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.
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.
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 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.
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
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 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 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.
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
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
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.
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 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
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
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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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!