State Roswell Address: Mayor Wood sees vibrant, ‘walkable’ city center

Will develop ‘Old Town Roswell’



ROSWELL, Ga. – In Roswell Mayor Jere Wood’s annual State of the City address, Jan. 31, he spoke of new opportunities for the city to grow in its downtown area as part of a grand revitalization effort that is already underway.

In addition to the vision for the City Hall green that will visually connect to Canton Street, Wood said the city will concentrate the city’s future growth primarily along the Ga. 9 (Atlanta Street) corridor south of Holcomb Bridge Road.

“For 60 years, Roswell grew by converting vacant land into subdivisions and shopping centers. Today, there is almost no vacant land left,” Wood told business leaders of the city. “In the future, Roswell’s growth will occur in the corridor south of Holcomb Bridge including Canton Street.”

Indeed, Canton Street will serve as a model of the kind of mixed-use environment in what Wood is calling “Old Town Roswell,” that will feature small-town living in a large suburban city.

“Most of the area we are talking about is within the 1854 boundary of the city,” Wood said. “City growth will occur in Old Town Roswell by converting old strip centers and apartments into a walkable village.”

The concept is to create a village-like atmosphere that will have the small shops, stores, businesses and restaurants that are close enough to visit by walking. People will be able to shop, do their errands and work without ever using their car.

“In a walkable village, you can walk everywhere you normally need to go,” Wood said. “This means living close enough to walk to work, school, the grocery, the cleaners.

“To be walkable, a community must be compact,” he said. “Residential and commercial uses must be nearby and not segregated and spread out into subdivisions, retail centers and business centers. To be walkable, a community must be connected.”

That means a grid system of streets, alleys and sidewalks. This is quite different from the one-way-in subdivision with most homes built in a cul-de-sac, he said.

“Because walking is encouraged, walkable villages generate less traffic than subdivisions and shopping centers,” Wood said.

They also require less land, less asphalt and less 21st century infrastructure such as power lines, water and sewer lines and gas and electric lines.

In addition, Wood noted that in the recent recession, Old Town Roswell was the only area to experience growth in the city.

“This trend is not unique,” Wood said. “The Atlanta Regional Commission reported more than 50 percent of new construction in metro Atlanta occurred on less than 5 percent of the land. All of that land is comprised of 27 walkable communities identified by the ARC.

Old Town Roswell is one of only three such walkable villages outside of I-285. Roswell has experienced population growth of about 1 percent a year for the last 13 years. Wood calculates that Old Town Roswell, because of its compact nature, could absorb all of this growth over the next 20 years.

The benefits of this can be seen in the development and success of Canton Street. The area is trendy, chic and has among the highest property values in the city. South of City Hall, the area that stretches down to the town square is perfect for similar development that Canton Street has experienced.

“Converting half-empty strip centers and aging apartments into walkable communities will raise property values, lower crime rates and improve the health of nearby neighborhoods,” the mayor said. “Since the size of these walkable communities is limited, they would not encroach on established subdivisions.

“Walkable villages in Old Town Roswell will meet the demand of empty-nesters like me who no longer want to drive everywhere they go,” he said. “It will also attract the new millennial generation – our children and grandchildren – who don’t want three cars and a big house.”

Single-family subdivisions will remain the primary source of housing in the city, but the concept of walkable villages will offer another lifestyle choice to potential city residents.

The demand for such walkable communities already exists. The City Council has already taken the first step to creating such districts in the Old Town with the first reading of the Unified Development Code, Wood said.

These new development codes will lay the groundwork for the kind of construction that would please Roswell residents, he said. The result will be development that attracts and retains good citizens.

“It’s the key to making Roswell an even better place to live,” Wood said.

2014 Capital Improvement Projects

• $9M for Holcomb Bridge Road improvements

• $3M traffic control system for Ga. 9; Ga. 92

• $1M roundabout at Houze and Hembree roads

• $1.5M multipurpose trail east of Horseshoe Bend

• $1M multipurpose trail along Eves Road

• $700,000 bike track connecting Roswell Square and the river along Marietta Street

• $1.5M for Old Alabama fire station

• $3M to extend Chattahoochee Boardwalk to Nature Center

• $2.5M for senior center therapeutic pool

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