A stroll through downtown Braselton is like taking a trip into the past. Historic two-story homes marked by spectacular architecture and stately white columns dot the landscape, an... read more
One of the biggest decisions you have to make when you begin a new home search is what type of lifestyle you want to enjoy day in and day out. Are you looking to be in the middle of a walkable big city atmosphere, complete with access to coveted job opportunities, cultural attractions, top-notch restaurants and more? Or would you and your family prefer a more serene suburban environment, where the community feels like family, tree-lined streets lead to welcoming parks and outstanding schools are close to a wide variety of single-family residential options? Well, if you’re considering a move to—or even within—metro Atlanta, you’ll actually discover that this is one decision you simply won’t have to make. In fact, the area boasts a number of cities and towns that offer a unique blend of both urban and suburban elements, giving you the best of both worlds. Here, we take a look at some of the most popular and celebrated options across the region that give residents this distinctive duality. From strong economic development and significant cultural opportunities to inviting neighborhoods and lower tax rates, among many other features, these bona fide hot spots will provide you with everything you’re looking for in one single locale.
Noted as one of the fastest-growing cities in metro Atlanta, Smyrna has become a huge draw for home buyers of all ages. It is located only 16 miles from Downtown Atlanta, is home to more than 56,000 residents and has been named by Money Magazine as one of the 50 Best Places to Live in the United States. According to Jennifer Bennett, community relations director for the City of Smyrna, which is known as the Jonquil City, offers the following to current and prospective residents.
On the urban side of the equation, Smyrna’s proximity to major office markets such as Cumberland, Perimeter and the City of Atlanta means a shorter commute for residents. Additionally, the city’s proximity to regional cultural venues, such as nearby Truist Park, The Battery and the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, means that Smyrna is at the center of sports and art in metro Atlanta. It also is an attractive community for young adults, families and baby boomers due to its walkability and quality of life.
What’s more, several large employers call Smyrna home, including GLOCK, Kenny’s Key Lime Pies, United Distributors and global pharmaceutical company UCB, allowing for myriad job opportunities close to home. And economic development continues to thrive, with projects such as the new StillFire Brewery slated to open in 2023.
Of course, with strong economic development comes a wide array of tourism opportunities. In addition to such regional attractions as The Battery and Cobb Energy Centre, Smyrna has Market Village, a downtown area that hosts such events as the Spring Jonquil Festival, the Culture and Spirit Festival/City Birthday Celebration, the fall Crafts and Drafts festival, summer concerts, Taste of Smyrna, the weekly Handmade Market series and the Coming Home for the Holidays annual community tree lighting—all of which draw visitors from locales across the region.
In recent years, Smyrna has become one of the most popular places to reside in the metro Atlanta area because there truly is something for everyone—especially in terms of residential offerings. The most recent addition to the city’s collection of neighborhoods is Riverview, an 82-acre mixed-use project along the Chattahoochee River; the project includes the first housing constructed along the river in 40 years, as well as a five-acre city park with amphitheater, trails, a boat launch and restaurants including Reformation Brewery, Chattahoochee Coffee Company and Grand Champions BBQ. And while Smyrna does offer mixed-use and higher density housing options, the majority of the community consists of single-family neighborhoods. What’s more, the city offers access to award-winning Cobb County schools and boasts a lower cost of living due to lower tax rates than more urban areas.
Smyrna also has a strong community spirit. Many people experience Smyrna for the first time through the city’s community events and attractions and ultimately realize that everything available is an incentive to invest in the community—not only a household or business, but also through a connection to the people and places in the community.
The City of Decatur, located just east of Atlanta and home to nearly 25,000 people, is the most densely populated city in Georgia. It is characterized by world-class big-city business assets, progressive attitudes, highly educated people, an accessible government and superb quality of life. Sherry Jackman, tourism manager for the City of Decatur, offers the following thoughts on the city’s magnetism.
Decatur is one of the most walkable cities in the metro area with sidewalks, bike lanes and access to three MARTA stations easily accessible within its 4.5 square miles. For those who want to live the city lifestyle, Decatur has a downtown “neighborhood” that includes a vibrant commercial district with over 100 shops, restaurants, pubs and more (including numerous well-known chefs and mixologists). The city is renowned for the value it places on being welcoming, inclusive and open to all.
When it comes to economic development, Decatur boasts 1.5 million square feet of commercial office space concentrated in the downtown core. In addition, the city is home to organizations such as Emory Nursing Learning Center, Agnes Scott College, Columbia Seminary, the Task Force for Global Health and a vibrant mix of small, local professional firms looking to make the world a better place. And because Decatur is surrounded by exceptional and well-regarded academic institutions, it benefits from a pipeline of talent; 82,000 students are within a 20-minute drive of downtown Decatur ready to join the workforce.
