The Pending Demise of Downtown Roswell

Our new council seems to feel that they are operating under a mandate to roll back everything in our city to a time when life was better and redevelopment happened ‘the right way.’  On Friday, the city got its first glimpse of the UDC overhauls that this new council is proposing.  They are essentially trying to roll back our zoning to what we had prior to the UDC.  Mind you, there was very little redevelopment going on prior to the UDC due to our antiquated and broken zoning that discouraged redevelopment and encouraged property owners to sit on blighted property and collect income from tenants or depreciate their assets.  I’m not sure that’s the Roswell I’d like to return to.

The proposals that are going before council for the first time this evening are not trivial.  There are suggested edits or changes to about 150 lines across 70 pages of the UDC.  There are several building types and zoning categories that would be completely removed.  Setback and lot coverage requirements are being changed in ways that a) make zero sense in real world application and b) make redevelopment of properties very unlikely.

The kicker is that there is no explanation on why these edits are being made, what the real-world trade-offs are and how they will impact property owners.  The only explanation that I have seen is that the council has a “mandate” from this election to make the changes that their supporters wanted.  Well, if their supporters knew that the changes they are ‘requesting’ will virtually kill quality redevelopment in Roswell, I’m pretty sure they would not support the changes.  (or maybe no redevelopment is what they were actually looking for) The public only became aware of these text edits on Friday when the agenda for the mayor and city council meeting was posted to the city website.

Whether you like the UDC or not, there is no question that the public was aware of the effort (unless they actively chose not to be involved in their city).  There were over 60 meetings that were open to the public over the 18 months that the UDC worked its way through the process. 

What is being suggested by our council is not grounded in reality.  Many of the proposed amendments are based on personal preferences of the new council and an influential few who have their ear.  Many of these edits are not best practices and are just plain unrealistic.  Additionally, many of the edits could be considered downzoning which could require compensation from the city for the taking of property rights.  We need national best practices in our zoning code to attract top developers.  What we don’t need are personal preferences that aren’t grounded in reality.

The UDC was done by a nationally recognized firm that has worked on zoning codes for Asheville, Chattanooga, Los Angeles, Denver, Raleigh, Memphis and more.  They used best practices in building types, zoning districts, lot coverage, setbacks and land use to craft the new UDC.  It is not perfect and does need improvements in certain areas.  However, it is absolutely does NOT need a wholesale rewrite.

We are on the verge of throwing out the work done by Code Studio, our city staff and hundreds of dedicated Roswell citizens and handing over the future of development in our city to our new council, that has alarmingly little real estate and place making experience, and several of their more vocal friends.  This is concerning to say the least.

If these changes pass, our city council is metaphorically encasing our downtown in amber and ensuring that needed redevelopment will not occur.

What just might be the most disappointing thing is not that the proposed changes epically suck but that our new council that ran on a platform of open and transparent government has completely failed on that promise.  It couldn’t resist taking its first shot at rewriting the zoning code by catering to their personal opinions and those of their political allies while giving little notice to impacted property owners and allowing virtually zero public input. 

Below, I have summarized the most egregious of the proposed changes:

  • Elimination of 6000 and 4000 square foot lots in Residential Districts
  • Elimination of Cottage Courts completely from Residential Districts
  • Elimination of Townhouses from Residential Districts
  • Elimination of Carriage House from Residential Lots less than 30,000 square feet
  • Elimination of Attached Houses (i.e. Duplex, Four-Plex)
  • Increase of Setbacks for virtually all development in downtown to 40 feet from 10 feet
  • Reducing Lot Coverage for virtually all development in downtown to a almost universal 40% from 60-75% depending on building type.
  • Addition of maximum density of 5 units per acre for townhomes and cottage courts.
  • Addition of the term density to the document.  Lot size, setbacks and height apparently don’t effectively work.
  • Cottage Courts will be required to have garages.

 

Suggested Changes with Commentary (link to UDC page for reference)

Chapter 2

The changes suggested in this chapter eliminate a housing type.  Mandate that we use the word density in the document. Make some changes to what can/cannot be classified as outdoor amenity space.

2.1 Building Types

C. Attached House add (no new applications for this type will be accepted)

- Why? Does someone just not like this building type? One of the biggest issues in American development is the lack of the middle types of housing. (http://bettercities.net/news-opinion/blogs/dan-parolek/17698/missing-middle-housing-responding-demand-urban-living)   We go from single family and townhome straight to multi-story apartments and condos.  This seems to be very short sighted and catering to the preferences of a few.

2.2.3 Density - replace with language about maximum density

- Why? Does someone not understand that limiting lot coverage and height effectively limits density.

2.2.6 Landscaped Open Space Neighborhood compatibility and/or stream buffer does not count old code: “no more than 25% of any lot area in water or flood plain shall be credited as minimum required landscape open space"

- Not a terrible idea.  I'd like to see why this is necessary though.

2.2.7 Outdoor Amenity Space

B.2. remove "other than rooftop areas"

- This is a bad move. The current language actually encourages creative use of rooftops in areas where building is going to be tighter anyway.  I'm not sure why this would need to be removed.

5.b. delete entirely

- Again, this is a bad move.  See above comment.

Do not allow detention ponds to count unless used as accessible amenity

- I totally agree with this one and feel that detention ponds could and should be enhanced. 

2.2.10 Setback Encroachments

remove 11. retaining walls can encroach

- I think this should remain but with exceptions.

12. driveways may encroach only in residential categories RS-9/12/18/30/87/AG

- Why is this an issue?  Has there been conflict with this?

Chapter 3

The changes made to chapter 3, essentially makes a 9000 sq ft lot the smallest that can be built in Roswell

3.1.6 RS-9

Limit within Sub Res. Replace "RS-9 is implements Suburban Residential..." with text from RS-6 "implements the Highway 9/..."

- I assume the author is trying to reduce the amount of RS-9 that can be built.

for all existing: can be rebuilt as originally platted and constructed

- Thanks for the generosity.

3.1.7 RS-6 delete as stand-alone category

- Let's continue to reduce the type and variety of our housing stock.  Will there be any housing that’s affordable to anyone who doesn’t make an above average wage?

