Tuesday, July 12, 2016

City of Dunwoody votes down theater and SPLOST IGA with DeKalb

There were two votes taken by the Dunwoody City Council on Monday.

First the City Council listened to 24 minutes of public comment and a separate presentation on the Brook Run Theater and then we voted to demolish the building.

Second, DeKalb County presented us with an IGA (Intergovernmental Agreement) wanting our approval of a 1% additional sale tax when they have the ability to raise sales tax on their own.   If Dunwoody and the other DeKalb cities agreed, this updated tax structure could be stretched to six years instead of five with terms favorable to the cities, but it was decided that the City of Dunwoody will not take a stand on such items until DeKalb County makes the first move.  If the deadlocked County Commission (3 to 3) actually passes a referendum question that make sense by the end of the month; we always have an open door to discuss further.

I know for a fact that there are people out there who disagreed with both votes we made tonight but I believe in my heart they were the right decisions.    Thanks



skigator93 said...
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Kathy Florence said...

John, Your description of the separate presentation by the Brook Run Conservancy and the 24 minutes of public discussion is sparse. Curious if there was anything in the presentation that spoke to you at all and gave pause to any pre-determined decision to tear the building down. Did the passion of those who have worked so hard to keep this building from demolition come through at all? Or matter? Without more detail, this description - and this decision - seems rather callous. Kathy Florence

Max said...

John, we all know that much discussion was had about saving the Brook Run theater. This discussion occurred in prior months and was a very hot topic for our last election cycle. In other words, action on Brook Run did not occur in a vacuum.

I respect the opinion that the decision was 'predetermined,' and gently remind neighbors that this topic was thoroughly discussed, over a period of many months. Clearly, minds were made up over this extended period of time, leading to finality; thus the clear appearance of predetermination.

In fact, theater supporters were given several opportunities to make and then re-brand their case. I think they did a really good job in presenting their vision. Most telling were the Mayor's comments that the condition of the facility falls squarely on the shoulders of current and previous Council.

I pitched City Council to use free, online US Government plans to mothball facilities back in 2009, but there were many, many greater issues to resolve so the idea never transpired. In fact, my professional work includes adaptive reuse as a cornerstone. Now, the facility is so rough that making it useful would cost a lot more than if it were 'mothballed,' even if it were of the caliber of the Fox Theater, which it is not.

Hindsight is always a 20-20 vision, and I appreciate the hard work and diligence each Councilor and the Mayor put into this decision. Sadly, any important decision will leave some people upset and relieve others, as Lynn mentioned.

One final point, the Shakespeare troupe at Oglethorpe University went out of business, not too long ago. They had use of the beautiful Conant Theater, on campus. First class facility with advantageous terms and acclaimed troupe, and still, they could not make it.

Our very own survey(s) showed that while the theater vision is desirable to some, the majority chose athletic fields and programs.

Thank you all for your due diligence, patience in listening to many viewpoints, and finally making a tough call. John, great points on saving the stained glass, much appreciated!

Rose Gorham said...

Not surprised by the vote to tear down the theater. The people wanted it to stay so the council went against that. That is exactly how our council operates!

GaryRayBetz said...

Have to agree with both your decisions, (even the theatre tear-down, which is a difficult side for me to take being an old vaudeville trouper myself, but that building wasn't at all savable - doubt if even junkies would have chosen it as a shooting-gallery site) and I applaud the courage of your vote.

Gee it's kinda of nice not being the only person in the city espousing an unpopular view. Well, I wish y'all well in weathering the blow-back. But it appears y'all voted your conscience and for the welfare of the community as a whole - so screw 'em.

Josh Sofsky said...

Thanks for making the right decision. It was way too much risk and financial responsibility to put on the citizens.

Jim said...

Ditto what was said by Kathy Florence. Council allowed a group of 20+ hardworking Dunwoody volunteers to put in 100's of hours and thousands of dollars to put together a well thought out, LOW RISK, LOW COST plan for a theater/cultural center for the benefit of Dunwoody citizens, even though Council had already decided among themselves that they would vote to demolish the building. There was no stopping Council. Their rush to cover up the evidence of their prior negligence to maintain this building was apparent. Many have asked what will be put there in place of the theater. There is no apparent plan to do anything with the property other than some "grand lawn". When asked what the three most important facilities to add, expand or improve in the 2016 parks survey, theater/performing arts center ranked near the top (5 out of 19), the same rating as outdoor athletic fields and courts. It's very hard to understand how this vote benefits the city as a whole. The unfortunate effect of this vote may very well be decreased interest on future volunteer efforts for any city project. History will prove someone right.

Bob Fiscella said...

John - never easy decisions, but I know you put in the time and effort to understand all sides. I support your decisions. Thanks!

Board1 said...

John; I agree with Bob. I am disappointed that we will lose the chance to save the theatre, but also also believe the council did what they thought was right for the city and I too support
the decisions.
Jim Redovian

John Heneghan said...

Kathy, please know that I have read every city & Brook Run Conservancy document over the last several years on the topic and it was I who offered the deferral on a previous push to demolish the building as I wanted the Conservancy to have enough time to find financial resources to both renovate the building and support long term operations. The communities’ passion spoke to me then and unfortunately the passion alone just wasn’t enough on Monday.

