A Letter to Santa from Roswell

This is an enhanced cross-post from my montly column, Community Design Matters, in The Roswell Current.  There may be some editorial differences.


Dear Santa,

First off, to eliminate any confusion you may have, we are the Roswell without the aliens.  This Roswell is a beautiful place full of great people and lots of nice neighborhoods. Unfortunately, similar to most US cities, we have a ton of mindless development, run down strip malls and disjointed subdivisions.  I’m writing this year to ask for a little help. 

We’ve been a good city this year.  We did a master plan for our historic district, passed a hybrid form-based code, started working on a unified development code, finished a strategic economic development plan, finalized our historic gateway transportation alternatives on top of passing a bond referendum that will pay for lots of great infrastructure improvements.  We are trying our best to fix our problems but we need a little Christmas magic.  Here’s what we want for Christmas this year:

An Identity - The other Roswell has Aliens.. We need something even cooler.  Our neighbor to the north is the Technology City of the South (kinda geeky but it pays well).  Our neighbor to the East is the number one suburban city in Georgia (not the identity we really want).  Our neighbor to the south is a national model for outsourcing city services (not everyone likes outsourcing).  We have the river, lots of cyclists, lots of history, tons of weddings and of course Canton Street.  What kind of identity can we create with those ingredients?

Appealing Gateways - Santa, do you even know when your sleigh enters Roswell airspace?  We don’t have a single gateway in our city that is worthy of being called a gateway. We need beautiful gateways at every major entrance to the city.  Especially at Holcomb Bridge/400 and Hwy 9 at the River. 

A Signature Project - Our neighbors have them so why can’t we?  Alpharetta has two, City Center and Avalon.  Sandy Springs has their City Center.  Could you maybe bring us a boutique hotel at our square?  I feel bad for all the wedding guests that come to our downtown and then have to leave to go back to their hotels by the freeway.

Connective Paths - Let’s face it Santa, even you can’t repair our road network any time soon.  It will continue to be a disjointed system that forces all the cars onto collector roads and arterials and creates mega traffic. But roads aren’t the only way to connect the community and increase our sense of place, how about we create a network of dozens of multi-use paths like the greenway that connect our subdivisions.   Let’s set a goal of creating 50 miles of multi-use paths that transect subdivisions and connect parks and schools within the next 10 years.  We could even pay for that ourselves, at 5 miles a year it would be about $2.5M/year.  I hear the storied Roswell Loop will take about $40M to build...

Remove the Reversible Lanes - Okay Santa, you don’t have to use them but take my word that these things are old and dangerous.  The traffic engineer that designed them should definitely be on the naughty list.  We need to fix them asap before someone really gets hurt.

More Jobs - I don’t know what the unemployment rate is at the North Pole but Roswell currently enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in Georgia at 6.5%.  Unfortunately, many of those jobs are outside of the city.  Our residents commute north to Alpharetta or south to Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Buckhead and Atlanta.  Can you bring some local jobs please?

High Quality Apartments - Now you might think this is a bit crazy to ask for but I really want to see some high quality apartments, especially in our most walkable areas.  The kids these days just don’t want to buy homes and the apartments in our city aren’t the kind they want.  If we are going to diversify and attract the next generation of talent to Roswell, we need some new apartments. 

I Almost Forgot... Can you bring us an outdoor recreation complex that would have a Major League Soccer stadium, a whitewater rafting center (like the one in Charlotte), an aquatic center and a velodrome all with a hotel and some retail?  You could even package them all together in one location and brand it as the Outdoor Recreation capital of the south (take that Alpharetta geeks!). What’s that Santa?  I’m crazy, you say all that can’t fit anywhere in Roswell? Not so fast Santa.. you could plop it down perfectly on the southeastern quadrant of the Holcomb Bridge/400 intersection... and you could even fit a MARTA stop there but the people on the naughty list don’t like trains (even at Christmas) :)  Here's a quick sketch if you need help imagining it.

Now, let’s get those elves to work!


p.s. This post has a different title than the column in The Current.  The title of the column was not written by me and I do feel that Roswell is very unique... actually moreso than our neighbors Alpharetta, Marietta and Sandy Springs which is why I love living here.  I apologize if the title offended any of my readers.