East West Alley Master Plan - Info Sessions..

If you are interested in what is going on with the East West Alley Master Plan, there are some meetings coming up later this month and later this summer that you will want to try to attend.  The Schedule is posted at the end of this post.  The first of the meetings will be next Wednesday at City Hall Room 220 at 5pm.  I'm really interested in seeing what concepts will be discussed.  Personally, I hope they look at making the alleys intos woonerfs (shared space where pedestrians and bicyclists have priority).  Additionally, we should look at paving them in brick from building face to building face.  This would add character and further enhance the pedestrian focus.

Here are a few imags from Jen Kempson's Integrated Alley Handbook that focuses on converting alleys in Seattle into actual livable places that add value to the city.  We could take a page from these concepts..

 

 

Meetings regarding Concept Plans
 
July 9, 2014 at 5:00p.m., City Hall, Room 220: Public Open House to present and discuss concept plans
 
July 9, 2014 at 7:00p.m., City Hall, Council Chambers: HPC Hearing - Discussion of Concept Plans with HPC
 
July 14, 2014 at 5:30 p.m., City Hall, Room 220: Work Session with Mayor and City Council to present and discuss concept plans
 
 
Meetings regarding Draft Master Plan
 
August 13, 2014 at 6:00p.m., City Hall, Council Chambers: HPC Hearing – Discussion of Draft Master Plan with HPC
 
August 19th, 2014 at 6:00p.m., City Hall, Room 220: Public Open House to present Draft Master Plan

August 25, 2014 at 5:30 p.m., City Hall, Room 220: Work Session with Mayor and City Council to review and discuss Master Plan

September 10, 2014 at 7:00 p.m., City Hall, Council Chambers: Present Master Plan for Adoption at Mayor and City Council Meeting

 

 

Flyovers: Fantasy vs Reality

I took a look at the newest Avalon CGI flyover video that was released last week and couldn't help but think of the Charlie Brown flyover video that I ran across a few months ago.  The first represents reality of what can be done when well managed capital comes along and properly (in most cases) engages the community and works with them to provide a product that will work within the context of the city.  The second represents a dreamer's vision of a mega project that wasn't well received by the neighboring subdivisions due mostly to the scale of the project. 

Take a look and add your thoughts on which one you like best.  (remember that CGI imagery has improved a lot in the last 7 years)

Avalon

Roswell East (aka Charlie Brown)

2013 Outlook - What Will the New Year Bring for Roswell?

Here's a look into our crystal ball at what will happen in Roswell and around the metro area in 2013.  Up front, is a recap some of the bigger changes we've seen in and around the Historic District in 2012.  It's shaping up to be an interesting year in many ways.  Check out our recap, thoughts and predictions in each of the areas below:

2012 Recap - Keep up the Good Work Roswell!

Last year was another great year in and around Roswell.  Here are some of the more notable stories.

  • Groveway Hybrid Form-Based Code - The city passed the hybrid form-based code which was a huge move in the right direction for human-scaled development.
  • DPZ Master Plan - A MP for Historic Roswell was completed by the innovative and influential firm DPZ.  This MP wasn’t adopted officially by the city.  However, the ideas generated from the plan, in classic Andres Duany form, have generated momentum to change where there was none before.
  • TSPLOST Fails - The hopes for easy money and quick upgrades to infrastructure faded as the TSPLOST referendum went down in flames in July. Roswell lost out on a complete renovation of Holcomb Bridge/400 ($46M) and full funding of the Historic Gateway Project ($21M).
  • GM Jobs - General Motors is opening a software development campus in the old UPS Innoplex building off Mansell and will bring about 1,000 jobs. (not real 2012 news but it’s already announced)
  • Roswell NEXT - A new organization aimed at energizing young professionals, entrepreneurs and visionaries in Roswell was founded.  (Shameless Plug, I am a on the board of Roswell NEXT)
  • Historic Square Upgrades - Some nice additions were made this year by completing the sidewalk network in and around the square and also putting up traffic light masts that match others around HR at 120/9 intersection.
  • Code Studio Selected for UDC - This was a fantastic selection for our Unified Development Code.  New Urbanist firm, all about walkability and contextual development.  (translation.. they care about how things look and function)
  • Info Kiosks - We finally got some content added to them and they look great.
  • Little Alley Steak - The guys behind Salt Factory and INC opened their third concept and it’s fantastic. One request though guys, dress up the bathrooms.
  • Pure Taqueria - The Alpharetta based chain has opened a spectacular new location just north of the Historic District.  
  • Alive After 5 Canton St Closure - The world did not end! This was a needed change for the popular event.
  • Food Trucks - We approved a food truck ordinance and now they are regulars at Alive After 5.  Awesome addition.
  • Alive at the Square - The Alive After 5 party migrated south this year and was very successful at the Historic Square.  This spot allows for a little more space and is really good for families.
  • Pedicabs Approved - In a move that I’m not sure was necessary, a hypothetical business would be able to run pedicabs in the Historic District.  Eventually, this will be cool.
  • Bond Referendum Passed - This was a mixed bag but overall was good for walkability.
  • Fire Engine Red on Canton Street - In a controversial move, the new tenant of the former Pastis location, Mac McGee, painted the entire facade fire engine red.  I love it. Now can we get rid of those ugly black awnings with the block lettering?  Just a horrible look for Canton St.

