ROSWELL, Ga. -- Close to 50 people gathered in City Hall Monday for an update on plans for the first phase of Roswell’s City Green project, a $6 million plan to create a community gathering space bridging the city’s government center and its Historic District.
The meeting was a special work session with the City Council and members of the Recreation Commission, but it drew a sizeable crowd of residents who waited until the last to weigh in on the topic. Proponents of the project say an investment in the city’s center is long overdue, and they expect it will provide a venue for community events, opening up more parking for visitors to the Historic District. Opponents have criticized the price tag and have questioned whether the project would actually help or compete with local businesses.
Chris Holley from Pieper O’Brien Herr Architects presented design sketches for four elements within the City Green complex: the promenade, pavilions, shade structures and gateway structures.
Among all the choices offered, members of the City Council and Mayor Jere Wood leaned toward a traditional design modeled after the 1845 farm home on the Smith Plantation.
“The key is something that is fits in with the Smith House because that’s the biggest influence,” Wood said. “I think it would be easier to make our citizens happy if we get something traditional.”
Holley said plans call for from three to four small structures along the promenade, ideally small open structures offering seating and shade. He offered three style choices for the much larger pavilion structure, each rectangular with bench tables, a fireplace and a roof supported by posts and beams. Bathrooms would be located at the back.
There were also three designs offered for two gateways leading from the City Green to Canton Street. Each met with some approval, although the consensus appeared to favor a design that incorporated some sort of art within the arch.
One point of contention among councilmembers and Recreation Commission members were plans for a shade structure to shroud the Green. The architects proposed a thin drape that could extend over the Green and could be anchored on light poles running down the sides of the park.
The “shade sail” could be put up for special events to provide attendees some relief from the sun, especially in summer.
“The shade sails would only be there for a week at a time,” said John Fish of jB+a Planning, the general contractor for the City Green project. “If you’re going to have a Memorial Day festival, if you’re going to have a two-or-three-day festival, you’d put this up a few days in advance.”
The structure would only be up a handful of days throughout the year, he said.
But, City Councilman Donald Horton said he couldn’t envision people lounging around on the Green in summertime without some shade element.
“Trees would be better,” he said.
Others suggested the open green space be narrowed, allowing more room for trees to border the area.
Recreation Commission members also pointed out they would like to see some sort of safety barrier to slow pedestrian traffic from the Greenway onto Canton Street. They said they want to ensure that children are not running from the promenade into the busy street.
Wood turned over the last part of the meeting to the public.
While most of the comments were supportive of the plan, others questioned the number of trees to be felled for a green space that might only receive occasional use. There were also questions about how inclusive the plan was, claiming not all Historic District businesses would reap benefits.
However, Ryan Pernice, chairman of the Historic Roswell Business Association, said the efforts he’s seen from city leaders gives him assurance.
“I want to offer a vote of confidence in support for this process,” Pernice said. “The business community of the Historic District and I personally believe this is hugely important in revitalizing the entire Historic District.”
Pernice said there are a lot of moving pieces in a plan as grand in scale as the City Green, but the important thing is to hear all sides.
“But, this project needs to happen,” he said.