3.1.8 RS-4 delete as stand-alone category

- Continuing to reduce the type and varied our our housing stock

R-TH

delete "attached house".

- Again, this is a bad idea. We need affordable housing options and these types of buildings help accomplish that.

Delete "Suburban Residential"

- Oh the irony.  If it were only that easy.

Add "R-TH is only suitable for pre-existing townhome sites".

- First it was no more apartments.  Now it’s no more townhomes.  Are we going to be an exclusively single-family home city?

3.1.11

RM-2 change name to Small Condominiums/Apartments

- This is purely cosmetic but plays to the fears many people have about apartments. 

3.1.12

RM-3 change name to Large Condominiums/Apartments

- Another cosmetic change.

3.2.1

Building Types by District delete Carriage House from RS-18/RS-12

- If you are building on 18000 (.4 acres) and 12000 (.27 acres) sq ft lots, you won't be able to build a carriage house?  Really?  This is a building type that is VERY useful and VERY popular and is a great way to increase walkability. They sell VERY well in Vickery, they are selling well in Alstead.  I'd love to buy a home with a carriage house and alley parking someday but I don’t need .67 acres (apparently I will if I want to build in Roswell).  These lot sizes are VERY compatible with carriage houses.  So, carriage houses (aka accessory dwellings) will only be allowed on lots of .68 acres (30k sq ft) or larger?

 

delete Attached House entirely (allow where currently exist)

- This is discriminatory housing policy in my opinion.  Again, why would we eliminate a housing type from Roswell?  Is there an inherent problem with this type of building or is it a personal preference.

3.2.2

Detached House 43/87/30 Add "Maximum Density" (uses old density/HFA numbers) AG-43 = "0.5", RS-87 = "0.5", RS-30 = "1.45"

- Do we really need to add this language? Seriously.  The lot sizes already dictate density.

Add "Minumum heated floor area per unit SF" AG-43 = "n/a", RS-87 = 1800, RS-30 = 1600

- Is this really necessary? If I want to build a smaller home on a larger lot? Why shouldn't I be allowed to?

3.2.3

Detached House 18/12 Add "Maximum Density" (uses old density/HFA numbers) RS-18 = "2.42", RS-12 =

- Do we really need to add this language? Seriously.  The lot sizes already dictate density.

Initiation of UDC Text

Add "Minumum heated floor area per unit SF"RS-18 = 1500, RS-12 = 1200

- I guess we need to dictate square footage.

3.2.4 Detached House RS-9 Add "Maximum Density"

(density uses standard division of acre) RS-9 = 4.84

(rest of numbers are from old R-3A) Add "Minumum heated floor area per unit SF"

RS-9 = 1000

-          Thank you for letting me know that 9000 square feet fits into 1 acre 4.84 times.

change Lot Parameters

A. Lot width min 60' to 80'

B. Building coverage max 45% to 40%

change Principal Building Setbacks

D. Primary Street 20' to 35'

E. Side street (min) 20' to 30'

F. Side interior (min) 7' to 10'

G. Rear (min) 20' to 30'

- The new coverage and setback proposals are almost universally bad for redevelopment and for walkability.

3.2.5 Detached House CC/TH/RM2/RM3 delete RS-4 (allow where existing)

delete RS-6 (allow where existing)

delete R-TH (allow where existing)

delete R-CC

delete RM-2 (allow where existing)

delete RM-3 (allow where existing)

- This is quite a change and wholly unnecessary.

3.2.6 Carriage House delete RS-12/RS-18

- Why shouldn’t someone with a .4 acre lot or a .27 acre lot be able to build a carriage house? WHY?????

3.2.7 Attached House delete (allow where existing)

- Why?

3.2.8 Cottage Court delete entirely

- Why?

3.2.9 Townhouse delete (allow where existing)

- Why?

3.2.10 Walk-Up Flat delete (allow where existing)

- Why?

3.2.11 Stacked Flat delete (allow where existing)

- Why?

3.3.4 Bulk Plane measure base of 35 feet from existing street grade

- I don’t understand what this is trying to limit?  I’m sure it’s something but I’m just not sure.

3.3.4 B delete "or 150 feet from the protected district property line, whichever is less."

- I don’t understand what this is trying to limit?  I’m sure it’s something but I’m just not sure.

3.5 PRD no new PRD                  

- I guess we won’t have any more Martin’s Landings.  Is this being removed just because people didn’t like Sassafras?

Chapter 4

4.3.2 Detached House add density maximum of 4.84

Min lot size 9,000 SF

delete lot area, alley-loaded and lot width, alley-loaded

Min Building Coverage 40%

Add "Minumum heated floor area per unit SF" of 1,000

- I’m thinking they mean maximum building coverage of 40% given the theme of the rest of the document.  Whole

4.3.3 Carriage House delete entirely

-  No carriage houses allowed on nodes or corridors? Is there any reason for this?

4.3.4 Attached house delete entirely (allow where existing)

add Cottage Court add Cottage Court to Corridor/Node

with 5 unit density max and garage requirement

- Really, they added something?  Unfortunately 5 unit max is probably not going to make a very good cottage court but at least they’ll be required to have garages.

4.3.5 Townhouse add 5 unit density max (old R-THA = 5)

add min heated floor area 1,000

add Common Open Space (Res TH = 20%, 3.2.9)

- Is 5 really a realistic density number to get high quality townhome development?

4.3.5.1 D decrease building coverage max to 40%

- This is INSANE for townhomes

4.3.5.1    E increase unit width minimum to 24 ft

 

-          Where is this coming from?  Again, it limits diversity of housing stock and takes lower price point homes out of the market.  This, in my opinion, is discriminatory.

 

4.3.6 Walk-up Flat rename "Walk-up Condominium/Apartment"

add minimum heated floor area of 1,000 SF

- Cosmetic and wholly unnecessary.  Why the 1000 SF limit?  I’m not sure that is the right number for a 1 BR.  Is this a best practice or just a number pulled out of the air.

4.3.7 Stacked Flat rename "Stacked Condominium/Apartment"

require apts to be in mixed use building? No standard apt complex?

add minimum heated floor area of 1,000 SF

- Cosmetic and wholly unnecessary.  Why the 1000 SF limit?  I’m not sure that is the right number for a 1 BR.  Is this a best practice or just a number pulled out of the air.