A couple items from around the region:

  • Beltline Eastside Trail - Opened in Oct and is AMAZING! We need to model the Roswell Loop after it.
  • New Falcons Stadium - Completely unnecessary.  Go Falcons though!
  • Ponce City Market - Going to revolutionize in-town living.
  • Avalon Site Plan Approved - Alpharetta eating our Lunch.
  • Alpharetta City Center Plan Approved and Funded- Alpharetta eating our Lunch part 2.
  • Sandy Springs City Center Plan Approved - This is a very nice master plan done by new urbanist firm Goody-Clancy.

Roswell 2013 

Food

Food Access - One of the biggest obstacles to making the Historic District a vibrant living spot is the lack of a walkable or bikable grocery store.  Last year, we thought there might be an announcement sometime in 2012 about a small(er) grocery store going in somewhere near the HD.  We did get something but it wasn’t exactly what we were expecting.  It came in the form of a request to demolish the property at 1056 Alpharetta Street.  The owners are looking to build a small gourmet grocery store called Baba’s Gourmet.  We don’t have any additional info aside from what is in the notes from the HPC request.  The new building will be a welcome addition and will improve the streetscape along that stretch.

insert photo Babas Gourmet Roswell Rendering

Restaurants - We have several exciting restaurants opening up around HR in the near future.  MacMcgee Irish Pub will be opening in the freshly painted former Pasti’s location on Canton St.  Soccer fans rejoice!  Borocco is building out space in the Chaplin’s shopping center.  I’m hoping this one is successful to add a little life to my immediate neighborhood.  On the other side of the square, the owners of McCray’s Tavern (Smyrna & Lawrenceville) are opening a restaurant in the old Relish/Pico spot.  I’m a little unsure of the name since the HPC modifications request is under McCray’s Tavern but the liquor license was applied for as The Mill.  Either way, that spot will be solid with the right concept.  Osteria Mattone is the new venture on Canton Street from the guys behind Table & Main which in my opinion is the best restaurant north of Buckhead.  I have a bold prediction that Oteria Mattone will jump into at least one of the top of Atlanta lists in 2013.  Just seeing the pics on twitter (@oteriamattone) from their food scouting trip in Italy is making me hungry.  

We reportedly have two of our home grown restaurants, Salt and Nine, making the jump up to Alpharetta with second locations.  Salt will be in the old KFC location on Main St and Nine will be in the former Bistro 52 location behind Mitties Cafe on 9.  Honestly, I don’t like either of the locations.  I think Salt will be successful due to the name recognition and the food quality.  The success in Roswell has partly been due to fact that they have an Incredible location in the most walkable part of our city.  We believe, Nine will miss the mark.  The food quality is suspect and that location doesn’t have the foot traffic that is required to sustain a restaurant serving marginal food.  

Locally Grown Food - Will 2013 be the year that we get a real community garden in the Historic District... maybe at Barrington Hall?

Farmer’s Market - The Saturday farmer’s market at City Hall formerly known as the Riverside Farmer’s Market did well in 2012 and we think the same will hold true in 2013.  Although, the fact that it is in a parking lot is a huge turnoff.  If they could somehow find a way to move it to one of the parking lots right along Canton Street, the visibility would be huge and potentially bring even more vendors.  The only other suggestion I have would be to move it to the circle in front of the steps at city hall.  Most people who shop at farmers markets are inherently interested in sustainability and it is counter-intuitive for those people to feel great about shopping in a parking lot.  Just saying..

Mobility

Sidewalks - We are slowly but surely connecting missing teeth in our sidewalk network.  We will connect Diesel to Canton St with a sidewalk along the north side of Norcross Street early this year.  Not that anyone really walks there but the gap in front of the self serve car wash on the west side of Hwy 9 just south of Holcomb Bridge will get a sidewalk either this year or next.

Historic Gateway ProjectOption 3a will be approved and the people at Creekview Village condos will go berzerk because they will lose their tennis court...  The anti-roundabout camp will come out in full force and there will be a prolonged battle to get this redevelopment project going.  The truth is, this design has the potential to be truly transformational for the HD.  However, one thing that is a MUST is on street parking.  We'll probably know this year whether GDOT will allow that.  If they don't, everyone should oppose this option as it won't work.

Building a Network - Work will continue on the plans for the Oxbo Rd realignment and Elm Street Connection to Oxbo.  However, no actual work will start for another couple of years.  We are very excited about this initiative.  Additional talk will occur about the Oak St extension through Waller Park to connect with Grimes Bridge.

Bridge over 400 - We will see some designs at some point in 2013.

Planning & Development

Historic Gateway Master Plan - The DPZ plan that was completed in 2012 will serve as a guide for other projects, see below, that will come out in 2013.  The DPZ plan will not be followed completely rather, it is serving as inspiration that was not there before.  

Unified Development Code - We have a top notch firm in Code Studio helping us put together our new UDC.  We think the public will get its first glimpse of a ‘finished’ product toward the end of the year.  This will revolutionize development in Roswell.  There will be several meetings that the public can attend throughout the year.

Downtown Development Authority - The DDA will finally bring a big project to the table.  Maybe something around Canton Street and Highway 9.  

