Start/Stop/Continue – Alpharetta 2011

Often I draw blogging inspiration from my cubicle life. How sad is that? Tis the season for annual peer reviews, which means our start/stop/continue exercise. It is sort of a kinder and gentler way of telling someone what they should or shouldn’t be doing. The idea is to list things an employee should start doing in the new year, bad habits they should stop and activities they should continue. Here’s my take on stuff I observe in Alpharetta. I did something similar last year with restaurants, so I’ll keep half of this year’s foodie focused. Don’t leave me if you’re here for Foodie Friday!

Start – Fine and Performing Arts

If you look on the Alpharetta CVB website for the arts, you’ll find a paltry list. We’ve got a handful of art boutiques downtown, the ACT1 theater group (they are terrific) and Encore Park. Alpharetta seriously lags our suburban peers in the fine arts. Roswell has a small arts center with a 600 seat auditorium. Marietta can boast the Cobb Energy Center. It’s something we need to look into, I just cringe thinking about paying for it!

Stop – Mixed-use Development

…or at least enact a moratorium. Not a single mixed-use development has been successful in this area. The Vickery development in south Forsyth is half-baked and has been in and out of foreclosure. Prospect Park is egg on Alpharetta’s face. I don’t know if these failures are because of some inherent flaw in the mixed-use concept, or just victims of the real estate meltdown. Either way, it is more than prudent to put a temporary stop to these. There are mixed-use developments planned or in the works on Windward Parkway and Haynes Bridge Road. Alpharetta’s got the potential to have a trifecta of Prospect Park mud pits at exits nine, ten and eleven.

Continue – Job Creation

HP, Vesta, Global Payments, ThyssenKrupp, Macy’s… These are all companies that are bringing jobs to our area. City leaders and Chamber officials deserve heaping praise. Keep it up guys! You’re exceeding expectations!

And now, allow me to shift gears and talk about Alpharetta’s restaurant scene…

Start – Farm-to-Table Restaurants

If you want to know the next trend in Alpharetta dining, just look at what’s trendy ITP. Whatever cool hipsters in Atlanta are doing today will arrive in the burbs a year or two later. My prediction is that we’ll soon see farm-to-table restaurants.

And no, I’m not some crunchy granola-type who wants us to eat local to reduce carbon footprints. That’s hogwash. Local produce just tastes better. A few Alpharetta-area restaurants have toyed with farm-fresh ingredients. Milton’s Cuisine planted a vegetable garden this past year, but it was mainly to supplement their menu offerings. Casa Nuova Italian in south Forsyth sourced some produce from a farm about a mile from their restaurant. I’d like to see more!

Stop – Self-serve Frozen Yogurt

Enough already! 2010 saw just about every traditional ice cream joint close and get replaced by this concept. We’ve got Yoforia, Yogli Mogli, Brain Freeze, Menchies and more. Strangely enough many opened at the end of summer or even this winter. If you’re pushing cold treats, don’t start before your seasonally slow period. Nevertheless, predicting some closures in this space isn’t a long shot by any means.

Continue – Social Networking

More and more local restaurants are connecting with diners on twitter and facebook. This seems especially true with newer shops that are generating pre-opening buzz online. Check out this list for Alpharetta restaurants on twitter.

Photo Credit : beautifulcataya

9 Responses to “Start/Stop/Continue – Alpharetta 2011”

  1. Bob Strader January 21, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Lee – I’m with you on everything (esp. farm-to-table restaurants and performing arts) but not the mixed use developments. I really think you’re off the mark on this one. Those developments suffered the economy in the same way that the half-completed subdivisions did. Wieland is showing incredible success with Braeburn in Crabapple right now and the biggest reason is that mixed-use development, the demand is there and we will see Crabapple and Vickery recover. Prospect Park is a mess but that’s a factor of the developers, not the concept.

  2. Chris Rouse January 21, 2011 at 9:00 pm #

    Stop the frozen yogut. Yes, yes, yes and yes. There’s a new one opening on Windward that I spotted the other day. I think adding a performing arts center would be great.

    I would love to see some more farm-to-table options come into Alpharetta. My only concern would be the (probably) higher prices for the menu items since local food always seems to cost more.

    I’d also love to see something start at this eye sore of a failed development down the road from me on Old Milton just below the police department.

  3. Michael Hadden January 22, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    I’ve gotta echo Bob on this one Lee. I’m on the same page with everything except for your take on M-U developments. Some of the most successful areas in the region and the country from a RE sales perspective right now are walkable MU neighborhoods. Whether they are new developments or traditional walkable neighborhoods, you will find that they have held their value better than conventional suburban development.

    The unfortunate thing for N.Fulton is that our MU developments got started later than those in many other regions so they didn’t have a critical mass already built that could showcase the ideas and principles behind the development. Crabapple and Vickery are fantastic. They will fully recover and be showcased for the gems that they are. It’s rare that you ever talk to someone who doesn’t like those developments. Others such as Prospect Park, Centennial Walk, and Windward Mill will probably not happen as planned. The concept didn’t kill them, the economy and poor financing/investment/timing decisions did.

  4. Lee January 22, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Thanks for the comments, guys. I’m not completely opposed to mixed-use. I would consider them in certain areas based on location and density. I’m suggesting a moratorium on these things until the real estate and capital markets have time to work themselves out. The difference between a big mixed-use going under and a subdivision is that the mixed use is a hundred acres of visible blight at the gateway to the city. Let’s give this time… proceed slowly, deliberately and with a lot of caution to avoid another Prospect Park.

  5. Kim January 23, 2011 at 2:44 pm #

    Amen on the MU.