4.3.10 Mixed Use Building Require first floor non-residential

- Is there a precedent on this or is it wishful thinking? I would LOVE to see this but I don’t think it’s a realistic requirement.

4.4.4 Bulk Plane measure base of 35 feet from existing street grade

4.4.4 B delete "or 150 feet from the protected district property line, whichever is less."

- I’m not sure what the two items above are trying to limit.

4-32 Use Chart Storage of vehicles - minimum lot size of 3/4 acre

-          I’m not sure what this is trying to limit.

Chapter 5

5.2.3 change to "During review of an application for rezoning or conditional use,

the following must be considered:"

5.2.3 A change "should" to "must"

- You should be kidding.  This is far to limiting cannot be universally applied to all situations.

add C Off Hwy 9: 2 story maximum at the street, additional height stepped back

 

- Why? This is ridiculous.

5.3.1 Building Type chart delete Carriage House from DR and DX

- Carriage house is very appropriate for DR and DX areas.

delete Attached House entirely

- Again, these areas are some of the most appropriate areas for the attached house building type

delete townhome from DH

- There are very appropriate applications of townhomes in the DH area

delete Stacked Flat from DR? (except Hwy 9?)

- Not sure why this is necessary and why the Hwy 9 exception is there as there is virtually no DR along hwy 9

5.3.2 Detached House - Lot add density maximum of 3.63

(all from old R-HIST) increase lot area minimum to 12,000 SF

- DOUBLING the minnimum lot size?  This is downtown.  It is the area where we should have the smallest lots.  We do not need quarter acre lots in our downtown.

decrease lot coverage to 40% (old R-HIST 35-60%)

- This is very bad for diversity of building type. Couple this with the increased lot size requirement and the increased recommended setbacks and you are going to significantly curtail ANY redevelopment in our downtown.

add minimum heated floor area of 1,200 SF

-          So, we have a larger minimum heated floor area in our downtown than we do in the rest of our city?  This makes no sense.

change Principal Building Setbacks

D. Primary Street 10' to 40'

- This is insane!!!!!!!!!  Quadrupling the setback? This is the downtown of our city.  Setbacks in downtowns are NOT and should not be 40 feet.  Small setbacks are one of the primary drivers of walkability.  Aside from the historic homes, not many of our houses in the historc district are 40' or even 30' setbacks.  Research shows that 10' setbacks from property line to front porch correlates to some of the happiest, convivial, most walkable communities.  Using Goulding as an exammple, setbacks are in the 10' to 20' range.

E. Side street (min) 10' to 30'

- See comment on D

F. Side interior (min) 5' to 10'

- See comment on E

G. Rear (min) 15' to 30'

- See comment on F

5.3.4 Carriage House in DH only

- Again, why? This is appropriate where we are zoned for DX and DR currently.

5.3.5 Attached House delete entirely (allow where exist)

- This should not be removed.

5.3.6 Cottage Court add 5 unit density max

- We need examples of successful cottage court style developments and whether 5 units is the appropriate limit.

add garage requirement to each unit

- Why should they be required to have a garage?  Is this personal preference?  Is it an unfounded fear of on-street parking?  Again, what is best practice here?  Also, shouldn't the market determine whether a garage is necessary?

5.3.7 Townhouse add 5 unit density max

- Is this the right number?  It seems that the magic number in these edits is an arbitrarily assigned 5 units which has everything to do with someone’s personal preference and nothing to do with the reality of building a quality product that will enhance our city. 

(all from old R-HIST) add min heated floor area 1,000

- Should this be dictated or should the market determine this?  We wouldn’t want some rogue developer coming in and building 300 square foot townhomes.

add Common Open Space (Res TH = 20%, 3.2.9)

- No real issue with this

5.3.7.1 Lot increase Site area to 12,000 SF

- Already covered this one.  That’s way too much of an increase.

increase site width to 85 FT

- That's a heck of an increase from 55'

5.3.7.1 D decrease building coverage max to 40%

- Significant decrease from 75%.

5.3.7.1 E increase unit width minimum to 24 ft

- 20' unit width can have great floorplans.  Georgetown even has very valuable townhomes that are 16' and that place hasn’t been run over with hoodlums or suffered from some sort of lack of appreciation for its historic architecture.

5.3.7.2 Placement Increase primary street setback 5 to 40 ft

increase side street setback 5 to 20 ft

increase side interior setback 5 to 10 ft

increase rear setback 20 to 30 ft

- These setback increases are insane in a downtown environment.

5.3.8 Walk-Up Condominiums/Apts make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

minimum heated floor area of 1,000 SF

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- What are the R-HIST setbacks?  Is this appropriate for a building of this type in a downtown environment

5.3.9 Stacked Flat make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

minimum heated floor area of 1,000 SF

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- Same questions as above.

5.3.10 Commercial House same dimensions as R-HIST

- Same questions as above.

5.3.11 Single-story Shopfront make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- Same questions as above.

5.3.12 Mixed Use Building make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- Same questions as above.

5.3.13 General Building make all setbacks same as R-HIST (except on Hwy 9)

BTZ only applies on Hwy 9

- Same questions as above.

5.4.4 Bulk Plane measure base of 35 feet from existing street grade

- Still not fully understanding what we are changing on this and why.

5.4.4 B delete "or 150 feet from the protected district property line, whichever is less."

- Still not fully understanding what we are changing and why.

5-30 Use Chart Storage of vehicles - minimum lot size of 3/4 acre

- What would qualify as storage of vehicles?

 

Chapter 6

6.3.2 Townhouse add 5 unit density max

- Is this 5 units per acre or is it 5 units in a single building. Either way, it is not necessary.  Lot coverage will dictate this.  Also, where did we land on 5 units?  Is it the right number to ensure coherent development or is it someone's personal preference?

add min heated floor area 1,000

- Why?  Shouldn't the market determine how many square feet buyers want to purchase?

increase unit width minimum to 24 ft

- Is there a need for this?  There are numerous 20' width floorplans for townhomes that are excellent.  A smaller width may be more accessible for lower income home buyers.

