Alpharetta is thriving despite the naysayers

There’s a certain vibe out there in Alpharetta right now. We’re riding a wave of positive news about this area. It’s a fun ride. This is a cool place, despite the naysayers. What’s been going on?

Forbes magazine made local news a few weeks ago when it named Alpharetta as one of the friendliest towns in the country. It was an awesome distinction, one that certainly will be used by civil leaders for years to come.

Remember that this “suburban experiment” isn’t supposed to be working. Our neighborhoods with their inward designs and cul-de-sacs don’t promote a sense of community, right? At least that’s what opponents of suburban living have been saying for years.

Then there’s economic news. Unemployment continues to remain low throughout the northern suburbs of Atlanta. We’ve got the lowest numbers in the state.

That’s because of the jobs! General Motors is going to open a huge new facility on Mansell Road right where Alpharetta and Roswell come together. It will create over a thousand new IT jobs. It’s a huge deal.

Yesterday the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported that HP will add 200 new jobs to their Windward Parkway campus. Last year they finished another burst of hiring at this facility that brought in a few hundred more.

Remember that our ability to attract large employers will be hurt if we don’t dramatically increase taxes and fund billion dollar transportation projects. That’s what TSPLOST advocates told us last summer. All these companies will move to Charlotte or Texas or somewhere, right?

Or how about the hip and creative 20-something generation. Remember that they hate Alpharetta. They desire apartments and urban living. If we don’t change our land use plans to welcome them, their creative jobs will move to Atlanta and this place will die. Remember all that talk?

Alpharetta is a tremendous place. Alpharetta is thriving. We’re blessed to live here. Remember this whenever a real estate developer, urbanist, politician or business leader tries to tell you otherwise.

Photo Credit: Alpharetta CVB (creative commons)

17 Responses to “Alpharetta is thriving despite the naysayers”

  1. Brian Davis January 9, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    Yes, Alpharetta is a great place to live because guys like Brandon Beach stick their neck out and fight for this community every day.

  2. Lee January 9, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    Beach and the Chamber do great work. But this area thrives despite things like MARTA, density and TSPLOST that he supports. That’s my point. The doom and gloom predictions continue to be false.

    This article writes itself every few months as the good news pours in. I’ll keep hammering home the facts until they sink in.

  3. Michael Cross January 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

    I don’t claim to speak for anyone else, but I think your take on Brandon Beach is somewhat erroneous. Let’s focus on MARTA for a moment. As a starting point, I believe our public transit is poor and is poorly run. I’m also not a fan of what I’ve seen of the operations and decision-making at MARTA.

    But here’s what I do know. The reason we have to contemplate public transit in north Fulton is NOT primarily for our residents; we need public transit options to allow more employees to get to north Fulton to work. That’s because north Fulton actually has more jobs than residents (, and this is especially true in Alpharetta and Sandy Springs).

    Of course, MARTA (and most proponents of public transit expansion) err by suggesting MARTA is needed for north Fulton residents. Though there are some north Fulton residents who might use MARTA, they are few and infrequent users of public transit. MARTA doesn’t get this.

    But Brandon does. He and others understand that one of our challenges in recruiting employers is making certain those employers can obtain the employees needed for success, and this means employees will be coming from OUTSIDE north Fulton. This especially applies to employers along Windward Parkway, Northpoint Parkway, and Mansell Road (and other areas as well).

    That doesn’t mean that someone who understands this reality “supports MARTA” in all respects, and I think it’s unfair to suggest otherwise.

  4. Lee January 9, 2013 at 2:29 pm #

    You’re right, Michael. The rail projects our esteemed senator-elect has proposed may not get built by MARTA. I committed a logical fallacy in my reasoning. But it might be an easy one to make. After all, MARTA is the only organization operating rail transit in metro Atlanta. They are studying expansion of their network into north Fulton as we speak. But certainly they may not build it. It’s possible I guess that fairies with magic pixie dust could descend upon Alpharetta and make rail appear.

    I’ll bet that any rail project here would connect up with MARTA’s existing line. It might not be called “MARTA” by then, but I’ll bet it will be operated by the organization that MARTA becomes. Hopefully the imbeciles that currently run MARTA will be gone by then but who knows. There are not many people with successful track records operating transit agencies in metro Atlanta. But I’m sure our current transportation leadership will be successful.

    I’ll also bet that any rail project here will be very, very expensive and likely to encounter cost overruns. Indeed it would be among the most expensive ways to move people. It’ll also come with billions in new taxes, something Mr Beach supported in the form of TSPLOST (but thankfully you did not).

