Downtown Roswell business owners oppose city’s pedestrian promenade plan

Plan to close Canton Street creates controversy
Published: May. 9, 2023 at 1:34 PM EDT|Updated: May. 9, 2023 at 4:25 PM EDT
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ROSWELL, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Owners of several businesses that line Roswell’s historic Canton Street gave the city’s mayor an earful Tuesday about a plan to close the street to thru traffic this summer to test out a pedestrian promenade concept.

“You close it off, you’ll ruin our businesses,” said Judie Raiford, owner of Raiford’s Gallery. “We have evidence that every time the street is closed, we all lose money.”

In a 20-minute video posted to the city’s Facebook page last week, Mayor Kurt Wilson described the promenade concept, saying he and other city leaders had been discussing it for 16 months.

Before Tuesday’s meeting, Wilson told Atlanta News First the plan would bring even more people to the already popular Canton Street District, increasing the bottom line for business owners.

“That’s my hope and vision. That’s our hope. It’s not mine. It’s the entire council’s,” Wilson said. “We’ve worked on this for a long time.”

Several business owners said the plan was a total surprise to them, complaining that the mayor did not speak with them individually to get input. They said the biggest problem with closing off streets is that it takes away street parking in an area where parking is already hard to find.

Hearing the complaints, city leaders backed off a bit, saying that instead of closing Canton Street all summer, it would only be closed on weekends. Still, business owners said the plan was developed too hastily.

“Ultimately, it could be a very good plan,” said Sloan Andrews, a hairstylist for a Canton Street salon. “I think if they want to do that, let’s come up with a parking solution to kind of go hand-in-hand with what they want to do.”

“Sometimes you get it right. Sometimes you get it half-right. Sometimes you’re wrong,” said the mayor. “I really relate to a lot of these folks, and the last thing I want to do is to create any harm for them.”

The mayor said the plan is not set in stone. He asked the business owners to return next week for another informal discussion.