2015 - What Happened in Roswell

In all, 2015 was a pretty amazing year for Roswell and much of North Fulton.  Walkability was in fact king in 2015 and I think it will continue to drive development in 2016.  We saw numerous developments and proposals work their way through the area that enhance walkability.  That said, not all change is welcome and there was a clear and expected negative response to a number of projects in 2015. 

The Riverwalk Village, Vickers Village and Sassafras projects received significant opposition and there was a notable cadre of ground troops that organized a fierce anti-density campaign that was quite successful if not always accurate.  This opposition came at an opportune time as our City Council elections occurred just as these three developments were working their way through the process.   Fortunate timing and significant legwork by the team that formed around the three winning candidates, Horton, Palermo and Zapata, resulted in a significant shakeup at City Hall.  

Now, before I get too far, I would like to say my peace on this.  I believe Horton, Palermo and Zapata will be fine stewards of our city and I believe they support walkability and building places people love.  I do think they collectively have a little to learn on what is necessary to build truly walkable and lovable places.  However, it's not rocket science and they will figure it out.  

One thing that troubled me was the amount of mis-information floating around about incumbents, the big controversial developments and the people behind those developments.  The number of Chinese Whispers flying around town was shameful.  I've heard that: 

  • Becky Wynn hates Roswell (She doesn't and I think we should leave the character assassinations to state and national politics.)
  • Rich Dippolito was in bed with the Sassafras developers (He wasn't)
  • The Sassafras developers were swindling widows to sell their property (They weren't)
  • Vickers Village is going to do all apartments (They aren't)
  • Sassafras was going to be a high density senior living facility (It wasn't)
  • Riverwalk Village would crush property values (NOTHING could be further from reality)
  • Sassafras is High Density (GREAT rhetoric but just not true.  5.2 units per acre is NOT HIGH DENSITY and even when they lowered it to 3.7, opposition continued to say it was high density.  If that's the case, then Roswell Green 4.8, Orchard Lake 3.3, Crabapple Lake & Parc 3.6, all subdivisions within walking distance of Sassafras, would probably fall into that "high density" bucket.)  

The list can go on but you probably get the point... A lot of mis-information was flowing out there...

I'm also puzzled by the the fierce opposition to developments like Vickers, Riverwalk and Sassafras that are truly groundbreaking for our city while other garbage developments continue to work their way through the process with little to no opposition.  We have several Townhome Without A Town developments that are steaming piles of monotony.  We should be killing those developments and welcoming unique projects like Vickers, 

Now that I've said that, let's get into the projects.

Riverwalk Village

We saw three different site plans for Riverwalk Village in 2015. Each one becoming more and more diluted than its predecessor.  Ultimately, the developers pulled the project.  We won't see this get realized and we are now poised for another 5+ years of nothing happen on that site.

Another great aspect of the plan was the early off ramp idea to get traffic off 400 before Holcomb Bridge and into the planned Riverwalk Village development got killed by GDOT due to 5 mph.  RDOT needed it to be 30 mph design speed and GDOT insisted on 35 mph.  Another good idea down the drain.

Vickers Village

Ultimately, Vickers Village had to shrink a bit and couldn't go to four stories.  They received approval in November and we will likely see construction start in late spring if things go as planned.  As of this writing, a few people are still trying to kill Vickers Village on technicalities which is unfortunate but expected given the amount of opposition this project saw throughout the process.  

They will need to go to a higher level appeals court though if they want to pursue it further.  Who knows, maybe the bid to derail Vickers will work but ultimately something mixed-use and walkable with 3 stories is going to eventually get built on that land and whether you like it or not, that is the right type of development for that spot.  An interesting fact on that property is that it has been zoned for 3 story development since the early 1970's.  

Goulding

 image: Frontdoor Communities

image: Frontdoor Communities

Goulding raped the land and that was shameful. That said, we did get a renovation of a historic home and road connectivity. I'm not sure it's worth the damage to the canopy but what's done is done and I always like to look for the positive.  

Surprisingly, 109 Goulding, pictured above, is already under contract which says something about Frontdoor's renovation job and their overall project plans given the ~$1.5 million price tag.  The single family houses are selling well with all three that are under construction reportedly already sold.  We'll see if the townhomes sell as robustly and only time will tell whether the project enhances the neighborhood. Personally, I think 10 years from now, this will grow into a very nice part of downtown Roswell.

Sasafrass

 Revised site plan that removed townhomes and reduced overall density to 3.7 units per acre.

Revised site plan that removed townhomes and reduced overall density to 3.7 units per acre.

We lost out on a very innovative development when Sasafrass died its ugly death. Ultimately, the developers killed the project due to a groundswell of opposition to 'high density' development.  The diversity of housing stock and the connectivity it offered were too unique to succeed. 

I really liked this one because it mixed housing types within the same development which creates much more of a natural neighborhood feel than standard tract home development.  I also really liked the fact that it cut one superblock into three smaller blocks and would have improved the walkability of a mostly car dependent area.

Roswell City Walk

 image: Lennar Multifamily

image: Lennar Multifamily

The Roswell City Walk apartments finished up and are now almost full adding some slightly more affordable housing options to downtown Roswell.  There is no arguing the fact that this project is light years better than what was there before. I firmly believe that this project will be the catalyst that drives the redevelopment of the Southern Skillet property. 

Forrest Commons

 image: Monte Hewett Homes

image: Monte Hewett Homes

Forrest Commons is wrapping up the foundation of the final building and should be complete and sold out sometime in 2016. 

Hill Street Commons

Just up the street from Forrest Commons is Hill Street Commons.  This project has pretty much wrapped up land preparation and looks ready to start building.  The sidewalks around the property look nice and wide and I'm sure the townhomes are going to be high quality.

City Green

City Green has been pretty much stalled in City Hall and there is some concern that the project may die as many don't think it is a priority of the new council. This would be a huge loss and a massive waste of time and money that has already been invested. More on this in a later post.

Southern Skillet  

There was finally some movement on the Roswell Plaza shopping center with the city purchasing the property for $4.8M. No plans have been made yet and there will definitely be some community involvement in the planning and ideation process.  To do this right, this will likely require 3-4 stories in areas and it will likely require some element of mixed-use residential over retail.

Roswell Antique Market

We got a good head fake from the Roswell Antique Market. The owners upped the rent and forced the antique market out. Word on the street is that we will see 24/7 paid parking at $5 a pop and another antique market to meet the insatiable demand for antiques from people willing to pay $5 for parking. So, rest easy Roswell, the most out of place building on Canton St will continue to live on. 

The Big Ketch

 image: ajc.com

image: ajc.com

These guys, Southern Proper Hospitality, did a fantastic job opening up their second location of The Big Ketch.  The owners of the building, Flying Pig Capital, spent a lot of time and money purchasing and renovating the property adjacent to Osteria Mattone but did a spectacular renovation on the old home there.  They fired up the HPC along the way as expectations weren't aligned to the reality of how much of the original structure needed to be removed in order to pull off this renovation even though they were executing on what was originally approved by the HPC.  Ultimately, this was cleared up and the outcome was excellent. 

