We are working to put together our next Town Hall to look at where we are on the redevelopment process for the Southern Skillet project. We are close to having a firm location and date - but for now, pencil September 6th at 6:30 pm on your calendar!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.