Five Metro Atlanta Cities Receiving National Recognition
By H.M. Cauley
As a major metropolitan area, Atlanta encompasses much more thanthe city itself. The region includes surrounding counties where small towns and neighborhoods offer an alternative to living in the urban zone. In fact, five of those cities have been recognized by national organizations and media for their quality of life and the amenities they offer.
This Gwinnett County city just off Interstate 85 launched an ambitious plan in the early 2000s to create a downtown district with retail and residential sections as well as a 10-acre park, walking trails and concert areas. The Town Center project has been enormously successful in establishing a central gathering point for events and cementing the city’s identity.
“Town Center is considered one of metro Atlanta’s great public spaces,” says Mayor Jimmy Burnette. “We provide more than 40 events each year that bring the community together. In addition, we’ve built a park system that offers distinctive uses, from playgrounds to community gardens, from trails to picnic shelters.” Suwanee also boasts excellent local schools and housing in a range of prices and styles. That combination earned it spots on Family Circle’s 10 Best Towns for Families list in 2013 and Money’s Best Places to Live that same year. And Kiplinger.com cited Suwanee as one of the country’s Top 10 Cities to Raise Your Kids.
“Suwanee is a safe community served by one of the best public school districts in the country,” says Burnette. “We have worked hard … to create a place that has a little bit of personality and offers residents and visitors reasons to want to live and work here.”
Not far from Suwanee, the city of Duluth took a similar approach, recreating a downtown area where kids can romp in fountains and families can gather for picnics and concerts. The district incorporates existing historic elements for a quaint blend of old and new. And there’s a distinct dedication to the arts and entertainment: Duluth is home to the Red Clay Music Foundry, the New Dawn Theater Company, and the Town Green, an outdoor gathering and event space. The Gwinnett Center draws nationally acclaimed concerts and family-friendly performances and sporting events to its convention center, arena, theater and arts center.
The Gwinnett County city’s revitalized downtown is a magnet for locals, who enjoy access to a variety of restaurants, shops, cultural experiences and recreational opportunities.
In addition, housing options abound across a range of prices, a fact that makes Duluth one of the Best Affordable Suburbs in the country, according to BusinessWeek. Reader’s Digest honored Duluth as one of the Best 100 Cities in America, and NewsMax magazine named it among the Top 25 Cities and Towns with the Best American Values. “The city offers everything to capture the spirit of good living,” says Marketing Director Alisa Williams.
Peachtree City was designed in 1959 as a planned community of shopping districts, residential neighborhoods and golf courses linked by an intricate, 90-mile system of multi-use paths. Its proximity to the airport has long made it a popular home base for business professionals who appreciate the easy access to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
Beyond the bustle of Atlanta, Peachtree City provides a respite from cars and traffic; most homeowners drive golf carts to connect to restaurants, shopping and entertainment. It’s also a magnet for families looking for a solid school system and a safe environment. Abundant housing options, from acre-plus estates to condominiums, embrace the natural beauty of the area. Recreational opportunities abound in the many golf courses, tennis centers and lakes, while the Frederick Brown Jr. Amphitheater is a top venue for outdoor concerts and shows.
Peachtree City’s amenities have earned it a spot on Money’s list of Best Places to Live five times in the last decade—twice in the top 10. The financial website MarketWatch singled it out as one of the Best Places to Retire in Georgia, and it was ranked No. 5 on the list of the 50 Safest Cities in Georgia by Safewise.
“These awards recognize Peachtree City’s overall quality of life, with great schools, safe neighborhoods, wonderful parks and recreational facilities,” says Mayor Vanessa Fleisch.
The DeKalb County seat is a top choice for those who like the idea of living in a small town that bumps up against the big city. Easy access to MARTA means residents can commute to Atlanta in minutes, while kids can walk to local schools managed by an independent system.
The community boasts a rich history reflected in its charming and vibrant downtown, anchored by a courthouse, churches and shops. Long-established neighborhoods offer a mix of housing options, ranging from 1920s Craftsman cottages to more modern abodes.
A favorite of foodies around the metro area, the city’s thriving restaurant scene draws local chefs who show off their expertise in a range of eclectic and ethnic eateries. Livability.com was so impressed with the dining scene that the website named Decatur its No. 1 Best Foodie City in 2013. It’s also been cited by the American Planning Association as one of the Top 10 Great Neighborhoods.
“We are known for encouraging community participation and implementing plans and ideas that are built on community input,” says Assistant City Manager Lyn Menne. “Our year-round calendar of events brings the community together and fosters economic development.”
Surrounded on three sides by Lake Lanier, Gainesville offers exceptional recreational opportunities, from boating and swimming to communing with nature. Its weekend-getaway lifestyle earned it accolades as one of America’s Top 25 Most Fun, Affordable Cities by Bloomberg Businessweek and a Top 10 Spring Break Destination for Families by Livablility.com.
Along with a historic city center and business district, this Hall County city is noted for its wealth of new housing communities. Resort-like developments with golf courses, extensive sports amenities and social activities have grown in popularity with older buyers who move to the area to be closer to children and grandkids.
Gainesville also offers a lower cost of living, a fact that has caught the attention of the AARP, which named it one of the Top 10 Affordable Cities for Retirement in 2011. The city was also singled out as one of the Best Places to Retire in Georgia by MarketWatch.
In addition, Gainesville has developed a strong medical community that appeals to empty nesters. In 2014, Northeast Georgia Medical Center was named one of the nation’s Top 100 Hospitals by Truvex Health Analytics, and was also recognized as Georgia’s No. 1 Hospital by the health care information company CareChex.
Gainesville is also home to Brenau University and a campus of the University of North Georgia, adding to the city’s vibrant educational and cultural landscape.
“As the economic center of North Georgia, we are home to multiple opportunities for higher education and visual and fine arts,” says Communications and Tourism Director Catiel Felts. “If you’re looking for good old-fashioned Southern hospitality, you’ll definitely find it here.
For More Information
770-945-8996 / www.suwanee.com
770-476-3434 / www.duluthga.net
770-487-7657 / www.peachtree-city.org
404-370-4100 / www.decaturga.com
770-535-6860 / www.gainesville.org