The Smart Growth Roswell Project

One of the goals of New Urban Roswell is to take an objective look at where our city is currently and where we should go.  The principles that I believe in, those of New Urbanism, Smart Growth and Sustainability, will be the guiding winds.  

We will be looking at the city and our environment mainly through the lenses of the books Suburban Nation and The Smart Growth Manual.  They will serve as knowledgeable guides through our city and will help determine what is working, what is not working and what will work in the future. 

We will also look at city plans to help us determine where the plans are taking us.  Hopefully, they are taking us in the right direction.  I hope that as this site grows and becomes more of a compendium that our citizens can use as a reference and tool to effect positive change within our community.  

To start off, I'd like to pose some questions?

- Are most of Roswell's residents able to walk or bike to work?

- Can your children or those in your neighborhood walk to school?

- Is there a park or public space (not a road) that is within a 5 minute walk of your home?

- Are drivers able to effectively move around town without accessing congested arterial roads?

- Do you live in a neighborhood with homes that are valued outside of a standard range for all of the homes in the community?

- Do you have more than two entrances/exits to your neighborhood?

- Do most of the homes in your neighborhoods look similar?

- Do you have effective transportation options other than the automobile?

- Does your region have a comprehensive plan in place to curtail sprawl, encourage walkability, facilitate connectivity and movement of people?

We'll take a look at all of these questions individually in coming posts.  But first, if you are unfamiliar with the concepts of new urbanism and smart growth, now might be a good time to familiarize yourself.  Be careful though because you might start to see your reality as something that you don't particularly like.  

We'll start with New Urbanism.  You can see a few videos here, here and here.  Or if you prefer to read an overview, check this page from the Congress for the New Urbanism out.  I'll quickly summarize though.  New urbanism is based upon classic principles of town design.  You could actually call it old urbanism or traditional neighborhood design.  Towns like Alexandria, VA, Charleston, SC and the French Quarter in New Orleans are all great examples of what would be New Urban communities if built today.  Towns have a discernable town center that is typically within a 5-10 minute walk of most residences.  There is generally a variety of housing types ranging from condos above shops to townhomes to single family homes with yards.  The neighborhood is built in a way that it encourages a mixture of ages and ethnicities.  This all directly opposes the monoculture theology of suburban sprawl.  Unfortunately, with the exception of the Historic Roswell, South Atlanta Street corridor, our city does not currently exhibit many of these characteristics.  

When you look at new urbanism, you see that it is focused mostly on neighborhoods and what is contained within those neighborhoods or smaller towns.  You can either take a step down a level and deal with the sustainability of the buildings within those neighborhoods or you can take a step up and look at the overall sustainability of the region.  This is where smart growth comes in.  

The term smart growth has been around for years and many have found it to be presumptuous in nature.  How can they know what is good for me and my city?  Well, when you take a look at the principles of smart growth, you see that it is actually quite particular to the specific region where it is being applied.  For example, the region as a whole must come together and agree upon goals and initiatives of where development should be targeted, avoided and prohibited.  This process requires an enormous amount of thought, research and planning around land use and transportation.  It is different for every city or region.  As outlined in The Smart Growth Manual, the main areas of concern to ensure that growth is indeed smart are the Region, the Neighborhood, the Street and the Building.  For a quick primer on smart growth, you can watch a video here or read about it here.

Now that you have a quick primer on the principles of smart growth and new urbanism.  We'll begin to take a look at the questions posed earlier in this post in upcoming posts.