A Response to East Roswell Economic Development Discussions

roswell_inc-266With the recent closings of Target, Kohl’s, Rack Room Shoes and a variety of other retailers in Roswell, we know there is growing concern over the future of retail and overall economic development in the city, with a particular concern for East Roswell.

As a longtime Roswell resident and 30-year business entrepreneur in this city, I am likewise disappointed by these recent announcements. However, I also find myself excited by the opportunity this creates for us to cast vision for what East Roswell could become in the future.

As many of you know, what’s happening to retail in Roswell is not isolated to our city – it’s happening across the nation. The demand for traditional retail is decreasing rapidly, as the market for online shopping continues to grow. This, alongside the continued trend toward mixed-used development, has become a major game-changer.

This shift in consumer behavior has been causing waves in the industry for several years and is set to completely transform the way retail looks 5 to 10 years from now. It’s also caused major retailers, from Target to Macy’s to Walgreens, to completely rethink their business models. While stores that can’t sustain a profit are closing, CEOs are brainstorming ways for their companies to adapt to the new environment and changing consumer.

People often ask me if that means traditional brick-and-mortar shops will become a thing of the past.

The overwhelming majority of industry experts say no.

However, there is a growing understanding that to remain competitive in the new retail environment, stores and shopping districts will need to offer something consumers can’t get on their phones – a shopping experience.

Consumers are increasingly desiring experience-driven shopping areas like Ponce City Market and Krog Street Market in Atlanta and the downtown areas in Woodstock and Lawrenceville. These destination retail concepts are what most industry leaders forecast as the future for non-online retail.

How does Roswell adapt?

Last month, Roswell Inc was invited to participate in two public forums about the future of economic development along the Holcomb Bridge Road Corridor. The discussions at each focused on trends in commercial development and retail and also started conversations between city leaders and the community about how we can work together to respond to the changing market.

At Roswell Inc, our core mission is to ensure a strong, competitive economic and business climate for the City of Roswell. We do that through keeping up with market trends; working in partnership with business owners, entrepreneurs, city leaders, residents and property developers; and keeping a pulse on what’s happening in the community.

As these discussions continue in the coming months, our commitment to each of you is that we will continue to work diligently as a leader and catalyst for smart economic development that aligns with both the culture and character of Roswell and the demands of the market.

What does that look like?

Currently, our Roswell Inc team is finalizing the details to begin a comprehensive retail study for Roswell. This will focus on the needs for the city as a whole as well as help us develop a plan for the distinct, unique retail needs and opportunities for each part of our community.

We are also working closely with city staff on a proposal to begin a study along Holcomb Bridge Road, east of GA 400. This will help map out future redevelopment in East Roswell and identify what types of projects make sense for the community and the market. It will also work in tandem with the Highway 9 study.

-As both these projects progress, there will be opportunities for public input along the way – whether through surveys, focus groups, town hall meetings, etc. Your voice is an important part of this process, and we encourage you to stay involved.

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