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Roswell Leaders Gain Ideas, Direction from Greenville Revitalization Trip

A group of nearly 60 Roswell business leaders, residents, politicians and local stakeholders recently trekked to Greenville, S.C. for perspective on revitalization.

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.”

Lew Oliver April 03, 2012 at 02:17 PM
I am encouraged by the leadership that the Mayor and City Council seems to be taking in jump starting the redevelopment effort in Downtown Roswell. The realization of this goal will take clear, bold decision making in realizing the collective vision for the "New Roswell", an expertly planned and reconstructed "Village" grounded in history, rich in natural beauty, and an incubator for 21st century culture and business. Only by focusing our efforts on our core, will excellence be realized. Prosperity will then be contagious, spreading out to areas that are now blighted. City Leaders of all kinds should be supported for taking this initiative seriously. Action is needed, and the time is now. Lew Oliver
Lee Fleck April 03, 2012 at 04:48 PM
Makes perfect sense. Let’s go to South Carolina and learn what they did in the 70's which is so relevant today instead of driving up the street to Alpharetta and see what a thriving community is doing today. What an absolute waste of taxpayers’ $$$$$$$$$$$$$$. But they will get it all back with the proposed bond in November.
janet h russell April 03, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Glad that the city's leaders got some energy from the trip to Greenville. I might suggest that they listen to ideas from the people who live in their city who have been giving them great ideas for years but have been ignored because they weren't professionals in redevelopment.
Lew Oliver April 05, 2012 at 12:31 AM
To my knowledge, everyone, including me, funded their trips and gave their time to make the Greenville trip. if it takes leaving your office space to have a revelation, then so be it. Far better than complacency. Janet, even professionals are not always listened to in their hometown.
Anna Braund, LEED Green Associate April 05, 2012 at 08:16 PM
Thank you to all who have assessed Roswell's current infrastructure and designed an unparalleled vision for a sustainable community that will attract new viable businesses, strengthen existing businesses, and improve the quality of life as Roswell gains a greater sense of place.
Martin Howell April 07, 2012 at 03:14 PM
Having lived in Greenville during its major revitilization efforts during the 1990's, I have a few comments. First, benchmarking is very smart for business, as well as government. In this case I am not sure the best city was chosen, as Greenville is over 4 times larger than Roswell and is the biggest city in that part of the state. However, I am sure there are plenty of valid comparisons. Greenville did a fantastic job by focusing on one thing - redeveloping its core downtown area. From that the rest of the city cascaded upward As Roswell has a very limited downtown, Greenville's success will be a bit tough to duplicate here. In addition to the two anchors mentioned in the article for Gville, they also have something in common with Roswell - a river. In fact, Roswell has a river and Big Creek. The article didn't mention it, but the anchor hotel in Gville was built along the true main anchor, the Reedy River falls and shoals. Long ago the city had covered up the falls/shoals with an ugly vehicle bridge. At considerable expense, the bridge was torn down and replaced with a pedestrian bridge with full access to the river. If Roswell is going to learn anything from Greenville, it will be to leverage and improve the beauty of its main natural resources - Big Creek, the Chattahoochee, and the vast forest lands near downtown. This would certainly include removing the unsightly water lines that criss cross Big Creek, for example. Groveway needs to consider this.

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