HERE for the Trees Atlanta application.

Sandy Springs Master Trail Expected to be Complete This Year

Trails at Morgan Falls Overlook Park

As spring has sprung on Sandy Springs, residents who are brave enough to battle the pollen are probably ready to investigate the progress of the Sandy Springs Master Trail whose ground was officially broken in December. The 1.88 mile segment includes a scenic boardwalk across Orkin Lake, and will enhance access to the Chattahoochee River, connecting Morgan Falls Overlook Park to Roswell Road at Cimarron Parkway.

The city council adopted the Trail Master Plan in 2019. That plan identified 31.4 miles of proposed greenway trails, side paths, and neighborhood greenways, connecting to 12 schools, 15 parks, and several green spaces. The 10-year implementation plan includes seven miles of trails. The plan was developed along with the Sandy Springs Conservancy and the Path Foundation.

This is not an inexpensive venture. The city council approved a $7.8 million bid from GHC Corp. for the first segment. The council also accepted a $3 million grant from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources to help fund the project, which reportedly will cover 38.5 percent of the trail’s construction cost.The plans called for the trail to be completed by the end of this year.

The 23rd annual Atlanta Jewish Film Festival opens Feb. 8 and closes Feb. 21 with blockbuster films screening at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center. Tickets are already selling for the 60 films, originating in more than a dozen countries, that will include full-length narratives, documentaries and short films.

Opening night will feature the Atlanta premiere of a sweet Israeli film, Karaoke, which received 14 Israeli Academy Award nominations, including for Best Film. The closing night film, Killing Me Softly With His Songs, tells the story of the life and iconic works of lyricist-composer Charles Fox. Nearly three dozen screenings will be held at the Sandy Springs center during the festival with free parking available, and open to the entire Atlanta community.

World premieres and more

Among those films will be the world premiere of the documentary, Israel Swings for Gold, which is a sequel to a 2017 film and follows Israel’s baseball team as it competes in the 2020 Summer Olympics. Filmmakers and members of the Atlanta Braves team will provide special appearances.

Israel Swings for Gold

Other notable screenings include the North American premiere of The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes, the world premiere of Musical Tales of the Venetian Jewish Ghetto and the Southeastern premiere of Remember This, a one-man theatrical performance by award-winning stage and screen actor David Strathairn. He portrays Jan Karski, a Polish diplomat who tried in vain to warn Western leaders of the mass killings of Jews.

All four of these premieres will have screenings at the Sandy Springs Performing Arts Center.

the largest Jewish film festival in the world

After a hiatus during the pandemic which forced the film festival to exhibit its movies via streaming, this year the public will be welcomed to in-theatre screenings (as well as some films still shown virtually). The in-person presentations are often followed by panel discussions with filmmakers, actors and other experts.

During its more than two decades, the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival has burgeoned from welcoming fewer than 2,000 film-goers to making history by becoming the largest Jewish film festival in the world. Attracting more than 18,600 moviegoers before the pandemic pause.

“Volunteers are the backbone of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival”

According to Kenny Blank, executive and artistic director of the AJFF, the festival would not have become Atlanta’s largest film festival without the hundreds of volunteers who contribute their time to the endeavor. “Volunteers are the backbone of the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival,” he said. “Without their tireless dedication and enthusiasm, the festival would not be able to reach its full potential. They provide vital skills and perspectives, such as fundraising, community outreach, film evaluation, strategic planning, and serving as ambassadors. Their dedication and passion make the festival a success and ensure its ongoing growth.” [Full disclosure, this writer has served as a volunteer.]

This year alone, the more than 100 volunteer members of the AJFF film evaluation committee reviewed 584 film submissions, curating it down to 60 total titles for the 2023 lineup. Since 2000, the AJFF has offered more than 1,200 films. (All the titles can be found at AJFFrecommends.org) More than 350 volunteers serve on committees to evaluate films, provide suggestions for guest programming, and offer their expertise on finance, governance, communications, community engagement and steering committees. This year the AJFF will also be launching an inaugural education committee. The festival seeks to engage new, younger audiences and next generation film lovers.

The annual festival was launched by the Atlanta regional office of the American Jewish Committee, a global advocacy organization whose focus is the Jewish community and Israel. Although the festival still partners with the AJC, it is now an independent non-profit arts organization. Prior to the pandemic, it had offices at the Macquarium building on Peachtree Road. Today, the 13 full-time staff all work remotely. This year’s festival will be its first-ever hybrid, with more than 100 screenings at five metro Atlanta venues. Twenty-two titles will be streamed in what the Festival calls its Virtual Cinema. Tickets are available at AJFF.org

Our community saw a very steady rise in the number of home sales month-over-month through May of 2022. After the crescendo of 87 homes sold in May, the numbers began to drop at almost the exact rate they had risen. This comes as no big surprise as 30- year fixed mortgage rates more than doubled from an average 3.22% in January to 6.7% by the end of September.

The good news for buyers is that we are finally starting to see sale prices in Sandy Springs falter, and even drop, in the high end of the market. While the highest priced home to sell in Sandy Springs this quarter was over $5 Million, the prices for the next 9 sales fell a bit from Q2. Last quarter we saw all 10 top sales at $3 Million or more, while Q3 saw only 4 sales above $3 Million. Moving forward, we expect to see inventory improve while prices adjust to a more reasonable level.

Here are number of sales and average close price for single family homes in Sandy
Springs year to date.

Month Number of Sales Average Close Price
January 52 $953,008
February 55 $1,064,302
March 66 $1,197,725
April 69 $1,074,433
May 87 $1,074,997
June 68 $1,294,836
July 65 $1,051,942
August 54 $1,073,675
September 52 $1,118,206

Attached housing for 3rd quarter, 2022 shows the same basic trajectory as single family housing, illustrating that prices across the board have been affected by the mortgage rate hikes. Steady increases have transitioned into price fluctuations in Q3. Further correction in prices should continue as inventory will hopefully increase making this a good market for buyers again.

Number of sales and close price for attached housing YTD in Sandy Springs:

Month Number of Sales Average Close Price
January 69 $315,544
February 69 $292,659
March 78 $341,959
April 82 $354,669
May 103 $415,504
June 73 $412,615
July 56 $309,262
August 86 $362,443
September 66 $350,767

As inventory rises, bidding wars begin to go by the wayside, and home prices start to drop, we will see our seller’s market begin to transition into a buyer’s market for the first time in several years.

And finally… The top 10 home sales in Sandy Springs for the 3rd quarter of 2022: