While many council members said they liked the concept, all thought it needed more discussion as well as a great deal of public input before any decisions are made.
“This is public land. This is taxpayers’ land and we really need to hear from the citizens if they like this plan or not, because this is their property,” said Councilwoman Becky Wynn.
Presented by the Downtown Development Authority, the City Green concept would open up the back of city hall to Ga. Hwy 9 just south of Magnolia Street with a large lawn, interactive water feature and patio area for public use.
The Faces of War Memorial would be moved to the outskirts of Smith Plantation, a city-owned museum home on the north side of city hall.
The second phase of development would install an outdoor amphitheater on the grounds between city hall and Smith with seating to accommodate the annual Memorial Day ceremony as well as a variety of concerts and civic events. Support buildings, including restrooms, would also be built.
Monica Hagewood, chairperson of the authority, told council members and a packed audience that those buildings could be used as art studios and working galleries.
To the south of the open lawn, the authority would construct a building with its own funds. In addition to providing meeting space for the authority, space would be available for public/private entities like Roswell Inc., Hagewood said.
The authority would also rent out spaces to commercial entities, ideally small eateries such as ice cream and coffee shops that offer alternatives to the upscale restaurants on Canton Street, she said.
”Teenagers need places they can go to and afford. They need places they can pick up things that are a little less pricey,” Hagewood said.
The leases would establish a revenue stream for authority activities.
Phase one’s estimated cost is $3.4 million, all paid for by the city. Phase two would be around $1 million, and a grant would be “actively pursued” to pay for it, Hagewood said. The authority would completely fund its own building.
With imputed land value of the project, total cost would be around $12.2 million, Hagewood said. Using national averages measuring how much bang can be gotten for the buck from a project like this, City Green would bring in $40 of private investment in the area for every public dollar spent, she said.
“Our forecast is $206 million in investments we could see coming to the downtown area of Roswell,” Hagewood said.
Mayor Jere Wood questioned that figure and asked where the private money might go. Hagewood and authority member Dave Schmit said it would manifest in commercial and residential development around the City Green area, particularly to the south.
City Green would be appealing for residential uses because it was an existing amenity a developer could capitalize on, Schmit said. And the opportunity for smaller “creative office spaces” around a vibrant cultural and social center would be attractive to “young creatives, a different demographic niche,” Hagewood said.
The next step is discussion at a council committee meeting on how and when to start gathering that input, Wood said.