South Atlanta Street Apartment Building

City Council inexplicably killed an awesome little mixed use building that would have had 14 apartments over office and retail at the southern end of downtown. 

835 Mimosa & Dolvin House

 Site plan for 835 Mimosa

Site plan for 835 Mimosa

Redevelopment of 835 Mimosa and the Dolvin House property on Bulloch was approved but the developer pulled out of the Dolvin project. One very resourceful concerned citizen even got President Carter to pen a letter opposing the development.  I'd love to see what was actually communicated to Jimmy about the project but that will probably never come to light.  It's too bad because this is exactly the type of smart, responsible infill development that can help preserve and enhance historic properties and districts.

 View of the proposed Dolvin House project from Bulloch Avenue.  Three new homes would have faced Bulloch and two would have been behind these facing inward on a small park that would connect to the sidewalk along 120.

View of the proposed Dolvin House project from Bulloch Avenue.  Three new homes would have faced Bulloch and two would have been behind these facing inward on a small park that would connect to the sidewalk along 120.

Bulloch Ave Pizza Parlor - Pizzeria Lucca

A new pizza parlor, Pizzeria Lucca, on Bulloch was approved and that project continues to progress.  The old building has been bulldozed and construction will start soon.  The owners have ambitious plans to be a world class pizzeria.  I'm looking forward to seeing what they cook up.

South Atlanta Street @ Big Creek

There was a GOD Awful apartment project proposed on South Atlanta St that thankfully was pulled.  To say that they didn't understand the area is putting it lightly. The name of the project was South Atlanta Street at Big Creek. They obviously didn't do their research on the name of that section of the creek. 

There is now a proposal in front of the Historic Preservation Commission to discuss townhomes in this spot instead of the originally proposed townhomes.  More to come on this project.

Vickery Falls

Vickery Falls was FINALLY resurrected. They are finishing the townhomes and building the condos with plans to add a retail building along South Atlanta Street.  This is a big win as that property has been sitting idle and incomplete for ~7 years. 

Village on Pine

The Village on Pine from Acadia Homes is wrapping up construction. It's nothing special in my opinion and missed several opportunities to enhance walkability in the area.  

UDC Connectivity Amendment

The lame duck council passed an amendment to the UDC that will enhance connectivity for future developments. In a city with fewer than 275 actual city blocks, any extra bit of connectivity added to the network is a plus.  This is a big win and will require at least a minimum level of connectivity for new developments.

Parkside at Strickland

 image: Birghtwater Homes

image: Birghtwater Homes

Parkside at Strickland by Brightwater Homes is progressing and five or six of the 14 approved homes have been built.  I'm still irked that they didn't create a small block by opening having two entrances but I guess that aforementioned UDC Connectivity Amendment will address that issue for future developments.  They did add some great sidewalk and trail components to the project.

Parkside on Canton

Not to be confusing, another development with Parkside in the name, is going up on the north end of Canton St. Parkside on Canton will be Townhomes and flats and should start finishing up in mid 2016.  

Yet to Be Named Hwy 9 Elementary School

 Just look at all those no parking signs.

Just look at all those no parking signs.

The new elementary school has opened to Esther Jackson students while EJE is renovated. The school looks nice if you can get past the 45 no parking signs and the chain link fence that surrounds the entire property. To say that this school missed the walkability boat is putting it lightly.

Brewery Mania

Three new breweries were announced in 2015 and a fourth pulled out.

Gate City Brewery took over the old Roswell Automotive spot behind Pastis and will start their buildout and facade renovations soon, assuming the feel like battling the gauntlet the city puts up to renovate anything in the historic district.. yes, even that corrugated metal siding building.

Abbey of the Holy Goats is putting the finishing touches on their spot off Old Roswell Road and their tasting room is starting to sound pretty good.

Variant Brewing was announced toward the end of 2015 with an expected opening in later 2016.  They plan to renovate a building along Norcross Street across from the Smith Plantation property.

Steady Hand was a short lived brewer proposal.  They proposed a pretty nice building along Green Street just behind the fire station but the application was pulled and I haven't heard the details.

Roswell High School Renovations

The facade at RHS got a much needed upgrade in 2015. I'm not sure if that had anything to do with the Hornets' march to the 6A football championship game but well designed architecture actually does impact one's state of mind.

The Walkability Grinch

I'm not sure why this property owner felt the need to do this but.. they did it.  What was a previously open walking path was fenced off and closed to anyone wanting to take an easy trek to Thumbs Up, Lucky's, Pure or even the bus stop.  Whoever decided that was a good idea gets the Walkability Grinch award.  

110 Woodstock (Watertower & Cemetery)

One of the most interesting development addresses in all of Roswell got started with land clearing in late 2015.  Being sandwiched between a watertower and a cemetery makes for giving easy directions to friends and visitors.  

1075 Canton St

This project received city council approval but I think there was a big miss from a connectivity standpoint.  But, it is definitely a good example of smart, responsible infill development that will update an empty historic building while adding homes behind it.

980 Canton Street

The Bill Plummer saga is through. He pulled his bid to bring his building to the street and create one new home over retail and bring in another restaurant which would have been an Ippolito's.  I wasn't a fan of the restaurant choice but I did like the building proposal.

Providence Phase 2

 image: Frontdoor Communities

image: Frontdoor Communities

Frontdoor Communities is wrapping up construction on the townhomes and single family homes that make up the second phase of Providence.  Take a walk down Webb St. and it's really amazing what has been done back there.

Long Circle Infill 

The Addition of four new single family homes on Long Circle is complete and they look great.  

East Roswell Library

The East Roswell Library opened in 2015. It's a super nice building but I think they missed the mark by setting it behind so much parking.  They should have brought it to Fouts Rd and put the parking along HBR to enhance the overall walkability and urbanism of the area.  

Alstead

Alstead by Weiland Homes finally came to life.  The original plans for the property, Centennial Walk, were much better as it was a true mixed use community but far to ambitious for that area. 

Fouts Road

A proposal to put in a cottage court development on Fouts Rd next to the Twelve Stones subdivision was approved but not without a fight.  This project is fantastic in my opinion as it adds a different housing stock, increases walkability around one of our city parks and creates a new city block.

The Radio Tower

The Radio tower went up in East Roswell Park and people flipped out.  

Townhomes Without A Town

We continue to see garbage Townhome Without A Town developments get proposed.  Fortunately, two that were proposed died in 2015 but one epic fail is now under construction off Old Roswell Road.  The Scott Rd project failed to get a rezoning approval but we may not have seen the end of that one.  The one along Hwy 9 across from North Fulton Hospital pulled its application.  However, the project that is under construction off Old Roswell Rd is the worst of the three.  

