Dignitaries at the two-hour design workshop at SPSU’s student center — a follow-up to the Dec. 13 kickoff meeting at Life University — included SPSU President Dr. Lisa Rossbacher and architect Michael M. Sizemore, designer of the SPSU library.
“The conversation we’re going to begin continuing today started just about two years ago when people at Life University got together with people here at Southern Polytechnic and said, ‘You know, there are a lot of ideas out there for what could happen along Highway 41,’” Rossbacher said about the road also known as Cobb Parkway.
City officials in attendance included Mayor Steve Tumlin, a board member of the SPSU Foundation, who said Cobb Parkway has great potential for improvement.
“The concept is not only of making Highway 41 better and more productive but to help these college campuses add more to the community,” he said. The city of Marietta is committed. (Highway) 41 is a dynamic road. We’ve got to be good stewards.”
Also attending were City Councilman Philip Goldstein, Planning Commission chair Bob Kinney, Marietta Housing Authority Executive Director Ray Buday, and City Manager Bill Bruton.
Bruton said the $100,000 Livable Centers Initiative study, for which the Atlanta Regional Commission paid $80,000, can lead to federal dollars to implement the ideas.
“That’s what we did on Roswell Street,” he said about streetscape improvements.
Community members agreed on several major points raised during 90 minutes of looking at maps and pictures and tossing out ideas on four different topics, summarized at the workshop’s conclusion by speakers from Norcross-based Jacobs Engineering.
“Safety is an issue in terms of walking, bicycling and even driving,” said Landscape Architect Andrea Greco, who led two discussion groups on the topic of connecting to the greater Marietta community.
Urban Designer Megan Holder said her topic, creating a university center, yielded agreement with Greco’s group.
“We talked about the same things and had some of the same themes come out of our group,” Holder said. “When we talked about some of the bigger issues, it was students having the desire to walk and being able to go to other places, but not feeling there was a safe pedestrian environment.”
The same point surfaced in a group discussing the topic of how to revitalize the Cobb Parkway corridor.
“My biggest problem is sidewalks,” said SPSU Director of Graduate Studies Nikki Palamiotis. “Our students have to walk on the side of the road.”
Another problem, Holder said, was that the two campuses, bordered by South Marietta Parkway, Cobb Parkway and South Cobb Drive, suffer from an identity crisis in which “no one knows they’re there.”
Rick Padgett of Atlanta-based marketing analysis firm Huntley Partners said not only did Cobb Parkway corridor participants agree, they suggested streetscapes, which have worked well elsewhere.
“You know you’ve entered a different district. It has a sense of place,” he said. “It becomes a gateway.”
The gateways and entryways group backed him up.
“Brick sidewalks speak to academic environments. They announce that university district,” Assistant Project Manager Megan Will, the group’s facilitator, said.
Will’s participants specifically identified the spot where efforts should begin.
“It emerged from both of our groups that what was felt to be a unifying point was where the two universities have a joint boundary,” she said.
SPSU student body president Kevin White pinpointed the exact location as the site of a former hotel on Cobb Parkway, across from New Hope Road.
“This becomes a communal area,” he said, pointing at an aerial map.
As a member of the university center group, White also suggested a way to create a community through negotiation.
“Some of the things we want, we can get if we open up with Life,” he said.
Next steps include a survey at www.mu2lci.com that went live Monday and will conclude Feb. 15, the presentation of a draft plan March 21 and a public hearing at the April 17 Marietta City Council meeting, at which a vote may be taken.
Community Planner Amanda Hatten encouraged stakeholders to weigh in.
“We want to make sure this plan reflects the hopes and dreams of the community,” she said.