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Saturday
Aug092014

Developments Around Town

There's a lot going on in Roswell these days.  Here's a quick update on what's going on around town that I'm aware of.  If you have any additional items or details, let me know and I'll add them.

Active Developments

New Elementary School (Name TBD) - Our new elementary school on Alpharetta Hwy is moving along.  They are obviously working quickly to get it open for the 2015 school year.  The site has been cleared (you can't miss that) and there has been some pretty extensive grading.

Canton Walk Apartments - This one is going vertical and is starting to make good progress.  I've heard that they hope to start leasing toward the end of the year.  

Forrest Commons - This one is in full swing as well.  A number of foundations have been poured and as of this writing, there are three single family units that are framed.  There are 9 detached units and 13 townhomes slated for this one and prices look to be starting in the $580's.  This one is a Monte Hewitt project and you can find out more on their website here.

Providence Phase II - Lehigh Homes entered into a partnership with Frontdoor communities to build and sell the second phase of Providence which will have 17 townhomes and 3 single family residences. The site is being prepped and there is a lot of activity back there.  I'd suggest not driving back on Webb St to check it out.  These units are starting in the $580's and appear to be securely in the $600's for most of them.  For more info, you can go to www.ProvidenceRoswell.com.

image: Frontdoor Communities

Long Circle - Another project by Lehigh Homes, this one will be putting in three or four single family residences (unsure but will get clarification) at the southwest corner of Long Circle. The site has been cleared and is being prepped currently.  

The Porch Project - Not too far from the aforementioned Long Circle project, this is a single family teardown on Thompson Place that is being done by some friends of mine.  Check out their website to see how they have been working to do all of the work with local Roswell businesses.  www.theporchproject.com

image: Whole Town Solutions

Alstead (formerly Centinnial Walk) - This John Wieland project is in full swing.  The last I saw, there woudl be 80 single family homes, 29 townhomes and 17,500 sq ft of retail on just under 28 acres.  That may have changed. The site has been cleared which any East Roswell readers will already know as you can't miss the red clay as you pass by on Holcomb Bridge.  There is a tiny mixed-use component to this one which is better than nothing but the original plans for this were significantly better when you think about how little true walkability exists in East Roswell (sidewalks and trails do not equal true walkability).

The Village on Pine - This one is at the intersection of Chattahoochee St and Pine St just south of Barrington Hall.  I was never too happy with the overall design of this one as you can see here, but at the end of the day, it's happening.  Acadia Homes has cleared the lot and homes should be going up soon.  The price point on these is in the $400's but there isn't much additional detail available yet. (website)

Strickland & Valley - I'm not sure what the name of this one is going to be but the site has been cleared and at this point there's a bunch of red clay.  There was a lot of debate on the site plan and rezoning request for this one.  I personally feel we ended up with the worse option of the two for the site plan but man.. people can't have headlights shining in their windows.

Sprouts Buildout - For the organic food shoppers, the loss of Harry's to Avalon will leave a void.  I'm guessing that Sprouts will be looking to fill that void.  They are currently upgrading the anchor space in the shopping center behind Chipotle and Starbucks at Mansell & 9.  I'm not sure what the timeframe is for opening but it could be before the end of the year.

Roswell Manor - This one is another piece of land that was a victim of the real estate crash.  JEH Homes has resurrected it and this time around it's going to be built out as 73 single family homes.  This one will collect on to Old Alabama.  The address is 1580 Old Alabama Rd.  The website advertises its proximity to Big Creek Park but this development could have done so much more to foster bike and trail connectivity especially given that it sits between Big Creek Park and the planned Big Creek Parkway.  Prices start in the $300's.  

Weatherford Place - It looks like there is a little bit of construction underway on this long stalled development of uber-eco-friendly homes off Minhinette Dr.  These homes have all the environmental bells and whistles including solar systems and LEED certification. 

 

Proposed

Goulding - This project is a favorite of mine for the connectivity that it will add to our street network. Frontdoor Communities is billing it as the largest infill development in Historic Roswell and it likely is.  There will be 27 townhomes, 13 single family homes and a remodel of the existing Goulding house.  Prices will likely start in the $700k to $800k range.

 

The Watertower (name TBD) - This project is on Woodstock Rd between the water tower and the cemetery.  Lehigh Homes (builders of Providence and the Long Circle development mentioned above) is currently working through the approval process having had their neighborhood meeting and going before the Historic Preservation Commission and City Council in August and September.  This project will be more townhome product and should be an interesting addition to the historic district.

