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Dunwoody tees up $2 million for nature center, Spruill Arts Center

DUNWOODY, Ga. — The Dunwoody City Council is eyeing a $2 million fund match to spur new capital projects at the Dunwoody Nature Center and the Spruill Arts Center.

Both sites would receive $1 million to assist in construction projects, provided they are able to match city funds. The funds were discussed at the May 23 meeting and are expected to appear on the consent agenda for the June 13 meeting.

Spruill Arts Center would use the money to expand classroom space at the Chamblee Dunwoody Road facility to meet rising community demands.

The arts center offered 764 classes and served 8,147 adults and student last year. Still, another 449 students remained on waitlists and could not participate, costing the center $100,000 in revenue, according to one estimate. The estimate also said the expansion will add $494,000 in revenues along with the capacity to serve an additional 2,000 students. The construction estimate is just over $2 million with an additional $280,000 for building sprinklers.

Spruill Center

Under a funding match proposal expected to be considered June 13, the Dunwoody City Council would allot $1 million in matching funds to the Spruill Arts Center and the Dunwoody Nature Center for expansion projects.

The Dunwoody Nature Center would use the money to expand classroom space and a pavilion as part of a project estimated to cost $2.1 million.

The new building, called the Wildcat Creek Learning Lab, would be large enough to accommodate three classes with 20 students each. It would replace the existing cabin. Improvements to landscaping, creation of a natural green wall and new public art will be made.

Approval is expected along with minimal impact to the city’s financial footing.

If approved, the money would be allocated from the city’s general fund, which is estimated to maintain an eight-month reserve to continue city operations at the end of the fiscal year.

Cities similar in size to Dunwoody are considered financially healthy with four months of revenue reserves.

“When council reviewed the fact that the arts center and the nature center both had match money available meant the investment by the city could be maximized with that contribution,” Assistant Dunwoody City Manager J. Jay Vinicki said. “Using city money and also money raised by those two entities is a perfect synergy.”

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A memo dated May 23 estimated that current projections would have the four-month general fund reserve minimum being maintained into 2024 and maybe into 2025.

It also recommended a staggered funding allotment to create a legal commitment by the city on record, but require certain construction benchmarks be met before any money is transferred.

The first $500,000 will be paid by the Nature Center and the Arts Center. The second $500,000 payment will be split as $250,000 payments between each entity and the city. City funds will be forwarded once construction costs have exceeded $500,000. The third $500,000 allotment will be split again and sent once construction costs have exceeded $1 million. The city will pay the final $500,000 once construction costs have exceeded $1.5 million.

Councilwoman Stacey Harris called the proposal a win-win for the city.

“One thing that I think is unique in Dunwoody is our partnerships with entities like the Spruill Arts Center and the Dunwoody Nature Center because they use city park land and do what we cannot do with summer camps and education programs,” Harris said. “It is great that we have partners who can take their programing a step further and we can match that funding so hundreds more people can use the facilities."