Reflections on Avalon’s opening

Avalon opens today. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you already knew that.

Avalon logoFrom the point of view of my writing interests, Avalon is in my sweet spot. It combines nearly every theme I ever wanted to blog about, from restaurants to politics to affluence, all into one neat little project. I couldn’t have asked for better writing material.

We here at Roots provided what I believe (and hope) has been the best, most comprehensive coverage of this enormous project. From the time the property went under contract to this opening week and beyond, we’ve written about it all. We’ve gone well beyond printing press releases and the stories spoonfed to editors from PR departments. We’ve tried to dive deep into the issues and discussions of this complicated and multifaceted development.

Comprehensive I believe our coverage has been. Impartial? Certainly not as this is an opinion blog after all. Many parts of the process have turned me off, in particular the back-room deal making and politicking. The sausage making analogy was one I used last year and it still holds true.

And then there’s Mark Toro. The guy is a character and at times has a snarky attitude on social media. “El Toro” was a name I once called him, a moniker he probably relished in a¬†narcissistic kind of way.

But I’ll say this about Mark Toro… he’s delivered on what he promised.

Prospect Park

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It’s this kept promise that’s resonated with political and community leaders alike in Alpharetta. Even the apartment opponents I know respect Mr. Toro for what he’s put together. After all, the memories of Prospect Park, Stan Thomas, an incomplete Westside Parkway, the mud pit and broken parking deck are not forgotten in this town. Toro’s kept promise resonates loud in Alpharetta right now, so much so that some on Alpharetta’s council were willing to go against their own past campaign promises and approve more apartments on Monday night.

The first few weeks at Avalon may tick some people off. The crowds will be relentless, traffic will suck, parking will be a mess and service kinks will have to be worked out. But in the end, Alpharetta will treasure Avalon. It is a beautiful development with outstanding restaurants and activities run by people who know what they are doing.

The¬† process that got us here was downright ugly at times. Hopefully we here at Roots chronicled it well. But at the end of it all, we’ve got a gem. Congrats Avalon on the opening. Welcome to Alpharetta.

20 Responses to “Reflections on Avalon’s opening”

  1. Greg October 30, 2014 at 9:43 am #

    As a City of Alpharetta resident, I will go on the record saying that I’m very glad that Avalon is here. It might or might not become my “go-to” place for shopping and dining (I don’t plan to abandon my current local favorites), but I think it will be a fantastic asset to Alpharetta and the North Fulton area.

    For the record, I went to the Whole Foods in Avalon last night after work to pick up some things for dinner and I thought it was a completely “normal” experience, not nearly as crowded or hectic as when they first opened.

  2. Lori October 30, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

    I went to “The Perfect Taste” last night. (Tickets I won on social media.) Everything was so beautiful and very well done! The outdoor seating spaces with fire pits and lighting are wonderful. Reminded me of my hometown New Orleans where you can stroll around with your drink in hand and socialize. All the food sampled was great can’t wait to try meals at my favorites. Hope it’s not too crowded to enjoy, it is definitely a great asset to Alpharetta.

  3. Jen October 30, 2014 at 2:35 pm #

    Looking forward to checking Avalon out. The loft and townhouses look really nice from the street and wish this was here 7 years ago before I bought a regular house and before a kid. There something nice about walking out your door and having shopping and dining all within walking distance.

    I think the pressure from the public and the high standards for good urban development keep developers on their toes in a positive way. It’s smart for these developers to impress and get public confidence if they want to do more business in Alpharetta. It’s nice to see something unique and not just another strip mall. I’m pretty excited about the college going across the street. Students and education always make a city more fun.

  4. Julie H November 1, 2014 at 8:58 am #

    Yes, you’ve done a great job covering Avalon. But I must say, I’m a bit surprised at your optimism above. Why is everyone so starry eyed about Avalon? And even you seem starry eyed. Why? Because it has new big shiny buildings? Because it has some unique retail tenants? Because it filled in the mud hole? Because, because,,,what? I really don’t get it. When we sit back and balance what Avalon brings to the community (some jobs, and immense justification for high density housing and rapid rail transit) vs. what it takes away (your money….Repeat this mantra, ‘spend, spend, spend’, better adherence to the CLUP and no rail transit) what exactly has it brought to the community?

  5. Jen November 1, 2014 at 7:42 pm #

    Went to Avalon today. Comparable to the forum and avenues, but 5 min from my house so LOVE it. We parked in the “dirt” lot near west side parkway and walked to avoid the busy parking garage. Loved it so far especially the little green space in front of Regal (which could have been bigger, but at least there is one, which is cool). I wish the side walks inside the shopping area were wider. It was a little tight with today’scrowd (but still a minor negative). We saw many plates from other counties (Cobb, Forsyth, etc). I think crowds will thin out a bit after Christmas and Alpharettans will get a little piece for Avalon to themselves . It’s a nice place for teenagers to hang out other than the mall and it was nice to see all ages walking around. A wonderful gathering place for sure.

  6. Jen November 2, 2014 at 10:40 am #

    My only other recommendation for Avalon is to close off the interior to cars. It would be nice if cars stayed on the perimeter and the interior of Avalon was all pedestrian :)

  7. A November 3, 2014 at 12:14 pm #

    So it’s OK for Avalon to double its number of rental units, but then right after that vote the City Council is considering putting a moratorium on all other rental properties for the next 5 months?

    We shouldn’t be surprised. The Mayor and Council (with the possible exception of Jim Gilvin) have fallen over themselves to give Avalon and Mark Toro everything they’ve asked for. Definitely smells fishy to me.

