Homes and Communities
Finding the Right Fit for Your Children
by Susan Flowers
Relocating to a new city is always challenging. For families withchildren, that’s even more true. The process involves much more than finding a new home close to your new place of employment. Schools, the makeup of the neighborhood, leisure activities and many other factors need to be taken into account when choosing a place to call home.
"You really have to have a game plan," says real estate agent Rhonda Duffy, who owns Duffy Realty of Atlanta and has been rated as the No. 1 agent in Georgia for eight consecutive years.
That plan begins with identifying specific areas of interest to families with children. If you already know you want to live within the Atlanta city limits, you’ve narrowed your search considerably. Atlanta neighborhoods have much to offer, like Virginia-Highland’s leafy, tree-lined streets, Midtown’s Piedmont Park and Woodruff Arts Center (which includes the High Museum of Art), and Grant Park’s historic homes, park and Zoo Atlanta.
Suburbs and Mixed-Use Communities
If you’re not tied to a particular section of town, your options increase dramatically. Many of Atlanta’s suburbs boast features of interest to families with children. Cities like Alpharetta, Marietta, Decatur, Duluth and Lawrenceville abound with green space, walkable downtown centers and other amenities.
Alpharetta, located in north Fulton County, is home to an historic downtown district, several parks, a weekly farmer’s market and Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, which hosts outdoor summer concerts by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to a beautiful city square, Marietta’s attractions include the Gone With the Wind Museum and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, a Civil War site with 16 miles of hiking trails. Decatur likewise radiates a cozy, small-town charm, especially around its historic courthouse and town square. Public transportation is easily accessible, and recreational activities are plentiful at its many parks and playing fields.
Just north of Atlanta in Gwinnett County, Lawrenceville features such attractions as the Gwinnett Braves minor-league baseball team and Medieval Times, while Duluth boasts the 35-acre Southeastern Railway Museum and the Arena at Gwinnett Center, home of the Georgia Force arena football team and the Gwinnett Gladiators hockey team. Both cities are served by Gwinnett County Public Schools, recognized as one of the best school systems in the state.
Other family-friendly suburbs worth considering include East Point, home to the Georgia Soccer Park and the Dick Lane Velodrome, one of the leading bicycle-racing facilities in the country; Roswell, which features the Roswell Cultural Arts Center and the Chattahoochee Nature Center; and Sandy Springs, which boasts Heritage Green, a four-acre park that hosts free concerts and events.
There are many, many more suburbs worth a look, as well. Click here to read Newcomer Magazine's list of the top 100 Neighborhoods of 2012 for more information on suitable locations and communities for your family.
Mixed-use neighborhoods, which allow residents to live, work and play within the same area, are also worth considering, especially for families used to living in larger metropolitan areas. “A lot of mixed-use developments are attractive to younger families,” says Robin Lemon of Atlanta Communities, a prominent Atlanta-area real estate brokerage. “They want their children to experience more of a neighborhood feeling,” she says.
Suwanee’s Town Center development features single-family homes, townhomes and condos, as well as retail and office space and the 10-acre Town Center Park. With abundant green space, an interactive fountain and a 1,000-seat amphitheater, Town Center Park is referred to as Suwanee’s front yard.
Smyrna’s pedestrian-friendly Market Village sports an airy, open feel, with plentiful green space, a public square and fountain, as well as charming townhomes, restaurants and retail and office space. Atlantic Station, in Atlanta’s Midtown area, is a 138-acre development offering an array of condos, lofts, townhomes, apartments and single-family homes, as well as a two-acre lake and plenty of green space, in addition to a mix of restaurants and shops.
Ask Questions and Investigate
Once you’ve settled on a neighborhood, ask your potential new neighbors about the area. Duffy recommends seeking out three sets of neighbors and asking them all the same questions. For families with children, those include: How social is the neighborhood?
Are there many parties or events? How many kids live in the area, versus how many adults? It’s important to establish whether a particular neighborhood provides a wealth of opportunities to make friends with children of similar age.
It’s also a good idea to visit local shopping areas to ensure that there are child-friendly establishments and other retail outlets that fit your family’s lifestyle.
A distance of only two or three miles can make a difference. And be sure to investigate any family-friendly amenities in the neighborhood.
The fact that a subdivision has a pool, for example, doesn’t mean that the facility has room for all the residents to enjoy it on a regular basis, that there’s adequate seating around the pool or sufficient safety measures in place.
And there are other factors to consider, such as neighborhood schools. The Atlanta School Guide, Atlanta’s leading education resource for parents and educators, is a great place to start. Available for free at more than 1,050 locations across the metro area, this twice-yearly publication offers features on educational trends, as well as important dates, helpful tips and terminology and detailed, up-to-date information on public and private schools, summer camps, early education centers and many other educational programs and resources.
Your search should also be guided in part by the needs and interests of the children in your family. “Are they a computer family? What kind of sports do they play?” asks Robin Lemon. “If the kids are really involved in certain things, I can start gearing a search toward the family’s needs. There are some families that will come in and say, ‘My children are very interested in volleyball or very into karate.’”
Most importantly, when scouting a new neighborhood and a new home, remember to take your time. “The key to buying a house is to ask a lot of questions and slow down the process,” Duffy advises.
By having a detailed strategy, asking questions and placing special emphasis on neighborhoods and the amenities they offer, you’re much more likely to settle on the perfect home for yourself and your children.
6 FAMILY-FRIENDLY NEIGHBORHOODS WORTH A CLOSER LOOK
This walkable city just east of Atlanta radiates a cozy, small-town charm, especially around its historic square. Public transportation is easily accessible, and recreational activities are plentiful.
Among this city’s draws are the 35-acre Southeastern Railway Museum, the Arena at Gwinnett Center and a walkable downtown filled with historic buildings.
Metro Atlanta’s second-oldest city features such family-friendly attractions as the Aurora Theatre, the Gwinnett Braves minor-league baseball team and Medieval Times.
This Cobb County hub offers affordable housing, a strong school system and attractions like the Gone With the Wind Museum, the Earl Smith Strand Theatre and the historic downtown square.
This suburban city 15 miles northwest of Atlanta boasts the Village Green, a charming town center, as well as 33 acres of park space and the Silver Comet Trail.
Green areas like the 10-acre Town Center Park, with its amphitheater and special events, are part of this city’s appeal, and the Gwinnett County school system is widely considered the best in the state.