Roswell considers task force with business owners for controversial Canton Street promenade



Roswell is considering a task force of business owners, residents and city leaders to strategize on turning Canton Street into a walkable promenade that is closed to vehicular traffic.

Mayor Kurt Wilson says he does not want to force the idea of a partial street closure on local business owners. His comments follow two weeks of controversy over the proposed closing of both Elizabeth Way and a part of downtown Canton Street, this summer.

The mayor’s plans, announced earlier in May via a Facebook video, had been moving forward without input from the community. Business owners say they support the overall idea of a pedestrian promenade starting a year from now, but they fear a loss of revenue unless adequate parking is in place.

“I want the business community on board,” Wilson said, naming Canton Street restaurants and shops that he wants the support of.

“… It’s become way too political already,” he added. “… There’s no desire for acrimony.”

A Canton Street task force will be discussed in depth during a City Council committee meeting to be held 6 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.

Wilson and a quorum of City Council members gave their individual takes on the proposed closing of Canton Street during an informal meeting Friday at East Roswell Park Recreation Center. Public comment was not allowed.

Councilmen Mike Palermo and Will Morthland did not attend the discussion.

Councilwomen Christine Hall and Lee Hills have voiced support for the pedestrian promenade, which was to have a trial run from Memorial Day through August. (Officials now say the closure will not happen without a City Council vote.)

Credit: Adrianne Murchison

Credit: Adrianne Murchison

Hills says some Roswellians are in support of a Canton Street promenade happening sooner than later.

“I do want to be expedient about delivering what the people who shop and spend money here are asking for,” Hills said. “I have had overwhelming comments to me about interest in the promenade.”

Hall introduced resident Gloria Libby who suggested a promenade concept similar to 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica, California.

Libby, a former member of the Roswell Transportation Advisory Commission, was tasked with brainstorming a concept.

“It just reminds me of what Roswell can do with our beautiful Canton Street,” Libby said of Santa Monica’s success in growing its downtown. “Feel free to research it.”

Councilmembers Sarah Beeson and Peter Vanstrom have called for the city to “slow down” and “gather more community engagement.”

“I think this conversation should’ve occurred before we just (made an announcement) without a lot of input from the business folks … and those impacted,” Vanstrom said. “I’m asking my council members to slow down a little bit. Engage our business owners a lot more.”

Downtown redevelopment in other north Fulton cities took extensive planning.

Six years before Sandy Springs opened its City Springs campus, the city hired a master planner which held public meetings with residents and presented different design options for their input.

Downtown Alpharetta is the model that many attending Roswell meetings have pointed to as an ideal destination. Alpharetta Mayor Jim Gilvin has said city officials spent 15 years working on a plan to revitalize its downtown.