Boutique Hotel - It is becoming more and more obvious as Historic Roswell becomes a more popular destination that we are severely lacking in quality lodging options.  Is 2013 finally the year that a big hotel group takes note and steps in to build the boutique hotel concept?  We think that’s still a few years off.  However, a more likely scenario is a B&B opening in the Canton St area.  

Civic & Community

Alive After 5 - The expansion to the Square was a big hit in 2012.  Especially for those with smaller children.  This year, the proximity to McCray’s tavern will make the Alive at the Square piece even more fun.  The Food Truck addition made a big deal and enabled people to go to the event and eat there rather than having to leave early due to restaurant overcrowding.  This event is a cornerstone for years to come. 

RoswellNEXT - This newly formed civic group will host 12 events for members and the public in 2013.  We think it will be a huge success and the Town Hall | Roswell events will prove to be innovative and informative.  By the way, they are having a fundraiser on Jan 31st.  For more information go to their website (www.roswellnext.org) or their Facebook page.

Charlie Brown Part Deux or Trois?- Nothing will happen that is large scale on the old Charlie Brown parcel on the southeast corner of 400 and HBR.  We will continue to hear of plans to bring MARTA to exit 7 and beyond but nothing beyond dreams will materialize.

Parks

Riverside Park Area - We thought this would move faster but we believe in 2013, plans will be finalized for two projects.. the extension of the riverside trail will be approved despite NIMBY andEnvironmental Concerns.  The design plans for the bike/pedestrian bridge over the Chattahoochee River will be finalized and approved. 

Roswell Area Park Rebranding - An effort will be initiated to rename Roswell Area Park.  What in the world is an “Area” park anyway?  

Ace Sand Company - Something will happen with the property currently occupied by Ace Sand Company.  This has huge development potential and could be a great addition to our park system.

Retail

A Little Movement - We don’t need ANY more thrift shops.  I think we’ve reached saturation in that market.  There will be some strip center renovations finishing up in 2013 and we might see some announcements for more in the midtown area.  I’m thinking we will hear something about the Southern Skillet shopping center.  That’s purely a hunch but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.     

Employment

Large Employer Void - We didn’t expect any major announcements in 2012 but we got a huge one to begin 2013 with the news that GM was opening an IT center and hiring 1000+ high paying jobs at the former UPS Innoplex building off Mansell.  This isn’t the most New Urban location.  We would love to see an employer come into the Groveway area and infuse some jobs into the Historic District.  However, I think we are 18-24 months out from anything of that nature.  The RBA will continue to do great things

Small Business Incubator - We feel that the best opportunity for Roswell exists in cultivating smaller startups.  Alpharetta a lock on large corporate IT.  Dunwoody, Sandy Springs and Buckhead have a stranglehold on large and mid-size companies.  The opportunity here in Roswell is to leverage the strengths of our neighbors and work to create smaller businesses that are not as prevalent in the neighboring areas.  We have an atmosphere that is much more desirable to that demographic.  But, we need to nurture it.  A full fledged startup incubator in Roswell would work but it would need the support of the city and partner organizations.  I don’t see it happening in 2013 but it could.

Housing

Housing in the Historic District - There will be at least three projects announced in 2013 that will bring new housing stock to the historic district.  These will be in the form of single family homes, townhouse and even apartments.  

Development Revitalization - Several developments will get new life.  We are guessing that there may be some action on foreclosed Vickery Falls development just south of Chaplain's on South Atlanta Street due to the prime location and the added focus on cleaning up the area around the square.  This could push out into 2014.  

Goulding Estate for Sale - The $8.75M, 16 acre Goulding Estate didn’t move last year as expected.   However, when it does in 2013, the land will be subdivided into ridiculously expensive smaller lots.  We think the the original building will remain intact and potentially become another event facility or potentially a B&B.  The bigger question is whether they will figure out a way to connect the road to the road to the west and build out our network, more.    

Around the Metro Area

The Beltline - We predicted correctly that the eastside trail would be a huge hit and when it opened in Oct of last year, it was an instant success.  News about additional funding for the Beltline transit component will come out toward the end of the year with a public-private partnership being the finance tool of choice.

The Stadium - The stadium will be approved and ground breaking will occur in early 2014.

Ponce City Market - Additional shops will open up in Ponce City Market.  The unfortunate decision not to offer for sale units will not hurt the overall speed of the development and may actually increase it.  However, this will prove to be the ultimate saturation of the apartment boom in that area.

Avalon Alpharetta - Ground breaking will occur in January.  The parking deck will come down quickly and we will see actual structural development in 2013.  It won’t be ready for showtime until late 2014 though.

Alpharetta City Center - The new configuration of Haynes Bridge Rd from Old Milton to Academy St opened recently making way for the new library.  We will see work start on the Library and City Hall in 2013 and the new road grid and parking deck will begin to take shape.  We love this project.

Sandy Springs City Center - The plans have been approved and we will see a small bit of development start in 2013 but the bigger changes will start to become evident in the next 2-3 years.  

The Atlanta Streetcar - Love it or Hate it, construction will be almost complete by the end of the year and we will see streetcars rolling through downtown again in early 2014.  

The Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal (aka The Gulch) - We will see the final renderings will be approved this year and work will start in late 2014.

Old Malls Will Close - We think at least two malls in the metro area will close completely this year.  Crazy we know but retail is getting crushed by Amazon and aside from the half-dozen high quality malls around the region, the mall is dying. 