Please know that I read the latest conservancy report and all of the letters of support yet the financial details & commitments that I was looking for were missing. After reviewing the preview version of the presentation on Friday, I spoke to Randy Lewis for about half an hour and informed him of the shortcomings. My vote on Monday was not predetermined, it was just a long time in coming after careful review of all of the facts presented, reviewing the financials, seeing the structure with my own eyes and after careful consideration. If my blog posting at 1 a.m., after a five-hour City Council meeting sounds callous, I apologize as it was not my intention.

Kathy Florence said...

John, Please know that my frustration is not intended for you directly, but rather at all votes cast to demolish this building. If there is one thing I totally respect it is people in positions that require them to make tough decisions and who do it with fairness and conviction. So while I will not question your or anyone's individual personal decision, I have to tell you that I am even more heartbroken at this turn of events after watching last night's BRC presentation, public comment and council's vote in its entirety on-line. The facts presented were compelling: A $25 million community facility for the bargain price of $400,000 (that will be spent to demolish the building anyway) plus $1.5 million in escrow out of the more than $3.5 million available for Brook Run. Likewise, the opportunities outlined in the presentation for financial support, rental income and self sufficiency was compelling. And the fact that a well-known outside party confirmed the feasibility was compelling. Yet, watch the body language and listen to the questions (lack of). Even if a councilor's vision was ballfields or otherwise (this building only takes a little more than an acre of the 101, seems like there's plenty of room for that and more) and there was no chance of a "save" vote, it seems completely imprudent to me that there was not even an inkling of engagement in this plan or the facts presented. It's crystal clear that this monumental effort on behalf of a lot of talented and passionate people never had a chance. While it is not my typical M.O. to air negativity on social media, your blog was the first thing I saw this morning after a sleepless night, so my apologies if I singled you out. Likewise, it was not my intention.

Max said...

"History will prove someone right." That is clearly the best quote of the week!

GaryRayBetz said...

Ah, "History will prove someone right." an adage initially uttered by Winston Churchill, referring to his assessment of the Nazi threat, but you gotta love the delusional vacuum of small town America, where the status of a theater building carries the same world-wide weight.

Max said...


Brutalist movement - I learned something from this discussion!

GaryRayBetz said...

"The buildings, like their bombastic makers, looked tough but were perpetual invalids, basket cases." - Jonathan Meades

GaryRayBetz said...

Back when I was a high school freshman my dad had me help him rewire this big Victorian mansion on Fox Lake for the then Chairman of the Tollway, who was also the Head Republican Committeeman for Cook County.

Anyway, next door there was this small tavern named "Howie's" with a small bar, a jukebox, and one of those metal disk bowling vending machines.

Well, I always thought that if I only had a week to live, that's the place I'd want to invite all my friends to, so I could buy them a drink. Just because it looked out over the lake, had both a jukebox (with selections from the Rolling Stones' "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" to the "Missouri Waltz"), my favorite bar game, served Old Style on tap in mugs fetched from the freezer, had a jar of pickled eggs, and the owner's name "Howie's" on a metal sign swinging on an inverted "L" pole out front.

But I'm sure that little tavern is probably almost 30-40 years gone now, and old Howie has been dead so long that no one even tells the story any more about how Howie got so drunk that he succumbed to a dare and tended bar the whole night with no pants on.

So I get what y'all are saying about that theater, how it means something special to y'all, of your anticipations of it being something for the community, especially Dunwoody's youth whose interests aren't necessarily accommodated by a gym or a playing field. So, I truly get it with my yearning for that tavern of my youth, albeit your aspirations are much more dignified than mine of wanting to having a beer and a bump with my old buddies, with that theater building.

But folks, here's the issue, as noble as your visions are, they are just as delusional as me hoping I can ever walk into Howie's again and everything will be as it was some fifty years ago. Those pictures of John's documented that theater building is as certifiably irreparable as I am crazy thinking I could stroll into Howie's lilting "Donald, Where's Your Trousers?"

BobDrake said...

I flat don't get it, there MUST be some better rationale for the "demolish" position than I've seen yet:

- We need the space for recreation/ballfields. That is patently absurd, the building takes up roughly 1 acre of the roughly 100 acres in Brook run. 1%!!!!
- The mold and other pictures John posted means it is too expansive or difficult to renovate. That is equally absurd, the moldy ceiling tiles look terrible but they are stupidly easy to simple take out! Anyone who's ever done renovation before knows it always looks bad in the "before" and during renovation pix, but that has virtually ZERO to do with the difficulty or cost of the renovation. Now if the physical structure is damaged, that is an entirely different story, but you would not likely even see that in casual pix as has been posted. But as I understand, the physical "bones" of the building are not compromised.
- It would be too expensive to renovate. I don't pretend to know the intimate details of the renovation cost vs. cost to tear down and rebuild a new facility, but it just doesn't pass the smell test. Consider this: How many of you would tear down your own house if you had mold and graffiti and torn sheetrock in it? This is mostly cosmetic, and not nearly as expensive as a complete tear down and rebuild I would think. I don't see any "irreparable damage" in these pix. I remember going into it a few years ago for some event, and it looked pretty good then, and I suspect it could again with cosmetic repairs and system upgrades.

We live in a disposable culture unfortunately, so I guess this decision reflects this groupthink. The philosophy of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle appears not to be present in the current City Council. It's a sad shame....

Wright Dempsey said...

Mr. Drake, well stated. Your analogy is even more informative when you add that it was the homeowner who was basically given the house in good condition and voluntarily let it deteriorate. That building is nowhere close to being in a condition where demolition is a necessity. Plus, there are plenty of open spaces at other parks that have been cleared and not yet completed. Finish those first and then look at space needs.