Wednesday, July 19, 2017

North Georgia ~ Alpharetta

Shortly after graduation from college this blogger was employed as corporate convention manager for a division of Siemens, temporarily headquartered in Atlanta’s Perimeter Center.  Few friends had then heard of the company. One had to spell it out and describe it as kinda like the German General Electric. 

When the growing corporation purchased land 15 miles north for permanent HQ offices, our otherwise visionary & brilliant president did everything in his power to secure an Atlanta PO Box or even a Roswell address.  He could not bear to pronounce the weird sounding place or see it embossed on his stationery:


Fast forward some decades.  Most Americans know Siemens.  Alpharetta may still sound a little odd, but few these days avoid it as their address.  Quite the contrary.

Perhaps in a movement begun way back by my former employer, Alpharetta has come to be known as the Technology City of the South.  It is home to over 600 diverse tech firms, including IT, biotech, software, finance, data centers & an abundance of support firms to make them all hum.

Without a traditional walkable southern town square, Alpharetta for years lacked any central pulse.  First came Northpoint Mall.  Popular & upscale, it is still ... a mall. With inherent mall sprawl.

Then came Avalon.

An immensely popular mixed use development, Avalon is host to Tesla & Apple showrooms and assorted other premier retailers, restaurants, spas, townhomes & apartments.  Avalon patrons can fill a day walking & biking, spending little or a lot.

Less than a mile from Avalon, ACC (as we predict it will come to be known) will be home to a myriad of additional fine shopping, dining & residences.  Focus here will be on authentic local businesses.  The developers make a point to exclude national chains.

Plans are afoot to connect Avalon and ACC via an inviting, walkable & bikeable pathway.

Next again comes Halcyon, by the developers of Avalon, now emerging in the Forsyth County sector of Alpharetta, 2 exits north on GA 400.  With a focus on green space, Halcyon will connect via nature trails & parks to the Big Creek Greenway.  Oh ya, there will also be fine shopping, dining, recreation & residences.

The Big Creek Greenway (or BCG, as we predict it will come to be known – or maybe not), is a sprawling 13 mile groomed & bridged hiking & cycling trail that runs north to Cumming, ending in close proximity to Lake Lanier.

Alpharetta homes for sale:

From an outpost the boss didn’t want to call home, to a thriving hotbed now attracting more & better of everything, Alpharetta is unquestionably a community to watch - or call home.


Alpharetta City Center
Atlanta Business Chronicle

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Sunday, July 2, 2017

North Georgia ~ 400 Corridor

When this blogger was in high school Georgia State Route 400, now known simply as “400”, was not much more than a several mile long drag strip to nowhere. They installed the first stretch north from Sandy Springs in the 1970s, then halted for what seemed like a decade to contend with planning delays. I don’t recall delay details, as I was then preoccupied at the University of Georgia, and soon thereafter, Chicago. When construction resumed to the north & south, the route severed childhood friends’ neighborhoods and even the road to my high school. All in the name of progress.

Route 400 officially opened as a toll road in 1993, with only a single 50 cent toll booth in both directions. For years it was Georgia’s only toll road, until collection ended in 2013, to the delight of millions of travelers to & from North Georgia. Removal of toll booths anywhere is virtually unheard of, though governments invariably propose them as “temporary” - only to fund initial construction.  Temporary my arse - see Chicago. But we will not dwell on tollways here. This is about the vibrant communities emerging northward along 400.

Sandy Springs & Roswell have long been deemed Atlanta suburbs. Not so long ago Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek, Cumming & Dawsonville were considered exurbs. My, how times have changed.

Each community offers residential options for first time home buyers, growing families who move up or empty nesters who downsize. Median single family home prices according to, northward from Sandy Springs:

Sandy Springs ~ $635,000

Roswell ~ $465,000

Alpharetta ~ $525,000

Milton ~ $552,000

Johns Creek ~ $460,000

Cumming ~ $380,000

Dawsonville ~ $230,000

Boundaries are blurred on what is called the Georgia 400 “High Tech Corridor", which runs roughly from Sandy Springs to Alpharetta. Benefits of commercial growth extend beyond to communities further north. Hardly a ‘pure tech’ Silicon Valley clone, employers such as Mercedes-Benz, Kimberly-Clark, Siemens & UPS anchor a broad, diverse economic base.

