I'm not sure which way to go on this. As a dyed in the wool new urbanist, I love sidewalk cafes and street trees. The both add signifcantly to the public realm when done right. Which is why I'm torn on the proposal by the owners of Salt Factory to expand their sidewalk cafe. We will get an upgraded sidewalk in that spot, albeit narrower. But, the cost will be the nice little tree that lives next to the road. I'm never the one crying to save a tree when a worthy development comes along but this one gets me. Trees define space and frame a street. I think we will miss the little tree when it is gone and we will have four more tables at Salt Factory. I think they should keep it as it is and add seating on their roof.
When was the last time you visited a park? Here in Roswell and North Fulton, we are blessed with great parks . In fact, the Roswell Parks & Rec department has been named Agency of the Year by the Georgia Recreation & Park Association a record eight times, last receiving the award in 2011. Alpharetta also won the award in 2011 for the mid-size city category. Some of the great parks in our area include Riverside, Roswell Area, Wills, Overlook, the Big Creek Greenway and the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area.
What do these all have in common? They are destination parks. Most visitors drive to them. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with destination parks but when you lack the other types of parks, your city can certainly become boring not to mention difficult to navigate for some folks. Think about this, can you walk to a public park in ten minutes or less? If you are in the historic district, that answer is probably yes. I’m fortunate to be able to walk to five and if you count the grounds at Barrington and Bulloch, seven. Unfortunately, most of us don’t have that type of park proximity.
How can our cities increase park access for all? Well, what most of the cities of North Fulton are lacking is easy access to small neighborhood parks sometimes called pocket parks. These are the types of parks where neighbors bump into each other while on a stroll. The kind where kids can actually go without a parental escort, maybe gaining some confidence and independence in the process. The kind that have buildings lining the edges defining the space and creating a sense of place. Unfortunately, we’ve largely forgotten about public neighborhood parks out here in the burbs. We forgot about them in favor of big yards and lawnmowers. We traded traditional neighborhoods with walkable parks for our easy, no hassle, happy-motoring access to all the happiness that stuff in strip malls provides us.
Roswell is a great case study, we have no fewer than 22 parks in the city. Of those there are 11 linear parks, 5 district parks, 1 national recreation area and six “small urban parks” as the city refers to them. You might be surprised by their names; City Hall, Heart of Roswell, Sloan Street, Terramont, Town Square & Triangle Parks. These are just our public parks. The list does not include private parks such as those in Martin's Landing and other subdivisions.
Now, 22 is a respectable number of parks with a diverse range of types totaling over 900 acres. Add to that Roswell’s commitment to preserve over 5,000 acres of greenspace (including but not limited to parks) and you have a city that is serous about parks. Well, serious about destination parks. We have the "small urban parks" but even those six can be a challenge to walk to which limits their utility.
Three of the six are adjacent to Hwy 9 and another is adjacent to Holcomb Bridge Rd. For the most part, they don't serve a neighborhood and are actually smaller destination spaces. Actually, only one of our public parks, Sloan Street Park, could really be considered a neighborhood ‘pocket park’ and not surprisingly, it’s the only one with a playground.
What makes it unique is that it is focused on the people that live and work around it while also being useful to all ages. It should serve as inspiration for the next generation of parks in Roswell. We can start focusing on building true neighborhoods with cozy walkable parks where neighbors can gather and kids can play with friends without calling it a ‘play date.’
Now, neighborhood parks sound warm and fuzzy but public money spent on parks would be better utilized by the private sector, right? Wrong. A well maintained network of public parks supports property values, boosts the local economy, increases social capital, improves public health and helps preserve the environment. One of the best examples of a park creating value is our nation’s most famous park, Central Park. Frederick Law Olmstead (also designed Piedmont Park) tracked the values of property adjacent to the park from 1856 to 1873 to justify the $13 million investment. He found that values increased by an impressive $209 million in those 17 years.
Beyond the economic case, the quality of life benefits are huge. Simply being able to walk out the front door and stroll to your park is a luxury that is largely lost these days. We’ve chosen to build our parks in places where it’s tough to walk. Most of our parks have few homes fronting them. Many of them are separated from residential areas by busy street on at least one side. Neighborhood parks have homes and businesses that front the park. People can walk right out into their park. They meet their neighbors there and the best thing is that they can walk right back home when it’s time. Sloan Street Park is just that kind of park.
We need more parks like Sloan Street Park to start completing our neighborhoods. You should check it out. It might not be special to you but then again, it’s probably not your neighborhood park. Where can we build the next one?
Chuck makes the point that the development pattern of the last 60 years has been wholly unsustainable and that with each life cycle of development, we have moved into a different, less sustainable method of financing it. The first life cycle was financed with savings. The second life cycle was financed with public debt. The third life cycle shouldered an increasing and concerning amount of private debt on top of the increasing amount of public debt. The obvious conclusion is that we are broke and the current way of financing our projects is not going to function as it has over the past 60 years. The Federal and State aid programs that cities and counties have been able to rely on are goign to be increasingly less and less available.
The main point of the argument and one of the biggest reasons that his message hits home to New Urbanists is that the traditional development model that was proven over centuries prior to the suburban experiment seems to be one of the most financially sustainable and resilient development patters. Maybe our ancestors actually did know what they were doing.
Here's a video of the talk.
Jonathan Copsey of NorthFulton.com had a nice recap of the event here.
I'm excited to announce that we soon be unveiling a brand new road sign at the Canton Street, Magnolia, Atlanta Street intersection. I can't imagine one additional sign that is necessary at this intersection. However, the ceremonial removal of that black garbage bag will undoubtedly usher in a new era of safety at this intersection. As an aside.. do we really need two sign posts here for GA 9 North and GA 120 East? Stop the insanity.. seriously!
