Up front, I have to give thanks to an interested neighbor for this post. I didn't even realize that there was a development in the works less than a quarter mile from my front door. The development is at Chattahoochee St and Pine St.
The developer, Acadia Homes & Neighborhoods, is looking to deveop the 3.3 acres by building 16 small lot single family homes on the site. Up front, I have zero problem with those numbers (I'd prefer about 5 more homes actually) and I welcome new development in my neighborhood.
I believe at Acadia thinks they are doing the right thing and it appears they have been very up front with their intentions by involving the surrounding neighborhood. That being said, I belive the plan lacks creativity and limits the upside for the neighborhood. Of course, it could be much much worse but we won't worry about that. Below is the New Urban Roswell critique on the Chattahoochee and Pine subdivision as proposed. We also offer an alternative view on what that land could be.
Up front, the design of the homes leaves a little to be desired.
Historic Homes Don't Have Garages in the Front
If we are truly looking to keep an historic feel in Historic Roswell, we need to recognize that historic homes do not have front loader garages. I am of the opnion that front loader garages should only be used when a side, back or separate garage is not an option. A home should say "People Live Here" not "Cars Live Here." Homes in the Historic District should maintain some semblance of a historic feel. More than 50% of a front facade devoted to a garage is not in any way historic or charming. Below is a side-by-side comparison of a proposed home in C&P and an almost mirror image of a home in Vickery Village. You be the judge:
The Site Plan Adds Little to the Neighborhood
The second major issue with C&P is that the site plan adds very little value to the surrounding neighborhood. It simply adds 16 homes. Part of a developer's obligation to any neighborhood should be a willingness to integrate the newly developed homes into the fabric of the existing neighborhood. That said, one of the best ways to do that is to create a walkable environment with an allocation of public space for the surrounding neighborhood to enjoy. Below are two images. The first is the existing site plan and the second is a rough sketch of an alternative.
Up front, this suggested alternative is purely conceptual. It does not take into account setbacks, buffers and elevations. It is meant purely to show that barring typical zoning baloney, that we can create fantastic places that add to neighborhoods rather than take away from them. This type of development would actually add value to the surrounding homes. The existing proposal would not reduce value but it does little in the way of increasing amenity and charm.
This alternative plan would have 7 smaller single family homes and 3 townhome buildings surrounding a small public square. The townhomes could be subsituted with smaller cottages. The square at Glenwood Park in Atlanta is a good example of a small square surrounded by townhomes that is a community amenity.
The neighborhood should have narrow streets with back alley entrances for cars. In order to accomplish a better design, the lots would likely need to be slightly smaller than those proposed in Acadia's diagram. The main roads should have 9 foot travel lanes which significantly reduce speeding thus increasing safety for the neighborhood.
There could be a small playground for the neighborhood. Currently, one does not exist in that part of Historic Roswell. Additionally, it would be ideal to connect the new development to S Atlanta St with a sidewalk or gravel path. This could be done by purchasing a slight amount of land along the property line between the two empty commercial properties to the east of this site.
My point with this post is not to sink a development but to argue that with a little thought and effort, we can build much better places. Land developers should be required to consider things like public space, playgrounds, connectivity and future connectivity in their plans.
Please feel free to add your comments.