In terms of tourism, Decatur has more than 100 local shops, restaurants, cafes, pubs, craft breweries, galleries, salons and services, along with year-round events, festivals and activities. There is always something to enjoy, including the Arts Festival, the Book Festival, the Pan African Festival, Placita Latina celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and more. A thriving arts community has become a distinctive feature of Decatur, which is also home to a variety of murals, sculptures, painted electrical boxes and secret doors along with other surprise pop-up arts activities throughout the year.
For those who want a more suburban lifestyle, Decatur delivers here as well. The city has a variety of traditional residential neighborhoods, as well as Decatur mailing addresses for some locations outside of Decatur in unincorporated DeKalb County. The city also is home to the City Schools of Decatur system, an independent public charter school district that features six schools serving approximately 4,200 students; the system has been recognized for the schools’ consistently strong test scores and community involvement.
Decatur also is known for its multiple green spaces and community gardens, including Woodlands, Oakhurst Community Garden and the Decatur Cemetery, which is the oldest burial ground in the metro Atlanta area and features a self-guided tour of some of the most famous people buried there. What’s more, the city regularly hosts an array of fun festivals and family-friendly events—which cater to families of all shapes, sizes and types.
Peachtree City is one of metro Atlanta’s most acclaimed master-planned communities. Located only 30 miles south of Atlanta in Fayette County, the city attracts residents and visitors alike for a wide variety of reasons. Mayor Kim Learnard notes both the urban and suburban appeal of Peachtree City with the following insights.
First and foremost, walkability has become a hallmark for Peachtree City. The community was designed in the 1950s and created to highlight specific features, from ample amounts of green space to an array of neighborhood commercial centers, which are accessible via more than 100 miles of golf cart paths, giving people the opportunity to get around town without ever having to get in their cars.
The unique nature of the city has allowed for a great deal of economic development in recent years. In fact, Peachtree City’s economic development is booming, with industries expanding by the hundreds of millions of dollars and companies increasing their manufacturing capacity, which has attracted more workers to the community. Storefronts are full, and the city has an array of initiatives in place to attract more business to the area, including the adoption of a popular tax incentive plan, which has brought in companies from a host of sectors like aerospace, film and creative media, life sciences and more.
Tourism also is thriving in Peachtree City, with the area being home to sports and recreation facilities like the renowned Tennis Center, soccer fields, a BMX venue, an aquatic facility and more. Additionally, The Fred (Frederick C. Brown Amphitheater), a 2,100-seat outdoor amphitheater, welcomes some of today’s most celebrated musical acts, ensuring that music enthusiasts can enjoy their favorite pastime close to home. And with myriad holiday events, including a can’t-miss Fourth of July parade and fireworks spectacular, Peachtree City draws visitors from across the region.
Quality of life is at the heart of Peachtree City, which is known as a great place to live, work and play. Local residents enjoy shopping, restaurants, parks, recreation venues and a host of family-oriented activities, all within a short golf cart ride from home.
Comprising 25 square miles, Peachtree City has remained relatively small since its founding, but it has everything residents could possibly want, including a robust residential market with diverse housing options in both established and new neighborhoods, as well as one of the strongest school systems in the State of Georgia. Locals can take their bike or golf cart to grocery shop, drop off the kids at school or even head to work, making life in the resort-style city unlike anything found anywhere else in metro Atlanta.
Over the last 20 years, the population of the Town of Braselton has tripled to more than 12,000 residents. To this day, people flock to become part of this bustling North Georgia hamlet, located 43 miles northeast of Atlanta at the convergence of Barrow, Gwinnett, Hall and Jackson counties. Town Manager Jennifer Scott reveals the many attributes that make Braselton an ideal urban/suburban setting.
Residential development in Braselton has surged in recent years, and the town has encouraged the development of more housing options that appeal to younger workers and retirees, such as higher density homes that are withing walking distance of shopping and dining. In 2020, the first traditional apartment complex in Braselton was completed and quickly became fully occupied; that led the town to consider requests for additional multifamily housing options. The town’s exceptional economic development is partly to thank for these newer residential opportunities, as people from all over are moving to Braselton to take advantage of exceptional job opportunities.
Braselton is at the crossroads of several transportation corridors that lead to Atlanta, Athens and Greenville, which has proven to be a logistical advantage for industrial warehouses and major companies. This has provided thousands of jobs for Braselton and the surrounding area. In terms of major brands and businesses, Braselton is home to names like Amazon, Havertys, Whole Foods, Hitachi, Williams-Sonoma, Year One, Peachtree Tooling and more. It also has become a mecca for the healthcare sector with the completion of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center’s hospital. And the hospitality and tourism arena is well-represented by the renowned Château Élan Winery & Resort and Michelin Roadway Atlanta, two of the state’s largest and most visited attractions.