Storage Wars

We saw construction start on not one but two new storage facilities. Both east and west Roswell were able to get in on the action.

Sprouts

It was nice to see the old shopping center get a skin job and new anchor tenant.

Bull Sluice Trail Extension

 We finally received approval to extend the River Trail System all the way to the Chattahoochee Nature Center.  This is an AWESOME step in the right direction.  Construction on the new trail will start in 2016. 

Eves Rd Mixed Use Path

Eves Rd trail finished up and has added a much needed path along a highly trafficked road.

HBR/400 Interchange Updates

The city and GDOT finally got moving on some much needed updates to the interchange.  Construction is still active but should be wrapping up in early 2016

Sun Valley Connector

We finally committed to honoring our commitment to GM to build the connector.

East Roswell Park Connection

Much to the chagrin of some of our avid frisbee golfers, the city made a connection to East Roswell Park from Eves Rd making it easier to drive to the facilities at ERP from Eves Rd.  Given the completion of the new mixed use path along Eves Rd, I see this as yet another connectivity win.

2016

So, a lot happened in 2015 and I didn't even come close to covering everything.  There will be more proposals, more transportation projects and more controversies in 2016 and New Urban Roswell will continue to keep track of what's happening.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year!

Mixed-Use Mania on GA400

The market for mixed-use along the 400 corridor continues to be hot.  There are at least four major projects in some state of the development process at the moment from Roswell to South Forsyth.  Avalon has obviously been a major hit  and readers of this blog will no doubt be aware of Riverwalk Village here in Roswell.  There is also the City Center development in downtown Alpharetta as well as the HALCYON project in South Forsyth at the McFarland exit.

The trend toward mixed-use along the 400 corridor dates back to the mid-aughts when Charlie Brown brought forward the East Roswell project.  There was also the Prospect Park project on the land that is now Avalon that notoriously died after the land was cleared and some of the concrete was laid  for the parking structure.  There have also been proposals floated at Windward (Windward Mill) and at Haynes Bridge (MetLife) that have not really made it too far as of this writing.  We also have the Riverwalk Village project that has been over a year in the making in Roswell.  It's now on it's third version of the site plan and could see more updates.  Finally, the HALCYON development designed by Lew Oliver is making headway in South Forsyth.  

Each of these projects is ushering in a new era for the northern metro area by bringing a more walkable environment to areas that have historically been drive-only.  None of them is a panacea of walkability in itself, but together, they certainly signal a change in our development pattern.  Additionally, Riverwalk and Avalon would both connect with MARTA rail if the Red Line extension becomes a reality.  To say this would be transformative would be an understatement.  On top of that, both Riverwalk and HALCYON would connect directly with the Big Creek Greenway which would be huge for pedestrian and cycling on the already popular trail (now if Alpharetta can just connect their piece to the Forsyth piece).

I wanted to take a look at the legitimate projects that are in play; Avalon, Riverwalk and HALCYON and also compare them to the two legacy projects that made it the furthest through the development process; Prospect Park and East Roswell (aka Charlie Brown).  All of these projects combine all or some of the following; residential, retail, office, hotel, civic, greenspace.  I'll compare each of them in those areas and some others.  Here's how they stack up.

Housing

The top billing here would have been Charlie Brown (aka East Roswell) coming in at 2,975 units (primarily condos).  Next up is Riverwalk Village's most recent proposal (their 3rd, it's hard to keep track) with 1,186 units, 300 of which are senior housing.  The smallest proposed was Prospect Park with 464.

 One view of the Charlie Brown proposal.

One view of the Charlie Brown proposal.

Civic or Institutional

There really isn't much to talk about here for most of the developments.  Avalon will have a 45,000 sq ft conference center as part of its second phase and Riverwalk has signed an agreement with the Swift School which will be 200,000 sq ft.

 Rendering of the Avalon Hotel and Convention Center.

Rendering of the Avalon Hotel and Convention Center.

Office

The first iteration of Riverwalk was truly gigantic with 1.7M sq ft of office proposed.  It has since reduced that down to a 350,000 sq ft which is the smallest of any of the developments on the list.  Next largest was Charlie Brown with 750,000 sq ft proposed.  Avalon will weigh in at 655,000 sq ft when complete.

 Rendering of Avalon Phase 2 with office buildings and Avalon Hotel in the background.

Rendering of Avalon Phase 2 with office buildings and Avalon Hotel in the background.

Retail

Prospect Park would have reigned supreme here at 770,000 sq ft and Avalon has come closest to matching that at 590,000 sq ft.  The initial Riverwalk proposal was 17% smaller than Avalon at 490,000 sq ft.  They have reduced that to 155,000 sq ft which is about the size of one grocery anchored strip mall.  

 Prospect Park's proposed central green in front of the hotel.

Prospect Park's proposed central green in front of the hotel.

Hotel

Finally we get to mention HALCYON. They plan 2 hotels but only one has a room number estimated and that is 110.  Avalon plans a 325 key full service hotel that will be run under the signature collection brand.  Riverwalk initially proposed a 200 key hotel that would have been the largest in Roswell but has since reduced that to a 150 key hotel which will be smaller than the Doubletree.  

 Rendering of the central square and market area at HALCYON.

Rendering of the central square and market area at HALCYON.

Height

There is no competition here.  Charlie Brown proposed 13 low to mid-rise buildings with 4 of those being condo towers ranging from 24 to 27 stories.  The next closest is Avalon with a ~14 story office building (check that).  Riverwalk is proposing an 8 story hotel with all other buildings being 6 or fewer stories.

 Not too many renderings are out there illustrating the overall height of the Charlie Brown proposal but this one seems to provide the best view.

Not too many renderings are out there illustrating the overall height of the Charlie Brown proposal but this one seems to provide the best view.

 This rendering of Riverwalk provides some height context of what they are proposing around the central lake.  They have lowered their overall height request since these renderings were drawn so these buildings would likely be lower.

This rendering of Riverwalk provides some height context of what they are proposing around the central lake.  They have lowered their overall height request since these renderings were drawn so these buildings would likely be lower.

Here's the matrix to compare each of these in more detail.  Putting together this data was a challenge as old news stories were spliced together to form as complete of a picture as possible.  If there is any data that is incorrect, let me know and provide a source and I will update the matrix and the post.


Tis the Season... to Brew

The brewing space is getting busy in Roswell.  We could potentially have three brewers in Roswell in 2016.  Gate City would be tough to miss given their prime spot at the corner of Canton Street and Magnolia in the Old Roswell Automotive spot behind Pastis.  

 Something is definitely brewing next to Pasti's in Historic Roswell.

Something is definitely brewing next to Pasti's in Historic Roswell.