Expanding commerce, excellent schools, abundant recreation, shopping & nightlife opportunities attract skilled residents. Local Live / Work cultures take the place of 90+ minute commutes to Atlanta. The result is town centers so bustling with activity that a service once exclusive many miles to south is often the norm ~ valet parking. Gasp!

The 400 Corridor not only connects suburban towns to Atlanta; it brings urban lifestyle options to the towns themselves. Commercial growth & community comprehensive plans approaching the year 2030 suggest a future offering continued promise for residents & visitors in the coming decade and beyond.

Georgia Trend Magazine
Atlanta Business Chronicle

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

North Georgia Great Lakes

With summer upon us many look to the cooling waters and recreation opportunities of North Georgia’s lakes. There are many to choose from, in fact too many to cover in a single blog. Here we will look at the “the majors”, those over 100,000 acre-feet. For any landlubbers out there, acre-feet measure water volume - surface area times depth.

In order of size, North Georgia lakes, with links to available homes:

Hartwell                      Lake Hartwell Homes
Lanier                         Lake Lanier Homes
Clarks Hill                   Clarks Hill Lake Homes
Richard B. Russell     
Lake Russell Homes 
Oconee                      Lake Oconee Homes
Carters                       Carters Lake Homes
Allatoona                    Lake Allatoona Homes
Sinclair                       Lake Sinclair Homes
Burton                        Lake Burton Homes

Let the record show that we take exception to certain North Georgia lake issues:

We recognize Lake Lanier to be Georgia’s largest. That is because Hartwell, only 30% larger than Lanier, is split with South Carolina.

Clarks Hill Lake is also shared with South Carolina. In 1987 they tried to rename it J. Strom Thurmond something or other. We do not acknowledge any such change, nor do most right minded people, because Strom Thurmond ain’t from North Georgia.

Take that, South Carolina.

Purists try to call Lake Allatoona Allatoona Lake. Whatever. It’s a lake named Allatoona.

Now that we’re clear on the above, let’s move on.

Six of North Georgia’s nine largest lakes are owned or operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers. The exceptions, Oconee, Sinclair & Burton, are owned by the Georgia Power Company.

Lake Hartwell, covering 65,000 acres, is one of the largest in the southest. It is also one of the most visited Corps lakes in the US.

Lake Sidney Lanier is a major recreation outlet for metro Atlanta and primary water source to Georgia. An estimated 7.5 million people visit Lanier each year. 

Lake Richard Russell has an entirely undeveloped shoreline due to restricted private use of surrounding public land. It outflows into the Savannah River, which feeds Clarks Hill Lake 45 miles to the south. Some claim Clarks Hill to be the largest man-made lake east of the Mississippi. Per the list above, it all depends on who is measuring what.   

Lake Oconee & Sinclair lie against the backdrop of the Oconee National Forest. They are fed by the Apalachee River and connected by the Oconee.

Carters Lake is Georgia’s deepest at over 450 feet. Created by the tallest earthen dam east of Mississippi, its shoreline is entirely undeveloped.

Lake Allatoona, also a favorite of Atlantans, is fed by the Etowah River and is the oldest Corps Lake. Red Top Mountain State Park, Georgia’s largest, lies on Allatoona shores.

Lake Burton is the first and largest of the Georgia Power lakes, connected to several smaller lakes that generate power to metro Atlanta.

As with other broad North Georgia topics, later we will revisit and take a closer look at certain lakes to reveal their distinct character. Until then, one would do well to visit one or more of these great resources and enjoy all they have to offer.

US Army Corps of Engineers

Georgia Power Company

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Sunday, May 28, 2017

North Georgia ~ Forsyth County

North Georgia is home to an increasing number of communities that merit “superlatives” – or in everyday language, special recognition. One we’ll discuss here is Forsyth County in north central Georgia, 45 miles north of downtown Atlanta.

