City of Brookhaven breaks ground on $78 million city hall projectBrookhaven City Manager Christian Sigman, Council Members John Funny and Madeleine Simmons, Mayor John Ernst, and Council Members Linley Jones and Jen Owens broke ground on the $78 million new city hall project to be located at the Brookhaven-Oglethrope MARTA Station on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023. Photo by Zoe Seiler.
This story has been updated.
Brookhaven, GA — The city of Brookhaven on Wednesday, Oct. 11, broke ground on the development of a new city hall and city center that will be located at the Brookhaven-Oglethorpe MARTA Station. The total cost of the project is $78 million.
City Hall will occupy 1.2 acres of the existing long-term MARTA parking and be at the corner of North Druid Hills Road and Peachtree Road. Mayor John Ernst told reporters that the new city hall will be one of the few that’s located at a heavy rail station. Construction is anticipated to be finished in 2025.
“The city of Brookhaven is only a 10-year-old city,” Ernst said. “We’ve been building the foundation of the city for many years, and this is putting our stamp into where we’re going to be located for the next 150 years.”
He added the construction cost is $63.5 million. About $15 million is allocated for other costs like furnishing, fixtures, and contingency funds.
Ernst is comfortable with the cost. However, residents have raised concerns about the cost of the project and the city’s spending overall. A few residents attended the groundbreaking with signs saying “No overspending on new city hall. Put new city hall on green way. Citizens have spoken,” and “Affordable housing paid for this.”
“I knew when we decided to do city hall that no matter what I built, it was going to be Taj Mahal. I just didn’t want to disappoint Brookhaven,” Ernst said.
Brookhaven’s residents have been vocal at city council meetings for months about the cost of the new city hall building. Mayoral candidate Mark Frost asked at the Sept. 26 meeting if the project could be put on hold, and what the penalty would be, according to Rough Draft Atlanta. He asked if the project could be pared down or if it was possible to cut the cost.
Residents reacted similarly to the public safety building that opened at 1793 Briarwood Road. That facility is home to the Brookhaven Police Department, municipal court, and emergency management. It cost $25.8 million, about $8 million more than anticipated, Rough Draft reported.
The design of the new city hall includes an atrium and event space supported by a catering kitchen, a rooftop terrace or park, and a space for a restaurant or coffee shop. The retail space would open up to the atrium. The building will also house the mayor and city council offices, city council chambers, and offices for the city staff.
“Two-thirds of the building’s spaces are open to the community and designed for inclusion,” said Bill De St. Aubin, the architect of the project with the Sizemore Group. “The atrium acts as a forecourt to the adjacent community room. The same community room opens to an outdoor southern plaza.”
The second floor will also feature a boardroom open to the community, and the rooms will have a view of the southern skyline and look down Peachtree Street. The council chambers will be on the third floor.
“Wellness rooms are adjacent to each public space on all three levels to foster inclusion while providing decompression places,” De St. Aubin said. “As you ascend to the fourth floor, you will realize the public spaces continue to rise vertically up to a rooftop park with a magical translucent multicolored dome open for all to enjoy the experience.”
Brookhaven doesn’t currently have a defined downtown area, and the city center development aims to begin creating a downtown.
“This is the start of the city center. We’re putting out posts in the ground per se, and we believe this will be built out in the future around it and to the same quality,” Ernst told reporters.
The city center at the MARTA station would also signal to residents and visitors that they are in the city of Brookhaven. The hope also is that being close to the MARTA station will allow people to easily reach city hall and connect to the city.
“It’s our on our major thoroughfare of Peachtree Street, connecting to the transportation. All the trail connections that we’ve planned have come through this area,” Ernst said.
Brookhaven also considered having a combined city hall and police station facility, but the police department wanted to remain a separate building.
During the groundbreaking, Ernst added that the city center project represents a pivotal point for the city.
“More than just a city hall, it’s a monument to our community,” he said. “It will be a place where the public will gather, celebrate, enjoy coffee…and engage with government.”
The development aims to create more opportunities for the community to come together, Councilmember Jen Owens said.
“Our new city center in particular is making another down payment on our commitment to connectivity. How lucky that we will have our people’s house right on the MARTA rail line accessible through a network of trails and walkways across our city and beyond,” Owens said.
She added that she’s excited about the development being able to support Brookhaven businesses.
“We all know and love our favorite local restaurants and shops, and the city center is going to be a huge economic development boon for our homegrown and local small businesses,” Owens said.
The project is being funded with urban redevelopment bonds that will be repaid from a special service district. The special service district is a property tax overlay for commercial properties. It was approved by the Brookhaven City Council on June 14, 2022. Homesteaded residential property owners will not be taxed for the city hall project, according to a press release from the city.
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