All of this development has been complemented by even more small business growth, particularly in downtown Braselton, which was prompted by the rehabilitation of the landmark Braselton Bros. Department Store building. Job opportunities surpassed 8,000 in the last few years, and that number that is projected to increase by 40 percent by 2040. And in recent years, Braselton has moved forward with implementing a comprehensive planning process that addresses land use and zoning, transportation and mobility, community facilities and services, housing, parks and green infrastructure, fiscal responsibility, community leadership and more.
There has been a reemergence of residential development in Braselton over the past decade due to its small-town attributes, which are appealing to those who want to enjoy the local area’s suburban environment. For instance, a residential development located adjacent to the downtown area is currently underway, and a second development comprising 500 lots near the historic core of town was approved in 2021. What’s more, a large single-family residential neighborhood is being built off of State Route 211 just across from the Château Élan resort entrance. And every day, local housing professionals are meeting to discuss and plan for innovative infill residential options, including condos and townhomes.
In fact, Braselton actually has been one of the fastest-growing areas in the country for two decades, and it is a mecca for active adults and families. Many retirees move to the town to be closer to their children’s families in the metro Atlanta area, and while most of the tourist amenities are adult-focused, the community itself is more family friendly. For example, families living in Braselton have access to Gwinnett County’s highly rated school system, covering Pre-K through grade 12. There also are a number of exceptional private and independent schools in the area. And when it comes to family-based activities, there is no better place than Braselton, which is home to the Mulberry Riverwalk, a 2.3-mile natural trail that the town constructed along the Mulberry River in 2001. The path winds through a hardwood forest, located close to shops, restaurants and neighborhoods on GA 211. Additionally, Lake Lanier is only a 15-minute drive away, allowing residents to enjoy a waterpark, the beach, boating and golf. And within the town itself, there is much to see and do, with downtown Braselton’s shopping and dining options, the Town Green’s festivals, concerts and movies and much more.
Gwinnett County’s newest official city, Peachtree Corners has a population of about 45,000 residents. It is conveniently located with easy access to Interstate 85, Interstate 285 and GA 400 and sits just 30 minutes northeast of Atlanta. Louis Svehla, communications manager for the City of Peachtree Corners, shares his thoughts about the unique features that attract people to this fast-growing locale.
Peachtree Corners offers a variety of housing types, with roughly 59 percent single-family homes and 41 percent multifamily residences. Many of the areas of the city are quite walkable, and the city is focusing on expanding pedestrian mobility by continually adding sections to its multiuse trail system. Peachtree Corners has its own Town Green that includes trails, playgrounds, concerts and a fitness trail, and the surrounding Town Center offers retail, service and restaurants. Across the street is the Forum, the largest retail shopping center in the area. The city is clean, safe, has nightlife and much more.
Peachtree Corners has taken a couple of approaches to economic development, investing in entrepreneurs with the creation of Curiosity Lab, where startups can grow and branch out, and actively focusing on community development. The lab, which makes Peachtree City the only city in the world with a publicly funded autonomous vehicle testing lab on an actual city street, has attracted several partners several partners, including T-Mobile, Cisco, the Georgia Institute of Technology, Bosch, UPS, Georgia Power and many other corporations. Domestic and international companies are testing mobility and smart city systems and other technologies free of charge, making the lab a very exciting part of the growing entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Proactive, visionary leadership has positioned Peachtree Corners as a strong competitor in the metro Atlanta marketplace for years to come. Numerous public and private initiatives are bringing new energy, residents and other businesses to the market, and the city is a job hub for metro Atlanta with 45,000 jobs within the city limits. Businesses large and small can plan on long-term, profitable investments with minimal risk, which is remarkable since the city has a zero-millage rate. Several notable companies—such as Intuitive Surgical, ASHRAE, Mizuno, Fusus, and Siemens—are headquartered or maintain operations in the city. Peachtree Corners also is home to a thriving technology and health sciences district and is focused on attracting technology partners to the area, especially with such locales as Technology Park, a 500-acre innovation center commonly called “Silicon Orchard” that attracts general business activity and conferences.
Peachtree Corners is an innovative, progressive community with lush landscape, mature trees, access to the Chattahoochee River, exceptional schools, several parks and more. The city is focused and improving the quality of life for residents by offering free weekend entertainment and activities at the Town Green and is seeing a real renaissance, with an increase in retail and dining options. The upscale Forum shopping center that was recently purchased by North American Properties is a popular place for shoppers.
For families with children, the school system is a definite plus. The Georgia Department of Education named all Gwinnett high schools as AP Honor Schools. The educational options include Norcross High School, the top International Baccalaureate school in the State of Georgia; Paul Duke STEM High School, which was established in 2018 and is the one and only STEM-themed high school in Gwinnett County Public Schools and Wesleyan School, a private college-preparatory nondenominational Christian school for grades K through 12.
Peachtree Corners’ leaders have been working hard to grow, but to grow wisely. They are controlling sprawl with good policy decisions and investing in the creation of attractive places for people to get together and socialize, creating a real community feel for residents and visitors from all across the region.