With no offense intended to long time residents, when this blogger was a kid he knew Forsyth County best as home to Hee Haw celebrity Junior Samples. Forsyth was obviously far more than that then, and it certainly is now. But how times have changed.

In fairness, there was & is much about Forsyth that escapes the attention of any typical kid. Its estimated 2016 population is 221,000, and the county seat is Cumming. It is one of 5 counties surrounding Lake Lanier. Of approximately 59,000 homes, an impressive 86% are owner-occupied, only 14% rental.

In terms of special recognition, Forbes ranks Forsyth as the 7th fastest growing county in the US from 2010 to 2012. This is a 2017 report, and we kinda wish they’d bring it current, but it’s the latest data they offer.

Forsyth County is also ranked as Georgia’s:

- Wealthiest county
- Healthiest county
- 4th Best School District (1st among large districts)
- 2nd Best County to Live

Financial news provider 247WALLst ranks Forsyth as Georgia’s wealthiest county. Percentage of home ownership and the $86,500 median household income are among the highest in the US.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation & County Health Rankings & Roadmaps rate Forsyth County as Georgia’s healthiest. Forsyth earns top or 2nd rank in health outcomes, length & quality of life, health behaviors and social & economic factors.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution summarizes these growth, wealth & health statistics.

SchoolDigger places Forsyth County as the 4th best school district in the state, with higher ratings earned only by districts with far fewer schools. It earns top rating among districts of over ten total schools.

According to Niche, Forsyth is Georgia’s 2017 2nd best county in which to live, led only by Oconee to the southeast. Forsyth earns A & B grades for schools, housing, family life, safety, nightlife & diversity.

Forsyth County Single Family Homes for Sale:

Over $1,000,000
$500,000 to $1,000,000
$250,000 to $500,000
Under $250,000

Forsyth County enjoys many attributes that defy rating. Certainly Lake Lanier recreational opportunities top the list. Commercially, from Georgia 400 exits 13 thru 15 one can find a diversity of shopping, dining & entertainment options that rival any metro Atlanta community. These combined with Forsyth’s close proximity to Atlanta and mountains & rivers to the north make it an outstanding place to call home.


US Census Bureau
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation

County Health Rankings & Roadmaps
Atlanta Journal Constitution

Thursday, May 25, 2017

North Georgia Prosperity

A major quality of life factor in any community is the relative abundance of resources, including capital resources – also known as money.  North Georgia is home to a growing number of affluent cities, towns & counties.

Nine of the 10 Wealthiest Cities in Georgia are in North Georgia, the exception being Skidaway Island near Savannah.  A noticeable pattern is that wealth tends to run from Atlanta north up the Georgia 400 corridor.

As we have discussed, affluent residents are attracted to quality schools, healthcare & recreation opportunities.  North Georgia communities offer an abundance of each.

Forbes points out that north metro Atlanta’s economic growth has been steady & sustained, implying stability which may be absent in markets that experience meteoric rise – and potential collapse.

As we will discuss in the future, Forsyth County is the wealthiest in the state.  Note: This is a ranking of counties in alphabetical state order.  Thus, number 10 does not suggest Forsyth to be the 10th wealthiest county in the nation.  Lists can be so confusing!

Here we have a list of 10 Wealthiest Neighborhoods in Georgia.  We’re not sure of the metrics used.  Number 9 Woolsey has a population of 158, but it is ranked among Dunwoody, Milton, Roswell & Vinings.  Further, we have trekked every corner of number 2 Johns Creek and never come across that large body of water in the associated photo.  There is one pretty similar 20 miles to the north.  Go figure.

One piece of indisputable data places Atlanta’s 30327 as the Wealthiest Zip Code in North Georgia, second in the state only to coastal Sea Island.  Let’s have a closer look:

Roughly bounded by I-285, the Chattahoochee River, Northside Drive & Cross Creek, zip 30327 includes Chastain Park, part of Sandy Springs & much of Buckhead. 