Well, that's it!  If you made it this far, you're a true NUR fan.  Thanks and have a great (rest of) 2013!

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.

Duany on the Next 30 Years

USA Today recently ran a piece on Andres Duany, City Living Will Be Like a Blast From the Past, where he dishes out his thoughts on what America can expect in the next 30 years.  There are some provocative thoughts in the article.  Here's one of them:

Despite urbanization, the old suburbia will endure. Duany estimates that at least 40% of homebuyers will favor big houses on big lots with a few cars.

"I had someone ask me, 'Why would I want to know my neighbor?'" Duany marvels. "Someone else said, 'No drive-thrus? Have you ever unstrapped a kid out of a car seat?'"

But as much they might like conventional suburbia, many people will not be able to afford it. So they'll try New Urbanism, Duany says, and they'll like it -- shorter commutes, more vital street life, less money wasted on gas and home heating and cooling.

"You have to work hard to support a conventional suburban lifestyle," he says. "People will be pleased by how much they'll be able to ease off."

They also asked him for insight on the five trends he sees in the next 30 years.  Here's what we can look forward to accroding to Duany.

 

  1. Urban Retrofit for Suburbia
  2. Gardner on the Roof
  3. Government Goes Hyper-Local
  4. Buildings that Look Cool and Safe
  5. Mormon Settlers as Models

 

Check out the article if those predictions intrigue you.

City Hall Square Concept Gaining Traction in Roswell

This eveining at City Hall, Roswell City Council and the public had the chance to see an evolutionary proposal for what the heart of our city could be.  City staff and the Downtown Development Agency presented and opined (in that order) on a transportation and economic development (in that order) project that will impact the heart of our city.  There were about 30 citizens and stakeholders present to see the concepts that were sparked from (but wildly different than) the DPZ master plan concept.

The configurations that were presented (all slight variations from the image above) are significantly different from a traffic flow standpoint than what Andres Duany and DPZ proposed for the area but DOT couldn't make the DPZ proposal work with traffic models.  The good thing is that DOT has a CNU accredited staffer in Clyde Stricklin who worked on the post-street design configuration.  It heps to have someone who at least speaks the language of urbanism to refine design around big roads.  

Pretty much everyone in the room was in favor of moving forward, albeit cautiously, with planning this project.  The mayor requested that staff and the DDA work together to try and refine the design details and potential economic impact before going external to hire a town planner.  I agree with the approach but feel this is a very delicate project.  If it is done incorrectly, it could be disasterous for the heart of Roswell.  If it is done correctly it could be huge.

The estimated costs are $8-$11M for the roadway and park features.  Buildings, etc. would be a separate tab with a mixture of public and private uses.

What are your thoughts?

Plans, Plans and More Plans

This is a cross-post from my montly column, Community Design Matters, in The Roswell Current.  

If you haven’t noticed, something’s afoot in Roswell.  Specifically, in Historic Roswell.  It started over a dozen years ago when the city and gritty business owners started nudging Canton Street toward greatness.  Now anchored by regionally recognized restaurants and retail, it is known as one of the great places in Atlanta.  The next big step was the 4-year community project that ultimately resulted in the approval of the Groveway Hybrid Form-Based Code in April.  Let’s not forget the Atlanta Street Livable Centers Initiative completed in 2008 that served as the backbone for later plans.  Another critical step was the Midtown Streetscape project and the Roswell 2030 plan that was adopted earlier this year.  

On top of all this, we recently created a downtown development authority and the Roswell Business Alliance. The city’s first Strategic Economic Development plan was just finished and presented to the public this summer. We are kicking off a citywide visioning process as well as completely overhauling our zoning codes. We are down to two final alternatives for the Historic Gateway transportation project that will finally eliminate the dangerous reversible lanes.  Last but not least, Duany Plater-Zyberk (DPZ) just presented their Master Plan for the Historic District last month.  It is simply amazing what has been completed and/or initiated in just the past few years.  However, much of this is merely planning and strategy.  

City Hall has more plans than it knows what to do with. Now, it’s time to act. The first step is to define the heart and soul of our city. The DPZ Master Plan does just that. It outlines three unique villages from the Chattahoochee to City Hall that build off the amazing diversity of landscape, topography, history and culture that already exist along the Atlanta Street corridor.  Those three villages would create walkable destinations that are inherently Roswell, while catering to the people who live here more so than the cars that drive through. They will complement the renovation of Atlanta Street. Residents overwhelmingly want this to happen.  The primary landowners are dying for a reason to develop this area. All the city needs to do is provide direction.  

Our elected officials have accepted this vision, and are working to give the city the unified vision it needs to achieve greatness. I for one am tired of being a Sandy Springs/Alpharetta sandwich with a side of East Cobb. Roswell is a great city, but it’s great for mainly one thing, housing.  Our future lies in communities where people live, work and play, not where they sleep, drive and watch TV.  Showing this commitment to walkable, mixed-use, fun neighborhoods in the heart of our city will not only strengthen our conviction to build an incredible place, but it also announces to businesses and neighbors that Roswell is committed to becoming the best city in the region in which to Live, Work and Play.

Weekly Top 5 - Cars, Conservatives, Alpharetta, Congestion, Innovation

Each week, New Urban Roswell brings you our Top 5 most interesting and thought provoking articles about urbanism and neighborhoods.  We sifted through about 100 articles this week to find the top 5.  We hope you enjoy.