835 Mimosa - This is a very interesting development that could energize Mimosa Blvd.  The proposed plan will renovate or rebuild the existing home with a Neel Reed look and put 8 townhomes around the existing home.  The architecutre would be similar to the Bricks in the Mill Village and is being designed by Lew Oliver.

Canton Street Townhomes - I'm unsure of the name of this potential development but it is just starting the approval process.  It will be along Canton Street just between Woodstock Rd and Minhinette Dr. 

Townhomes at Creekview Condominiums - Not many details are available on this one but from the looks of it, the owner of the property surrounding the unfinished Creekview Condominiums would like to develop townhomes on the areas of the property where the two other condo buildings were never built.

Image: @ScottLong

Hill Street Commons - Another proposed development in the Groveway district.  This one looks to have 24 townhomes and will be on the lot on the southwest corner of the Myrtle & Hill St intersection.  

City Green - This one will be a long term project but I like keeping tabs on it.  The most recent news is that the design and engineering were funded with $587k set aside in the 2015 budget.  This is big news and we should expect to see more details in the next few months.  If you would like to show your support.. click here!

Kingswood Subdivision (12160 Etris Rd) - This is pretty standard single family home subdivision that ws approved for 25 lots.  It will add a tiny bit of road connectivity to the intersection of Etris and Kent Rds.

Traditions at Roswell (Hardscrabble/Crossville) - This one is about 14 single family homes on about 5 acres.  It's a pretty standard subdivision that does not add to road connectivity and opens up to Hardscrabble just east of the Crossville intersection.

Canton Street Walk Resurrected - I haven't heard much about this one since late last year but I'm keeping it on the proposed list until I hear otherwise.  This project that I wrote about here will fill in an empty lot within the Providence development.  

52 Sloan Street - The owner of this property is hoping to tear down the historic structure circa 1925 and build new.  The building is currently badly burned but the HPC is not sure whether it is in need of demolition.  More to come here.  Either way, with the fire and the loss of the large tree, this property has seen better days.

This Google Streetview image shows the house in better times. The building is now badly burned, the large tree to the right is now a huge stump but.. you'll be glad to know that the street signs are still there in all their glory.The proposed elevations look nice and if approved will be a quality addition to the street. They will definitely be an improvement on the charcoal facade that's there currently.

Rumored

Vickers - What I have heard here is that the property is under contract to be sold.  The dollar figures are well over $1M.  It'll be interesting to see what might go here.

Dolvin House - The word on the street is that a redevelopment of the property surrounding the Dolvin House (aka the Roswell White House) on Bulloch Ave bay be in the works.  I think a cottage court style development surrounding the historic home would work well here.  Given that the property is listed as under contract, I'd say there is definitely something in play.

image: Sonenberg Company

Dead Projects

Azalea Townhomes - This would have brought 22 townhomes and 2 single family homes to the lot at Azalea Dr across from Azalea park.  The owner was also planning on donating some land on the river side of the property to the city to build a new boat house for the Crew teams that operate on the river.  Oversimplifying, there were a lot of water concerns coupled with some vocal NIMBY opposition.  It would have been nice to see added connectivity for the neighborhoods to the north to get to the river which would have eased some of the traffic at the 9/Riverside/Azalea and Azalea/Willeo intersections.  Oh Well!

The Blacksmith House (1075 Canton Street) - This one is dead from what I understand.  It would have added four townhomes behind the house at 1075 Canton St.  

Holcomb Bridge @ Scott Rd - This proposed development has been fraught with challenges.  A couple biggies were the site which has some water and topography issues.  I was a big fan of the initial proposal which would have added connectivity into Martins Landing from HBR but apparently when solutions are proposed that will help alleviate traffic problems, the same people that complain about the traffic problems don't like the solutions... so a second proposal came back without the connectivity but as of last check, the developer has dropped their application.  

Saturday
Aug092014

Just a Little Paint

I'm a big fan of the paint job they put on the old Chaplin's shopping center near the square.  The old green was just dark and depressing.  The new paint job breaks up the facade and will really help to bring attention to the tenants.  I'm sure Moxie Burer is pleased as they will be moving into the old Borocco spot soon.  

Saturday
Aug092014

MARTA's Northward March

The planned expansion of MARTA transit into North Fulton has been floating around the news over the past couple of months.  Dubbed the Connect 400 initiative by MARTA (follow the Facebook page for info), it is looking at expanding transit service north 11.9 miles from the North Springs station to Windward Parkway via either Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Light Rail or Heavy Rail (the current MARTA rail).  