Available homes in the 30327 Zip Code:

The population of approx 24,000 has an average household income of $195,000, median income of $126,000 & per capita income of $80,000.  64% of housing units are owner occupied, 25% rental & 11% vacant.

Public schools in zip 30327 include North Atlanta High, Sutton Middle and Brandon & Jackson Elementary.  The community is also home to several private schools: Atlanta Girls School, Lovett, Westminster & Pace Academy.

Whether in metro Atlanta or upward, North Georgia is indeed a prosperous place to be.

The Financial Word
Atlanta Business Chronicle

Sunday, May 21, 2017

North Georgia ~ Sandy Springs

Here we will occasionally discuss topics of more narrow focus than North Georgia, such as cities & towns of particular interest. We’ll begin where this blogger grew up, the city of Sandy Springs. Residents in the 70s & 80s affectionately & facetiously called our community “The Golden Ghetto”. There is even a nostalgic Facebook group by that name recalling memories of the era.

Sandy Springs once could only officially be called “unincorporated north Fulton County”. The city of Atlanta made repeated unsuccessful attempts to annex the community into Atlanta city limits.Those efforts gave rise to a movement begun in the mid 1970s to incorporate Sandy Springs as its own city.

In 1976 this blogger departed for his freshman year at the University of Georgia with a “Freedom Rings in Sandy Springs” bumper sticker adorning his VW Beetle, courtesy of the mother of two high school friends & founder of the incorporation movement, Dr. Eva Galambos.

Thirty years later Eva prevailed in her effort. Sandy Springs became a city in 2005, and Eva was elected its first mayor at age 77, serving for 9 years until her retirement at age 86. Her quest & life story are both inspiring & fascinating, as told in her autobiography:

A Dream Come True: My Very Good Life

Sandy Springs' incorporation success led to the formation of several other cities north of Atlanta: Johns Creek, Milton, Dunwoody, Brookhaven, Tucker & Stonecrest. The communities of Greenhaven & Sharon Springs seek to follow suit, with others likely to follow. Some future blog may address the merits & challenges of such a movement.

Sandy Springs inspired a 2012 New York Times article covering the outsourcing of nonessential services to private contractors, resulting in the reduction or elimination of long term debt & pension obligations. Essential services such as police & fire departments remain city services, and residents generally claim they are more quickly served than in former county administration days.

Hear the story direct in this 2013 interview with Mayor Galambos.

Fortune Magazine projected Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell to be the 5th hottest US real estate market in 2016. This blogger is too short on time to research accuracy of the prediction, but regardless of numerical rank, the robust market should continue thru 2017.

Economic development is a driving force behind Sandy Springs’ emergence as a most desirable place to live & work. The city is a leading hub of medical & biotech firms. It attracted the world headquarters for UPS & Newell Rubbermaid, and North American headquarters.for Mercedes-Benz. Commerce attracts talented residents & vice versa.

Sandy Springs Homes for Sale:

From days as Golden Ghetto to the vibrant center of Fortune 500 companies, Sandy Springs’ continuing evolution is nothing short of remarkable.

The New York Times
Forbes Magazine
The City of Sandy Springs

Friday, May 19, 2017

North Georgia Healthcare

Now is a lousy time to get sick.  In fact, there is no good time to get sick.  But if we had our druthers we would choose our time - like 3 months ago.

Healthcare has been in the headlines for, well … as long as there has been healthcare. Measuring the quality of facilities is a challenge, as it’s difficult to assign an objective number with so many variables in play. Thus, we’ll refer to only a single “best” list here in favor of broader discussion.

Availability of nearby quality healthcare is vital to a community and its residents’ peace of mind. This becomes increasingly important as one approaches retirement.

North Georgia offers a broad variety of medical services, from hospitals, medical centers & trauma centers of every level, to outpatient facilities & walk-in urgent care clinics.

Of the 10 Best Hospitals in Georgia, eight are in North Georgia, the others in Macon & Savannah. Each has strengths in various specialties. When one is in need of critical care for a specific condition, proximity to a facility obviously becomes less of a deciding factor in seeking the best available treatment.

