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The East West Alley Master Plan

City council will be voting Monday on a proposal by city staff to hire POND & Co to conduct a master plan for the area that is being called the East West Alley.  I didn't know it had a name but apparently now it does.  The boundary map is below.



The Primary focus will be the Web St area from Canton St to Mimosa.  From the city memorandum:

The purpose of the master plan is to have a comprehensive development approach in the alleys built on consensus and good planning principles including land use, transportation and stormwater.

I sure do hope they adhere to the "good planning principles" piece of that statement.  A charette will be conducted at some point during the process and everyone who is interested should pay attention to that and participate if possible.  I will provide dates when they become available in a subsequent post.

Here are some things I would like to see in that area..

  • Mixed-Use + Parking - How about a mixed-use building to replace the Antique Market that would front Canton Street, have shops along Webb St and have a parking deck in the back.  Maybe a good use would be a hotel.
  • Playground - How about a small playground somewhere?  I've always thought the Canton Street area was lacking a high quality playground that parents could stop off at.
  • NO WIDE ROADS - part of the coolness of alleys is that they are narrow and cozy.  DOT, please don't ruin that with 10+ foot lanes.  Please.
  • Fill the Missing Teeth - in addition to the missing tooth that is the Antique Market parking lot, we need to fill in the missing tooth that is the space just to the south of the Board of Trade.  That spot is in need of a building.

What do you think should be emphasized in this master plan?



Even Seaside isn't Immune to Ridiculous Signage

Bad signs are everywhere..  Even at Seaside, which is one of the design meccas of America.  I stumbled upon this pic while I was walking around yesterday.


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Support the Roswell City Green

In 2012, world renowned planner Andres Duany came to Roswell.  He and his team were hired by the city to do a master plan for Historic Roswell.  His original task was to master plan the area from the river to the historic square but when he visited he was impelled to take a look at the Canton St, Hwy 9 & Magnolia intersection as well.  What he envisioned was bold and has kept the city’s imagination moving ever since.  In the master plan, he proposed a large square on the grounds behind City Hall that would reroute Hwy 9 around the square and closer to City Hall while creating a formal space that could be fronted by three additional civic buildings.

Original DPZ concept of a traffic square.Unfortunately, the vision could not be made to work due to the high traffic volume on Hwy 9.  Since then, the idea has gone through several iterations from Duany’s square to the RDOT’s giant roundabout to Lew Oliver and Alex Paulson’s conceptual master plan with a very formal classic green.  The downtown development authority (DDA) felt there was something to the iterations and hired the local firm, JB+a, to draw up a plan.

That plan is fully baked and is designed to complement and build upon the energy that radiates from Canton St.  It calls for a beautiful tree-lined green between City Hall and Hwy 9 that will finally connect our most important civic building to the street.  It also proposes a number of additional, unique amenities.  First, the Faces of War Memorial will become a much more prominent feature.  A final decision on where and how it will be positioned has not been made but the outcome will give it the honor and respect that it is due.  Second, a beautiful, cozy open-air amphitheater will be built nestled into the trees between the green and Smith Plantation.  Third, a group of three buildings including a larger mixed-use building and two smaller outparcel buildings will be built.  

Details of use and design for the project haven’t been finalized but suggested uses include restaurants with outdoor seating, corner coffee shop, meeting space, art studios/galleries, water feature/sprayground.  There will be enhanced connectivity across the entire project that will improve walkability and make the 400 or so parking spaces at City Hall a better option for parking for anyone visiting Canton St or the new City Green.  It’s not bad now and it’ll be even better with the City Green.

It’s time for the city to show a commitment to the heart of Roswell and invest in the future.  We have an amazing civic space that has been hidden from view for 20+ years just waiting to be unearthed.  The grounds of City Hall and the Smith Plantation need an opportunity to come out of hiding and help expand the walkable center of Roswell.  The time is now. City Green will create an excellent civic and cultural asset.  It will enhance walkability and it will deliver the much needed active and flexible civic space that is essential to the continued revitalization of our town center.

The plan calls for three phases with an estimated total cost of around $12 million with a little less than half of that coming from the city as there are grants and private dollars that will be in play.  The projected return in private development from this project is enormous.  The DDA estimates that this project will entice over $200 million in private development in and around our town center. 