6.3.7 Mixed Use Building Require first floor non-residential

- This may be unrealistic.  I think a percentage requirement might be appropriate but there may not be a market for Mixed-Use or street level re

 

6.4.4 Bulk Plane measure base of 35 feet from existing street grade

- What does this mean?

6.4.4          B delete "or 150 feet from the protected district property line, whichever is less."

 

-          I’m not sure what this means?

Chapter 10

10.2.3 Neighborhood Compatibility delete all A buffers

- Why?

10.2.4 Buffers delete Type A buffer

- Why?

Chapter 12

Environmental Protection

12.1.2 A 4 Specimen Trees also include specimen trees on abutting properties with CRZ on property

- How will this be determined?

12.1.3 Tree Removal B.2 b specimen tree value, increase from $100 to amount TBD

- What is best practice here?

B.3 b removed without approval, increase from $1,000 to amount TBD

- What is best practice here?

12.1.6 Tree Replacement B. Calculation of Replacement Tree Density - delete 3" and 4"

- I support this change

C.1 Replacement tree size - replace 3 with 5

- I support this change

C.2 Understory tree size - replace 2 with 3

- I support this change

Chapter 13

13.1 Summary of Review Authority chart Move Preliminary Plat from PC to Council

Make all elements "Yes" on Web public notice

-          I think I’m fine with this but what is the level of effort from city staff?

Make all elements "Yes" on Published

- Where would these be published and what is the LOE from city staff?

13.3.4 A Published Notice notice of all 3 meetings (Neighborhood/PC/Public hearing)

published in Newspaper of Record at least 30 days prior to Neighborhood meeting

-          Is 30 days realistic?  How many have been published within the 15-29 day range?

 

13.3.4 B Web Notice also posted on website at least 30 days prior to Neighborhood meeting

-          Is 30 days realistic?  How many have been published within the 15-29 day range?

13.3.4 D Mailed Notice Increase 300 ft to 1000 ft and include notification of HOA of any subdivision

touched within that 1000 ft

Notice mailed at least 30 days prior to Neighborhood meeting

-          What is the increase in cost and is the 30 day period realistic.  How many have been published within the 15-29 day range?

13.4.6 C Neighborhood Presentation 2 delete "no minutes" - add: Record meeting and make public

add: follow format provided by staff

- This is a good suggestion.

13.4.6 F Council public hearing allow automatic deferral after PC without Council hearing or 65 day clock stops with applicant requested deferral??

- This is a good suggestion.

13.5.11 Preliminary Plat move all from PC to Council

- Why have a Planning Commission?

13.6.8 Notice (Major Design Plan) require notice posted on website (not just current DRB agenda)

-          This is a good suggestion.

13.6.12 A 1 Setback Modification reduce 20% reduction to 10%

- So, you’re increasing the setbacks by up to 300% (10’ to 40’ in some cases) but you’re allowing staff to have discretion on 4’.  As with everything suggested so far related to setbacks this is regressive, and plane insane.

13.7.10 Major Certificate Review HPC - any changes regardless of source or request must be submitted and available online 5 business days before mtg

- Still dealing with fallout from Vickers Village I guess.  I don’t really have a big problem with this suggestion but I’d like to know if other HPCs in the state adhere to this standard.

HPC - in the event of work sessions with applicant, such meetings must be held in a public room, be recorded and such recordings made available online.

- How many work sessions occur? Is this common practice in other HPCs? What is the level of effort for staff to make this happen?  This seems like it’s a bit burdensome.

13.9.2 Administrative Variances change all hard numbers to 10%

- Is 10% the right number?  What types of administrative variances have been historically granted?

13.11.2 A BZA authorized to approve add "up to 10% variance in addition to any variance granted by the Zoning Dir"

- Is 10% the right number?  What types of administrative variances have been historically granted?

2015 - What Happened in Roswell

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.

Riverwalk Village

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.

Vickers Village

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

 image: Frontdoor Communities

image: Frontdoor Communities

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.

Sasafrass

 Revised site plan that removed townhomes and reduced overall density to 3.7 units per acre.

Revised site plan that removed townhomes and reduced overall density to 3.7 units per acre.

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

 image: Lennar Multifamily

image: Lennar Multifamily

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

 image: Monte Hewett Homes

image: Monte Hewett Homes

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

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.

Southern Skillet  

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

 image: ajc.com

image: ajc.com

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

 Site plan for 835 Mimosa

Site plan for 835 Mimosa

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.

 View of the proposed Dolvin House project from Bulloch Avenue.  Three new homes would have faced Bulloch and two would have been behind these facing inward on a small park that would connect to the sidewalk along 120.

View of the proposed Dolvin House project from Bulloch Avenue.  Three new homes would have faced Bulloch and two would have been behind these facing inward on a small park that would connect to the sidewalk along 120.

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

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

 image: Birghtwater Homes

image: Birghtwater Homes

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

 Just look at all those no parking signs.

Just look at all those no parking signs.

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.

Brewery Mania

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

 image: Frontdoor Communities

image: Frontdoor Communities

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

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. 

Fouts Road

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.  

Storage Wars

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.

Sprouts

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.

2016

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!

What New Urban Roswell Stands For... and Against

I've taken a lot of heat lately for my support of several developments that have attracted the ire of some.  I've been very vocal about the merits of Vickers Village and the proposed development at Chaffin and Hembree.  I've been mixed but more positive than negative on the Goulding development.  I've argued my point that these developments are good in the long run for Roswell.  All three of them increase connectivity, improve walkability, add unique housing stock and either mix housing types or mix uses.  These are all critical components of building truly walkable cities and we need them everywhere not just in the historic district.

The Facebook world has gotten interesting (I guess it always has been) with some serious and not-so-serious debates going on.  Some have called me out as a hypocrite and a fake for daring to drive my car.  Do I support building a more walkable city where we all can make fewer trips by car?  Yes.  Does that mean that I have to walk everywhere I go?  That doesn't seem reasonable to me and Historic Roswell isn't exactly a walker's paradise yet.

