Source: NorthFulton.com

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Residents learn what's ‘next’ for Roswell
Walkable mixed-use communities wave of future

by JADE RODGERS

March 06, 2013

At the Feb. 28 meeting of Roswell Next, Roswell Transportation Director Steve Acenbrak joined three other movers and shakers of Roswell to update the community on Roswell’s future. In the rear, from left, are urban planner Lew Oliver, Roswell Councilwoman Nancy Diamond and developer Dave Schmit. JADE RODGERS.
ROSWELL, Ga. - Roswell Next, the city's newest civic group, gathered residents at the Historic Cottage Feb. 28 for its second meeting for "engaging the community" in the future of Roswell. Four representatives of the community discussed what Roswell has been and what they hope it will be.

Developers Dave Schmit, of Macauley and Schmit, provided residents with the big picture. Having been part of building 12,000 homes in the area, Schmit maintains that the social makeup of Roswell is changing.

"Diversity creates great opportunities if we embrace it," he said.

The population is shifting away from traditional homes with two cars and a picket fence. The new trend is toward baby boomers who are downsizing and young professionals looking for apartments in an urban environment instead of house in the 'burbs.

Mixed-use is the name of the game, he said, with housing on top of retail and offices. Walkability is stressed.

Roswell has been proactive in the creation of new codes that protect the value of its land, Schmit said. But now the city faces the challenge of maintaining land quality in the face of booming development.

Roswell Councilwoman Nancy Diamond presented the success of Roswell's business community.

Diamond explained the necessity for a new "organization that would be representative of all types of businesses, big and small."

That organization is the Roswell Business Alliance, which has a goal that no business in the city will be without a voice. The RBA will lead new businesses step-by-step as they work to get open in the city. And it eases the door open for established businesses to make their needs known to the city.

"Economic development is a team sport," she said.

Steve Acenbrak, director of the Roswell Department of Transportation, told how his department is innovating in transportation throughout the city with such improvements as investing in roundabouts and pedestrian structures.

Acenbrak aims to rejuvenate Roswell roads to give its residents a sense of place.

"It's a chess game where everyone gets accommodated," Acenbrak said.

Lew Oliver, nationally known urban planner and owner of Whole Town Solutions, continued in the same vein as he shared his ultimate goal to give Roswell residents "a sense of place."

Oliver addressed the "urbanism" of the city in which residents seek out small-town living that is on a more human scale.

"We are a 'village' of almost 100,000," he joked.

Oliver aims to create "soulful centers for social engagement" where Roswell occupants can invest their time. People are escaping the suburbs to return to the small towns that were more walkable.

Instead of driving to the cleaners, driving to a restaurant, driving to a park and driving to work, why not live where all of these are within a block of where you live? People are willing to give up a four-bedroom home for a smaller living space, because they will do more "living" outside the home.

It has the added benefit of reducing the community footprint and cutting infrastructure costs, which in turn saves tax dollars.

Roswell Next is a social and civic group for professionals in North Fulton. They meet monthly.

For more about Roswell Next, visit them online at www.roswellnext.org.