Beware the 18% - New Urbanism Blog

Embedded in this article is a very interesting statistic that goes beyond the headline.  That statistic is that the average annual cost for owning a mid-size car in the US  is $9,519 when you factor in all pertinent costs and assume annual mileage of 15,000.  That’s almost 65 cents a mile!  It’s a statistic that’s just crying out for some common sense. Much of the current debate in Atlanta is about the Transportation Investment Act and the fact that 48% of the money is allocated to roads... this statistic tells me that we might want to consider lowering that.  Assuming that you have a 10 mile commute, your round trip is costing you about $13!!!  WOW!  Bet you didn’t think about that.  We need to start building walkable places where people aren’t forced to use their car and can even consider reducing their car ownership.  The automobile is a drag on our national wealth. 

Smart Growth for Conservatives - Bacon’s Rebellion

This is a highly interesting read if you are at all concerned about he politicization of common sense.  In the preface to this post, Bacon comments that “efficiency is efficiency... cost effectiveness is cost effectiveness.”  The current dichotomy is Sprawl (Conservative) vs Smart Growth (Liberal) and that isn’t going to cut it as reality begins to smack us in the face more and more frequently.  The argument in this post is whether the top-down liberal solution or the bottom-up conservative solution is best.  As a staunch independent, I think a little of both is needed.  An additional excerpt from the preface:

The logical, if somewhat extreme, outcome of the conservative dismissal of Smart Growth is the anti-Agenda 21 movement, which connects non-existing dots between the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainability agenda, President Obama’s green policies and efforts in Virginia’s cities and counties to implement Smart Growth. Thus, in this conspiratorial mindset, anything resembling Smart Growth is seen as part of a larger movement to undermine American freedoms and liberties. Frighteningly, this movement has gained momentum in a number of Virginia counties and created a distraction from the real issues.

If you really have some time and are interested, you can listen to a panel that Mr. Bacon was on at CNU 20 here.

Three Simple Ideas for Cities - Strong Towns Blog

This is a great posts that throws some ideas and thoughts out on how some small, experimental ideas could improve the overall development picture of towns and cities.  The three ideas that are thrown out for consideration are building a local building bank, moving to land value taxation rather than building value taxation and encouraging/allowing code free zones where a city can experiment with what an area with no zoning would develop like.  I feel that experimentation of this nature is not only a good idea but necessary to move into the next generation of development in this country.  The systems we have now are dysfunctional at best and toxic at worst.  

Alpharetta City Center Plan Stirs Concerns About Green Space - Live in Alpharetta

All I can really say on the newly revised plans for Alpharetta’s city center are WOW!  The plan as it is would create an incredible mixed-use destination that is quaint, people focused and inherently local.  This plan is about a mile away from Avalon but it is extremely different in the way it will interact with people.  I think once both are done, there will be no question that this project will win the ‘lovability’ contest. Great work Alpharetta!  I’m more than a little bit jealous that Roswell’s neighbor city seems to be a step ahead of us in redeveloping it’s urban core.

Rethinking the Economics of Traffic Congestion - The Atlantic Cities

Is traffic congestion really a drag on economies and productivity?  This article looks at areas with low congestion and compares them to areas of high congestion and asserts that congestion is a byproduct of a healthy economy.  You can’t get around it.  They found that when traffic delays went up, GDP also increased and that the correlation was statistically significant. Here’s an excerpt that helps make sense of it:

How could being stuck in traffic lead people to be more productive? The relationship is almost certainly not causal. Instead, regional GDP and traffic congestion are tied to a common moderating variable - the presence of a vibrant, economically-productive city. And as city economies grow, so too does the demand for travel. People travel for work and meetings, for shopping and recreation. They produce and demand goods and services, which further increases travel demand. And when the streets become congested and driving inconvenient, people move to more accessible areas, rebuild at higher densities, travel shorter distances, and shift travel modes.

 

Thoughts from DPZ Public Workshops

If you read this blog, you probably know that I'm a fan of DPZ's work and have posted before (here & here) about our need to have this firm in particular work on a master plan for our city.  Well, I got my wish (partially) and I'm not disappointed by what they have delivered in the early stages.

I had originally planned to tweet these while I was participating in some of the workshops but I quickly realized that I would spend more time tweeting than paying attention and participating.  There were a lot of interesting ideas and discussions that occurred and I'm not pretending to have captured most of them.  I'll start off with the big ideas that I was able to capture and move into some other ideas, observations and discussion points.

Big Ideas

Square at City Hall and Canton Street - Create a large square on the backside of City Hall that would create the possibility of three additional civic building sites that would surround the central square.  The road would be one way all the way around the square.  To give you an idea.. if you were coming north on nine.. you would make a right on Hill Street and then a left on a new street that would take you north and reconnect with the existing Hwy 9 alignment just north of City Hall.. the very rough diagram below will give you an idea (this is VERY rough and only intended to illustrate the concept).  Duany compared our current municipal complex to a bunch of stray cats.  This design would definitely solve the stray cat problem and it would create an unforgettable statement of "This is Roswell" for anyone driving through town.

