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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.




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?


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

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?


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




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?



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.


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.  


Goulding Place Single Family Renderings

While sifting through the upcoming city meetings schedule, I came across the first renderings I've seen of the Front Door Communities single family product that will be going up at Goulding Place.  I'm a little disappointed by the percentage of homes that have front loader garages.  That really isn't in keeping with the rest of Goulding Place even though the builder is making some effort to maintain a consistent architecture.  The biggest thing I like about this project is the opportunity for connectivity.

Here are the images beginning with the Site Plan..



Invasion of the Advisory Signs...

I was walking to the Roswell Farmers and Artisans Market yesterday when I came across a shiny new road sign. Regular readers know that I'm not a fan of frivolous road signs that tell us things that are either plainly obvious or completely unnecessary.  This sign is one of those.

New sign along Norcross St approaching Historic Rowell. I feel safer already.

Here's what that spot looked like last month...

The fact that there is a sign here now isn't going to cause me to drive any slower. I'm going to drive at the speed the road feels safe at.

As a driver on a city street, you know there are curb cuts, you know there are side roads, you know there are intersections and you drive accordingly.  A sign is not going to change driver behavior.  Road design changes driver behavior.  If you follow the logic used for this sign to its eventual conclusion, you will have a sign for every driveway and intersection to alert unsuspecting drivers to the the chance that there are intersecitons or that other cars may be trying to access the road they are on.  

We have an almost perfect illustration of this right here in Historic Roswell.  There are no fewer than 12 road advisory signs in a .4 mile stretch along Alpharetta Hwy right through our Historic District.  Here's a collage courtesey of Google Street View.  This garbage pollutes our historic corridor all the way to the River.

Advisory signs are taking over our pubic realm in Historic Roswell.

The only thing these signs are doing is polluting our public realm with bright shiny objects.  Yes, they give some people a false sense of security that they are somehow now safer from bad drivers.  News flash.. we are all 'bad drivers' at some point and signs aren't going to prevent that fact.  

These types of signs are meant for high speed environments that require advance notice of intersections so drivers can reduce speed and plan accordingly to make turns.  Think Highway 316 to Athens or GA 400 north of the access controlled section.  We don't need this type of Highway engineering in the heart of a city where speeds are 40mph or less.  



East West Alley Master Plan - Public Input Wanted

The public meeting for the East West Alley Master Plan is next week on 6/17.  Activating our alleys is an incredibly efficient way to expand the vitality of our Canton Street area.  There are numerous examples of successful alley conversions worldwide but I really like some of the concepts illustrated by the Alley Network Project.   They are small tight places that make you feel cozy.  They can be fantastic places for art installations.  And most importantly, they enhance connectivty and thus walkability and provide opportunities for creative reuse of space. So, if you want to add more vitality around Canton Street and continue to build our downtown, try to attend.  

My one piece of feedback is that we need to make these the first examples of active "Shared Space" or Woonerfs in the metro area.  

Here's the flyer.