You can find their beer, currently brewed in Woodstock at Reformation Brewery, at several establishments in and around Roswell and they should begin brewing in their home base before the year is up.  I've had several of their beers (I'm partial to Copperhead Amber) and they make a quality product.

Next up is the most interesting named of the three, Abbey of the Holy Goats.  Kathy Davis is behind this effort and they are planning to open in space near Mansell and Crossville.  This is a true passion project and Abbey has a cult like following around Canton Street.  They recently ran a successful Kickstarter campaign raising over $32,000 from over 200 backers to help fund a specific piece of the buildout.  I've had several of the Abbey beers and they are quite tasty but the tripel was my favorite.  Here's their Kickstarter video...

Finally, there is Green Street Brewery (that may or may not be the actual name) which is being proposed for the empty gravel parking lot behind the fire station in Historic Roswell.  I don't know much about this one other than the building that was approved by HPC on 10/14/2015.  I'm definitely excited to see a quality building being proposed and the fact that it's a brewery helps too.  On a side note, I think Green Street may be in for some attention and this property may be a catalyst for that.

 Front facade of Green Street Brewery

Front facade of Green Street Brewery

 North Facade of the Restaurant/Brewery

North Facade of the Restaurant/Brewery

So, high quality local brewing looks to be coming to Roswell very soon and I'm pretty excited for it. Time to grab a beer!

Vickers Village 2.0

The latest illustrations of the evolution of Vickers Village were submitted to the city last month. They are still making some edits but they are narrowing in on what should be a final version to put in front of HPC.  They look nice and will result in a high quality product.  I can't wait to see this project finally get through these stages and into the construction phase.  

 The view from Canton & Woodstock looks nice but I definitely miss the open plaza area from version 1.0.  The additional color is a nice addition.  One thing to point out about this point in the process on version 2.0 versus 1.0 is that 1.0 never made it to HPC to discuss architectural detailing and materials.

The view from Canton & Woodstock looks nice but I definitely miss the open plaza area from version 1.0.  The additional color is a nice addition.  One thing to point out about this point in the process on version 2.0 versus 1.0 is that 1.0 never made it to HPC to discuss architectural detailing and materials.

 View from Canton Street looking west.

View from Canton Street looking west.

 Looking at the building from Canton Street at Thompson Place.  They have added a small plaza here but not as significant or functional as the Vickers 1.0 plaza.

Looking at the building from Canton Street at Thompson Place.  They have added a small plaza here but not as significant or functional as the Vickers 1.0 plaza.

 View from Thompson Pl looking north at the intersection of the new interior road.

View from Thompson Pl looking north at the intersection of the new interior road.

 Looking east toward Canton Street on Thompson Place.  NOCA would be on the right.

Looking east toward Canton Street on Thompson Place.  NOCA would be on the right.

 Woodstock Road looking south at the intersection of the new interior road.  I think that sidewalk crossing needs some more attention.

Woodstock Road looking south at the intersection of the new interior road.  I think that sidewalk crossing needs some more attention.

 Current site plan for the Vickers Village 2.0 plans. 

Current site plan for the Vickers Village 2.0 plans. 

It's key to note that some of this may change and final design details are still being worked on.

A Little Facelift... 1099 Alpharetta St

It looks like 1099 Alpharetta Street could be getting a little facelift.  The proposal is going to be discussed at the Historic Preservation Commission Work Session this Thursday (11/5).  It's definitely a big change from the current building and a bit more modern than anything I've seen in the neighborhood.  My understanding is that it will be office space.

 Current building at 1099 Alpharetta St.

Current building at 1099 Alpharetta St.

 Front of new design facing Alpharetta St.

Front of new design facing Alpharetta St.

 New facade facing Fraser St.

New facade facing Fraser St.

 

What New Urban Roswell Stands For... and Against

I've taken a lot of heat lately for my support of several developments that have attracted the ire of some.  I've been very vocal about the merits of Vickers Village and the proposed development at Chaffin and Hembree.  I've been mixed but more positive than negative on the Goulding development.  I've argued my point that these developments are good in the long run for Roswell.  All three of them increase connectivity, improve walkability, add unique housing stock and either mix housing types or mix uses.  These are all critical components of building truly walkable cities and we need them everywhere not just in the historic district.

The Facebook world has gotten interesting (I guess it always has been) with some serious and not-so-serious debates going on.  Some have called me out as a hypocrite and a fake for daring to drive my car.  Do I support building a more walkable city where we all can make fewer trips by car?  Yes.  Does that mean that I have to walk everywhere I go?  That doesn't seem reasonable to me and Historic Roswell isn't exactly a walker's paradise yet.

I've been told to move out of Roswell because I referenced developments outside of Roswell that I think are remarkable.  I think everyone has been to places or seen places that they would like to see emulated in some way in their hometown.  Places that aren't Roswell that I really like: Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, Charleston, Savannah, Serenbe, The Waters, Hampstead Village, Vickery Village, Virginia Highlands, Grant Park...

I believe I have stayed consistent in my message but I want to clarify.  New Urban Roswell exists to bring attention to good and bad development while poking some fun at some of the ridiculousness that finds its way into the built environment.

Here's what New Urban Roswell stands for.

  1. The Charter for the Congress for the New Urbanism - "We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy." Read the full charter
  2. Building More Walkable Neighborhoods that Reduce Our Dependence on Cars - New development should have connectivity requirements and give people the opportunity to walk or bike for at least some of their daily needs.
  3. Mixed-Use Development - Where appropriate, new development should have a mix of uses either vertical or horizontal.
  4. Quality Architecture - High quality architecture should be a requirement regardless of the type of building.  There is far too much garbage that gets built in this world and I view architecture as one of the most lasting and influential art forms.  I understand that not every development will be of Lew Oliver quality but that is my gold standard for our city and ultimately is my measuring stick.
  5. Supporting the Expansion of MARTA Rail into North Fulton - It's time.  Even if funding were secured and the effort started today, we wouldn't see a station at Holcomb Bridge for another 8-10 years. It's time to get started.
  6. Adding Street and Trail Connectivity - Building more connections will make getting around our city a more pleasurable experience by car, bike or foot.  Adding trails along our creek beds and continuing to complete our Roswell Loop network should be top priorities for the city.
  7. Narrow lanes and Safe Streets - Narrow lanes make streets safer.  We should adopt a 10.5' maximum lane width for any street with residential uses.  Additionally, we should adopt a 25mph speed limit for any street with residential uses and offer exceptions for some streets to 30mph.
  8. Quality Zoning - The UDC is a step in the right direction. It by no means gets every parcel right.  We should continue to move toward more of a form based code.
  9. Historic District Master Plan - This city should have a master plan for the historic district.  The DPZ plan was accepted but not adopted.  We need to go further.
  10. City Green and Pocket Parks - The City Green should be built and placed as a top priority.  I also support having a pocket park within a 10 minute walk of every home in Roswell.  We have plenty of large destination parks but not nearly enough of the Sloan Street variety.
  11. Hiring a Town Architect - Our design by committee approach is a bit much.  There are far too many chefs in the kitchen when projects are discussed. Staff, Planning Commission, Design Review Board, Historic Preservation Commission and City Council could be involved in design guidance and in some cases mandates for projects.  A town architect would help drive coherence and consistency in the process and outcomes.

