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Entries in Historic Roswell (28)


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?



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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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.


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.


The State of the City.. Walkability Has a Bright Future

If you can take one thing away from the State of the City address that was delivered by Mayor Jere Wood earlier this month, it is that walkablity has a bright future in Roswell.  It's refreshing to know that we have city leadership that for the most part understands that a focus on creating a more pedestrian friendly environment is critical to building a sustainable city.

The mayor hits on Old Town Roswell's status as one of the 27 existing Walkable Urban Places (WalkUPs) in the metro Atlanta and discusses building on our existing good bones in what he is referring to as Old Town Roswell which many may know as Historic Roswell.  Here are some of my favorite quotes...

For the past 60 years, we knew how development occurred...  There are no farms left, there is very little vacant land.  So we're looking for a new pattern. That growth is going to occur primarily in the hwy 9 corridor from HBR s to the river which includes Canton St.

For the purposes of this talk, I'm going to call that area Old Town Roswell.  Because it really is pretty much the boundaries of the city in 1854.  That's where you are going to see the growh in the future occur.  It's going to occur by converting old strip centers and old apartments into a walkable village.  A walkable village is someplace that you can easily walk to every where you go every day without getting in a car.

To be walkable, a community must be compact.  The residential and commercial uses must be next to each other not spread out and segregated as we have seen in the past. So this isn't your typical subdivision.  This is what you think of when you think of a village.

To be walkable, a community must be connected.  That connection is through a grid of streets, alleys and sidewalks.  Fortunately, that is what we have in Old Town Roswell.  We're gonna add to that grid.  It's totally different than what you have seen in the past which is a subdivision with cul-de-sacs and shopping centers that are not connected to their neighbors.  We're seeing a new development pattern.  Again, this is in Old Town Roswell and I don't see it going beyond that at this point in time.

We're going to grow by compact development within Old Town Roswell.  

There are a number of other great points in the video which every Roswell resident should watch.


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Roswell Town Green Renderings

The DDA presented their vison for the Roswell Town Green to the City Council and what was probably an audience of 40+ citizens and city staff this evening.  Monica Hagewood and Dave Schmit of the DDA took the council and audience through the vision for the project and some of the key economic numbers that they feel justify the project. 

In all, the project would be completed in three phases and would cost an estimated $12.1 million.  This seems steep but when you weigh it against the expected private investment that the DDA feels it would spur on, it starts to look like a bargain.  They feel that this redevelopment could result in an additional $200+ million in investment in the core of our city.  These are estimates but they are being done by industry veterans and thus should have some credibility.  

The renderings were nice.  They illustrated the proposed vision but the DDA was careful to remind the audience that these are conceptual to illustrate the vision and that many of the fine details would need to be worked out as the project progresses.  Here are the illustrations.






images: Roswell Downton Development Authority


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Support the City Hall Green

This is an open letter from local designer and urban planner Lew Oliver in support of the DDA's vision for the City Hall Green. There is a presentation of the project tonight at 530 at City Hall for anyone interested...

Hats off to Monica Hagewood and the DDA for championing a winning design for the City Hall Green. This project will provide the much needed active civic space that is essential to revive our historic core.

As an active design participant in Woodstock Downtown, Avalon, Vickery, Serenbe, Glenwood Park, of recent, Savannah River Street West, as well as many more downtown revitalization projects worldwide, I have seen the successes of many parallel projects.

When implemented, the project design, along with the street scape improvements shown in the master plan, will stimulate new development in our downtown. Without it, Roswell will fall behind. The real danger now is of losing momentum, and failing to attract top talent, new families, creative youth, the new class of empty nesters, and ultimately, our ability to develop a new economy.

This project should be endorsed wholeheartedly by you, our elected
officials, with full funding. Many of us have anticipated bond referendum money to be made available at this time. While it is prudent and responsible to consider phasing of the project, the full aesthetic impact and usability of the project cannot be achieved without full implementation--that is, no one will use a park that is not complete with excellent detailing. The project will achieve efficiency in construction by condensing many phases into one. We are now in a positive upturn, and must now seize this opportunity. This window may not stay open long.

Many have rallied behind you for this very goal to be achieved. It is the product of diverse visions which have united behind a common provide the catalyst for our renaissance.

While the plan needs tuning and polishing, it can be done so now with full City support. It is time to act proactively, showing the DDA and your community that you are indeed leaders with bold vision and action.

Thanks for your support.

Lew Oliver


Can You Envision? Public Meeting for City Green Proposal

On Monday January 27th, the Roswell Downtown Development Authority is presenting a vision for redeveloping the area around City Hall into a more robust park and mixed-use space.  There is a lot to take in from the designs.  The meeting will be at City Hall at 5:30 and is open to the public.  The vision will be presented to the Mayor and Council.  I am a huge supporter of this and am looking forward to the meeting!  As usual, there are a few tweaks I'd like to see but I'll critique the plan after the meeting.  Try to be there if you are interested.


The Top 10 Developments to Watch in 2014

I’m a sucker for lists but I don’t normally make them myself.  However, there is so much going on around here that it’s hard to keep track.  So, I’m putting together a list of the top 10 projects to watch in 2014.  In the past year, the stage has been set to make this year one of most transformative years ever in North Fulton.  These projects will increase walkability and overall livability in North Fulton.

