Whether your inside or outside the perimeter can be the deciding factor in choosing your Atlanta neighborhood. For native Atlantans, these simple acronyms tell you a lot about the metro area. ITP, or “inside the perimeter,” refers to the Atlanta city limits perfectly outlined by Interstate 285, which forms a loop around the city. OTP, or “outside the perimeter,” contains the suburbs of Atlanta, all with their own characteristics and personalities outside I-285. For many Atlantans, being an ITP-er or an OTP-er is a way of life.
We’ve constructed a guide to a sampling of Atlanta’s ITP and OTP cities and neighborhoods, analyzing their differences to help relocators decide where to live, work and play in the Peach City.
Midtown and Buckhead
Midtown and Buckhead, connected by Atlanta’s historic Peachtree Street, are the city’s centers for arts and shopping. Home to more than 300 acres of parks and gardens and more than 200 restaurants and shops, Midtown has museums, theatres and galleries galore. Boasted as the shopping mecca of the Southeast, Buckhead is one of the city’s most attractive business districts where art and history also flourish.
Walkability: Midtown is considered among the most walkable and attractive urban neighborhoods in Atlanta, with a tree-lined, tight street grid. Bicycle lanes and three MARTA stations make getting around without a car a breeze. Buckhead is known as a walker’s paradise, scoring 97 on walkscore.com.
What Relocators Love: In addition to superior accessibility to Interstates 75 and 85, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport via MARTA, bike lanes and the Atlanta BeltLine, Midtown’s abundant choices for living and working in close proximity make the neighborhood a live, work, play community. Home to major employers like Turner Broadcasting, Equifax, Google and AT&T, Midtown is where the talent wants to be. More than 24,000 students attend Midtown universities and 68 percent of Midtown residents 25 or older have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Georgia Tech’s VentureLab is the No. 2 university-based business incubator worldwide and the Advanced Technology Development Center is one of the “Top 12 Business Based Incubators Changing the World,” according to Forbes magazine.
Buckhead’s leaders have overtly diversified its brand to a sentiment comfortable and welcoming to all, according to Sam Massell, Buckhead Coalition founding president and a former Mayor of the City of Atlanta. Abundant dining opportunities, education institutions, entertainment facilities and a growth of job opportunities have made the area self-sufficient.
Greenspace: The pride of the city is Midtown’s own Piedmont Park. Along with the much-loved Atlanta Botanical Garden, local urbanites are never far from a green escape. Buckhead is also home to the 320-acre Chastain Park, 2.5 miles of the Chattahoochee River shoreline and 680 acres in tennis courts, golf holes, ball fields and more.
Local Flair: Every year, there are more than 3,000 nightly events in Midtown due to the high concentration of arts and attractions in the district, including the High Museum of Art and Woodruff Arts Center. Atlantans flock to Midtown for events like Taste of Atlanta, Music Midtown, Piedmont Park Arts Festival and more; and local restaurants, craftsmanship, arts and music are part of the everyday culture of the neighborhood. Buckhead draws more than 500,000 additional participants to its 50 annual public events, as well as its worldwide famous Fourth of July Peachtree Road Race with 60,000 participants.
Growth/Development: Midtown is experiencing unprecedented growth with more than 64,700 square feet of retail space and 132,800 square feet of office space under construction. To accommodate what can only be described as an astonishing population increase, there are 8,588 rental apartments in various stages of development in Buckhead, as well as major mixed-use commercial properties under construction.
The locals joke that in Decatur, “There’s a festival for that.” While there’s an urban feel to this community, it is just far enough from Downtown Atlanta to establish its own vibe while still being accessible. The downtown Decatur area offers a wide range of popular restaurants and shops, most of which are locally owned.
Walkability: Decatur is considered somewhat walkable, with a score of only 54. Concentrated areas like the Decatur Square offer close-knit local shops and restaurants, but driving there is sometimes a must. People in Decatur can walk to an average of two restaurants, bars and coffee shops in five minutes.
What Relocators Love: The traditional, small-town atmosphere coupled with urban access and development a short drive away make Decatur majorly beneficial to relocators looking for a suburban life in the city. The excitement of a college town (Agnes Scott College) exists in Decatur’s most populated areas, with local shops, restaurants and bars abounding. Tree-lined streets, great schools, colleges and businesses tie together a sustainable city within the city. Close access to downtown Atlanta and I-285 give Decatur gateways to all other parts of the metro area.
