By Terry Russell
While the urban core offers great walkability, the suburbs are where all the action is taking place. So what’s fueling the growth, and how are homebuilders responding?
The suburbs north of Atlanta attract residents because of the great schools and access to growing employment centers and affordability. Cities in the Northern Arc have continued to prosper during the recent economic downturn. In fact, Forbes.com named Forsyth County the 13th-wealthiest county in the United States in terms of median household income for 2008.
New home inventory in the area has been tight, with few unsold homes in many of the key submarkets. Beyond the top-notch schools and access to jobs, excellent municipal foresight, solid planning and the endorsement of quality growth are spurring the housing boom.
We can read all day long about the increasing popularity of urban living. But the suburbs that have continued to prosper during the downturn share many attributes with the best urban neighborhoods: connectivity, walkability, parks, access to public amenities, environmental sensitivity, and so on. Great neighborhood planning and partnerships with municipalities that want more than just rooftops are behind the quality neighborhoods builders are developing.
The same principles apply to suburban infill as they do to urban infill. For example, FrontDoor Communities has two townhome projects immediately adjacent to Canton Street in Roswell that offer the same walkability to dining and entertainment as the urban walkable developments. So essentially I’m arguing that many of Atlanta’s suburban cities have the same urban infill context.
Big box communities are on the way out; quality neighborhood developments are in. Now more than ever, local municipalities are better informed about what constitutes quality development and good design. Developing neighborhoods and communities that promote an active lifestyle, embrace the outdoors, offer great architectural design and capitalize on outdoor living spaces are requirements for builders.
FrontDoor Communities is responding by planning Traditions, a 400 home-plus neighborhood on 158 acres in south Forsyth County next to Fowler Park and the Big Creek Greenway. Residents will be able to walk or run from Traditions to the Big Creek Greenway, a park with 6.1 miles of paved track as well as paths for mountain biking and hiking.
Designing communities that encourage interaction is key; for example, every home in Traditions will have a front porch and outdoor spaces to facilitate neighborhood engagement. Quality growth planning seems to be resonating well, as evidenced by the interest in homes in Atlanta’s northern suburbs.
Terry Russell is a 28-year veteran of the homebuilding industry and is CEO/Partner of FrontDoor Communities.