So, that's a solid list of what New Urban Roswell stands for. Now, there are some things that New Urban Roswell stands firmly against. I've heard, read and seen far too much hyperbole, misinformation, conjecture and flat out untruth about the developments I've supported.  There has also been a great deal of libel tossed out about the people behind the developments as well as the the people who represent our city on the city council.  I don't stand for that and I also don't stand for the following:

  1. Sprawl - Inefficient use of land is, quite frankly, shameful and I firmly stand against it.  I loved a comment from someone on my Facebook page that we don't need "urban sprawl" like the Chaffin/Hembree development.  I'd like to point out that you live in "urban sprawl" and that the Chaffin/Hembree development is actually less sprawling than the surrounding area and it's exactly the type of 'urbanism' that helps address the ills of "urban sprawl."
  2. Single-Use Subdivisions - We need to build a mix of uses into our places.  Otherwise, we continue to perpetuate the sprawling, car-culture that creates the mess we live in.
  3. Monocultures of Housing Types - Any single-use subdivision that lacks a diversity of housing types is a monoculture that adds nothing to the unique character of our or any other city.  What they do effectively do is make the production process easier and faster so that developers and builders can get in and get out quickly. 
  4. Townhomes Without Towns - Townhomes have a place.  They can shape streets in great mixed-use neighborhoods.  They can accentuate neighborhoods with a mix of housing types.  However, they should never be stand alone subdivisions inserted on a parcel for the sole intent of maximizing the residential yield of a property.  This happens way too much in Roswell.
  5. Gated Subdivisions - Yes, I live in one and would take the gates and fences down if it were up to me.  That said, they cut off connectivity and create dead zones and superblocks that hinder walkability and good urbanism.
  6. Cul-de-sacs - We have over 1300 Cul-de-sacs or Dead Ends in Roswell.  This is a significant contributor to our notoriously bad traffic because of a lack of connectivity between neighborhoods.  Cul-de-sacs should be allowed where geographically appropriate but nowhere else. 
  7. Uninformed Opinions Masquerading as Fact - It's okay to oppose something because you don't like it or to oppose something because there is factual data to support your decision.  However, opinions masquerading as fact are non-starters in my book.  If you say something will kill property values, prove it.  If you say a development will cause additional traffic, tell me how much.  If you say a new development will lower your quality of life, umm... you may want to reevaluate some things.
  8. Redundant and Unnecessary Road Signs - I almost forgot my Stop the Madness campaign. We need to rid our city of all the ridiculous and unnecessary signs that are polluting our landscape.  

So, there you have it.  I'm in favor of building more lovable places with a diverse mix of housing types and uses that are safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians where people don't have to get in their cars to live their lives.

 

  

Are You Red? - Are you Sure?

The opposition to development in Roswell is getting pretty heated right now.  There are actually (I know some of you can't believe it) several projects active or planned that I find appalling.  However, I had to take some time to call a recent article (if you can call it that) concerning opposition to a project in Roswell out as pure tabloid garbage.

Let's not pretend that this Red Shirts on the Move rant in the Alpharetta - Roswell Review & News is remotely close to journalism.  This post is hysterical (in more ways than one), factually inaccurate, aside from it's portrayal of the opposition to this project, and logically inconsistent.  I just couldn't resist digging into some of the meaty morsels of journalistic integrity..

"..more than 225 residents who gathered to express concern, frustration and anger over a rezoning proposal for a 113-unit subdivision to go up in the middle one of Roswell's most attractive and livable neighborhoods. If approved by the city, the new development will replace nine single-family homes on 21 acres at Hembree and Chaffin Roads, with mainly townhouses and small cottage homes."

Seems straightforward at first glance but it implies that the new "subdivision" is replacing a "neighborhood" and that the new "subdivision" wouldn't be "attractive and livable." For those who aren't familiar, the developers are proposing a project inspired by Vickery Village in Cumming which is one of the most attractive neighborhoods in the Metro Area and HIGHLY Livable.  Additionally, the developers live in two of the nine existing homes and plan to live in the new development.  

 Site plan with a mix of housing types and street connections that help disperse auto trips more effectively whil also adding walkable connections for neighboring properties to more easily and safely walk and bike around the area.

Site plan with a mix of housing types and street connections that help disperse auto trips more effectively whil also adding walkable connections for neighboring properties to more easily and safely walk and bike around the area.

This development is trying to create a natural neighborhood feel that has different types of homes next to each other.  This is a novel idea for the suburbs but it's actually the way human civilizations were built for centuries before we went off the deep end with cars and zoning.  I think the statement "Mainly townhouse and small cottage homes" omits some key details of the plan.  There are actually four 'main' types of homes in this development that deserve mention.  

There are 15 lots facing Hembree and Chaffin which will be single family and will have architecture that tries to achieve a transition from the neighboring properties as you work your way into the development.

 Homes that would line Hembree and Chaffin.  Worthy of Red shirts?  Not my personal style but insanely better than what's there today.

Homes that would line Hembree and Chaffin.  Worthy of Red shirts?  Not my personal style but insanely better than what's there today.

There are 23 internal lots that will be single family homes.  These will be inspired by architecture in Vickery Village and what you would see in Serenbe, Historic Norcross or Glenwood Park.  

 A sample of the single family homes on the interior of the development.  This is more up my alley.  Red shirt worthy?

A sample of the single family homes on the interior of the development.  This is more up my alley.  Red shirt worthy?

The cottage courts or court yard homes would total 55 and would be similarly inspired as the 23 internal lots.

 A sample of what the courtyard homes could look like.  I think some people wearing red might actually like moving into one of these when they decide to downsize a bit.

A sample of what the courtyard homes could look like.  I think some people wearing red might actually like moving into one of these when they decide to downsize a bit.

Finally, there would be 20 townhouse units.  I guess 66% could qualify as "Mainly townhouse and small cottage homes," but leaving out the other 34% is a bit one sided.  

 Pretty standard townhome product but this is just to illustrate the concept.  Nothing overly bad about these.

Pretty standard townhome product but this is just to illustrate the concept.  Nothing overly bad about these.

Moving on...

"The proposal was made possible by changes in Roswell's zoning code with the adoption of the UDC (Unified Development Code) that was voted in by the City Council in 2014."

This is downright false.  UDC or no UDC, the developers could have proposed this project.  What the developers are requesting is outside of what the UDC zoning allows.  HENCE the rezoning request.  This statement makes it sound like developers are emboldened by the UDC to request higher density and then implies that the City Council is to blame for making this possible.  REALLY?  The City Council votes a UDC in that keeps the zoning largely the same on these properties and is now being blamed when a developer asks for a zoning variance.  That's shameful and eliminates any journalistic integrity that existed.