Four major heathcare systems cover North Georgia, with 3 of the 4 concentrated in different sections of the state.

Emory facilities are sited on a less regional basis, with newer centers surrounding Atlanta.
Emory area Homes for Sale

Northside has expanded to the northeast from its north Atlanta / Sandy Springs hub.
Northside area Homes for Sale

Piedmont originated in the heart of Atlanta, and it has expanded to the east & south.
Piedmont area Homes for Sale

WellStar is currently the primary provider covering northwest Georgia.
WellStar area Homes for Sale

Expansion might take place at a more accelerated pace were it not for the Certificate of Need (CON) program. A healthcare institution’s CON application must demonstrate that a market is underserved for services they propose to offer, and their addition will not create unnecessary duplication. 

Such applications can result in lawsuits & delay, with one or more competing providers opposing a new entrant into a market they claim to adequately serve. Providers often simply purchase existing medical practices to bypass the CON process.

Other hospitals & health systems not owned by the four largest providers include Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, DeKalb Medical, Gwinnett Medical Center & Atlanta Medical Center.

In this list of all Georgia Hospitals some links no longer function. If the link to a facility of interest does not properly connect, try a Google search by hospital name to determine if the center perhaps closed or merely changed its website.

As North Georgia’s population increases we can expect to see ever-expanding healthcare systems, continuing to provide improved services for all.


US News & World Report
Emory Healthcare
Northside Hospital
Piedmont Healthcare
WellStar Health System

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

North Georgia Great Outdoors

North Georgia is incredibly rich & diverse in places to go & things to do.  Here we’ll do our best to cover many options of the Great Outdoors.  There is so much to offer we will revisit this topic again to break down choices by area and activity.  It would take days to write about them all – and years to do them all.

(OK, we must confess the links below cover all of Georgia.  While exceeding our upper half scope of the state, we’ll forgive those who also choose to enjoy “that other half”.)

Lakes, Rivers & Waterfalls – and a whole lot of each.  Whatever your pleasure, fishing, skiing/boarding, power boating, sailing, whitewater rafting, canoeing, kayaking, photography or just a lazy day on the beach, North Georgia has you covered.  (Note: there is a separate link each for Lakes and Rivers websites.)

From Weiss Lake eastward to Allatoona, Lanier, Burton & Hartwell - to name only a few – Georgians are passionate about their big bodies of water. 

Rivers - also to name only a few - include the Coosawattee, Ellijay, Tallulah, Chattooga, Oostanaula, Coosa, Etowah, Tugaloo, Tallapoosa & of course, the Chattahoochee - known to many as "the Hooch".  They are enough to make one's spellcheck blow a sprocket.

River Homes for Sale

Mountains, Canyons & Gorges - and a whole lot of them too. From rigorous climbs to relaxed hikes, sheer cliffs to gentle slopes, North Georgia has a huge array of landscapes that are anything but horizontal.

The Blue Ridge Mountains mark the southernmost stretch of the Appalachian Trail. Brasstown Bald is Georgia's highest elevation at 4,783 feet. Kennesaw & Lookout are stunning mountains & sites of critical Civil War battles. Stone Mountain bears the distinction of being the world's largest (A) chunk of granite and (B) bas-relief sculpture.

Mountain Homes for Sale

Georgia State Parks – About anywhere there are great North Georgia outdoors to explore, there is an excellent state park.  Some are day use only, others feature luxurious lodges, with primitive camping to RV setups as yet other overnight alternatives.

The Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest covers a massive land area at Georgia's northern border.  Large sections are part of the National Wilderness Preservation System, and as such are designated to remain forever wild.

We have not yet even made mention of cycling, horseback tours, hang gliding, zip lining, caving, tree climbing, Native American history, agritourism or fall colors.  Don’t even get us started about golf.

Did we mention a need to revisit this North Georgia Great Outdoors topic?  Stay tuned.

Georgia Department of Economic Development
Georgia Department of Natural Resources

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