I've been told to move out of Roswell because I referenced developments outside of Roswell that I think are remarkable.  I think everyone has been to places or seen places that they would like to see emulated in some way in their hometown.  Places that aren't Roswell that I really like: Seaside, Rosemary Beach, Alys Beach, Charleston, Savannah, Serenbe, The Waters, Hampstead Village, Vickery Village, Virginia Highlands, Grant Park...

I believe I have stayed consistent in my message but I want to clarify.  New Urban Roswell exists to bring attention to good and bad development while poking some fun at some of the ridiculousness that finds its way into the built environment.

Here's what New Urban Roswell stands for.

  1. The Charter for the Congress for the New Urbanism - "We stand for the restoration of existing urban centers and towns within coherent metropolitan regions, the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy." Read the full charter
  2. Building More Walkable Neighborhoods that Reduce Our Dependence on Cars - New development should have connectivity requirements and give people the opportunity to walk or bike for at least some of their daily needs.
  3. Mixed-Use Development - Where appropriate, new development should have a mix of uses either vertical or horizontal.
  4. Quality Architecture - High quality architecture should be a requirement regardless of the type of building.  There is far too much garbage that gets built in this world and I view architecture as one of the most lasting and influential art forms.  I understand that not every development will be of Lew Oliver quality but that is my gold standard for our city and ultimately is my measuring stick.
  5. Supporting the Expansion of MARTA Rail into North Fulton - It's time.  Even if funding were secured and the effort started today, we wouldn't see a station at Holcomb Bridge for another 8-10 years. It's time to get started.
  6. Adding Street and Trail Connectivity - Building more connections will make getting around our city a more pleasurable experience by car, bike or foot.  Adding trails along our creek beds and continuing to complete our Roswell Loop network should be top priorities for the city.
  7. Narrow lanes and Safe Streets - Narrow lanes make streets safer.  We should adopt a 10.5' maximum lane width for any street with residential uses.  Additionally, we should adopt a 25mph speed limit for any street with residential uses and offer exceptions for some streets to 30mph.
  8. Quality Zoning - The UDC is a step in the right direction. It by no means gets every parcel right.  We should continue to move toward more of a form based code.
  9. Historic District Master Plan - This city should have a master plan for the historic district.  The DPZ plan was accepted but not adopted.  We need to go further.
  10. City Green and Pocket Parks - The City Green should be built and placed as a top priority.  I also support having a pocket park within a 10 minute walk of every home in Roswell.  We have plenty of large destination parks but not nearly enough of the Sloan Street variety.
  11. Hiring a Town Architect - Our design by committee approach is a bit much.  There are far too many chefs in the kitchen when projects are discussed. Staff, Planning Commission, Design Review Board, Historic Preservation Commission and City Council could be involved in design guidance and in some cases mandates for projects.  A town architect would help drive coherence and consistency in the process and outcomes.

So, that's a solid list of what New Urban Roswell stands for. Now, there are some things that New Urban Roswell stands firmly against. I've heard, read and seen far too much hyperbole, misinformation, conjecture and flat out untruth about the developments I've supported.  There has also been a great deal of libel tossed out about the people behind the developments as well as the the people who represent our city on the city council.  I don't stand for that and I also don't stand for the following:

  1. Sprawl - Inefficient use of land is, quite frankly, shameful and I firmly stand against it.  I loved a comment from someone on my Facebook page that we don't need "urban sprawl" like the Chaffin/Hembree development.  I'd like to point out that you live in "urban sprawl" and that the Chaffin/Hembree development is actually less sprawling than the surrounding area and it's exactly the type of 'urbanism' that helps address the ills of "urban sprawl."
  2. Single-Use Subdivisions - We need to build a mix of uses into our places.  Otherwise, we continue to perpetuate the sprawling, car-culture that creates the mess we live in.
  3. Monocultures of Housing Types - Any single-use subdivision that lacks a diversity of housing types is a monoculture that adds nothing to the unique character of our or any other city.  What they do effectively do is make the production process easier and faster so that developers and builders can get in and get out quickly. 
  4. Townhomes Without Towns - Townhomes have a place.  They can shape streets in great mixed-use neighborhoods.  They can accentuate neighborhoods with a mix of housing types.  However, they should never be stand alone subdivisions inserted on a parcel for the sole intent of maximizing the residential yield of a property.  This happens way too much in Roswell.
  5. Gated Subdivisions - Yes, I live in one and would take the gates and fences down if it were up to me.  That said, they cut off connectivity and create dead zones and superblocks that hinder walkability and good urbanism.
  6. Cul-de-sacs - We have over 1300 Cul-de-sacs or Dead Ends in Roswell.  This is a significant contributor to our notoriously bad traffic because of a lack of connectivity between neighborhoods.  Cul-de-sacs should be allowed where geographically appropriate but nowhere else. 
  7. Uninformed Opinions Masquerading as Fact - It's okay to oppose something because you don't like it or to oppose something because there is factual data to support your decision.  However, opinions masquerading as fact are non-starters in my book.  If you say something will kill property values, prove it.  If you say a development will cause additional traffic, tell me how much.  If you say a new development will lower your quality of life, umm... you may want to reevaluate some things.
  8. Redundant and Unnecessary Road Signs - I almost forgot my Stop the Madness campaign. We need to rid our city of all the ridiculous and unnecessary signs that are polluting our landscape.  

So, there you have it.  I'm in favor of building more lovable places with a diverse mix of housing types and uses that are safer for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians where people don't have to get in their cars to live their lives.

 

  

Are You Red? - Are you Sure?

The opposition to development in Roswell is getting pretty heated right now.  There are actually (I know some of you can't believe it) several projects active or planned that I find appalling.  However, I had to take some time to call a recent article (if you can call it that) concerning opposition to a project in Roswell out as pure tabloid garbage.

Let's not pretend that this Red Shirts on the Move rant in the Alpharetta - Roswell Review & News is remotely close to journalism.  This post is hysterical (in more ways than one), factually inaccurate, aside from it's portrayal of the opposition to this project, and logically inconsistent.  I just couldn't resist digging into some of the meaty morsels of journalistic integrity..