Still in the third paragraph..

It has ignited a strong firestorm among residents who believe that high-density housing in established neighborhoods with no capacity to expand infrastructure to support that level of runaway growth threatens to alter the character, quality, and value of all of Roswell's neighborhoods.

This statement starts off fair enough but ends taking the reader on a trip to fantasy land.  First, let's look at the "high-density" statement.  Current zoning allows about 1.5 homes per acre.  This request would yield a little over 5.  That is 'higher-density' but it's a far cry from any rational definition of "high-density."  Higher-density does not equal "High-Density."  

Second, let's look at the "no capacity" claim.  Is there anything to support this type of hysterical opinion?  Traffic studies on this project showed an increase in trips (that's obvious) but no significant increase in congestion.  The road network can easily handle this level of development. EASILY. The city looks at impacts to infrastructure and schools and will make informed recommendations to the developers and to the council on what needs to be done to address any real concerns.  Reds need to stop deluding themselves that our city is doing nothing and sitting back getting railroaded by developers who then get a pass from our 'density-thirsty' city council.  I am constantly amazed by how much pushback developers get from the city staff on the details of projects before there is ever even a public hearing.  These details are vetted and they are vetted in EXCRUCIATING detail.  It would be enlightening to see just how many projects don't even make it to the public meeting portion of the process exactly because our staff IS paying attention to these details.

Third, there is a "level of runaway growth" threatening to "alter the character, quality and value of all of Roswell's neighborhoods."  Well, we are in the middle of a development cycle and fortunately we live in an area where businesses, investors and developers want to put capital to work.  Would it be better to live in a place where people didn't want to put money to work?  A lack of quality redevelopment is what the author and Reds should be concerned with when they say this might threaten the character, quality and value of ALL of Roswell's Neighborhoods.  Seriously, how could you print a statement like that?  The only thing that could be classified as "runaway" here is the author's imagination.  JUST WOW!

Some residents were quick to point out that three City Council seats will be decided in local elections November 3, that the two incumbents running voted yes for UDC, and it was this vote that makes projects like this rezoning possible.

This resident is quick to point out that pigs don't fly, leprechauns aren't real and that dragons don't exist.  The logical implication of this statement is that the UDC is allowing this request and that if we oppose this project as well as 'run-away high-density' development then we should punish the council for voting for the UDC by electing Horton and Palermo.  

The funny thing is...

THE UDC IS ACTUALLY DOING EXACTLY WHAT THE REDS WANT.   

It is preventing developers from building density in areas that aren't zoned for it.  They have to ask permission.  This is no different than previous zoning codes.  Rezoning requests weren't invented by the UDC and they aren't prohibited by the UDC.  That type of zoning would not hold up in court and quite frankly it would be un-American to prohibit a property owner from asking for a variance, rezoning, etc.  

What I find so interesting about the fierce opposition to this project is the fact that the reds are cutting off their noses..  The current homes on the property in question are largely unmarketable and are currently investment properties or stand to be in the next 3-5 years given their demographics while these homes would be new, high-quality and unique to the area.  

If this rezoning doesn't get approved, there is a distinct possibility that no development will happen which essentially means this section of Chaffin and Hembree could soon be lined by investor owned properties that will not be redeveloped for years.  The properties aren't attractive for redevelopment under the current zoning and investors don't quickly kill their cash cows.  So, you might not have any additional traffic but you might get some stubborn investment properties that don't juxtapose so nicely with neighboring subdivisions. Be careful what you wear red for.

If there is this much opposition to a quality development of this nature, then I've lost hope that any development of quality can be achieved outside the historic district in this city.  I guess it would be preferable to get a tract home developer to come in and scrape the land, build homogenous product at a lower density and leave us with another unconnected subdivision that makes zero effort to blend in with its neighbors.  But, that is the conventional way that we've come to know and love.  I'm doubtful we'd see any red at that neighborhood meeting.

10 Reasons to Love Vickers Village

We all know the arguments against Vickers Village.  We’ve heard them before.  You could pick the arguments off the shelf of any opposition to development that has occurred in the United States in the past 50 years.  The density is too high, the traffic will be unbearable, my kids won’t be safe, the schools will be ruined, my property values will plummet, the building is too big, it doesn’t fit with the neighborhood, it's not historic, I want redevelopment just not this….  The list goes on but in reality, opposition to projects is generally grounded in fear of the unknown and opinion while arguments are often supported by conjecture and hyperbole that isn’t grounded by fact.  

Now, I happen to think the density is just right, the traffic is coming regardless (are the 100% car dependent subdivisions being built off Woodstock Rd getting this same objection?), kids will be just fine, the schools will still thrive, property values will do just fine, the building is big but appropriate, it will fit into the neighborhood just fine… and I want redevelopment and I welcome this project.

So, I’d like to offer up some thoughts on why I really love this project.

10. It’s MUCH better than what it’s replacing – The modern historic preservation movement really gained traction when Penn Station was torn down to build Madison Square Garden.  The fight was fierce but the preservation minded architects lost and a beautiful building was lost to an eyesore.  This was a microcosm of a national problem.  Beautiful buildings were being destroyed and replaced with meaningless garbage for the sake of profit and modernity.

Penn Station image source: Library of Congress

To combat this trend, historic preservation organizations began to pop up all over the nation.   Unfortunately, Roswell did not officially have a commission until 1992, which may partially be why we have so much garbage, sprawl-style development throughout the 640 acre historic district.  

Now, Vickers Village is no Penn Station.  But it is light years better than the buildings currently on those properties.

9. It Will Increase Surrounding Property Values – During the recession, pretty much the only neighborhoods (anywhere) that held their value or increased were in walkable mixed-use communities.  This type of development gets us closer to true walkability.  The data says any concerns about property values declining are probably not based in reality.  From a recent study on walkable urban places in the Atlanta region (link)...

The price premium is much greater in for-sale housing (in walkable urban places). In the drivable sub-urban areas of the Atlanta region, homes are valued at $60.06 per square foot; in Established WalkUPs, values are 161 percent higher, at $156.46 per square foot.

Vickers Village won't hurt your value and if will probably drive your values higher. I could be completely off base here.  But... I'm not.  

Here's another graphic that drives home the point...  This shows quintiles of walkability based on the State of Place Index.  As you jump a quintile, you see notable increases in a number of areas...

As a homeowner in the historic district, I’m a big fan of a development like Vickers Village in key locations (and this prime intersection is one of them).

Also, taller buildings (I guess 4 stories is really tall in Roswell :) next to single family homes don't necessarily kill property values.  If the placemaking is done well and the area is desirable, which Historic Roswell is, there is no reason to fear juxtapostion of larger and smaller buildings.  