The Return on Investment alone is a no-brainer!  These investments work and there are many case studies to follow; Downtown Woodstock, Glenwood Park, Historic Norcross, Downtown Greenville... A little civic courage can go a long way.

There is some urgency as there are already three walkable town centers currently in some stage of development in our neighboring cities of Sandy Springs and Alpharetta.  The new era of walkable, people focused development is upon us and it's time for the city to take a step and commit to building our own walkable village here in Roswell.

You can get more info at

You can support the project and send your support to the Mayor and Council at


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Town Green Meetings 3/13 & 3/18

I wanted to be sure everyone is aware that there are two meetings coming up this week and next.  The DDA is hosting them to provide additional information on the proposal.  Here is the info from their flier.  Try to get out to one if not both and show your support!!

If you'd like to sign the petition to support this project, please do so here..  Link

Here's the flier from the DDA for the upcoming meetings.


America.. One Big Aesthetic Crime Scene

Roswell and North Fulton have beautiful, spacious parks.  We rave about the river, playgrounds and the trails.  Several cities are working on new parks and squares around their city centers.  It’s evident that we care about our public space.  But.. we are forgetting something.

We are neglecting the most abundant public space we own.  We are neglecting our streets.  By sheer area, our streets and roads dwarf our parks and greenspace.  Some may say that our roads and streets are fantastic.  They are wide, well maintained and orderly.  I agree, when I have my driving blinders on but when you take a look around, you realize that once you get out of your neighborhood, you are driving on an enormous automobile sewer system.  

The Swiss would probably marvel at how focused our DOTs are on ensuring the streets are functional.  The hierarchy of local, collector and arterial is beautiful in its logic.  The potholes are usually fixed quickly and the streets are generally clean.  They get paved on schedule.  That said, order and proper maintenance does not build character and foster a sense of place.  Our lanes are too wide, our setbacks are too far and our street trees have become glorified weeds.  All of this has been done in the name of safety and standards.  

The roads and streets all around this country have become one gigantic aesthetic crime scene and they are only getting worse.  Road signs seemingly multiply like gremlins.  For goodness sake look at the number of signs adorning the historic square in Roswell.  We have Tree City USA signs, Yield ahead signs, road intersection approaching signs, duplicate no left or no right turn signs and they just seem to keep coming.  Cross into East Cobb from Roswell on 120 and the signs are like a heavyweight uppercut.  Power lines are everywhere but at least they aren’t proliferating.  Pay attention to all this incoherence and it will blow your mind.

Even policies that are supposed to be a good thing have become victims of over engineering and an inflexible focus on ensuring standards are upheld rather than ensuring that the design is contextually appropriate.  Who hasn’t seen a bike lane that abuts a 45 mph road? How about the fact that every turn lane off a state highway will now have at least one and usually two no parking signs.  I love the two no parking signs on the southbound on ramp to 400 from Haynes Bridge.  What about the fact that just before almost EVERY intersection you now see a big yellow sign telling you that that intersection is approaching.  EVEN WHEN IT IS IN PLAIN SIGHT!

Worst of all, we have no idea what the difference between a road and a street is anymore.  Streets capture value and roads get you from place to place quickly but what we have created across much of suburbia is a nasty STROAD hybrid that does neither well.  

We need to start capturing value with our streets again.  The people who built Canton Street knew how to do exactly that and they did it before zoning codes and red tape.  It’s the most well known street in North Fulton and the great part of it isn’t even a half mile.  Canton St didn’t become great because of wide lanes, road signs or bike lanes.  It’s great for many reasons but the narrow lanes, sidewalks and shorter building setbacks create a sense of place like an outdoor room that people in cars, on bikes or on foot just feel comfortable in.

Our focus on wide lanes, road signs, and tiny street trees is a crime committed against our places and ultimately against ourselves.  Our streets should be places, not sewers.  Our streets should have an overabundance of art, not an overabundance of signs.  Our streets should make us want to get out of our cars and enjoy the place that they shape.


Bring Back the Coca-Cola Sign...