"..more than 225 residents who gathered to express concern, frustration and anger over a rezoning proposal for a 113-unit subdivision to go up in the middle one of Roswell's most attractive and livable neighborhoods. If approved by the city, the new development will replace nine single-family homes on 21 acres at Hembree and Chaffin Roads, with mainly townhouses and small cottage homes."

Seems straightforward at first glance but it implies that the new "subdivision" is replacing a "neighborhood" and that the new "subdivision" wouldn't be "attractive and livable." For those who aren't familiar, the developers are proposing a project inspired by Vickery Village in Cumming which is one of the most attractive neighborhoods in the Metro Area and HIGHLY Livable.  Additionally, the developers live in two of the nine existing homes and plan to live in the new development.  

 Site plan with a mix of housing types and street connections that help disperse auto trips more effectively whil also adding walkable connections for neighboring properties to more easily and safely walk and bike around the area.

Site plan with a mix of housing types and street connections that help disperse auto trips more effectively whil also adding walkable connections for neighboring properties to more easily and safely walk and bike around the area.

This development is trying to create a natural neighborhood feel that has different types of homes next to each other.  This is a novel idea for the suburbs but it's actually the way human civilizations were built for centuries before we went off the deep end with cars and zoning.  I think the statement "Mainly townhouse and small cottage homes" omits some key details of the plan.  There are actually four 'main' types of homes in this development that deserve mention.  

There are 15 lots facing Hembree and Chaffin which will be single family and will have architecture that tries to achieve a transition from the neighboring properties as you work your way into the development.

 Homes that would line Hembree and Chaffin.  Worthy of Red shirts?  Not my personal style but insanely better than what's there today.

Homes that would line Hembree and Chaffin.  Worthy of Red shirts?  Not my personal style but insanely better than what's there today.

There are 23 internal lots that will be single family homes.  These will be inspired by architecture in Vickery Village and what you would see in Serenbe, Historic Norcross or Glenwood Park.  

 A sample of the single family homes on the interior of the development.  This is more up my alley.  Red shirt worthy?

A sample of the single family homes on the interior of the development.  This is more up my alley.  Red shirt worthy?

The cottage courts or court yard homes would total 55 and would be similarly inspired as the 23 internal lots.

 A sample of what the courtyard homes could look like.  I think some people wearing red might actually like moving into one of these when they decide to downsize a bit.

A sample of what the courtyard homes could look like.  I think some people wearing red might actually like moving into one of these when they decide to downsize a bit.

Finally, there would be 20 townhouse units.  I guess 66% could qualify as "Mainly townhouse and small cottage homes," but leaving out the other 34% is a bit one sided.  

 Pretty standard townhome product but this is just to illustrate the concept.  Nothing overly bad about these.

Pretty standard townhome product but this is just to illustrate the concept.  Nothing overly bad about these.

Moving on...

"The proposal was made possible by changes in Roswell's zoning code with the adoption of the UDC (Unified Development Code) that was voted in by the City Council in 2014."

This is downright false.  UDC or no UDC, the developers could have proposed this project.  What the developers are requesting is outside of what the UDC zoning allows.  HENCE the rezoning request.  This statement makes it sound like developers are emboldened by the UDC to request higher density and then implies that the City Council is to blame for making this possible.  REALLY?  The City Council votes a UDC in that keeps the zoning largely the same on these properties and is now being blamed when a developer asks for a zoning variance.  That's shameful and eliminates any journalistic integrity that existed.

Still in the third paragraph..

It has ignited a strong firestorm among residents who believe that high-density housing in established neighborhoods with no capacity to expand infrastructure to support that level of runaway growth threatens to alter the character, quality, and value of all of Roswell's neighborhoods.

This statement starts off fair enough but ends taking the reader on a trip to fantasy land.  First, let's look at the "high-density" statement.  Current zoning allows about 1.5 homes per acre.  This request would yield a little over 5.  That is 'higher-density' but it's a far cry from any rational definition of "high-density."  Higher-density does not equal "High-Density."  

Second, let's look at the "no capacity" claim.  Is there anything to support this type of hysterical opinion?  Traffic studies on this project showed an increase in trips (that's obvious) but no significant increase in congestion.  The road network can easily handle this level of development. EASILY. The city looks at impacts to infrastructure and schools and will make informed recommendations to the developers and to the council on what needs to be done to address any real concerns.  Reds need to stop deluding themselves that our city is doing nothing and sitting back getting railroaded by developers who then get a pass from our 'density-thirsty' city council.  I am constantly amazed by how much pushback developers get from the city staff on the details of projects before there is ever even a public hearing.  These details are vetted and they are vetted in EXCRUCIATING detail.  It would be enlightening to see just how many projects don't even make it to the public meeting portion of the process exactly because our staff IS paying attention to these details.

Third, there is a "level of runaway growth" threatening to "alter the character, quality and value of all of Roswell's neighborhoods."  Well, we are in the middle of a development cycle and fortunately we live in an area where businesses, investors and developers want to put capital to work.  Would it be better to live in a place where people didn't want to put money to work?  A lack of quality redevelopment is what the author and Reds should be concerned with when they say this might threaten the character, quality and value of ALL of Roswell's Neighborhoods.  Seriously, how could you print a statement like that?  The only thing that could be classified as "runaway" here is the author's imagination.  JUST WOW!

Some residents were quick to point out that three City Council seats will be decided in local elections November 3, that the two incumbents running voted yes for UDC, and it was this vote that makes projects like this rezoning possible.

This resident is quick to point out that pigs don't fly, leprechauns aren't real and that dragons don't exist.  The logical implication of this statement is that the UDC is allowing this request and that if we oppose this project as well as 'run-away high-density' development then we should punish the council for voting for the UDC by electing Horton and Palermo.  

The funny thing is...

THE UDC IS ACTUALLY DOING EXACTLY WHAT THE REDS WANT.   

It is preventing developers from building density in areas that aren't zoned for it.  They have to ask permission.  This is no different than previous zoning codes.  Rezoning requests weren't invented by the UDC and they aren't prohibited by the UDC.  That type of zoning would not hold up in court and quite frankly it would be un-American to prohibit a property owner from asking for a variance, rezoning, etc.  