Rosemary Beach homes seem to be doing just fine next to a 4 story building.

8. It Breaks Up the Façade – By breaking up the façade with frequent variations in setback and height, it will create the feel of a building that is a collection of smaller buildings.  In this case, four stories truly is better than three stories because the additional floor gives the developer the flexibility to build these variations.  This project will provide 320 feet of frontage along Woodstock, 143 feet of frontage along Canton and 221 feet along Thompson.  There will be one, two, three and four story sections as you walk by.  This is MUCH more preferable than a solid three stores all around which is the most likely 'plan B' for the development team.

7. It Mixes Uses – The term mixed-use is way overused but it’s very true in the case of Vickers Village.  As proposed, VV would have condominiums, a restaurant, a coffee shop, several offices and a spa.  If you want to use land efficiently, that’s how you do it.  If you want to build a truly walkable neighborhood, that’s how you do it.  If you want to increase your property values, that’s how you do it!

6. It Balances Canton St – On the south end of Canton Street, we currently have what is undoubtedly the best stretch of authentic walkable urbanism in North Fulton.  Now, anyone who has been to shopping malls, knows that they don’t build them with just one anchor.  Mall developers were cued into human behavior much sooner than post WWII city planners were.  That’s why malls always have at least two anchors.  People want to walk from one destination to another and the retail in between thrives as a result.  Canton Street currently lacks a second anchor area to balance it.  Vickers Village will be that second anchor.

Vickers Village’s prime building frontage is amazingly close to that on south Canton Street.  Pastis to Salt measures roughly 360 feet.  Go With the Flow to Tutto measures 160 feet.  Provisions to the flower shop measures 210 feet.  Now, the retail frontage at Vickers Village will be significantly less than what we have at the south end of Canton street but the total linear feet is almost exactly the same (727 South Canton vs 684 Vickers).  So, in my mind, this truly is comparable in size and scale to the south end of Canton Street when you look at linear building frontage.  (I obvioulsy understand that VV is taller)  This is the anchor development that Canton Street has been looking for.

5. There’s a Plaza! – How many developments in Roswell in recent years have actually reserved space for a plaza or park that the general public will actually be able to use?  The only one I can think of is Sloan Street Park which was built when the Bricks were renovated.   This will be an incredible amenity and I really don’t think it happens without the fourth story.

Aerial view of the proposed plaza at the corner of Woodstock and Canton

4. It Has Underground Parking! – At between $10,000 and $20,000 a spot, underground parking is expensive.  It is generally twice as expensive as above ground structured parking which is five to ten times as expensive as surface parking.  The developer is doing the right thing here.  It’s the right thing to do for the project and it’s the right thing to do for the future of our historic district.  Nothing kills walkability like a surface parking lot.  Vickers Village really gets it right on this front with the residential parking buried underground and the retail parking covered by the residential and retail.

3. It Increases Road Connectivity – Although this is controversial because the drive would be within the buffer of the neighboring property, it is absolutely the right thing to do for the city.  

Cities and places with a finer grained road network are more walkable.  The more blocks per square mile that a city has, the more choices pedestrians, cyclists and drivers have to get to a destination.  More importantly, bigger blocks mean bigger streets and fewer streets.  This is critical for safety.  The bigger your block size is, the more likely you will see injuries and fatalities on your streets.  A study that looked at more that 130,000 car crashes over a 9 year period concluded that a doubling of block size corresponded with a tripling of fatalities in the 24 cities studied.  Now, this doesn’t’ mean that smaller block places can’t be dangerous but it does mean they are less dangerous.  What it tells me that the best thing we can do to increase the safety on our streets is to reduce our block sizes and create exactly those ‘cut-through’ streets that people seem to despise so much.

2. It Focuses on the Pedestrian – With the mix of uses, broken up façade, street trees, plaza, street connectivity, underground parking and wide sidewalks, this could be the most pedestrian friendly project ever proposed in Historic Roswell.  It has certainly made it farther along in the process than any other.  The only two that rival it are the Duany Plan and the Boutique Hotel on the Square.  Seriously, this four story plan is Better choice for the pedestrian experience as it embracing the public realm and caters to the human scale from the sidewalk.

View of Vickers Village looking north on Canton Street

1. It’s Freaking Bold – I personally think the design as is puts that land to its highest ;) and best use.  I think teh current proposal is award winning while the alternative will be 'just okay.'  We should get out of our comfort zones, embrace change and continue to build on the history of our historic district.  Be BOLD!

Vickers Village looking south toward the Canton Street and Woodstock Road intersection

Alas, it probably won’t make it with a fourth story due to a massive amount of community objection.  My prediction, city council approves the multi-family conditional use and the buffer variance but does not approve the height variance.  With that, I’m sure we will get a project that is good but not bold.  One that is much less interesting than the current proposal.

I think denying the fourth story is the difference between an award winning project that communities outside of Roswell will look to emulate and a development that’s nice but not special.

Ultimately, not everyone is going to be happy.  The immediate neighbors are probably going to be upset regardless.  As the saying goes, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  I say we should give this building the 10 extra feet of height that it needs so we can have a bold, interesting building that will build on our history, create conversation and enhance our historic district.

 

If you would like to see this project built, let the mayor and council know by emailing them at roswellmayorandcouncil@roswellgov.com and try to make it to the city council meeting on 6/22. (I will unfortunately be out of the country but will be there in spirit)

South Atlanta Street... Changes are Comin'

 

The heart of our city is getting a lot of attention from developers of late.  Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve certainly heard about Vickers Village at Woodstock and Canton.  However, you may not have heard of a newly proposed development along the east side of South Atlanta Street south of Olde Towne Roswell townhomes and north of Creek View Condominiums at 425, 433 ad 453 South Atlanta St.  This new one is called South Atlanta Street at Big Creek (SAS@BC)

The Vickers Village development is an example of high quality urbanism that will improve the urban fabric of our downtown.  However, the same can’t be said for the proposed SAS@BC development .  As a supporter of infill development, I tried to like it.  But, unfortunately, it’s just not doing it for me.

The current plan calls for three story residential live/work units along S Atlanta St., which is not a bad thing.  However, it’s what lies behind this front layer that really kills me.  SAS@BC becomes one gigantic 4 story block when you move beyond the live work units.  

Now, you won’t notice the 4 stories much from the road as the buildings fronting the street will hide the bigger building and the topography steps down a bit as you move east toward Big Creek.  Now, as most readers know, I don’t really care about 4 stories versus 3.  It’s only when you start getting higher than 5 where I think context of the surroundings becomes crucial.  That's when buildings start getting taller than the tree canopy and become much more noticeable.  That said, the height isn’t the issue here.  It’s the style, site plan and building type.  Let's take a look...