    So you’re right. Mr Beach doesn’t support MARTA. I stand corrected.

  5. Michael Cross January 9, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

    Thank you for the opportunity to discuss these matters carefully and thoughtfully. There’s a difference between “public transit” and “rail transit”, especially the heavy rail on which MARTA trains currently run.

    It’s my hope that transit governance changes significantly in the future, preferably the near future. I’m also not a fan of the expansion of heavy rail. The sensible approach in the near future is for our sales tax dollars to be used to make certain that MARTA provides fairly convenient bus service to those who need to make their way to north Fulton for employment. If in the future there suddenly appears to be a need for more significant public transit, so be it; we’ll figure it out.

    As to TSPLOST, you know I had some issues with the project list and the lack of transit governance, and I did not support the measure. I think you must admit, however, that it was nice for our elected state officials not to IMPOSE a new tax upon us, but instead give citizens the opportunity to express their opinion through a direct vote. I’m not sure there’s much about which to complain if the democractic process led to a result with which you agree.

    As to fairies and magic pixie dust, however, I’ll have to defer comment to others. Though I have two young daughters, I don’t profess knowledge in these matters.

  6. Alex Porter January 10, 2013 at 12:48 am #

    I love how a guy who does not even live, pay taxes in the ARC/Atlanta TSPLOST region continues to harp about TSPLOST.

    I also find it downright weird that you write about the City of Alpharetta when it turns out you live in Forsyth County. Stick to food and restaurant reviews, leave local politics to the locals.

  7. Lee January 10, 2013 at 7:15 am #

    Michael, I think we agree. Bus expansion is the way to go here. I wish Brandon Beach would agree. Jimmy Gilvin wrote a great article on his blog (back before his days on council) about Beach wanting to expand rail literally through the Windward community. This is what I mean when I say some of his ideas are out of touch.

    What is your opinion of light rail?

    Alex, be careful insulting the local blogger. The folks at Forbes might be watching. Also, you do know that I can see your IP address, right?

  8. Michael Cross January 10, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    Lee, there might come a time when rail expansion to or through Alpharetta (more likely light rail than heavy rail) makes sense, but I don’t foresee that in the near future (if ever). I’m not convinced a metropolitan area as disperse as Atlanta is an environment in which rail is appropriate.

  9. Christoph January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Even if I woke up tomorrow and there was a MARTA rail station on Windward, it doesn’t change the fact that MARTA is terrible due to its lack of trains, slow speed and huge blind spots. The fact of the matter is you need to drive roughly 20 minutes from Alpharetta to hit the most northbound train. Then you can wait up to 20 minutes for the train to arrive and depart. Then you can wait another 45 minutes to hit the airport, not counting if you have to switch rail lines at Lindberg. It’s a terrible system that expansion won’t help.

  10. Travis Allen January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am #

    Alex, I find that Lee is able to bring a more impartial view to the table than many because he lives outside the city limits.

    Either way, are you an Alpharetta / local native?

  11. Alex Porter January 10, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

    Yea Travis have lived in North Fulton all my life, graduated from Milton.

  12. Travis Allen January 10, 2013 at 10:57 pm #

    Same here, although I find that I grew up in and now live in what is now Milton.

    Local politics is a messy conversation, especially in Alpharetta, so I find that an outside perspective is often enough to turn the discussion into something much more detailed.

    I don’t live in Alpharetta, so I can’t vote there, but I don’t like what I see from my “hometown” and I don’t have any faith that the current council truly has the best idea how to preserve what makes Alpharetta what it is. Over-development continues and “wants” continue to be prioritized over “needs.”

  13. JAH January 11, 2013 at 2:13 pm #

    Lee,

    Nice article! I’m excited about the new job opportunities that continue to come, and I hope that the future location for our technical college will create even more synergies for Alpharetta.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comments about our ‘suburban lifestyle’. I intentionally chose Alpharetta over in-town Atlanta when I moved home almost 22 years ago from New York. I desired what we have in Alpharetta, and don’t want to see it diminished in pursuit of trendy or politically correct zoning.

    One of the nice things about Atlanta is the luxury of choice when it comes to lifestyle. I dearly wish that our leadership will avoid the pressure to homogenize our commmunity into something other than what it is today.

  14. Julie Hogg January 12, 2013 at 7:16 pm #

    Alpharetta is a remarkable place. Good article. Every single day as I leave trendy, mixed village, cool and hip etc etc midtown, and drive down the miracle that is Georgia 400, I breathe a sigh of relief that I’m coming home to Alpharetta. No kidding.
    @ Mr. Porter above, I find it weird that he finds it weird that you write about Alpharetta. I’m simply not getting that point of view. In any case, it does suggest a certain possessive-ness or exclusiveness that others are feeling about Alpharetta. That psychology alone might be worth a few seconds of contemplation.