What I find so interesting about the fierce opposition to this project is the fact that the reds are cutting off their noses..  The current homes on the property in question are largely unmarketable and are currently investment properties or stand to be in the next 3-5 years given their demographics while these homes would be new, high-quality and unique to the area.  

If this rezoning doesn't get approved, there is a distinct possibility that no development will happen which essentially means this section of Chaffin and Hembree could soon be lined by investor owned properties that will not be redeveloped for years.  The properties aren't attractive for redevelopment under the current zoning and investors don't quickly kill their cash cows.  So, you might not have any additional traffic but you might get some stubborn investment properties that don't juxtapose so nicely with neighboring subdivisions. Be careful what you wear red for.

If there is this much opposition to a quality development of this nature, then I've lost hope that any development of quality can be achieved outside the historic district in this city.  I guess it would be preferable to get a tract home developer to come in and scrape the land, build homogenous product at a lower density and leave us with another unconnected subdivision that makes zero effort to blend in with its neighbors.  But, that is the conventional way that we've come to know and love.  I'm doubtful we'd see any red at that neighborhood meeting.

Riverwalk Village: The Site Plan

I was able to get a copy of the site plan today for Riverwalk Village and it looks pretty darn good.  I'm seeing a lot more pros than cons as I dig in.  It utilizes the land and geography nicely and puts appropriate development in the appropriate place.  Here's the plan overlaid on Google Maps.

There are 16 different sections broken out into 7 different categories, each with a slightly different intent and purpose.  I think they have largely gotten these right.  Here are the descriptions for each according to the site plan along with my commentary.

  • A1-A2 - Office District - This area is well located along the western edge to place it closest to 400 which was an intentional decision by the developer to keep the residential and retail further away from the highway.  I'm curious about it being further south on the site though as there will be a lot of commuters driving through to get to the offices.  That could be a positive for the retail and it would be great to be able to get out of the office and walk to the river during lunch break.
  • B1 - Medium Density Residential (Townhomes & Single Family) - The residential is toned down from the East Roswell/Charlie Brown proposal from 2007.  In fact, there are roughly half the number of units coming down to 1500+ from 3000.  I don't see any single family on the site plan but the description calls for it.  We'll see if that happens.  I really like that this B1 parcel it is situated close to the river and what will eventually be more parks and trails in Riverwalk Village.
  • C1-C8 - Mixed Use Development District (Residential & Non-Residential Uses, Such as Retail, Restaurant, Civic, Office, Multi-Family, Entertainment) - This one is a bit tough to envision but the obvious main point is that it will front what appears to be a Main Street that bisects the new development.  This could create a great walkable street on the east side of town that currently has nothing at all close to a walkable urban street.  Or.. It could end up looking plasticy and contrived like Town Brookhaven.  It will hopefully take its inspiration from Serenbe, Downtown Woodstock and Glenwood Park.  I like that there will be a small bridge crossing the lake.
  • D1 (with alternate) - School or Alternate Residential District - This one is well played.  The developer has to expect that their largest opposition is going to come from Martins Landing.  This part of the property abuts 21 single family homes along Trailmore Dr & Trailmore Pl.  So, they place a school that will cater to children with disabilities on the adjacent property.  If for some reason, there is enough objection to the school, they have prepared option two which will be townhomes and multi-family from what I can tell. The one thing that seems a bit ridiculous is that the multi-family and the townhomes each have their own entrance/exit on to Old Alabama.  There should be street connectivity between the properties.
  • E1-E2 - Entertainment District (Restaurant, Retail, Grocery, Multi-Family) - Everyone loves entertainment.  The lone rendering which I shared in my first post on Riverwalk is, from what I can tell along the lake in what looks to be E1.  They've done an excellent job putting this area next to the lake and it appears they will utilize the water in an urban fashion actually building right up to it which differs significantly from most modern development which caters to the environmental memes of water quality protection at all costs.  (One reason we can't develop much at all along the Chattahoochee).  I'm thinking the water in the lake won't be as blue as the rendering depicts though. Whatever they've done, it sure does attract a lot of Rendering People though.  Be prepared to be Entertained!
  • F1 - Hotel District (Hotel, Civic, Multi-Family) - The articles and PR releases floating around are calling for a ~200 key hotel.  That would give this new hotel 28 more rooms than the Doubletree.  It will be positioned directly on the little lake.  Once again, well thought out.  Roswell needs this.  Period!
  • Greenspace - (Parks, Trails, Landscaping) - This is a huge plus for this development and I sure hope they get it right.  There is a real opportunity to differentiate the development from virtually any other in Atlanta.  Mixed-Use with a connection to the Chattahoochee River and the Roswell Riverside Trail.  Wow!  I'd like to see the city jump on the opportunity to finally connect the Big Creek Greenway to the River by somehow extending the trail from Big Creek Park down through this project and to the River.  There aren't many details yet on the greenspace but given what they are doing with the rest of the property, I'm thinking this will be a win.

Our next post will take a look at transportation and potential traffic issues and after that, we'll hypothesize on what this means for Roswell and in particular, the Historic District given that it will have Avalon, Alpharetta City Center and now Riverwalk Village to compete with.

WTF Roswell?

I've been wondering a few things lately.. I'm just going to get this all out in one post.

Why don't we partner more with non-profits such as the Trust for Public Land & the PATH foundation?  We could make a lot of things happen a lot faster if we decided to partner with these organizations.  The PATH Foundation would be a great partner for the Rowell Loop and the TPL might have some interest in helping us add park land along the River.  I'm just sayin.

What in the world was the city doing redesigning the city green plan behind the scenes? This one really bugs me.  We have a plan.  It's a really good one.  There are almost 600 supporters of the plan.  

Why in the world is the city having an internal charrette to look at alternative designs?  The DDA hired JB+a to do conceptual design work.  These are the same guys that designed Suwanee's Town Center.  No offense to staff, but I think the JB+a guys have a pretty good track record at desiging urban parks.  

Why wouldn't the city get significantly more involved in the architecture of the new school?  They get into intricate nuances on irrelevant buildings but but the city seems to be indifferent when the largest building to be built in Roswell in the last 10-15 years comes along.  It's run of the mill architecure that looks just like a handful of other schools recently constructed or currently being built in Fulton County.  I'm shocked that we didn't even ask if we could get some different colors that might be more fitting for Roswell.  It's mind bottling.  