MARTA’s public outreach department held three meetings in North Fulton in July gathering resident and stakeholder feedback.  The way it looks now, the vast majority of people favor expansion with 76% of both residents and employees surveyed either approving or strongly approving the initiative. Amongst residents, 11% disapprove and 8% strongly disapprove.  Light or heavy rail were the favored modes.  Amongst residents, preference is roughly split with 37% favoring light rail and 40% heavy rail while employees surveyed were 68% in favor of heavy rail.  (detailed report)

The overwhelming support by both residents and employees shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who commutes on GA400.  That said, don’t view transit as a panacea for traffic problems.  Transit only works properly in areas that are congested and it serves as a transportation option rather than a cure for congestion.  A transit line along a non-congested corridor is doomed to fail unless there is extreme subsidy to support high ridership as motorists will always choose the easier option in the absence of financial rewards or penalties.  Now that we are clear that transit will not cure congestion, let’s take a look at some of the issues and obstacles to getting MARTA rail.

Route Alignment - One of the first obstacles to overcome is whether to align the route to the east or west of GA400.  Through Dunwoody and Sandy Springs, the east side of the highway is lined by subdivisions and schools while the west side is mostly lined by apartments and commercial uses.  My money is on a west of 400 alignment but it is a point of contention to watch.

Transit Mode - The cost estimates are roughly $460M for BRT, $1.8B for light rail and $1.6B for heavy rail.  You can write off light rail immediately as it is more expensive, slower and has the mode shift disadvantage.  The real debate will be between the cheaper BRT and the logical heavy rail.  The one thing to point out is that modal shift is a VERY difficult challenge to overcome and it will cut ridership due to unnecessary inconvenience.  And before you start to balk about $1.6B, you may want to consider that the Georgia DOT is currently planning to spend just shy of $1B (one full year of DOT budget) to revamp the GA400 I-285 Interchange.  That spend could become less of a need if a robust rail solution were in place for that corridor.  They are obviously not mutually exclusive but which is the wiser investment for North Fulton and the region, $1B for 1 interchange ‘improvement’ or $1.6B to expand MARTA rail to Windward?  

Station Location - Finding the right spots for stations will prove to be a challenge.  Will the stations be dedicated to parking decks or to Transit Oriented Development (TOD)?  The current heavy rail alignment shows stops at Northridge, Holcomb Bridge, Mansell, North Point Mall, Haynes Bridge and Windward. No stop at Old Milton? Ahem..  AVALON? Gwinnett Tech?  Will North American Properties have another massive walkable development with no direct transit connections like they have with Atlantic Station?  

Crime - The boogie man of transit.  At a recent public meeting in Sandy Springs, an anonymous attendee was quoted in Creative Loafing as saying “I think it’s the lower-income people who are going to come up and start stealing.”  Even if that’s not a real quote, it’s a legitimate mindset that we have to get past.  The study Rail Transit and Neighborhood Crime: The Case of Atlanta, Georgia published in the Oct. 2003 edition of the Southern Economic Journal concluded that “there is no evidence... that suburban residents should fear that crime will rise in their neighborhood if rail lines are extended beyond central city boundaries.”

Competition - The race for more MARTA rail may just be starting.  In November, Clayton County is set to vote on whether to join Fulton and DeKalb counties as MARTA counties by opting into the penny sales tax.  If this passes, they will most certainly be dreaming about rail into Clayton county and the North Fulton line would then be competing for federal funds.  Don’t forget the Beltline transit initiative as well as other in-town corridors such as I20 and the Emory CDC area that are looking to get MARTA rail.  There will probably be a lot of hands reaching for limited dollars.  

So, if we can work through these challenges, the best case scenario is a 6-12 year implementation.  Realistically, if funding is secured and the project gets the green light, we might be riding trains in North Fulton by 2030 which will be around the same time that light rail is circling the city via the Beltline and potential rail will be going out to Clayton County if funding is there.  So, in the next 15 years, the future is looking bright for a more transit friendly metro area where we have more mobility options than we have today.

Tuesday
Jul222014

Stop the Madness: HOLY Knee Jerk Reaction

This is what I would call an impressive knee jerk reaction to the recently passed and enacted Safe Carry Protections Act here in Georgia.  The new legislation basically says properly licensed gun owners can carry a properly registered gun pretty much anywhere they want.  This includes bars, churches, stores, schools and some government buildings.  I personally am not a fan and from the looks of it, neither is the Zions Baptist Church.  

