Roswell has and will continue to change in the coming years, said a panel of city leaders during the first Roswell NEXT Town Hall meeting. The challenge is now influencing a change that builds community.
It was a full house at the Historic Roswell Cottage for the meeting, Thursday evening, Feb. 28, which was open to Roswell NEXT members, as well as the public. An engaged audience listened to local experts including developer Dave Schmit, Roswell Councilwoman Nancy Diamond, Roswell's Director of Transporation Steve Acenbrak and urban planner Lew Oliver speak on where Roswell is coming from - a traditional bedroom community which has avoided mixed zoning uses in the past - to where it's headed in terms of demographics, potential redevelopment and community connectivity.
Because metro Atlanta is still growing there are opportunities for Roswell to adapt into something that will better suit a new generation seeking a different kind of lifestyle than Roswell was originally built for, Schmit told the crowd. Though he and the rest of the panel believes Roswell will predominately remain residential - 71 percent of the city is occupied by homes currently - reshaping the city's sense of community is entirely viable.
Redevelopment is happening in selected areas. And more will be fueled by the 1,627 new jobs that have come in over the past six months and are currently being filled thanks to the efforts of the Roswell Business Alliance, said Diamond. She said the city needed to figure out the best plan for incentivizing redevelopment which will replace an aging stock of retail and office space, as well as improve the community surrounding certain blighted areas.
Similarly, Oliver - who, along with local architect Alex Paulson, assists the city's Downtown Development Authority - proposed ideas for redeveloping the commercial area near the Masonic Lodge on Alpharetta Street. He also showed a potential design for a new European style boulevard in front of Roswell City Hall and another that would extend Oak Street to the west in a way that elaborates upon the history of the area.
Additionally, Acenbrak offered up renderings for new transportation connectivity opportunities within the city, including the proposed Big Creek Parkway extending over Ga. 400, an early off ramp at Holcomb Bridge Road and a new multi-use trail along Highway 120, from Willeo Road up to Mimosa Boulevard. He also explained how a future "Roswell Loop" could create multi-use paths throughout the entire city, as well as connect Roswell with other metro area multi-use paths, like the Big Creek Greenway and the Silver Comet trail.
Diamond suggested residents who are interested in the establishment of community read Mark Lautman's "When the Boomers Bail: A Community Economic Survival Guide."