Leadership Needed In Roswell’s Historic District
By Ryan Pernice
In August issue of the Current Hub, Frank Mack wrote an article titled “Ain’t No Cure For the Summertime Blues.” The piece worried that Roswell’s Canton Street is “losing its mojo,” that it “was cooler when it was alone.”
The purpose of this response is to contend that Mr. Mack misses the point when labeling restaurants as the cause of and potential solution to Canton Street’s lack of opportunity.
Having grown organically over the past two decades into the bustling corridor we residents enjoy today, the historic district now needs help that its businesses alone cannot provide. A diverse group of entrepreneurs has risked ventures on Canton Street’s potential to the best of our ability. Now we need the City of Roswell to respond with leadership, vision, and investment in order to keep our City’s downtown current with the ever-striving competition.
I don’t wish to engage Mr. Mack’s opinion of which restaurants are worthwhile and which are not. (Full Disclosure: I own Table & Main and Osteria Mattone, two of the restaurants he mentioned.) All of Canton Street’s restaurants seem to be busy. Obviously, they’ve found an eager market.
I agree that “the historic district in Roswell is at a turning point.” Mr. Mack cites examples of neighboring developments––including downtown Alpharetta, Avalon, and Woodstock’s town center ––as examples of our community’s competition that seem to be outpacing us.
Fortunately, we’ve already identified projects to build on what’s already so special about our historic district. We must seize these opportunities to push Roswell towards growth and positive momentum: the rebranded “Alive in Roswell,” the City Green and East/West Alley projects, the purchase of the Southern Skillet property. All of these represent potentially positive steps.
But, in the face of the surrounding competition, we can no longer be content with mere steps. Roswell needs transformative, catalytic leadership for our city to remain competitive with our neighbors. Canton Street alone can longer be the focus of our future. We must leverage projects like the City Green to expand Canton Street’s success across our entire historic district, a community asset we alone possess, from the Chattahoochee River north to Woodstock Street.
Key issues such as the lack of downtown parking remain unaddressed after years of talk. Projects that we voted on, funded, and discussed at length in multiple “town hall” style meetings languish in studies or committees while progress slows to a drip. We know what our opportunities are, yet we seem unwilling to do the hard work and make the tough choices necessary to address them head on.
No, Canton Street has far from “lost its mojo.” In fact, I think it’s never been a more exciting destination. We scored one killer brewery, Gate City, with another, Variant, on the way. Our restaurants are full and growing, offering an array of options that’s still unmatched by any neighborhood north of Atlanta. Our shops are exciting, interesting, and ready to provide everything from ice cream in a cone to Fresh Cream on vinyl.
The business community is poised to bring even more compelling adventures to the crowds that will surely visit a historic district that explodes after the City invigorates and activates our downtown investment. We’re eager to follow their leadership.
Ryan Pernice is Executive Director of the Historic Roswell Business Association @ryanpernice