Why do we give business owners on Canton St shit when they want to add harmless accents to their shopfronts?  Seriously guys.  A couple tasteful shutters by an entrance, some colorful shade curtains.  I happen to love the Mac McGee paint job but man.. how did they get that done when people who have all but made Canton St what it is want to make small, inconsequential tweaks have to go through hell and then can't do what they want to do?

Why can't we figure out the HBR/400 SE quadrant?  Someone grow a pair and just call it what it is.  It is the most valuable piece of land in Roswell that is going to be developed at some point and guess what.. there will be traffic and tall buildings and transit and all of the things that those loud people over there just can't stand.  

Why do we have over 1300 dead ends or cul-de-sacs in our city?  Seriously... that's whole lot of cul-de-sac.  What it does is force essentially EVERY driver on to Holcomb Bridge Road.

WTF is up with Stormwater?  If we can't figure this out, we are going to see development really slow down in the historic district.

WHY.. WHY..  WHY.. can't we get the damn sidewalks between the square and City Hall fixed?  This is the heart of our city and the sidewalks along the main thoroughfare are abysmal.

 

Does anyone here not understand that Alpharetta is about to eat North Fulton's collective lunch?  Hey Milton, Johns Creek & Roswell..  Alpharetta is going to eat your lunch.  Just thought I'd let you know.

I bet you thought I'd gripe about road signs.. I'm resigned to the fact that our governments will continue to treat all citizens as if they are complete and utter imbeciles.  

There.. I've said it.  I can now get on with my life.

 

 

East West Alley Master Plan - Public Input Wanted

The public meeting for the East West Alley Master Plan is next week on 6/17.  Activating our alleys is an incredibly efficient way to expand the vitality of our Canton Street area.  There are numerous examples of successful alley conversions worldwide but I really like some of the concepts illustrated by the Alley Network Project.   They are small tight places that make you feel cozy.  They can be fantastic places for art installations.  And most importantly, they enhance connectivty and thus walkability and provide opportunities for creative reuse of space. So, if you want to add more vitality around Canton Street and continue to build our downtown, try to attend.  

My one piece of feedback is that we need to make these the first examples of active "Shared Space" or Woonerfs in the metro area.  

Here's the flyer.

East Roswell Development Update

East Roswell has gotten a little busier lately.  A couple projects caught my eye as interesting.  They are both essentially at the Scott Rd intersection.  The first is the Centenniel Walk development that previously went bust in the mid aughts due to the great recession.  It has been resurreced by John Weiland Homes and is now slated to have 29 townhomes and 80 single family homes. I like this project because it is filling in an area that is prime for a walkable development.  It could use a little more mixed-use but will have a small retail component at the Eves Rd/HBR corner.

The second is a yet to be named subdivision that is just across HBR from Centenniel Walk.  The entrance will create a 4 way intersection at Scott Rd and it the new road will connect to 6 Branches Drive in Martins Landing.  This will create an additional connection and whittle just a little bit off the existing superblock.  This development will have 44 townhomes and 46 single family residences.  

Here's what that area could look like in a couple years.

West Roswell Elementary Update - Community Meeting Monday 3/3

It's been a while since I've seen or heard any info on this one but it looks like Fulton County is about to get the ball rolling on the new elementary school.  There will be a community meeting on Monday, 3/3 at 630pm at Roswell North Elementary School to discuss school construction and design.  Below is a letter to parents of Esther Jackson Elementary School parents from principal Jennifer Cassidy.

Dear Parents,

On Monday, March 3, 2014 at 6:30 PM a community meeting will be held to discuss the new West Roswell Area Elementary School. This new school will serve as the temporary site for EJ as our school is being rebuilt. The meeting will be held at Roswell North Elementary School.  If you would like to attend to hear information about our temporary site, please read the information below. At this time, there is not any specific information available about the design of the new building on our Esther Jackson site. The replacement building for EJ will not be discussed at this meeting. We will update our school website with new information about our site as it becomes available.

Sincerely,

Jennifer Cassidy, Principal

School construction and design to be discussed at community meeting

Construction and design information for three new elementary schools will be presented at specially held community meetings the first week of March. The schools are part of Fulton County Schools’ five-year eSPLOST capital program that is building new schools, funding renovations and additions, and supporting new technology in classrooms.

School system representatives will be on hand to discuss each school’s special features. Also present will be the school architects as well as system staff members representing construction management and facilities planning. The meetings will not focus on attendance boundaries or redistricting.

West Roswell Area Elementary School
March 3, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Held at Roswell North Elementary School (10525 Woodstock Road, Roswell)


The West Roswell Area Elementary School (official name to be determined) will be located at the intersection of Alpharetta Street and Thomas Drive in Roswell. The shopping center and residences currently at the site will be demolished to make room for the new school, which will initially open in August 2015 as the temporary home of Esther Jackson Elementary School. Esther Jackson Elementary is scheduled for replacement, and once it is demolished and rebuilt on its site, the West Roswell school will permanently open to students in August 2016.

Roswell Town Green Renderings

The DDA presented their vison for the Roswell Town Green to the City Council and what was probably an audience of 40+ citizens and city staff this evening.  Monica Hagewood and Dave Schmit of the DDA took the council and audience through the vision for the project and some of the key economic numbers that they feel justify the project. 

In all, the project would be completed in three phases and would cost an estimated $12.1 million.  This seems steep but when you weigh it against the expected private investment that the DDA feels it would spur on, it starts to look like a bargain.  They feel that this redevelopment could result in an additional $200+ million in investment in the core of our city.  These are estimates but they are being done by industry veterans and thus should have some credibility.  

The renderings were nice.  They illustrated the proposed vision but the DDA was careful to remind the audience that these are conceptual to illustrate the vision and that many of the fine details would need to be worked out as the project progresses.  Here are the illustrations.

 

 

 

 

 

images: Roswell Downton Development Authority

 

Get Social.. Follow NewUrbanRoswell on Twitter and Facebook