ROSWELL, Ga. — Roswell residents met Feb. 1 to discuss the future of the Holcomb Bridge Road corridor, from Alpharetta Highway to the Gwinnett County Line. The open forum invited people to give their vision for East Roswell and to let residents discuss how they want to revitalize their flagging community.
According to Mayor Jere Wood, this was one of the largest crowds he has seen for such meetings.
Some of the main concerns were over a feeling of disconnect between East Roswell and the rest of the city and a frustration over the lack of vibrancy in the area, especially after the announcement that the Target was leaving. People were troubled by the loss of big commercial tenants and the general decline of the area, which some thought were driving people out of the area.
“I feel so separated from Roswell,” one resident, Judy Smith, said. “I feel like I live in Alpharetta. What can I do to help the situation?”
“The answer is not a simple one, like adding another lane on 400 or getting a new retailer,” said the Downtown Development Authority’s Dave Schmit. “It’s happening all over the country. We’re not the only community that’s faced with these issues.”
Many in the crowd were concerned about how they could keep people living in and enjoying the community, especially with competition from nearby places like Canton Street and Avalon. Some residents urged the council and DDA to consider multiple solutions outside of bringing more retail or development.
“People don’t come to East Roswell to shop, because we have access to North Point Parkway and all of these places,” resident Diane Jacoby said. “What are we doing to attract people? Georgia is the fifth most popular film industry spot in the United States right now. We are number five. What are we doing in the city of Roswell, with our beautiful parks and our historic homes to attract these film businesses? I don’t think we need to be focusing on retail, when there are other business opportunities.”
One of the solutions that was passed around was to create an area where people would want to go and spend time in East Roswell, like Avalon in Alpharetta.
“My experience has been that in places that are of high demand these days, they tend to be centered around places of vibrancy,” Schmit said. “They must be experiential. We’re not necessarily just going there to shop. We’re going there to experience the sidewalk, to get an ice cream.”
Roswell has attempted in the past to pass such mixed-use development projects, like Riverwalk Village, but they were shot down because they did not receive enough community support.
There are solutions, however, as long as three conditions are met, Schmit said.
“One is that the community has to well define what they want, in codes, petitions and community support. Second thing is that there needs to be a market. Any business needs to want to transact there. There must be demand. And the third thing is economic counts. None of us are going to invest in anything that doesn’t make money,” Schmit said. “So when we think about solutions, it can’t just be two of the three boxes. It’s got to be all of the three boxes.”
The city of Roswell is now asking people who live or own a business in the area to give their input in the East Roswell Vision Survey, which can be found at roswellgov.com.