Hotel Work Session with the Historic Preservation Commission

The proposed boutique hotel for downtown Roswell is about to begin the application process for Phase 1 by meeting with the HPC in a work session.   The development team will present initial concepts and get feedback from the members of the Commission. There are no approvals or decisions in this meeting as it is for discussion only.  

The meeting will be held February 13 at 1:00 pm at City Hall.  

Intent Statements for the Southern Skillet

As of December 16, 2016, the DDA received responses to the RFQ (Request for Qualifications) from 10 development teams interested in redeveloping the Southern Skillet.  This is a strong response and we are excited to be at this point in the process!

Each of the teams read through the RFQ before submitting their responses.  One important part of the RFQ are the "Intent Statements."  These statements that define the objectives and parameters for the redevelopment help the development teams decide if they are a match.  These statements were derived with input from citizens through an online survey and two Town Hall meetings, meetings with members of City Council and from input from the Historic Preservation Commission. 

 

Source: RFQ Southern Skillet

INTENT STATEMENT FOR REDEVELOPMENT OF THE SOUTHERN SKILLET SITE

The redevelopment of the Southern Skillet site is viewed by the Roswell DDA as a catalytic project for downtown Roswell, which can help set the pattern for the type of development that will occur in the downtown area over the coming decade.  Accordingly, we have developed the following intent statement to provide interested development partners with how we would like to see the property redeveloped:

General Project

         1.  Project to be catalytic in design and use, contributing to the village scale of downtown.

       2.   Designed to successfully be woven into the fabric that is downtown Roswell.

3.     Respectful of the city’s historical character, scale and materials.

4.    Incorporation of commercial uses is desired for the site. 

5.     A grocery or food market has been ranked highest as a desired use by community.

  • Neighborhood retail, small shops of goods and services would be appropriate.
  • Office space over retail would be a desirable use.

6.     Residential can be considered as a component of a commercially-focused mixed-use project.

7.     Development design should address the pedestrian experience on the street, establishing connection visually and tactilely.

Orientation on Fraser Street

8.     The development should create an intimate, pedestrian scale along the Fraser Street frontage.

9.     Include a street scape that is scaled for pedestrians, including seating, bike accommodation and active storefronts, not blank walls.

10.  Locate active uses abutting the street to slow traffic speeds.

11.  Create a neighborhood feel by providing connectivity to nearby housing.

Alpharetta Highway

12.  Establish a pedestrian friendly street scape on Alpharetta Highway to reinforce a pedestrian scale.

13.  Seek to step back building height from the street to enhance the pedestrian experience.

14.  Incorporate a parking deck to serve both public and private users that is” wrapped” with leasable space or in some way, masked from public view as much as possible.

15.  Consider allowing the parking structure to serve adjacent and nearby activity through pedestrian connectivity.

16.  Consider the opportunity to incorporate adjacent parcels

Meeting with HPC to discuss and garner input for the Southern Skillet project scheduled

We have scheduled a joint meeting with the Historic Preservation Commission to discuss the design direction that will be shared with potential development teams in the way of "intent statements".  These will be included in the RFQ for the redevelopment of the Southern Skillet site. 

The meeting is at 1:00 pm in Room 220 at City Hall.  

Please join us if you can!

The RFQ/RFP Process

As we are walking through the RFQ/RFP process - we will be posting information here from time to time to keep everyone informed.   The next step for us is to meet with the Historic Preservation Commission to gather their input on our "Intent Statements" or the criteria that instructs the teams responding to the RFQ/RFP as to our priorities and vision for the property.  This meeting was originally scheduled for this week but, due to some scheduling conflicts, will be rescheduled for early October.  

If you attended the City Council meeting last week - you heard mentioned a letter written to the Mayor and City Council from the DDA.  Here is that letter.  This was written to address the concerns that some members of the Council were having as to when there would be opportunity for input.  We are, and have been, actively engaged in listening to and gathering the opinions of residents and members of the City Council.  In addition, we have met with members of the City Staff to understand the technical and regulatory constraints that exist for this site as well.  

 

Questions and Answers: The RFQ/RFP Process for The Southern Skillet

There have been a few questions presented about the RFQ/RFP process and we want to take a moment and answer them. 

What does RFQ and RFP stand for? 

RFQ stands for “Request for Qualifications”  Respondents to this document will answer specific questions regarding their development experience, financial capacity, current projects, and an understanding of their leadership and their business model.  

