Contrasting Roswell & Alpharetta
By Tai Anderson, April 2, 2017
This last Wednesday morning, I attended the City of Alpharetta Business Awards Breakfast at the Metropolitan Club on Windward Pkwy. The breakfast honored over 200 businesses that received other awards throughout 2016. As Supreme Lending was recognized by the Atlanta Business Chronicle as a "Best Place To Work" and recently took the top honors in the AJC Top Work Place contest, we were among the attendees.
The keynote speaker for the breakfast was Alpharetta Mayor, David Bell Isle. During his talk, he highlighted Alpharetta’s commitment to attracting business and shared a progress report as well as a future vision for Alpharetta development. I was thoroughly impressed. Alpharetta has realized meaningful revitalization of its downtown corridor, is launching phase 2 of Avalon, and is planning its own beltway to tie it all together. Mayor Isle communicated a clear vision of Alpharetta’s future that was incredibly optimistic and compelling.
Some of Alpharetta's recent and future progress
As a longtime "Roswellian," I left the breakfast just a little bit jealous. While Roswell has been debating and second-guessing our strategic planning, Alpharetta has been acting. The contrast with Alpharetta, as well as Sandy Springs and Woodstock, is distinct. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t leave the breakfast with a “grass is always greener” jealousy (especially as Alpharetta has used Bermuda in its city green which tends to look a bit yellow in winter dormancy.) Instead, I left taking inventory of Roswell’s assets and contrasts with Alpharetta.
You see, Alpharetta’s growth is a direct benefit of its embracing of growth in the 1980’s with the construction of GA 400. Alpharetta took 4 exits off of GA 400. Each one of these exits has developed into a significant business and retail corridor. Roswell instead took a bit more of an isolationist approach. We reluctantly only secured one exit off of GA 400 at Holcomb Bridge, thus the traffic bottleneck each and every morning. As such, Alpharetta enjoys a huge revenue base, while Roswellians are left to contemplate how to sensibly grow with fewer resources in prolonged commutes.
However, the past is the past. There were legitimate reasons for our predecessors to be hesitant to embrace a “pro-business” attitude. While Alpharetta was just undeveloped farmland, Roswell was already a beautiful neighborhood community. It’s always easier to imagine a future when you have a blank slate. Roswell was and is a special place that must be deliberate to maintain our cultural heritage and unique DNA.
So, how does Roswell go forward?
First, we must take inventory of our assets: Canton Street, The Chattahoochee, incredible neighborhoods, beautiful parks, award-winning schools, and our greatest asset; the incredible people who call Roswell home. We have a lot going for us! Secondly, we must embrace intelligent growth that builds on those assets. I know I’ve lost some people with this assertion. Why do we have to grow? Why can’t we just stay the same? The harsh reality is that staying the same is not an option. It’s an elusive path. We’re either growing or dying. We either take control of our future with a positive vision and leadership, or we’ll experience rapid decay. Take a stroll down Alpharetta Highway and Holcomb Bridge. I don't imagine a future with PayDay loan and Pawn Shops. I want a future where Roswell is the best suburb in Atlanta, with opportunities to live, work and play. We can keep our identity as we embrace the progress our neighbors on all sides are modeling for us.
Here’s the good news: There are exciting projects already in the works that can help build a better Roswell for years to come. These projects include the City Green project behind City Hall, creating a beautiful public space off Canton Street, the Canton Place boutique hotel project, the Southern Skillet Redevelopment, and the budding Roswell Collective creative community on Oak Street. The combination of the successful completion of these ambitious projects could be a catalyst for a Roswell revitalization that could begin an inside-out transformation to our city. Let's take the goodness of Canton Street and let it spread throughout our city. I’m a big fan of inside-out transformation. It’s how individuals realize change, and how cities realize transformation!
The decisions and guidance made by our current and immediate City Council and mayor are pivotal to Roswell’s future vibrancy. It’s time for all of Roswell’s citizens to wake up, get involved, and choose leadership that guides our city into a preferred future. Our first chance to lend our input is with the upcoming City Council Run-Off Election taking place between April 10th-18th. Sadly, few of us will take the 5-minute detour to our public library to cast our votes in this pivotal race.
Roswell, we don’t have to be left behind. I love our city and believe that we can realize a future that rivals any of our neighbors, with our own unique combination of modern spirit and southern soul. However, failure to act now could set us on a path to decay. Your vote makes a difference. Use it to kickstart Roswell on the path towards progress.