I'm thinking this is a statement but maybe it's just another sign of our sign culture gone wild.  Either way, the fervor with which they have posted signs on their property is both equally impressive and depressing.  Oversigning for any reason cheapens our public realm and reduces the connection and intimacy that one feels for a place.  I counted no fewer than 20 signs and I snapped pics of most of them.  Have fun with my photo anthology of hideous signs posted in reaction to a ridiculous law.  

I didn't go inside but I wouldn't be surprised to see a sign posted on the cross hanging over the altar.

 

 

Monday
Jul212014

Stop the Madness: Hey MORONS.. No Turn on Red

I'm not sure if this registers as overkill or as OVERKILL.  Do we really need three freaking signs stating the same thing at the intersection of Mansell Rd and Crossville Rd?

Wednesday
Jul092014

Buffalo and the Future Suburban Poor...

I recently had the opportunity to attend CNU22 the annual conference for the Congress for the New Urbanism.  This year it was in Buffalo, NY.  The most common question when I told my friends that my geeky passion was taking me to Buffalo was something like ‘why Buffalo?’  Well, it has great bones and lots of warts.  It’s exactly the kind of fixer-upper New Urbanists love.

At the beginning of the 1900’s, Buffalo was home to more millionaires per capita than any other city in the country.  Population peaked at around 580k in 1950 and has fallen by roughly 55% since as the industries that made it one of the richest cities in America died or moved away.  At this point, you may be wondering what Buffalo has to do with Roswell and North Fulton.  Well, it all comes back to a tour that I took while I was there.

Our second stop was at the Sacred Heart Cathedral on Emslie St.
The controversially named Tour de Neglect took about 75 wonky planners, architects and urbanism enthusiasts through the economically devastated East Side neighborhood to showcase what happens when once vibrant places become slums.  At one point, East Side was a thriving neighborhood with one of the largest Polish and German populations in the nation.  Since the 1950’s the combination of economic stagnation and white flight have reduced the population of what is Buffalo’s largest neighborhood geographically by almost 90% and the racial makeup has gone from almost 100% white to almost 100% African-American.  To say that 75 mostly white, relatively well-off out-of-towners riding bicycles through this neighborhood was awkward puts it lightly.  Thankfully, we had well connected and well known guides.

 

This is the type of place that people reading the CurrentHub would rarely end up.  If they did, it’s likely the result of a wrong turn or a volunteer project.  But, it made me wonder if the northern burbs of Atlanta face a similar fate?  

The fact is that suburban poverty is rising at a significantly faster rate than the city core.  According to the Brookings Institute study ‘Confronting Suburban Poverty in America,’ Atlanta had the 4th fastest increase in suburban poverty between 2000 and 2010.  In Cobb county, 6.5% of residents were poor in 2000 but by 2010, that number was 12.6%.  At the time of the study, 87% of metro Atlanta’s poor lived in suburbs and about 79% of the people receiving housing vouchers lived in the burbs.  This makes sense as 85% of the affordable housing in the metro area is located in the suburbs.  This arrangement imposes huge burdens on people living on little or no income which makes one wonder if it is truly ‘affordable.’

When looking at East Side, I see a neighborhood that actually could eventually recover.  It has good bones and great places and it’s easy to bike and walk.  However, The way Atlanta has built its suburbs around the car makes me less optimistic.  According to AAA, the annual cost of owning a single car is just over $9,000.  Even reducing that by driving a cheaper car, our poor, who are being forced to drive by our dispersed landscape, are being hit with a huge financial burden as a percentage of their income.  If you can’t afford a car, good luck because you’re not going to be near a frequent bus route and you’re definitely not going to be able to walk or bike to work!

Poverty is like a vicious cycle and a suburban landscape exasperates it.  Just the act of being poor creates the conditions that make it difficult to recover.  A 2013 Journal of Science article concluded that poverty imposes such a massive cognitive load on the poor that they have little bandwidth left over to do many of the things that might lift them out of poverty.  It also estimated that the condition of poverty imposes a mental burden equivalent to a 13 point IQ drop.  Just like people and families, once a neighborhood starts down the path, it is hard to recover.  You can see this in small pockets all over our suburban landscape.  Subdivisions that were the nice places 30 or 40 years ago haven’t aged well.  They become more costly to maintain and many end up falling into disrepair.  

We’re lucky to live in a beautiful place but Buffalo is proof that it may not always be that way.  As cities continue to become more popular places, gentrification will drive the poor somewhere.. and that somewhere in metro Atlanta is where 85% of the ‘affordable’ housing is.  Aging and dying subdivisions will become the slums of the 21st century.  Our sprawl bombed landscape burns holes in our pockets and literally crushes those who can’t afford the amenities that motordom requires.  We need to rethink how we have built our cities and towns and make them work for everyone.  Not just those of us fortunate enough (for now) to drive with no concerns.