RFP stands for “Request for Proposal”  Respondents to this document, which are specific teams selected from the RFQ process,  provide conceptual drawings - including site plans and elevations.  They present a “programmed” concept of uses, finishes and materials for the development.  The presentation of their concept will be done in a meeting that is open to the public to attend.  The DDA intends to select a developer for the Southern Skillet from these teams.

What is the difference?

Responding to an RFQ does not require the level of detail or effort that responding an RFP requires.  The RFQ process allows the DDA to select a few teams that have the characteristics, experience and capacity (financial and professionally)  to present the conceptual project for the Southern Skillet property and execute a successful development.  Those selected teams will then proceed to answer the requirements of the RFP.  This process is very detailed, it takes significant professional time and financial investment.  

The DDA is using a combined document, containing the RFQ and the RFP, as we move forward to identify a developer for this project.  Initially development teams that are interested in being selected as the developer for this project will respond to the requirements of the RFQ.  The DDA will meet and review the responses we receive and select those teams to respond to the second part of the document, the RFP. 

Why is the DDA opposed to the idea of the City Council having the option to “select up to two of the finalists chosen to respond to the RFP?”

The DDA was asked by City Council to conduct the RFQ/RFP process for the Southern Skillet redevelopment.  The DDA signed a ground lease for the project with an option to purchase the property at no less than the price that the city paid for it.  The DDA is actually a separate legal entity, sanctioned by the State of Georgia.  We have unique tools that can allow us to participate in the financing of such a project and to assure that the project results in a “public benefit.”  Allowing a separate entity to become involved creates the appearance, and possibility of bias.  This is particularly an issue when the separate entity (City Council) already has the final approval of the project - as it must approve the site plan.  

Again, the Mayor and City Council have the final decision making authority on this project as they must approve the site plan.

We are committed to communicating with the public and the Mayor and City Council throughout the process to achieve a fabulous catalytic project for our city.

The community has been unified in their desire for a grocery store or market as one of the most popular uses for this project (and we agree!); will the DDA make sure that the developers put one in the project?

The DDA will inform the potential respondents of the RFQ/RFP of the community’s desires and priorities by using “intent statements” in the initial RFQ/RFP document.  We shared some of the working “intent statements” during our recent Town Hall.  While these are still being refined, you can see that we are indicating what characteristics we would like to see in a response.  We will keep this criteria in mind as we select the teams to respond to the RFP - where we will see a plan and a concept for uses.  Those teams who have been successful at delivering such a project in the past and communicate that they share this vision will be at an advantage.  However, we cannot definitively say there will be a grocer - as a developer must have a willing tenant, a mix of supporting uses and a plan that is financially viable within the physical and zoning constraints of the project.

If there were to be a profit on the sale of this project - would the DDA keep it?  If so, what would it be used for?

IF, and that is VERY unlikely in this scenario, there was a profit from the sale of this property while the DDA held title- yes, the entity of the DDA could keep the profit.  Let it be clear that it is the entity of the DDA that would keep the profit - not the Directors of the DDA, who are volunteers.  If the DDA were to obtain money from the profit of the sale of the property or fees it charged for funding - that money would be used to accomplish other projects within the boundary area of the Downtown Development Authority Area and in accordance with our mission.  Some ways that DDA’s in other cities have used fees they received from projects have included: acquisition of parking lots, improving streetscape, loan programs for facade improvements, loans to establish a trolley system, as well as the running of the organization.  The DDA has a fiduciary responsibility to invest in projects and efforts that create economic growth and improve the long-term success of our downtown. 

This is taken from the main page of our website:

Roswell’s DDA was formed to operate as a catalyst for Roswell by coordinating public/private programs that promote the redevelopment and growth of Roswell’s central business district. The DDA works to assure the long-term economic stability of downtown Roswell by maintaining the small town character of the district and supporting values that assure Roswell is a great place to live, work, play, invest and do business.
— http://roswelldda.com

 

 

Town Hall 2 - What you missed!

The DDA hosted the second Town Hall on Tuesday, September 6th.  The purpose of the meeting was to share the public input we have received so far from our fellow citizens.  Over 80 people have stopped and put their ideas down - using the survey form on this blog - of what they would like to see on the Southern Skillet site.  Using a "word cloud" we shared how the ideas stacked up - the larger the word, the more often it was repeated.  Overwhelmingly, the idea of a grocery or market was the most popular!