Greenspace: Dog parks, summer camps, swim facilities and playgrounds — Decatur has nearly 57 acres of developed parks. In addition, residents enjoy community gardening in the city’s seven service farms and gardens.
Local Flair: An extensive collection of art works are on display around the city, ranging from the familiar sculptures installed around the square to pieces purchased at art festivals. Decatur residents are no strangers to a good time — known as the festival capital of Atlanta, the Decatur Arts Festival, Book Festival, Craft Beer Festival, Green Fest, Wine Festival and more fill the calendar year with celebrations.
Growth/Development: Townhome communities sell out quickly in this city, with new communities being developed regularly and builders consistently awarded for the homes built there. On the American Planning Association’s (APA) 2013 list of 30 Great Places, it states that Decatur is “constantly changing and evolving, and downtown Decatur’s character comes from the successful marriage of historic and contemporary buildings and uses.”
The City of Marietta, which is located northwest of Atlanta, is best recognized for the Historic Marietta Square. Designated as the Cobb County seat, Marietta celebrates authentic local traditions while embracing new trends through the mix of families of all ages, historic architecture and urban in-town lifestyle. Family-owned merchants provide diverse shopping options and restaurateurs offer seasonal cuisine for any palate.
Walkability: As with most OTP cities, Marietta is considered car-dependent with a walk score of only 33. Despite there being more than 320 restaurants, bars and coffee shops in the city, on average you will walk to only one in five minutes. “Within the next few years, the city will have a solid network of multi-use trails that will link trail enthusiasts to the historic Marietta Square for shopping and dining, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area, students to multiple university campuses and to area job centers like WellStar Kennestone Hospital and Dobbins Air Reserve Base,” explains Beth Sessoms, Marietta’s economic development manager. The trails will ultimately tie into the Silver Comet Trail and other trail systems that will take trail enthusiasts as far as Alabama. “There is a strong initiative to increase walkability and bicycle-ability in Marietta through the development of multi-use trails citywide,” she adds.
What Relocators Love: One of metro Atlanta’s largest suburbs, Marietta has a plethora of real estate options for relocators and is big on families, with its own charter school system — Marietta City Schools — and the second largest school system in the state — Cobb County Schools — for those living just outside the city limits. Marietta combines a friendly business climate with a great place to live and raise a family. While preserving Marietta’s historic charm and significance of the Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Marietta’s authentic culture shines through various attractions like the Gone with Wind Museum, Marietta-Cobb Museum of Art and the renowned Strand Theatre.
Greenspace: With a $25 million parks bond to improve existing city parks, Marietta has made major renovations to the Aviation Sports Complex, Custer Soccer Complex, Laurel Park and more. Parks in the city are a great value to the community and are greatly used by those who live close by and in neighboring areas.
Local Flair: More than 60 vendors grace the Marietta Square Farmers Market most Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, with an Artists Market in conjunction with it from April to November. Big on history, the Ghost of Marietta Walking Tours also attract people from all over the metro area, as do the square’s tree lighting ceremony each winter, Taste of Marietta and various annual festivals.
Growth/Development: From residential to commercial properties, developers are investing in Marietta. A range of in-town living options meets everyone’s needs with condos, single-family homes and a mixed used development, Meeting Park, within walking distance of the Marietta Square. The public-private investment is also working to revitalize Franklin Road, home to the newly-formed Gateway Marietta Community Improvement District (CID), which will give the business and property owners a stronger voice in the community and aid in guiding development initiatives.
“McDonough is reminiscent of the southern town of long ago,” says Casey Case with the City of McDonough. Located south of Atlanta, it’s beautiful square, complete with 100-year-old Oak trees, dogwoods, rosebushes and other greenery, is very idyllic. The downtown business district of the city is made up of local shops and eateries with every type of cuisine you could search for. The county seat of Henry County, McDonough keeps southern charm alive.
Walkability: In McDonough, having a car is a must. According to walkscore.com, McDonough scored 18 and has areas with concentrated attractions, restaurants and shopping that would require driving. Future plans include construction of bicycle paths in and around McDonough, providing an alternative to vehicle travel.