For more on the East Side neighborhood, go to fixbuffalo.blogspot.com

Here are some additional shots from the tour.

Inside the Sacred Heart CathedralThe revitalized area of Larkin Square. This is only 5 short blocks away from the Sacred Heart Cathedral.Approaching the 17 story Buffalo Central Terminal finished just before the stock market crash of 1929. It was active until 1979.The beautiful interior of the Buffalo Central Terminal. This place has incredible potential and it looks kinda like the Halls of Justice right?

Tuesday
Jul012014

East West Alley Master Plan - Info Sessions..

If you are interested in what is going on with the East West Alley Master Plan, there are some meetings coming up later this month and later this summer that you will want to try to attend.  The Schedule is posted at the end of this post.  The first of the meetings will be next Wednesday at City Hall Room 220 at 5pm.  I'm really interested in seeing what concepts will be discussed.  Personally, I hope they look at making the alleys intos woonerfs (shared space where pedestrians and bicyclists have priority).  Additionally, we should look at paving them in brick from building face to building face.  This would add character and further enhance the pedestrian focus.

Here are a few imags from Jen Kempson's Integrated Alley Handbook that focuses on converting alleys in Seattle into actual livable places that add value to the city.  We could take a page from these concepts..

 

 

Meetings regarding Concept Plans
 
July 9, 2014 at 5:00p.m., City Hall, Room 220: Public Open House to present and discuss concept plans
 
July 9, 2014 at 7:00p.m., City Hall, Council Chambers: HPC Hearing - Discussion of Concept Plans with HPC
 
July 14, 2014 at 5:30 p.m., City Hall, Room 220: Work Session with Mayor and City Council to present and discuss concept plans
 
 
Meetings regarding Draft Master Plan
 
August 13, 2014 at 6:00p.m., City Hall, Council Chambers: HPC Hearing – Discussion of Draft Master Plan with HPC
 
August 19th, 2014 at 6:00p.m., City Hall, Room 220: Public Open House to present Draft Master Plan

August 25, 2014 at 5:30 p.m., City Hall, Room 220: Work Session with Mayor and City Council to review and discuss Master Plan

September 10, 2014 at 7:00 p.m., City Hall, Council Chambers: Present Master Plan for Adoption at Mayor and City Council Meeting

 

 

Friday
Jun272014

Shared Space = Mind Blown

I've been exploring the concept of Shared Space in transportation lately and am obsessed with the intersection implemented in Poynton, UK.  Shared Space is a traffic concept that gives equal rights to all modes of transportation within the right of way.  I can't explain it any better than the clip below.  

If you like what you see, I was recently able to spend some time with the designer of that intersection, Ben Hamilton-Baillie, at CNU22.  His presentation was excellent and in some cases mind blowing.  Here it is in its entirety if you are interested.

And finally, here's a presentation that I was able to find that does an excellent job explaining Shared Space and providing some additional examples of real world implementations.

So, this concept is becoming increasingly popular as it creates place, reduces traffic congestion and increases safety..  When can we do this here in Roswell?

 

Wednesday
Jun252014

Town Hall Roswell | Building a Walkable & Bikeable City

The 4th installment of Town Hall | Roswell is tomorrow night at Muse & CO Fine Art.  The topic is Building a Walkable & Bikeable City.  I'll be doing a brief presentation and then I'll be moderating and participating in a panel made up of Lew Oliver of Whole Town Solutions, Steve Acenbrak of Bike Roswell and Matt Foree of Bike Roswell.

Come check it out tomorrow at 7pm.  RSVP Here It's free for RoswellNEXT members and $10 for the general public.  If you purchase at the door, tickets are $15.

Tuesday
Jun242014

Placemaking 101: Straight Outta Compton

Roswell Parks & Rec.. we love you.. but do you love us??  Your fence tells me you don't.

The fence at Roswell Area Park Pool is definitely meant to keep people out.

Could our parks and rec department, the best in the state, do a better job of placemaking?  I've written before about their obsession with the Security Alert signs.  

Makes me feel so welcome and safe.

On the topic of fences, I truly think we could do better evidenced by the Sunnyside Gus Ryder Pool fence in Toronto.

The fence still exists and a person who climbs this and enters the pool is not the responsibility of the city at that point.Seriously, you would think our parks were straight outta compton with the barbed wire and the Security Alert signs.