Ask pretty much anyone who was on the recent trip to Greenville, S.C. how it went and you're sure to get a similar response: in terms of finding ways to posture Roswell for a prosperous future, it exceeded expectations.
"It was amazing," said Roswell Councilwoman Nancy Diamond. "The collective learning we did was beyond what anyone expected, I think."
Leaders from every aspect of city life - from business to residential, political to stakeholders - joined a group of nearly 60 in the short trek to Greenville during mid March. Though it's a regional hub and is home to considerably more residents than Roswell, Greenville was chosen as a city to emulate because of other similarities, including size, bike friendliness and its parks and recreation department.
Councilwoman Becky Wynn told Roswell Patch she was skeptical about the trip at first, wondering how effective it would be.
"But, it was the most productive trip I’ve ever been a part of," said she said. "In fact, I was part of a meeting about the Georgia Ramble after we got back and all anyone could talk about was Greenville."
Greenville, it seems, put its best foot forward in welcoming the VIP group from North Fulton.
"There was a great pride in that city," said Steve Stroud, executive director of the . "They really shined."
The group was given tours of all the areas that have been a factor in the revitalization of Greenville, which was first laid out as a goal during the 1970s. Since then, the group Greenville Forward - a public/private partnership within the city - has taken up the mission of making sure Greenville's 2025 comprehensive plan is the focus of every move the city makes.
"They always go back to the vision whenever they're deciding how to make something work," said Stroud, who was also impressed by strategic incentives devised by Greenville to encourage revitalization and economic growth.
Briefed on what's been most beneficial in keeping on course and transforming into the destination it's become, Greenville leaders shared key points with Roswell leaders, including the need to identify anchors.
"When we came back we all thought: we need an anchor," said Wynn.
Choosing an anchor has to do with prioritizing what needs to be done first. The idea is that anchoring an area with something of note will bring in redevelopment to the surrounding area. For Greenville, two of its anchors included a minor league baseball stadium and a luxury hotel.
"We’re reprioritizing what we need to do in Roswell," Wynn said.
Stroud agreed, "We’ve got redevelopment opportunities here on our doorstep," he said. "It's going to take bold leadership, but it’s doable."
Diamond, Stroud and Wynn all made it clear that Roswell should not strive to be Greenville, just learn from them.
Participants of the trip, which replaced the council's usual retreat, paid their own way to go. Additionally, sponsorships by local businesses, including the Greater North Fulton Chamber of Commerce and Gas South offset the cost of sending city council members.
During a reception last week for Andres Duany - who conceptualized plans for the city's historic gateway - residents and business owners who had been on the trip were abuzz with contagious excitement about what they saw in Greenville and the direction they hoped Roswell is headed.
"We’ve got to keep momentum going," said Wynn. "We can’t let it die."
Similarly, Diamond said she believed moving forward with revitalization efforts in Roswell is going to take the will of both the council and local residents.
"We’re not going to stay the same, we're either going to move back or go forward," she said. "For me, doing nothing is not an option.”