Paid for largely with $2.2 million from the Atlanta Regional Commission, one of the first Livable Centers Initiative Grant in the metro area, the project goal was to spruce up a corridor in the heart of the city that had been begun to look old and shabby.
Last week, the improvements to the 1.1-mile section of Alpharetta Street/Ga. SR 9 from Norcross Street to Mansell Place finally were officially completed with a ceremonial ribbon cutting.
For Councilman Kent Igleheart, it marked the end of grueling struggle. “This day has taken far too long and had far too many hurdles,” he said.
Because Alpharetta Street is a state highway, the Georgia Department of Transportation had to sign off on every aspect of the project. Many of the delays were due to restrictions and requirements imposed by that agency, but some were also because the avalanche of details of the project at times seemed overwhelming.
“When we first started looking at the design for the street in 2002, we anticipated that the streetscape would take up to seven years to complete,” said Councilman Rich Dippolito. “The project required a lot of coordination because it involved a significant number of property owners, businesses, utility companies and government organizations.”
It was the first construction project of its kind attempted by the city, and the learning curve was steep.
“Other cities around the country had been successfully implementing similar plans, so we had an idea of the time frame,” Dippolito said. “However, this type of context sensitive streetscape design was new to Georgia and it took much longer to work through the design elements with the Georgia Department of Transportation than anyone expected. This was truly cutting edge design at the time.”
Igleheart said he thought “that no one fully grasped the complexity of this project at the beginning. We also experienced a high rate of turnover of those overseeing and even working on this project, particularly in the first few years.”
The journey began when Roswell hired a consultant to develop the Midtown Redevelopment plan in 2002 and brought in a design consultant to being the formal design two years later. Groundbreaking for constriction was in May 2004.
The finished project includes sidewalk improvements, a textured center turn lane, bridge enhancements, drainage improvements and beautification with street furniture, historic style lighting and landscaping. Missing are roadside trees, which GDOT considered a safety hazard, and landscaped medians.
Steve Stroud, executive director of the Roswell Business Alliance, said it is much easier to attract businesses to a nicer area. With the advent of redevelopment for restaurants such as Roswell Tap, Douceur de France and Lucky’s, “we’re starting to see something getting started there,” he said. “I hope this spurs other property owners to start to improve on what the city has started.”
The total cost for the improvements was $2,024,364. Of that, Roswell paid $403,860.