East Roswell committee looks for ways to improve local economy

The East Roswell Economic Action Committee would like to see the east side of town bustling with eateries in the same way as downtown Roswell and Roux on Canton restaurant. Photo credit Jason Getz.
The East Roswell Economic Action Committee would like to see the east side of town bustling with eateries in the same way as downtown Roswell and Roux on Canton restaurant. Photo credit Jason Getz.

East Roswell has its challenges: It has none of the luxury of West Roswell and isn’t as hip as downtown’s Canton Street and the area suffers an overall shortage of businesses.

But fixing its problems won’t be easy. In East Roswell, the neighborhood of Holcomb Bridge and Old Alabama roads is considered highly valued, yet not ideally developed or utilized. Residents of East Roswell typically work and shop elsewhere, taking tax dollars with them.

Roswell is hoping the East Roswell Economic Action Committee, formed by the Roswell City Council in 2019, can find solutions to improve the area’s economy.

The seven-member committee, which includes community business people and longtime residents, presented a report during a special called work session with the Mayor and City Council on Feb. 20. Over the past year, the committee has reviewed past studies on Greater Roswell and the east side and conducted new research.

The committee hopes the area’s existing older subdivisions can be complemented by new development and beautification along Holcomb Bridge Road.

“About 70 percent of the land area is tied up in large suburban subdivisions,” said Trent Perry, committee chairman. Homeowners in those subdivisions helped to establish the Roswell that we see today, he added. “That’s where a lot of our population base came from, that’s where our tax revenues comes from and that’s where our lifestyle comes from.”

The committee would like to see more single-family, owner-occupied homes than multi-family rental units. A new apartment and townhome complex at the site of the former Super Target on Holcomb Bridge Road recently highlighted the community's opposition to rental housing. Dozens of angry residents walked out of a City Council meeting in June when the apartments were approved.

Once it’s built, the project will bring the number of renter-occupied units to 9,000, exceeding the 8,200 single family homes on the east side.

Meanwhile, values of single-family homes in the older subdivisions continue to climb. Home values in the community rose from $474,000 in 2017 to $567,000 in 2019 — a rate that slightly exceeded the increase in values for residences in Roswell’s tiny downtown area.

A 2017 resident vision survey showed many East Roswell homeowners believe multi-family housing rental units lower the quality of life in the community. In January, City Council approved a 90-day moratorium on residential developments unless the project is more than 75 percent non-residential.

“The problem that residents have expressed vehemently is they feel threatened by the continued building of renter-occupied apartment complexes” Perry said. “We feel the moratorium is a short- term solution.”

Perry also told City Council members that Roswell has relied too heavily on residential property taxes and has not kept pace with other North Fulton cities in attracting medium or large businesses. Alpharetta, for example, doubles its population during the work day with office workers. In Roswell, most working residents commute to other communities each weekday.

“We have more success in small business than larger companies. We have about 5,500 businesses in [all of] Roswell with 92% employing less than 20 employees. Less than six percent have less than 50 employees, and the remaining two percent more than 50. That tells you we have tremendous density of small businesses.”

Committee member Ron Buckley explained cell phone tracking by an outside company showed that most residents who live east of the intersection do their grocery shopping at Buford Highway and DeKalb Farmers Markets, instead of the nearby Publix, Kroger or Walmart.

The Economic Action Committee will present its findings at a public forum 6:30-9 p.m. March 2 at the Roswell Recreation Center. The public will have an opportunity to ask questions.