Canton Street South... - Create a narrow walkable street from Oxbo south to Mill St that would give a Canton St feel.  This one was incredible and I don't think many people have thought of this until now.  The feel that could be created would be second to none in Atlanta.  New but strikingly unique and well proportioned for a small historic town center.

Shops on Park Square - Eliminate the street between the shops just north of Park Square and connect those shops to the square which would enable cafe style dining that would activate the square much more than it is now.

Other Thoughts 

Historic Gateway One-Way Pair - Duany wasn't a huge fan of the one-way pair.  He kept pondering how this idea made it through the selection process.  He understood that the residents in that area want a more walkable neighborhood center and promised that he would propose a solution that would work with the proposal.  There was some opposition at the presentation from some of the residents of the Creek View condominiums.  This was the first strong opposition that Duany said he had heard to the concept but it was predictable.  He told them that the only reason they should accept the loss of privacy is if they in turn have some great urbanism created in the area.  I may post more on this at a later date as it is definitely interesting and will come up again. 

Boutique Hotel - They definitely didn't feel that the Boutique Hotel Concept was dead.  They felt that if the Oxbo to Mill St connection were built that the hotel could serve as a wonderful anchor to the end of that street.

Views of Barrington - The view of Barrington coming down Mimosa is easily correctable with some slight landscaping adjustments.  They weren't pro or against removal of the wall at this time but they definitely felt that the view of Barrington needed to be improved when viewed from Mimosa.

Adopt the ITE Context Sensitive Solutions Guidebook - Duany strongly recommended to the DOT personnel in the room that they adopt the 'Institute of Transportation Engineers - Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities' as the official road design guidelines for Roswell.  I know DOT was taking notes and hopefully this will appear on the agenda soon for the council.

Extend Oxbo Trail to the Cemetery - I thought this was an incredible idea that just hasn't been considered.  An extension of Oxbo Trail up to the old Presbyterian cemetery.  This would really complete the trail and give an alternative walking path for residents of Mill Village to get up to Groveway.  I see this one happening relatively quickly.

Activating the Square - There isn't much you can do with the Park Square to make it a more lively spot.  A true square needs to be surrounded by buildings on all side that can participate and overflow into the square.  The separation by high volume roads poses an insurmountable challenge.  It should remain a sense of pride for the area and serve as the location for most festivals but intervention most likely won't work.

Slight Curve of 9 at the Square - This was actually a fantastic idea and is a quick solution to a large problem.  Duany proposed a slight bow or arc in the road in front of the buildings facing the square in order to give them more sidewalk space.  This arc would eat into the square slightly but create a beautiful arcing motion in the fence along the square and additionally slow down the traffic in that spot slightly.  

Alter the Pavement in Important Places - He was specifically speaking of Hwy 9 from Mill St to Sloan St in the same area as the curve mentioned above.  Essentially, you would put brick pavers down and alter the texture of the road to remind drivers that they are in an important space.  This texture combined with the arc would really create a nice space without significantly altering anything.  

Riverside|Azalea|Hwy9 Intersection - Leave the intersection at Riverside|Azalea|Hwy 9 as is.  Any improvements will not realize the intended traffic flow improvements and won't be worth the investment.  Duany was specifically opposed to the roundabout/underpass option that is the city's preferred option.  I actually disagree with him on this one.

Gateway at the River - Do we really need a gateway?  This is what Duany was asking.  The bridge itself is great and the river is a de facto gateway.  Additionally, the drive downhill from Sandy Springs and then up from the river once you are in Roswell is a powerful statement that you are entering a different place.  Whatever we do, we shouldn't let a new bridge get built with higher rails that will impede the beautiful views.  I didn't hear of any mention of the planned pedestrian bridge in any of the workshops I attended.

Apartments at the River - These apartments will be gone in 10-20 years.  The city needs to figure out what they want that land to be.  There was a quick draft of a building that looked nice that was presented at the presentation.  I'd love to see something like what they drew up. 

Pedestrian Tunnel Under 9 to Connect Canton to City Hall - Duany was definitely not a fan of the current idea to tunnel under 9 to enable people to park easier at City Hall.  He says people just inherently don't like tunnels or overpasses and ineveitably people will cross at street level.  Other considerations were the ADA requirements for a tunnel or overpass.  He definitely ruffled some feathers on this one.  I feel that a crossing at street grade is more preferable.  

Other Observations

There were a lot of the large real estate holders in attendance at the workshops.  They all seemed optimistic to the ideas that were being proposed and much of the land that was pointed to for redevelopment is in the hands of only a few major owners which increases the probability of something happening.

Planning is sequential in nature.  You plan for what you want the area to be like in 25 years but you need to allow it to grow.  You don't plan for 4 story mixed-use and force that to be the only allowable condition.  One story gradually moves to 2-4 stories.  You have to allow that flexibility and the ability to change over tme.  

Style should steer clear of the classical stuff like our historic homes and instead work to emulate the Mill Style and Factory Building feel in most cases.  

The highest vehicular throughput for a road is at 27-29 MPH according to the ITE.  Thus, in order to accommodate the most traffic volume, Hwy 9 should be designed to have as little stop-go as possible while maintaining a speed around 30 mph.

It used to be that cars traveling through towns were under the rules of that town.  We need to take back our space and ensure that cars coming through Roswell know that they are in someone else's town and that they need to behave accordingly.  This road should deliver a message that this is primarily for Roswell, that guests are welcome, but they are here on Roswell's terms.