  8. Other Jen November 3, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

    I went with my daughter today and it is very nice. I like that it is more compact than The Collection. Parking was fine and I like the variety of dining and shopping. Looking forward to dining at The El Felix some time soon, the smell of the mesquite grill was making us hungry. It is what it is; a nice, fancy, new shopping center-I do think it is and will continue to be an asset to the community. I agree that traffic should be routed away from the middle, cars would make me nervous if I had small children. And if I lived there I would not want the extra noise outside my window.

    Now what I would really love to see is some kind of shuttle service connecting Downtown with Avalon and North Point.

  9. Jen November 3, 2014 at 4:50 pm #

    Other Jen: I like your idea of connecting Avalon, NP and downtown and even windward. I think a trolley system would be cute. Even great for workers who live in Alpharetta and work in windward. I’ know there is always talk about Marta, but we are not atlanta and it would be great if we had our own local transportation system. I live west of 400 and would love if a trolley or train could take me to windward for work.

  10. Mark Toro November 5, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

    Thank you for your post, Lee. As always, it is informative and entertaining. I look forward to your coverage in the months and years to come.

    So far, it looks like your suggestion that “Alpharetta will treasure Avalon” is prophetic. Grand Opening weekend was off the chain!

    Thanks, again.

    See you on the Boulevard!

    Mark Toro

  11. Mala November 5, 2014 at 5:40 pm #

    Mark Toro told me on this blog that I would be impressed with Avalon. Plans on paper and computer renderings always look great, but reality is usually disappointing. In the case of Avalon, I have to say the product is quite impressive. There are apartments, but they are understated and almost unnoticeable and it’s nice that they didn’t build them up too high. I saw two young women walking with their arms clasped and it reminded me of Italy. People dressed up to walk the strip and looked happy. The architecture is refreshing and modern. We ate at The El Felix for lunch and loved it. It’s wonderful to have an outdoor gathering place that brings people in a community together. Avalon, so far has done that. Some of the stores are a little too expensive for me, but I truly will support it by having a lunch or a coffee or an occasional splurge at one of the shops. I really like that traffic is minimal once you enter the property. I love developments the are truly walkable, and Avalon has done this. Congratulations.

  12. Jen November 5, 2014 at 8:23 pm #

    My husband and I went for lunch at Avalon today and were excited to see the skating rink (I’m Canadian, so to see ice made me feel at home). I remember seeing the drawings of a skating rink, but didn’t really believe it. It’s a nice touch.

  13. Halston November 8, 2014 at 10:00 pm #

    Nothing says “Foodie” like Ted’s Montana Grill and Pinkberry. Sure the 80 dollar steaks are “Foodie” type stuff at Oak Steakhouse. Always thought being a Foodie meant finding the hole in the wall where the food was the highlight. Not the prices being inflated because of the rent being paid… or in this case even worse making everything feel ‘expensive’ so you feel good about being ripped off.

    So ‘excited’ for The Avalon… not.

  14. Cool Papa Bell November 10, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

    Is Mala on Mark Toro’s payroll on something? Eeesh. -:)

  15. mala November 11, 2014 at 2:05 pm #

    Cool papa bell: nope. I don’t work for mark toro. In fact, you’ll be happy to know I’m leaving Alpharetta. One of the major high tech players here has been laying off, so moving on before we get cut.

  16. A November 11, 2014 at 5:53 pm #

    If anything, Mala has been very skeptical about Avalon and other issues. I’ve noticed that because I feel the same.

    Sorry about all the layoffs. Just read about AIG. We know someone who works in their office here.

    Lee–maybe a post about local layoffs would be timely.

  17. S Lee Guy November 12, 2014 at 5:22 pm #

    I’m not aware of any big layoffs right now, other than perhaps AIG. McKesson (the biggest employer in town) always seems to be boom or bust – either manic hiring or deep layoffs. Perhaps it’s them. Either way, most of the time companies don’t exactly broadcast layoffs to the world.

  18. Greg November 14, 2014 at 2:53 pm #

    I just realized that no one ever reported on the results of Avalon’s specially timed “Oops – I did it again” request for more apartments and higher skyscrapers. Not here, not the Revue and News, not anywhere I could find. I had to look up and read the summary on the city’s website.

    It sailed through, of course. Alpharetta’s new city motto: “WE LOVE APARTMENTS!”

  19. mala November 14, 2014 at 9:30 pm #

    I find in the technology sector people need to be ready for a layoff at anytime. Markets can get saturated quickly and technology moves fast and it’s easy for competitors to swoop in. My partner and I live RIF Ready and anticipate these cycles. I don’t think the current layoffs happening will shut down the city (my intention is not to create panic);. It was just a few hundred people last month, but enough for us to think about moving elsewhere, which is disappointing as we love Alpharetta and hope things are good in other sectors of the local economy.

    I was skeptical of Avalon because the GAT is filled with mixed used developments that have seemed to be unsuccessful. I didn’t really like what was on paper, but I also don’t mind admitting I was wrong. It really does seem to wok in this suburb and watching the shoppers and diners the last few times I visited Avalon, I noticed it filled a need for a higher end market. What impressed me was the walkabillity (call me crazy, but I love walking outdoors and I love sidewalks). The end.

  20. Cool Papa Bell November 24, 2014 at 12:42 pm #

    Sounds like Mala needs gig speed to have a sizable advantage over 98 percent of the rest of the tech world.

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