ROSWELL, Ga. – Roswell’s economic heart and vibrancy is held on Canton Street, however the nearby city government buildings stand back, hidden by trees and facing away from the restaurant-packed street.
City leaders hope to change all that with the building of a new town green and public spaces.
The $12 million “Roswell City Green” will sit between City Hall and Ga. 9, in what is now woods where the Faces of War Memorial stands. Around this green would be an open-air amphitheater, pavilions and meeting space.
“It’s an exciting concept,” said Mayor Jere Wood of the plan. “We’re finally connecting City Hall to Canton Street.”
The hope, says Monica Hagewood, of the Roswell Downtown Development Authority (DDA), is to use the new civic space to spur public investment along Ga. 9.
“When you control that much land in downtown, you’ve got to lead,” Hagewood said.
The DDA argues that an investment of public dollars into a town center can spur reinvestment from the private community dozens of times over.
In Greenville, N.C., the city spent $4 million on a plaza, which encouraged $100 million in private investment. Similarly, Norcross, Ga., invested $4 million in a public park. $100 million in development came around that park.
In Roswell, Canton Street had $1.2 million in streetscape improvements and has turned the street into the heart of the city, with 21 restaurants and at least $20 million in investment.
“That’s reinvestment that wouldn’t have happened without [Canton Street],” says Hagewood.
Hagewood and her peers on the board of the DDA are tasked with revitalizing Roswell’s aging downtown. By creating this green space, they see the ripple effect encompassing all of Roswell.
The town green would have a water feature that could double as a stage for events, an outdoor amphitheater, walking paths and plenty of green space. An outbuilding to the south of the green, along Hill Street, could be built to provide meeting space and cheap concessions – such as ice cream and snacks.
This building would be owned by the DDA.
The Faces of War Memorial, which stands between City Hall and Ga. 9, is the site of Georgia’s largest Memorial Day event. The plan calls to move the memorial toward the Smith Plantation property.
The total costs could be about $12 million and completed in three phases – the town green first, then the amphitheater and then the DDA building.
Given Hagewood’s assertion of public money spurring private development, she predicted about $206 million in investment thanks to the new green projects.
“This could have such an economic impact on Roswell,” Hagewood said. “The timing of this is so important.”
One hurdle to clear is Ga. 9, that road which bisects downtown. People may not be willing to cross from Canton Street to the town green if the road is not made more pedestrian-friendly.
A tunnel or bridge is possible, as are more improvements to the road itself to become safer for pedestrians.
Another hurdle is parking. City Hall has 400 parking spaces, and Canton Street has parking lots dotted around it. However, if the town green is as much a draw as it is hoped, more parking will be needed.
Right now, the plans are simply conceptual. There will be much more discussion and meetings to come.
“It’s easy to say we like the concept, but there are a lot of details,” cautioned Councilmember Rich Dippolito.
The new town green in Roswell is expected to cost about $12 million over three phases:
Phase 1 – $3.4M – Relocate the Faces of War Memorial, build the town green and build the water feature.
Phase 2 – $1M – Build the amphitheater, build support buildings and restrooms and build an art studio or gallery.
Phase 3 – $2M – Build the DDA mixed use building containing meeting spaces and shops.*
*Note: Grant monies may be used to supplement or pay for this phase. Land acquisition may be as much as $5 million.