Retailers will go in and out of business without "our help" was one of Duany's points when discussing what a one-way pair would do to business along 9.  He poined out that most of the business that is currently there is undesirable (unless you are the business owner).  The one-way pair can work if done properly and not negatively impact desirable businesses.

Duany observed that the design system in Roswell is fragmented and there doesn't seem to be a high degree of intradepartmental coordination.  DOT isn't talking to Parks who isn't talking to Community Development, etc.  He was especially critical of the design of some park areas which offended a few people in the room.  He then tried to make the point by saying that everything he designs is given to someone else to improve on and that there is nothing wrong with that.  He implied that criticism and collaboration create better places.

No too many city council members were in the workshops but it seemed like half of them were at the presentation.  I could be wrong on that as I did not attend all workshops.

DPZ is attempting to do something that has never been done before with the hwy 9 plan.  The linear coding sheet (comparison to a musical score) that they are putting together for the entire length of the street is something that Duany came up with about 15 years ago but he has never used it.  He says he has never come across a street with as much complexity as this stretch of road and felt this was the perfect opportunity to work on something revolutionary.  It truly is unorthodox but if it works, it will be amazing.  We shouldn't have any reason to believe based on track record that it won't work.

From what I can tell, there might be a little animosity between the city and the planning staff.  The selection of DPZ was a close vote, with the mayor being the deciding vote.  This is a shame because regardless of who is doing the work, the city should recognize that this is a transformational opportunity that doesn't come along frequently.  We need both of these groups to work in concert for this to be the best possible outcome.

Conclusion

The first few days of actual interaction with DPZ and the city have gone very well.  Ideas were generated, issues were clarified and significant progress on the plan has been made.  Duany is very interested in Roswell and had great things to say about the historic district in public and in private.  This should be the beginning of something great for our city.  We are looking forward to the next round.  Stay tuned.. I will update you as soon as I know more about when additional workshops and potential talks are scheduled. 

 

2012 Outlook

I meant to put this together last month but unfortunately this part-time blogger just didn’t have enough time.  Anyway, it’s always interesting to take a look into the crystal ball and see where we will be in the future.  This year, we are going to take a stab at what will happen in Roswell and around the metro area in 2012 as well as recap some of the bigger changes we've seen in and around the Historic District.  It's shaping up to be an interesting year in many ways.  Check out our recap, thoughts and predictions in each of the areas below:

2011 Recap - Keep up the Good Work Roswell!

 

  • Midtown Streetscape - Initial work has been completed and is a great improvement.
  • Norcross|Grimes|Warsaw Roundabout - This has been a huge hit.
  • Oak Street Streetscape Improvements - This came together nicely.  The street no longer looks like an industrial dump.
  • Wayfinding and Road Signs - These have added even more character to the HD.
  • Info Kiosks - Well done, they still need to get the info on them but the kiosks and the maps look great.
  • Improved Bus Stops - These are a great improvement for the neighborhood.
  • Table & Main - A great addition to the Roswell Restaurant Scene.
  • Roswell Provisions - How can you not love this place? Nice addition to Canton St.
  • Roswell Tap - This was a good addition along hwy 9.  We miss suburbanite pizza but we'll take the tap.
  • Roswell Restaurant Week - The 1st annual event was a hit.
  • Renew Social Ventures - The rehab of their building has been well done and we appreciate what the organization is doing.

 

Roswell 2012 

Food

Food Access - One of the biggest obstacles to making the Historic District a vibrant living spot is the lack of a walkable or bikable grocery store.  We think there may be an announcement sometime in 2012 about a small(er) grocery store going in somewhere near the HD.  Unfortunately, it won’t be a Trader Joe’s or a locally owned market.  A Fresh Market would be good or even a Publix GreenWise Market.  However, it will most likely be a Walmart Neighborhood Market.  So, our HD might just be graced with the beautiful tan and green color scheme that WMNM's are trying to force feed their new suitors.  I'll stop griping now and dream about riding my bike to the grocery store.

Restaurants - No new restaurants will open in the old Pico/Relish spot, the old Red Building or in the Old NOLA building on the square side of the Historic District.  We do think there is and off chance that someone may try to open a cafe in the spot where Wedding Angels used to be.  There’s already a kids cupcake place (Gluten Free Cuties) going into one half of that space.  We think at least one restaurant on Canton Street will close but we’re not sure which.  Nine will continue to disappoint on the quality of foodTable & Main will keep moving up the list of top spots and may become another entrant to regional lists (Salt Factory #91 on Jezebel Magazine's top 100 & Greenwood's Atlanta Magazines top 50 have made some lists recently)

Locally Grown Food - A community garden will open in the Historic District... maybe at Barrington Hall?

Farmer’s Market - The saturday farmer’s market at city hall formerly known as the Riverside Farmer’s Market will stay put even though we think it would be a bigger draw if it moved to either the Canton Street Antique Market parking lot or to the square.  The city’s allowance of additional markets (i.e. Sweet Apple Village) will cannibalize business and potentially end the one at city hall.

Mobility

Historic Square Sidewalks - We will finally have completed sidewalks along the square and around Barrington Hall.  Or at least mostly completed sidewalks.  Construction is slated to start sometime this month.  Oh yeah.. we’ll get some nice new traffic light poles as well which will take some of the unsightly wires out of the air.