As you can see, this is one massive 4 story façade with no height breaks or varying setbacks to create interesting visual experiences.  The footprint of this building when you include the enclosed green (Texas donut hole) and parking deck will be around 3 full acres.  Now, for those that think Vickers Village is large ad just over 1 acre of footprint, this single building is almost 3x the size.

Okay, so I'm painting a bad picture but it’s not all bad.  I love the fact that a developer wants to do a project here and I fully support redevelopment it it's done right.  So, here’s what I think it does do well:

  • Lining South Atlanta Street with the 3 stories is a good thing but I think light office over retail might do better here.  Or, as my hypothetical site plan below shows, it might be a good place for a 2nd & 3rd level parking deck that is masked well.  The noise from the road would be a bit much for residences right on Hwy 9.
  • It greatly improves the stretch of sidewalk along South Atlanta Street and that is a critical need in my opinion.
  • The road connection to the adjacent planned townhome development at Creek View is absolutely the right thing to do and kudos for them for adding that to the designs.
  • The fact that there is a parking deck is laudable but it’s poorly placed.  Even though it is masked with some greenery on the walls, it creates a terrible transition from the new Creek View townhomes..
  • Finally, it does hold true to the Allenbrook Village Residential vision from the 2030 Comprehensive Plan...
What is doesn’t do well...
  • Again, the Texas Donut apartment building is just not a winner in my book.  It's an efficient use of space but it is bad urbanism in this context.  If this were a block in midtown or downtown, it would work better (you'd need retail on the ground floor though).  That said, we're not in midtown and part of this property borders a national park.
  • It also doesn’t really help build a neighborhood as the Allenbrook Village vision sets forth to do.  Plopping down a big apartment building that has a common area walled off from the rest of the property and surrounding properties really isn’t neighborly.
  • The architecture that is shown in the renderings leaves much to be desired.  It needs some serious dressing up and even great architecture may not be able to save the bad site plan.
  • It doesn't help accentuate the natural beauty of the area in any meaningful way.  It takes more than it gives.

What would I do?

In the hypothetical world of New Urban Roswell, the possibilities are endless. But, ever the pragmatist, I'm going to try and keep parking, stormwater, profitability, etc in mind as I weigh in (traffic is a given).  First, lets compare the site to Glenwood Park, another mixed use village center in South Atlanta near Grant Park.

The developed area of this SAS@BC and Glenwood Park are both roughly 6 acres.

South Atlanta Street at Big Creek - Rough Approximation of Development Footprint of Site on Google Maps.Comparable area in Glenwood Park
In SAS@BC, we essentially get three buildings, while in Glenwood Park, there are 14 different buildings.  Looking at the architecture below, I think it’s obvious which one is more preferable…

The illustrations of SAS@BC earlier in this post should serve as a guide to compare to the following images taken from Google Street View of Glenwood Park...

As you can see, Glenwood Park has unique architecture across each of the buildings and divides the property up into small blocks that create an interesting and highly walkable heart to the neighborhood.  It’s easy to tell the difference between true Walkable Urbanism and an imposter.  All that said, here’s how I’d completely re-imagine this site.

Current Site Plan

NUR Site Plan (not to scale but close)

  1. Retail fronting S Atlanta with 3 level parking.  Parking deck frontage should be recessed from the street and covered by green wall.  Entrance cuts through the middle of building and opens to the central street of the development.  Parking on 1st floor will be for retail & upper floors will be for apt residents.  Walkways provide convenient access to apartment buildings for residents on upper floors.
  2. 125 for rent apartments (4 stories). First floor would have mix of retail/restaurant and residential along the main street.  Northern building would have ground level parking underneath residential where outlined triangle is.  It would also have a 2nd floor amenity deck (eastern most green triangle) and 3rd floor pool providing amazing views of Historic Roswell, Vickery Creek and the National Forest.
  3. 25 market rate townhomes (3 stories).  These would encompass the southern piece of the site and provide a seamless transition transition between the Creek View Phase 2 Townhomes and the new development.  
  4. Pocket park.  This could have a small playground or just serve as a neighborhood congregating area.  It would also complement the trail and bridge.  Potential to add a small playground here as an amenity for families.  Ideally, a restaurant on the first floor would open to the park area and provide great views.
  5. Potential pedestrian gate to neighboring Olde Towne Roswell townhome development for those residents to access new neighborhood.
  6. Walking/Hiking trail that would connect to the Mill and Allenbrook and go behind the Olde Towne Roswell, Mill Street Park and Creek View neighborhoods giving all three a link to the new development without having to walk along highway 9.
  7. Pedestrian bridge connecting development to Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area.  This would be an amazing amenity not only for the neighborhood but for the city.  It would activate the park and complement the existing bridge at the mill.
  8. Planned Townhomes for Creek View Phase 2.  
Overall, this alternative plan would reduce the intensity of the project but it would help make this more of a neighborhood by incorporating a true mix of uses with retail, restaurant, civic and residential.

I will post more on this development as information is available.

Images: City of Roswell, Google Maps

 

What's Going Here? - Woodstock & Canton

The demolition request public notice signs are up all over the place around the old Vickers Auto Repair shop and the surrounding buildings.  King Lowry Ventures/Miller Lowry is the name on the petition requests and they are looking to consolidate four parcels at the corner of Woodstock Rd and Canton St totaling roughly 1.75 acres.  There hasn't been much detail released about what will go here so I'm going to speculate.

This is a prime parcel at the lesser developed end of Canton Street.  The pricetag to assemble these four lots was likely in the $2M+ ballpark given the $1.4M list price for the Vickers property.  Given that pricetag, this is going to need to be multi-story and with the trend toward mixed-use development taking hold in North Fulton, I definitely see this development headed that way.

I'm predecting some residential, retail and office in this one and it's going to need to be higher end development to make it in this part of town.  Miller Lowry has developed in Historic Roswell before.  You're probably familiar with this development just to the south of this new project.

I've always liked this building and the residential units upstairs with one exception.  That is the fact that it sits just a little too far back from the street.  It should be closer up to the street to help create the type of environment that is present on the south end of Canton Street.  I'm definitely hoping that the new development goes for a smaller setback.  

Another development that Miller Lowry has in the pipeline is at 1075 Canton St which is the old blacksmith property.  This one will tear down the shed behind the historic home and replace it with four townhomes and the plan is to rehab the house that fronts Canton St into (I'm guessing here) a restaurant space.  Here's the rendering that has been filed with the city for that development.

The townhomes look strickingly similar to the Sweet building just up the street.  I think this could be a solid addition to Canton Street but we need to be careful that all Miller Lowry projects don't look the same.  We don't want monotony on our most important street.

That said, I'm guessing that what we get at the corner of Woodstock and Canton Street has a similar feel and tops off at 3 or 4 stories with retail/restaurant on the main floor and some residential and office on the upper floors.  Also, there is plenty of land so don't rule out the possibility that additional buildings go behind the one that will front Canton and Woodstock.