Krog Street and Ponce City Market were the places that were most mentioned as the "type" of place people wanted to see.  The Southern Skillet Site is smaller than either of these projects and we don't have an existing structure to work from - so we asked people what it was that they liked most about these places.  What features about these locations would you like to see included in the redevelopment in Roswell?

  • A place to go to, a destination.
  • A place that captures the feeling of the area
  • A place that would cause similar development style nearby
  • A place that had a bakery, restaurants and a grocery or a co-op market.
  • Materials that were durable, timeless.

Form and Design are Important.

The design needs to be unique to Roswell. Different.

The idea was presented that the City might want to consider how they could invest in this project as well - perhaps for a performing arts venue or other use that serves the public directly.  

See the presentation below - the beginnings or working versions of the "Intent Statements" that will be included in the initial Request for Qualifications are included.  This is the document that will be shared with interested and targeted development teams to convey the vision Roswell has for this site.  We want it to be catalytic and to present the best Roswell can be, while weaving itself comfortably into the fabric of our Downtown.  

 

We also talked about how the streetscape could begin to change the comfort level and ease in crossing Highway 9.  This project will be an important piece in that solution.

·    

Town Hall announced for September 6th at the Roswell Historic Cottage

We will hold a Town Hall to discuss ideas from the community on what they would love to see on the Southern Skillet site, what makes a project feasible and viable over time,  as well as the next steps for the RFQ/RFP process for the Southern Skillet redevelopment.

Please join us from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at the Roswell Historic Cottage located at the corner of Alpharetta Highway and Norcross at 172 Alpharetta Street. 

Parking is limited so you can park at the Southern Skillet or the ample parking behind City Hall. 

What is your dream for the Southern Skillet?

This can be the second most exciting step in a redevelopment project - just brainstorming, dreaming, and creating.

Since the most exciting step is opening day when a real, bricks and mortar project is realized - eventually we will have to put feasibility constraints around our ideas.  These will include market demands and opportunities, financial realities, easements, connectivity, zoning constraints and regulations.  For now though - there is an opportunity to just imagine what could be on the site known as the Southern Skillet (or Roswell Plaza).  

The site is just over 4 acres in size.  Here is an aerial of the site for reference.

Site Boundaries are estimated and are not to be relied on.

Site Boundaries are estimated and are not to be relied on.

Next Steps for Southern Skillet/Roswell Plaza

Roswell Plaza, affectionately known locally as the Southern Skillet after a beloved breakfast establishment, was acquired by the City of Roswell in early 2016.  The DDA executed a lease for the property soon after, for the purpose of management and the pursuing redevelopment of the property.  

The DDA has recommended, to the Roswell City Council, certain entitlements that they believe would serve to achieve a superior re-development.  These entitlements would be put in place as a Conditional Use that could be approved by Council following the standard process required by the City.  The City Council is now considering those entitlements and will be conducting neighborhood meetings and presenting it to the Planning Commission, all of which require public notice and will be held at meetings open to the public.  

The DDA recommended these entitlements as a means of providing clear opportunities and constraints to the development community that will be responding during the RFQ/RFP process. The DDA believes that the more clarity that can be provided up front, while leaving room for creativity and innovation, the higher benefit to the City of Roswell and it's citizens in achieving a successful project. 

The DDA is currently working on the Request for Qualifications that will be used to identify development teams that are interested and qualified to be selected for the next step.  Select candidates will then receive a Request for Proposal and put forth a design and development proposal.

The DDA has set up a form on their web page for the Southern Skillet for development teams to indicate their interest.  

An analysis

Early this year a new and energetic City Council put forth over 100 changes to the Unified Development Code for Roswell.  Some of these changes addressed issues of concern in the areas of suburban residential, in areas that the DDA does not operate.  Many of those changes have been implemented.  However, some of the remaining changes impact the areas within the Downtown Development Authority Boundary.  In order to evaluate and measure the impact of these changes on the opportunity for future redevelopment and reinvestment, particularly in the Downtown district, the DDA engaged Bleakly Advisory Group to compare and contrast the UDC currently in place with the UDC changed as proposed.  

The conclusion of this report can be summarized as follows:

  • The proposed menu of land uses which remains after the amendments are incompatible with the high land values in downtown;

  • The amendments would narrow the range of housing choices in downtown;

  • The amendments will make downtown increasingly affordable to only upper income households;

  • Rental housing would not be an option in downtown;

  • Increased setbacks will drive up development costs;

  • The amendments would limit the ability to downtown to absorb more development and generate a higher share of the City tax base;

  • The proposed amendments would weaken the level of retail demand in downtown.