Historic Gateway Project - Option 3a will be approved and the people at Creekview Village condos will go berzerk because they will lose their tennis court...  The anti-roundabout camp will come out in full force and there will be a prolonged battle to get this redevelopment project going.  The truth is, this design has the potential to be truly transformational for the HD.  However, one thing that is a MUST is on street parking.  We'll probably know this year whether GDOT will allow that.  If they don't, everyone should oppose this option as it won't work.

Building a Network - Work will continue on the plans for the Oxbo Rd realignment and Elm Street Connection to Oxbo.  However, no actual work will start for another couple of years.  We are very excited about this initiative.

Planning

Historic Gateway Master Plan - DPZ, the world renowned team that designed Seaside, will completely rock the master plan for the historic district laying the groundwork for Roswell to become the best place to live in the northern burbs as well as a regional destination.  Some might say we are now but we don't have a grocery store and if we are to be a destination and at a minium we need a hotel to be a destination.  To get this all started, we just need to find the private investment.  Hmm.. Maybe the DDA can work on that.

Form-Based Code - Roswell’s first form-based code will officially be approved for the Groveway Community.  This will be another huge event in ushering in a new age for Historic Roswell and it will hopefully become a trend in the Atlanta area.

Downtown Development Authority - Our prediction is that the DDA will focus too much on large empty shopping centers along Holcomb Bridge and the HD will be a smaller part of what the initial design for the DDA was before the opportunity zone was expanded.  

Tax Increment Financing - The newly formed DDA will start to talk about implementing TIF in the revitalization area but nothing official will happen.  We need to be very careful with this tool.

Civic & Community

Alive After 5 - Our premiere event will continue to thrive and there will be a strong push to close down Canton Street during the event.  We think it should be closed from Norcross St to the Hwy 9 intersection from 5-8pm.  There has been a push for this recently after a teen was hit by a car last year.

Parks

Riverside Park Area - Plans will be finalized for two projects.. the extension of the riverside trail will be approved despite NIMBY and Environmental Concerns.  The design plans for the bike/pedestrian bridge over the Chattahoochee River will be finalized and approved.  Some think this is a waste of money and there will probably be a little bit of a fight.  We love the idea but think the bridge design will be a disappointment to some.

Retail

Same ‘ole Same ‘ole - Other than the shops along Canton St continuing to do what they do, we don’t expect to see much going on in non-food related retail this year.  We’d love to see Roswell Bikes open up shop in the Historic District (where the old soccer store(s) used to be) but that’s just wishful thinking.  We’d also love to see something other than thrift shops open up...  

Employment

Large Employer Void - We don’t expect any major announcements here but we do expect the city to court a large employer to move operations to the historic district in conjunction with the Groveway neighborhood revitalization plan.  The mayor's recent annual state of the city speech to the Roswell Kiwanis was an indicator that the city is going to push economic development in 2012.  Additionally the formation of the Roswell Business Alliance last year and DDA will help but we won't see much movement this year.

Housing

Development Revitalization - Several developments will get new life.  We are guessing that there may be some action on foreclosed Vickery Falls development just south of Chaplain's on South Atlanta Street due to the prime location and the added focus on cleaning up the area around the square.  This could push out into 2013.  

Goulding Estate for Sale - The $8.75M, 16 acre Goulding Estate will not move this year.  However, when it does in 2013, the land will be subdivided into ridiculously expensive smaller lots.  We think the the original building will remain intact and potentially become another event facility (we don't need more though).

Charlie Brown Part Deux or Trois?- Someone will make a pitch for the old Charlie Brown parcel on the southeast corner of 400 and HBR.  Citizens on the east side of town will say it will ruin their lives by increasing congestion and bringing crime to Roswell in the form of nefarious transit riders.  

Around the Metro Area

Transit Bill - TSPLOST will pass (barely) and Cobb county will still have no idea how to get its collective act together.

Ponce City Market - Work will begin on Ponce City Market late in the year.  This will be a huge step in the continued revitalization of the Old 4th Ward.

Avalon (formerly known as Prospect Park) Alpharetta - The development that I like to call The Avenue Avalon will gain approval from the Alpharetta council with two dissenting votes even though the development would further tilt Alpharetta's target ratio of apartments in the city above the 85/15 ratio that is approved in the city's comp plan.  Stay tuned for the March 26 Alpharetta City Council meeting.  North American Properties will begin work later in the year.

The Beltline - The trail portion of the Beltline that connects Piedmont Park to the New 4th Ward Park will open up and will become an instant hit amongst locals and non-locals.  We will see a more formal timeline of transit implementation after the Transit Bill is passed this summer.

The Atlanta Streetcar - Love it or Hate it, construction will start this year!

Boondoggle Field at Art Blank Stadium - This true taxpayer ‘boondoggle’ will continue to be pushed even though no NFL stadium has EVER created a net positive economic impact.  Paying half a billion for something that will be used ~10x/year just isn’t a wise decision.  

The Multi-Modal Passenger Terminal (aka The Gulch) - We will see the initial vision of this project toward the end of the year.  Long range economic impact estimates were already released and the number look very positive

 

Well, that's it!  If you made it this far, you're a true NUR fan.  Thanks and have a great (rest of) 2012!