Jul 26, 2023 - News

The fight over Roswell's downtown promenade proposal

Illustration of a walking signal pushing the "do not walk" hand out of frame.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

A fight over plans to periodically close a downtown Roswell street for pedestrians is coming to a head.

Driving the news: A task force of business owners and residents meets tonight at Roswell City Hall for the first time — and has until Aug. 25 to present their findings to government officials.

Catch up quick: In May, Roswell city leaders faced backlash from some downtown business owners and residents for proposing to shut down a segment of Canton Street — and the parking spaces along it — to create a car-free promenade on summertime weekends.

  • Businesses argued their revenues drop 40 to 100% when the city closes any segment of Canton Street.

The big picture: During the height of the pandemic, cities — including Houston and Nashville — eased regulations on curbside dining. Atlanta was one of many to turn parking spaces into mini-parks.

  • In some cases, officials closed streets altogether to meet a surge in demand for outdoor activities.

Yes, but: Thou shalt not tinker with parking in metro Atlanta without a battle.

What they're saying: "This is about [business owners'] investment, their money, their businesses, and the jobs they have created," Doug Curling, a business owner and resident, told Axios in a statement.

  • "And it's, importantly, about this mixed-use neighborhood feeling steamrolled and disrespected by their local government and demanding better from them," he said.

The other side: Roswell Mayor Kurt Wilson and promenade supporters argue doing so would draw more people to the bustling downtown and increase foot traffic.

  • Wilson has, however, apologized for poor public outreach ahead of the task force's formation on July 11 and an ordinance requiring it to produce a report within 45 days. Opponents have protested the tight timeline.

What we're watching: Critics want the city to build a proposed parking deck nearby before shutting down the street and argue that downtown Roswell already has a pedestrian alleyway.

A photo of downtown Roswell during the daytime when people are crossing the street and standing outside restaurants
Roswell wants to close a segment of Canton Street to vehicular traffic. Photo: Courtesy of Susan Tyser

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show the task force's deadline to submit its findings is Aug. 25 (not Aug. 11).


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