10. Gwinnett Tech Expansion - Construction of the new Alpharetta Gwinnett Tech campus will be in full swing in 2014, keeping them on track for a Jan 2016 opening.  The depressing thing about the campus is that it appears to be a very 90’s and early 00’s suburban office park site design which shows 3 story’ish buildings surrounded by a sea of parking.  

image: Gwinnett Business Journal

9. North Fulton CID Blueprint 2.0 - The North Fulton CID released its vision for the next 7-10 years in Dec. and there are some projects that may gather momentum in 2013.  They focus on reducing traffic congestion, adapting to changing marketplace trends, and eliminating bureaucratic hurdles.

image: North Fulton CID

8. Roswell Downtown Development Authority - The DDA was relatively quiet in 2013 but expect Roswell to make some waves in the next year with plans for large scale projects in the heart of Roswell.  They launched their website ( in 2013 and have posted several theoretical master plan images.  Their plans for a park or green at City Hall would be a big win if executed properly.

image: Roswell DDA

7. MARTA Rail - In late 2013, MARTA officially announced that it is looking to extend from North Springs station further north to Windward Parkway.  This was received with mixed emotions but many people recognize that more lanes on 400 is going to be costly if not impossible.  The current preferred alternative is to extend heavy rail and add five stations (Northridge, Holcomb Bridge, North Point, Haynes Bridge and Windward). Expect more news on potential funding sources and routes in 2014.

image: MARTA

6. More Roundabouts - In the past two years at least four roundabouts have been opened in North Fulton.  Readers are familiar with my thoughs on roundabouts and there is empirical evidence that they improve traffic flow, reduce crashes and increase safety.  More of them are coming to intersections near you.

5. Roswell Unified Development Code - Roswell has been opening its doors to business over the past 18 months.  There have been several high priority corporate announcements in that timeframe.  That said, the zoning codes are confusing web of red tape and must be changed.  In 2014, expect passage of the new UDC and the accompanying Design Guidelines.  This will send a message to developers that Roswell is serious about redevelopment.  It will also enable a number of projects to finally take a step toward reality.  There are several notable projects that are simply waiting for UDC adoption before going to the city to begin the process.  

4. Canton Street & Downtown Alpharetta Infill - No fewer than five projects around Historic Roswell have been brought before the city in the last several months to add townhomes and residences around the Historic Roswell area.  There are 80+ total units proposed and a number of them are likely to be finished this year.  Add this to the 320 new apartments and the Historic Roswell area could be netting 500+ new residents in the next 12-18 months.  Alpharetta’s downtown is experiencing a similar trend albeit with more multi-acre lots available for development due to large site foreclosures following the real estate crash.  These developments will help drive local businesses in the downtown areas that thrive on pedestrian traffic.

3. Roswell City Walk Apartments - Or should I say, Down Goes Frazier!  The horribly designed 1960’s era Frazier Street Apartments were demolished in December making way for Lennar Miltifamily’s 320 unit luxury apartment complex in the heart of Roswell.  The construction will take much of the year but the first tenants are expect in late 2014.  When complete, this development will be a game changer and will serve as a catalyst for future projects. Grocery store anyone??

image: Lennar Multifamily

2. Alpharetta City Center - It would be hard to top this project given its hefty price tag ($31 million), laudable site plan and ambitious construction schedule.  In the next 12 mos, you will see the heart of the new Alpharetta change dramatically.  Already, there are some new streets in place, with a roundabout, and the new City Hall building is beginning to take shape.  The parking deck and library will follow not too far behind and the addition of park space and a pedestrian orientation will be impressive.  This, as previously mentioned, is helping spur adjacent development.

image: Urban Collage

1. Avalon - This project dwarfs all the others on this list.  It’s hard to downplay the significance of this behemoth.  Total economic impact could be over $1 billion when all is said and done.  The construction at the site over the past 2 months has been frenetic and leaves little doubt that North American Properties will hit their Q4’14 target for opening phase I.  This project is regionally significant and is being watched by the commercial real estate industry nationally.  The combination of live, work and play gives Avalon major mixed-use cred and makes it unlike almost any other development in the region.  The tenant list is impressive with top-notch national and local restaurants and retailers.  When Avalon opens its streets in late 2014, it will serve as a showcase for walkability and urbanism in a suburban environment.  It will be interesting to see how it impacts other popular destinations such as North Point Mall and Canton St.

image: North American Properties

That’s a lot to chew on and undoubtedly, something else will creep up in 2014.  There are even some regionally significant projects that you will want to keep an eye on; the Stadiums (Braves & Falcons), Atlanta Street Car, College Football Hall of Fame, National Center for Human Rights, and Buckhead Atlanta just to name a few.

Happy New Year and have a great 2014!


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Stop the Madness: Don't Hit This Median

Here are two medians at the gate as you exit Liberty in Historic Roswell. I've been completely puzzled (annoyed) at the presence of the median sign on the second of the two medians. I'm not sure why one of these has the median warning sign and the other doesn't. However, there's one thing I'm absolutely sure of and that is that the one there is WHOLLY UNNECESSARY. The only people that would ever hit that median are people turning around at the entrance gate and they wouldn't see it anyway.

These signs are suited for medians in environments where cars are going 45mph+ or where there is a visibility problem. NOT in a spot where the posted speed limit is 13 mph and certainly not where it is virtually impossible for a driver to hit the median. Stop putting up ridiculously unnecessary signs and pull the pointless ones down already!!!