Roswell seeks redevelopment, walkability in 2014

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In 2014, Roswell will see a new elementary school on Ga. 9, redevelopment of the Frazier Street apartments, new townhomes behind City Hall, detached houses west of Ga. 9, and a new office building on Canton Street. The Downtown Development Authority will present a Master Plan to redevelop commercial property south of Canton Street. The Council will adopt a new Zoning Code and Architectural Guidelines, encouraging walkable developments. This is happening in the oldest part of Roswell, following a street plan created by Roswell King in the 1830’s when Roswell was one square mile and the primary mode of transportation was walking.

Since 2009, over half of new construction in Metro Atlanta has been on less than 1 percent of the land area in communities identified as Regionally Significant Walkable Urban Communities (WalkUps). According to the ARC, there are 27 WalkUps in Metro Atlanta. Canton Street and its surrounding area is one. See the ARC Report, http://business.gwu.edu/walkup/atlanta2013/.

To be classified as a WalkUp, services and amenities must be within walking distance of residents. WalkUps usually don’t exceed 600 acres. Housing prices average 161 percent higher than elsewhere. Sales of homes in neighborhoods adjacent to WalkUps achieve price premiums between 40 percent-100 percent. Research shows most highly educated creative class workers, especially Millennials (born 1982-2004), want to work and live in WalkUps. There’s also a strong demand from empty nesters. The ARC report concluded WalkUps attract a highly educated workforce, improve economic performance, and raise quality of life.

Even before the ARC report, Roswell was taking action it recommended. We are monitoring the economic performance of Roswell’s WalkUp district. The Council passed the Groveway Zoning District, encouraging redevelopment of a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood, and we are re-writing Roswell’s zoning code to remove impediments to walkable communities.

Opponents fear higher density necessary to create a walkable neighborhood will spill over into single family suburban neighborhoods, that traffic congestion will increase, and Roswell’s infrastructure cannot support them. They misunderstand the nature of Walkups. Walkable neighborhoods generate less traffic. People who live there choose to walk most places. These communities require less investment in infrastructure because they’re more compact.

For any living system to survive, it must adapt to changing conditions. Roswell is adapting, not by changing its values or its single family neighborhoods, but by redeveloping and replacing empty strip centers and aging apartment complexes with walkable mixed-use neighborhoods.

Canton Street and the surrounding area haven’t reached full potential. Blighted areas need redevelopment. Other cities are spending millions to develop walkable downtowns to compete with us, but they’re playing catch-up. As long as we continue to adapt, Roswell will remain the envy of the Metro area and the best place to live in Georgia.

2014 is going to be a great year for Roswell.