 

Developing or redeveloping in a downtown area has different challenges, costs, and even market dynamics than areas in more traditional suburban commercial areas.  According to this report, the impact of the proposed changes will have a significant impact on the feasibility of new development and will need to be carefully reviewed.   

An economically vibrant and healthy downtown will protect the value of our homes and neighborhoods.  
 

For more detailed information, please see the attached report in its entirety. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Zoning - The Process in a Nutshell

Zoning can be confusing for those who work with it everyday - that much more for everyday citizens trying to navigate a project somewhere in the process.  The City of Roswell has a flow chart that can be a starting point for understanding the steps a development project goes through.  It is not uncommon for a project to be revised multiple times as it goes through the process, from the neighboring communities, review boards and staff feedback.

The City of Roswell also provides a Development Guide that can provide further information on the process.   Remember the process can appear a bit circular as adjustments are made, reviewed and approvals given - ask questions to understand where a project is in the process and what further steps will be taken.

The Trees on City Green - a perspective

Thoughts shared during the Open Forum on March 29, 2016, Roswell, Georgia

by resident and landscape designer, Jen Perissi

Tonight, I would like to speak in support of the City Green by offering my expertise, hopefully to alleviate some concerns that have been repeatedly discussed about the project. 

First, my expertise, which is in my knowledge of trees, landscape design and maintenance. I hold a master of landscape architecture degree and I've worked in both private and public sector positions over the past 15 years. In the private sector, I worked for three firms, one of which previously served as a consultant to the City of Roswell. For several years, I held a landscape designer position in Grounds Dept at the University of Georgia. While there, I wrote a grant that resulted in the designation of the Athens Campus as a Tree Campus by the Arbor Day Foundation, for which we inventoried almost 8,000 campus trees. 

All this is to say -- that I know, and love trees. So, when I say that the removal of existing trees to make way for the City Green is not a significant loss, please understand this is not a statement that I make lightly.

Most of the trees proposed for removal are young loblolly pines intermixed with just a few hardwoods, namely oaks. Without getting into a lengthy explanation about forest development, I can say that of the mix of trees that we have in the front of City Hall will not sustain itself as a healthy urban forest in the long term. As most Georgians know, pine trees grow quickly and also break and uproot easily. While, they help to jumpstart the growth of companion hardwoods-- when not thinned intentionally or by mother nature, the effect they have on the growth of nearby hardwoods does not usually result in healthy or attractive shade trees. This is the condition we have now in front of City Hall. It's like an overgrown lawn of pines with what might have been a few nice hardwoods, with intentional thinning and management. 

Secondly, the relocation of the Faces of War memorial has been discussed with so much emotion around it. For good reason, it is a moving tribute to veterans and should be a place of reflection. As such an intimate memorial, it has always been puzzling to me why it was sited so close to a major roadway. Particularly, as we have discussed tonight, because it is often necessary for road corridors to change in order to adapt or control new uses. Memorials should be protected, and in order to protect and enhance the experience of the Faces of War, it makes sense that it must move to be more thoughtfully placed to ensure its future. 

Lastly, beloved places that are highly valued by people do not just appear. Sometimes it takes decades for the qualities to evolve that make valued public places. This is perhaps the most frustrating and rewarding aspect of being a landscape architect. Young trees eventually become great trees that provide shade, shelter and shape to the spaces people congregate and enjoy -- design consultants must use their expertise to envision and design for future places and people. 

This is the way we, as a community, must approach City Green. We may need to sacrifice our own comfort on hot days until the new shade trees have the chance to grow. We may need to accept that sometimes "in perpetuity" can allow for some flexibility in order to enhance and protect. 

To close, I'll return back to Athens and one of the most beloved places in the Classic City-- the North Campus Lawn. For those who don't know it, it is the green backdrop to the first buildings on campus dating back to 1801- and it is also the vast green that extends out to the historic downtown and welcomes visitors onto campus. The oldest and most majestic of the oak trees standing are 100-150 years old. However, most, if not all of these were intentionally planted to replace what time or convention had removed.

Roswell has the same opportunity to adjoin its public and commercial spaces with this City Green. The proposed lawn and its flanking trees will be maintained as a place for gathering and connecting, and the trees will have the chance to grow into healthy shade trees. Though I doubt it will not take nearly so long for City Green to become a place for celebrations, proposals, reflection, recreation and everyday use. I expect many of those occasions will happen immediately, IF we are willing to be patient and plant for the future.