  15. Michael Hadden January 13, 2013 at 11:45 pm #

    First off, congratulations to Alpharetta. A number of things have been going good for a long time now.

    However, as they say in the financial services industry, past performance is not an indicator of future returns. I have Never opined to you or anyone else that Alpharetta will shrivel up overnight due to its inefficient land use patterns, lack of quality transit, the failure or TSPLOST or the lack of walkability. My point has always been that demographic trends are shifting (significantly in many cases) and walkable lifestyles based on high levels of proximity will not only be in high demand in the near future because they work, they will be in demand because they are necessary.

    The 65 year old person who comfortably lived in Alpharetta in 2012 might not be able to in 2027. The recent college grad who rents an apartment in Alpharetta in 2013 because it’s close to the office might feel differently about buying a home in Alpharetta in 2018. This millennial generation by in large picks where they want to move first and then finds a job later. That generation overwhelmingly desires walkable, mixed-use environments. I’d be interested to see a poll of Alpharetta residents under the age of 25 that asked them why they chose Alpharetta to live. My guess would be in this order… #1 ‘My job is here’ & #2 ‘My family is here.’ Much further down the list would be.. ‘all my friends are here’ and ‘it’s a hip place to be.’

    Right now, North Fulton as a whole has a lot of good things going for it and with a solid tax base and that will continue. However, there are chinks in the armor of what Chuck Marohn coined as “the suburban experiment.” Those chinks shouldn’t just be swept under the rug because you like your cul-de-sac living and the good times are rolling. Problems such as an overly dispersed road network, an inefficient infrastructure distribution system and tract housing subdivisions of the same vintage that will fall into disrepair at roughly the same time shouldn’t be swept under the rug just because a rich tax base can afford to right now. As an aside, if you haven’t watched Chuck’s TEDx talk, you really should take 17 minutes and check it out. You might enjoy seeing a conservative take on why suburbia is actually a ponzi scheme.

    As you can probably tell, I think things could be significantly different in 10-15 years if Alpharetta and the other suburban cities in the region don’t make some notable changes primarily by developing walkable neighborhood centers that contain a high percentage of ones daily needs within a 5-10 minute walk. You referred to me as an “urbanist” and I’m guilty as charged. However, I don’t think you have me pegged right. I think there is a misnomer that comes from the word ‘urbanism’ that says ‘urbanists’ want to turn everything into Manhattan. That’s just not the reality. An easy way to rebrand the term and get the right picture would be to call urbanists ‘walkability advocates’ instead.

    Neighborhoods such as Historic Roswell, Vickery Village, Milton Crabapple, Downtown Suwanee, Serenbe, Glenwood Park and eventually Alpharetta City Center and Avalon are what I support. The last two just so happen to be the primary drivers of good things in Alpharetta at the moment. Alpharetta will continue to thrive not because they have good schools, lots of cul-de-sacs and big roads. Rather, it will continue to thrive because of visionary developments like City Center and Avalon that will serve as case in point examples of why suburbia needs to embrace urbanism and the walkability advocates that promote it.

  16. Lee January 14, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    Thanks for the kind words, guys.

    Michael, I think millennial generation will do just like my generation (Gen-X) did. They will grow up and want to raise families. They will realize that raising a family in an apartment is a pretty dumb idea. When that happens, they will move to places like Alpharetta where there are good jobs, awesome schools and almost no crime. Alpharetta has never been a hot spot for 20-somethings and probably never will – and that’s ok!

    There are some great walkable communities in this area that have single family homes and/or townhomes. I’d like to see that trend continue. I liked your article on Avalon’s residential portion (on their west side). That’s ideal in my opinion. What I don’t think fits the character of this area is stacked housing like they want to do with Peridot and Windward Mill. Big mistake.

    As far as downtown Alpharetta’s residential component… It will be apartments over retail. Councilmen are too chicken to discuss it before this year’s election. But city center could be very walkable with townhomes surrounding a retail and municipal core.

  17. Rich E. January 3, 2014 at 9:34 am #

    Alpharetta should have “The City with no Sidewalks” as its motto.

    MARTA hasn’t worked in the area because the city has resisted it. It will only be useful as rapid transit into Atlanta, after driving to a park-and-ride.

    I believe decades from now it will be another suburban wasteland similar to Stone Mountain or Norcross, enveloped by sprawl as the elitists migrate to the next make believe refuge from imagined fears.

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