    Bob, It is all in how you define mixed use. I am with you on Vickery and Crabapple. Atlantic Station, not so much. Vickery or Crabapple are charming and add to the beauty or our community. (Though if you go deeper into the Wieland subdivision, I have noticed noticed they are using inferior building materials with fewer architectural details as compared to the ones up front. They look cheap.)

    However, the three mixed-use communities on the 400 corridor are no Vickerys or Crabapples. They are a completely different animal with high density condos, like Atlantic Station. I don’t think it fits our community and most Alpharettans agree according to the LCI NorthPoint survey. Go take a look at the actual rank-ordered pictures for yourself.

    Lee, you are right. There is a difference between saying “no, not ever” and “no, not now.” As stewards of the city, our reps need to take this off the table until we have at least one successful project of the two that have already been approved. Preferably starting with the dust bowl.

  6. jimgilvin January 23, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

    Lee- You are completely right about mixed use. The amount of density being pushed by Alpharetta’s community development is horrendous.

    A city with entire strip malls sitting vacant and a failed townhome development in the heart of our downtown has no business approving more of these projects.

    I tried to explain to Bob Strader earlier that comparing Crabapple’s “mixed use” to Met Life’s “mixed use” is ludicrous but for some reason he still chose to lump them together.

    Met Life’s Peridot would put 500+ condominiums in Milton school district while Braeburn has McMansions with 3 car garages. And despite Bob’s claim that Braeburn is an incredible success I think even that is yet to be decided. The multiple listing service doesn’t show a single completed sale in Braeburn.

    As for Mr. Hadden, a quick review of his website shows that he wants to make cul de sacs illegal and turn Roswell into an urban environment. I find it bizarre that people who say they want MARTA, high density mixed use and urban environments shun these areas and then expect us to change to suit them.

    Unfortunately Alpharetta’s city council will probably side with Mr. Hadden tomorrow night and approve more high density condos. I just hope they don’t ban my cul de sac next.

  7. Michael Hadden January 24, 2011 at 10:30 pm #

    Jim, you can call me Mike. First, communities never stay the same. They evolve over time and if we’re fortunate, they become what the people who live in them want them to become. This can only happen when they aren’t constrained by laws that prevent the desired change. However, that type of environment does not generally exist. Laws that constrain demand and limit private developers do nothing but sacrifice their subjects to the frustration of bureaucracy.

    I would like to clarify for Lee’s readers who haven’t had a chance to quickly review my website that I don’t want Roswell to become Midtown (it’s geographically too large anyway). However, if future residents want that type of development in or around Roswell, it should be allowed.

    What I am a proponent of is the restoration of our city centers. That means reconstructing the urbanism that existed before the parking lots took over. That also means densely packed and diverse mixes of use in those areas. I’m also in favor of reigning in the spread of irresponsible sprawl that consumes land that could otherwise be left to nature or continue being productive agricultural land. I’d also like to see the self segregation that is caused by single-use, single-price-point subdivisions curtailed. Additionally, high quality transit would be nice for the individuals who can’t drive, can’t afford to drive or choose not to drive. Had you taken a little more time on my site you would know my opinion on MARTA.

    Essentially, cities need to plan better. They need to plan for the future and not for today. If you consider demographics, you will see that in 10+ years, the demand for mixed use living arrangements will be 300% to 400% higher than today. The single family lots and cul-de-sacs that are on the ground now in North Fulton aren’t going anywhere but if the Alpharetta city council is acting responsibly and in the best interest of the future of the city, they will continue to consider Mixed-Use development as all demographic studies point in that direction. Additionally, the most efficient way to increase tax rolls is MU.

    As far as cul-de-sacs are concerned. We have enough. They waste resources (land, fuel, time) while limiting connectivity. They cause increased emergency response times. They encourage self-segregation and limit true community and they make redevelopment of an area extremely difficult. Natural evolution of the built environment occurs. The house you live in, probably won’t be there in 40-50 years but the cul-de-sac design ensures that the only possible use of that land 40-50 years from now will still be residential. They retard the natural evolution of the built environment. The only acceptable location for a cul-de-sac is where the topography requires it.

    Enough for now. Kudos to the Alpharetta City Council for allowing a private developer to do what they want to with their land… Something I’m sure all of us conservatives in North Fulton can truly appreciate.

  8. Lee January 25, 2011 at 9:31 am #

    Mike (can I call you that too?),

    I can tell you’re passionate about these issues and I respect your opinion. I just don’t think the majority of residents in this area favor things like MARTA, replacing cul-de-sacs with through streets and creating urban environments. Sure, there are some that desire this and that’s fine. There’s a time and place for this kind of thing. Perhaps I’m way out of touch with the community, but I doubt it. The citizens of Alpharetta simply don’t want many of the ideas you’re talking about.

    Three council positions are up for re-election in Alpharetta this year, as well as the mayor’s job. Let’s see what issues the voters set as a priority once the campaigns begin in earnest.

  9. Sunnie July 4, 2011 at 2:51 am #

    I’ve lived in Alpharetta for several years now. As I stated in an earlier blog. So far, Alpharetta is one of the few places that isn’t so crime ridden. Atlantic Station, Buckhead and some if those area have become a haven for crime and criminals. I’ve lived in Midtown when developers were started to “urbanize” the area by saturating the area with condos. Unfortunately, now everytime you look at the news there always some kind of criminal activity going on. Alpharetta is not urban, but suburban. I what just hate to see this city turn into something other than what is. What about a Trader Joes, World Market. Invest in something that Alpharetta doesn’t already have. We currently have tons of apartments, townhomes and single family homes. Lastly, Alpharetta is not a big city, why cram a bunch of condos and townhomes in one area, when the current residents have to outside of Alpharetta for entertaiment or to go to certain stores. The city really needs to think about what Alpharetta really needs, because once the “hooligans and vagrants” start to invade the area, I’m moving out.

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