While I was watching the Roswell circa 1942 video on YouTube!, I noticed that there used to be one of those old-timey Coca-Cola signs on the side of the building where Go With the Flow is currently.  I really think it would be cool to bring that back... or even put up a cool kayaking themed mural on that wall given that we are "a premier riverside community" and Go With the Flow is the top kayaking shop in the region.

Here's what it used to look like.. not sure who the man is but he probably never expected that his image would be blasted out on the interwebs in 2014.


Beyond the Red Tape: Lean Urbanism, A Conversation with Andres Duany - 3/24

Registration is now open for CNU Atlanta's spring workshop with Andres Duany and local experts Gene Kansas, Don BenderEric Kronberg, Jay Tribby, PhD (Chief of Staff to Atlanta District 2 City Council member Kwanza Hall), and Ted Bradford (Chief of Staff to Atlanta District 5 City Council member Natalyn Archibong) as they offer their views on the concept and ideas behind Lean Urbanism and how it can be applied in the Atlanta area.

Join the Atlanta chapter of CNU for a conversation about Lean Urbanism and how it could energize Atlanta.

WHEN: Monday, March 24, 2014
WHERE: All Saints Episcopal Church
TIME: One day event, 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM

Click HERE to register!


East Roswell Development Update

East Roswell has gotten a little busier lately.  A couple projects caught my eye as interesting.  They are both essentially at the Scott Rd intersection.  The first is the Centenniel Walk development that previously went bust in the mid aughts due to the great recession.  It has been resurreced by John Weiland Homes and is now slated to have 29 townhomes and 80 single family homes. I like this project because it is filling in an area that is prime for a walkable development.  It could use a little more mixed-use but will have a small retail component at the Eves Rd/HBR corner.

The second is a yet to be named subdivision that is just across HBR from Centenniel Walk.  The entrance will create a 4 way intersection at Scott Rd and it the new road will connect to 6 Branches Drive in Martins Landing.  This will create an additional connection and whittle just a little bit off the existing superblock.  This development will have 44 townhomes and 46 single family residences.  

Here's what that area could look like in a couple years.


West Roswell Elementary Update - Community Meeting Monday 3/3

It's been a while since I've seen or heard any info on this one but it looks like Fulton County is about to get the ball rolling on the new elementary school.  There will be a community meeting on Monday, 3/3 at 630pm at Roswell North Elementary School to discuss school construction and design.  Below is a letter to parents of Esther Jackson Elementary School parents from principal Jennifer Cassidy.

Dear Parents,

On Monday, March 3, 2014 at 6:30 PM a community meeting will be held to discuss the new West Roswell Area Elementary School. This new school will serve as the temporary site for EJ as our school is being rebuilt. The meeting will be held at Roswell North Elementary School.  If you would like to attend to hear information about our temporary site, please read the information below. At this time, there is not any specific information available about the design of the new building on our Esther Jackson site. The replacement building for EJ will not be discussed at this meeting. We will update our school website with new information about our site as it becomes available.


Jennifer Cassidy, Principal

School construction and design to be discussed at community meeting

Construction and design information for three new elementary schools will be presented at specially held community meetings the first week of March. The schools are part of Fulton County Schools’ five-year eSPLOST capital program that is building new schools, funding renovations and additions, and supporting new technology in classrooms.

School system representatives will be on hand to discuss each school’s special features. Also present will be the school architects as well as system staff members representing construction management and facilities planning. The meetings will not focus on attendance boundaries or redistricting.

West Roswell Area Elementary School
March 3, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Held at Roswell North Elementary School (10525 Woodstock Road, Roswell)

The West Roswell Area Elementary School (official name to be determined) will be located at the intersection of Alpharetta Street and Thomas Drive in Roswell. The shopping center and residences currently at the site will be demolished to make room for the new school, which will initially open in August 2015 as the temporary home of Esther Jackson Elementary School. Esther Jackson Elementary is scheduled for replacement, and once it is demolished and rebuilt on its site, the West Roswell school will permanently open to students in August 2016.


Support the Roswell Town Green

I created an online petition in support of the Town Green.  Please take a minute to sign it if you support this effort.  



You can also read up on it here, here & here.