Has this alleviated the traffic problem? Has it even made it any better? Not by much...
And, what was the one thing that everyone forgot about? The buses... or more accurately, the bus schedules.
Before the change in lane use, the bus schedule gave 15 minutes for the 140 bus to get from Mansell Park-and-Ride to the North Springs Train Station. Assuming the bus would make the trip in 15 minutes, there is a 3 minute cushion between the bus arrival and the train departure. In a perfect world (i.e. Not Atlanta on a Monday morning), that gives you plenty of time to make the connection from bus-to-train.
However, now there is no dedicated bus lane on 400. The 140 bus has to drive (or, more accurately, idle) with all the other private and commercial traffic on the highway. That means the ride from Mansell to North Springs, on a typical traffic day, now takes longer than 15 minutes. If there is an accident, the ride can take as long as 25 minutes. On average, the 140 Bus misses the train about 50% of the time. That is a HORRIBLE ratio for a city that claims to be a "major metropolitan area".
There are several options for the City to consider as solutions to this problem:
1. Modify the bus schedules to account for the additional traffic. Change the time allotted to get from Mansell-to-North Springs, for example from 15 minutes to 20 minutes. Additionally, coordinate the new arrival times to leave 5-7 minutes between arrival and departure to allow for delays on bad traffic days. I am sure there are several other bus routes that could use this examination, but the 140 is the one most familiar to the writer.
2. Increase the frequency of trains during peak rush hour. I know people will scoff at this, but I am not asking for a lot here. The trains run every 15 minutes during PEAK time. That is 4 trains per hour. The suggestion I have it so make that one train every 10 minutes, or 6 trains per hour. And only for the 4 hours from 6am to 10am and then in the afternoon from 3pm to 7pm. This would be 8 hours a day with 2 additional trains per hour. Which would mean 16 additional trains per day. Doesn't sound like a big commitment. I'll openly admit that I am not aware of the capacity left in the MARTA train system, but I do ride past the train yards and see MANY cars sitting idle...
Without any changes to the MARTA system, people are arriving late to work because of late buses, missed trains, and an infrequent train schedule. In an economy that is just starting to get it's legs back, people can't afford to arrive late and face the possibility of losing their job. In a metropolitan area that desperately needs an improved mass transit system, the State has made it even less convenient to take your car off the highway and take mass transit.
On Windward Parkway, they really love their pedestrians. At least at the Marconi Dr entrance to the Ryder building they do.. First, we have a crosswalk which should be the first indication to anyone driving that a pedestrian has the right of way. However, drivers obviously don't know the rules of the road any longer so we had to invent the little stand up signs to remind the drivers. Then
I'm guessing there was an accident at this spot that influenced the decision to put three signs withn 15 feet of eachother. It's my opinion that one well placed sign could probably do the trick and the other two could be better used at other parts of the intersection or neighboring intersections.
This is an update from our previous 4 of a Kind post. Apparently, East Cobb drivers hate these signs as much as I do and they've been taking matters into their own hands to clean up our oversigned streets. Seriously, these two signs were within a half mile of each other near the Avenue East Cobb. Median Signs Beware! Drivers in East Cobb don't like you.
Seriously.. Is this sign really necessary? It's right along the path along Azalea Dr. I highly doubt we will have anyone just dropping some development right there. This belongs in a zoning code and not in the public realm in the middle of one of Roswell's most used amenities.
There are a few things going on in Groveway right now but I won't cover all of those today. Those are the Frazier Street Apartments, Souther Skillet Property and now the property at 900 Myrtle Street. Since the council will be voting on a stream buffer variance for a new development at 900 Myrtle tonight, I'll quickly comment on that one. Here's a rough view of the site with the 21 new residences laid out. I'm not sure what type of residences these will be (single family or townhome).
We are very excited to see actual residential development coming to Groveway but there are a couple concerns.
First, this property will be gated. I think we need fewer gates in our historic center and those that are already up should come down. Real cities don't gate their neighborhoods. Suburbs do and those places are called subdivisions.
Second, I can't tell which way the fronts of these buildings will face? If they are not facing the existing streets, it will be a shame. Much of the Groveway Code talks about how buildings front the streets and as most New Urban Roswell readers understand, buildings frame great places.
Third, this property sits in the middle of a gigantic block that stretches roughly 1400 feet from Norcross to Hill Street. If we are truly looking to create a walkable area in the center of our city, we need to cut that distance at least in half. Truly walkable cities have blocks in the 200-600 foot range. Those with 1400 foot blocks are almost wholly car dependant because people just won't walk that far. The developer should consider (if they aren't already) adding a mid-block pedestrian path on the north side of their property.
I guess there will be more to come on this one but as it sits right now, there are some unanswered questions that might lead to some concerns.
I just wanted to follow up here. Pretty much all of the concerns I had with the initial plan have been eliminated. The most recent site plan that I got a glimpse of shows a much better use of the space and really works to frame the public realm while creating an intimate and cozy atmosphere for the residents. When I have a site plan that can be published, I will as it will be some of the better development that we have seen. I really wish the Chattahoochee & Pine folks had put more thought into their site plan.
The owners of Lucky's are looking to build some more space on the lot just to the north of them. Currently there is an older house there and they plan to remove that and put up a new 6000 square foot building that will serve as restaurant and retail space. One of the cool features is that they plan to connect it to the existing building that Lucky's is in with a covered pavilion. The elevations below are posted on the city of Roswell's site and the plan was approved with conditions (not sure what they are) at tonight's Design Review Board meeting.
The building would sit perpindicular to Alpharetta Street similar to how the building that Thumbs Up Diner sits. it looks like a nice space and is an improvement on what is there currently. The slow move of progress up Alpharetta Street continues.
If anyone knows what might be planned for the space, please chime in.