What Relocators Love: Hospitality and southern charm are what draw relocators to this city, as well as the proximity to I-75 and an abundance of housing options. While more than 13,400 McDonough residents travel to nearby Atlanta or elsewhere for work each day, the city is largely sustainable and self-sufficient, ensuring a family-friendly lifestyle close to the big city.
Greenspace: Several main parks in the city focus on different historical aspects of the area and offer various activities for the whole family, including a dog park and plans for an amphitheater at Alexander Park and a large storm water pond in Big Spring Park.
Local Flair: Main Street in McDonough plays host to many events throughout the year at the McDonough Square, including concert and movie series. The city’s spectacular Geranium Festival also draws up to?30,000 additional people to the city for the one-day event. Holidays bring a Fall Festival, Trick-or-Treat on the Square, Christmas Parade and more.
Growth/Development: “If a house was built on every available lot now existing in McDonough, our population would rise from nearly 25,000 to 40,000 very quickly, and single-family dwellings are under construction and have been for some time,” says Case.
One of the fastest growing cities in Cherokee County, Woodstock is best known for its vibrant downtown area. Walking trails, shopping and dining, a high-ranking school system and more make this city, which is located northwest of Atlanta, a place for families of all types. Delivering an array of modern luxuries with a dose of southern charm, you can take your pick of vintage finds or big-name designers at The Outlet Shoppes at Atlanta.
Walkability: With a walk score of 21, Woodstock is considered a car-dependent city, though Greenprints Alliance is working to develop a 60-mile network of multi-use trails and greenspace for more active living in Woodstock. “Although many of our residents commute outside the city to go to work, the ones that stay here have great walkability and options for employment,” says Jenna Hill, tourism information coordinator with the City of Woodstock.
What Relocators Love: “The atmosphere!” Hill says. “Woodstock has such a welcoming environment that when house hunters come to the area, their search is over. The housing options in the city are tough to beat; you can find apartments, condos, modest ranch homes, historic mansions and penthouses all within walking distance of one another.”
Greenspace: The six city parks offer countless ways to hike, bike, walk, kayak, fish, trail run or just enjoy nature, making this city an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise. With a celebrated trail system, numerous river access points and 10 miles of mountain bike trails with more than 50 more miles in the works, city-life and close proximity to urban Atlanta is well balanced with the great outdoors.
Local Flair: From Friday Night Live the first Friday of every month to popular festivals and a summer concert series, Woodstock residents are involved in many attractions and events throughout the year. Part of its culture is local art, including the Elm Street Cultural Art Village, which is the place for performances, seminars and year-round exhibits.
Growth/Development: Growth in the city in all facets of development continues to advance, with all kinds of housing options and opportunities for progress.
Money magazine, Family Circle and kiplinger.com have all recently named Suwanee one of the country’s best places to live and/or raise children. “When most people think of Suwanee, it’s probably our Town Center that comes to mind,” says Lynne DeWilde with the City of Suwanee. “Beyond all that, Suwanee is known simply as a friendly, progressive place that does things well.” It is located in Gwinnett County northeast of Atlanta.
Walkability: Suwanee’s Town Center offers plenty of shops and eateries to walk around and to, but overall it is considered a car-dependent city with a walkability score of 43.
What Relocators Love: In addition to creating a strong sense of place and community through parks, events and public art, Suwanee offers an array of housing options from traditionally designed neighborhoods to large estates. Gwinnett County Public Schools is also the largest school system in Georgia, reinforcing the city as a top choice for relocating parents and employers alike.
Greenspace: Through its award-winning open space initiative, Suwanee has acquired more than 300 acres of open space and created five new parks and extended the Suwanee Creek Greenway, a four-mile hard-surface multipurpose trial that meanders through wooded areas, wetlands and wildlife habitat, connecting 400 acres of parkland, as well as residential and commercial areas.
Local Flair: Residents love to be outside in Suwanee. Town Center serves as a community-gathering place that offers a place to enjoy structured play, an interactive fountain, biking, jogging, people watching or kite flying. White Street Park is home to Georgia’s largest organic community garden. Festivals are especially popular, including Suwanee Fest, beer and wine festivals throughout the year and plenty of free concerts. Suwanee’s strong public art initiative is shown in the Suwanee SculpTour installment, a walkable public art encounter.
Growth/Development: Emerging from the economic downturn of 2008, six neighborhoods have gone under development in the past couple years, with four of them almost complete. New housing and apartment complexes are readying for leasing.