ROSWELL — A group of downtown Roswell business owners and residents has voiced opposition to the city’s plan to close Canton Street to vehicles this summer, citing safety issues, revenue loss, and traffic concerns.
The city announced the plan to close Canton Street between Highway 9 and East Alley to pedestrian-only traffic on weekends between Memorial Day and Labor Day as part of a trial period.
However, the city’s long-term goal is to close the street between Highway 9 and Norcross Street permanently, transforming it into a pedestrian-only district. In a recent video, Mayor Wilson stated, “Our goal is to make the heart of Roswell park a more pedestrian-friendly environment.”
Wilson’s vision is to transform Canton Street into a promenade like Barcelona, complete with tables and umbrellas in the middle of the street.
Jenna Aronowitz, owner of 1920 Tavern, expressed concern over the potential impact on local businesses, saying, “Parking is already a major problem downtown. Closing Canton Street to cars for any length of time results in a loss of business.”
According to Aronowitz, her restaurant lost an average of 41% of revenue on April 30th compared to the previous four Sundays when the city closed Canton Street for an event.
Gallery owner Judie Raiford echoed Aronowitz’s concerns, estimating that she loses between 60% and 100% of her business every third Thursday when the city closes Canton Street for the “Alive in Roswell” event. Raiford said, “I can’t even imagine the impact this will have if they close Canton Street every weekend during the busy summer months.”
Neighbor Susan Tyser worried that the decision would negatively affect nearby residents, stating, “Do we really want a whole summer of Alive in Roswell? Our beautiful downtown neighborhood would suffer during the entire season from the trash, loud and competing street bands, and people coming here just to get drunk in our historic downtown.”
In response to the concerns, city officials had previously outlined plans to improve parking options in the area, including opening up parking at City Hall and constructing a new parking garage within two years.
Mayor Wilson acknowledged the parking issue, saying, “We have a plan to address parking concerns both in the short term and long term.”
The temporary trial this summer aims to help guide future plans and adaptations for the Canton Street District initiative. Wilson has promised that if the trial results in a loss of business, he will scrap plans to transform the area.