OTP Evolution Brings Intown Lifestyle to Atlanta’s Surrounding Communities Beyond the City Limits
When you’re a resident of metro Atlanta, you become very familiar with two acronyms: ITP and OTP. ITP, or “inside the perimeter,” refers to the area inside of the loop that’s created by the I-285 perimeter and includes downtown Atlanta, Midtown, Buckhead and several border neighborhoods. OTP, or “outside the perimeter,” is comprised of the many suburban counties and communities that sit outside of that I-285 loop and stretches in all direction to define the rest of the metro Atlanta area.
For years, ITP and OTP were seen as very different, offering their own distinct lifestyles and opportunities for those who chose to call them home. ITP was seen as the hub of urban big city life, complete with industry, entertainment, culture, high-end residential offerings and more. OTP was the epitome of suburban living, with large homes surrounded by green space and smaller cities that exuded hometown appeal and Southern charm. However, there has been a noticeable shift in this framework, and OTP has experienced an evolution of sorts that has allowed it be seen—in some respects—in a similar light as ITP. In fact, many of the features that have been hallmarks of ITP can now be found in OTP’s burgeoning cities and communities, making both areas equally attractive to local residents and newcomers alike.
The list of companies that have made Atlanta their home base reads like a who’s who of major corporations. From The Home Depot and Coca-Cola to UPS and Delta Air Lines, myriad Fortune 500 and Fortune 1000 companies have chosen to do business from one of the most business-friendly cities in the country. And it’s not just the businesses themselves that are welcome in the ATL; entire industry sectors have blossomed here, including bioscience, supply chain management, financial technology, Internet of Things (IoT) and Mobile and technology. And while much of the growth in these arenas typically has been concentrated ITP, it’s also now taking place OTP.
Alpharetta, located just 12 miles north of the perimeter, has become one of the most coveted locations for tech companies in recent years. “Alpharetta is the Technology City of the South,” says Jeanine Jones, public relations manager for the Alpharetta Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Many years ago, the groundwork was laid for Alpharetta to be a successful city for business and technology with a fiber optic infrastructure that was constructed as the city was growing and developing. With that foresight and the exponential growth of the city over the last 20 years, Alpharetta is now home to thriving corporations and more than 700 technology-based companies, bringing more businesses and business travelers to the city each day.”
Peachtree City, situated approximately 30 miles southwest of Atlanta, also has been able to attract new businesses to the area thanks in part to a variety of economic development initiatives, including the effort to recruit industries like aerospace, info tech, life sciences, advanced manufacturing and film and creative media. To drive this economic development, Peachtree City has adopted a tax incentive plan and worked to improve its infrastructure for the benefit of both businesses and residents.
Also focusing on metro Atlanta’s thriving film and creative industry is Pinewood Forest, a new community located only 15 minutes from the perimeter in Fayetteville. Situated directly adjacent to Pinewood Atlanta Studios, which has become one of the largest movie studios in the world, Pinewood Forest caters to a wide variety of creative professionals. “Pinewood Forest has attracted pioneering individuals from a variety of backgrounds and industries,” notes Rob Parker, president of Pinewood Forest. “We have actors, musicians, inventors, businesspeople, arts patrons and folks from myriad industries who have sought out this new community to make it home. We’re creating a distinct culture not unlike many of the great neighborhoods inside the perimeter.”
No Place Like Home
One of the biggest draws of living ITP is the plethora of real estate options. From sleek townhomes and condos to contemporary single-family residences, the neighborhoods inside the perimeter are densely populated with highly sought-after residential opportunities that offer low-maintenance living and access to exceptional amenities close to home. On the flip side, OTP has always been known for its suburban appeal, which is marked by large homes in sprawling swim and tennis communities that are ideal for families with children in particular. Yet, the landscape has changed a bit, and the OTP residential offerings have become much more eclectic, making them attractive to all types of home buyers.
To start, a variety of live-work-play communities have popped up in the last few years, such as Avalon in Alpharetta and the soon-to-be-open HALCYON in Forsyth County. These communities offer a mix of single-family homes and townhomes for purchase and well-appointed apartments for rent, all located just steps from everything residents could want and need, from restaurants to shops and more. That walkability factor is something ITP has long touted as a key attraction of the area, making intown neighborhoods like Inman Park, the Old Fourth Ward, Virginia-Highland and Candler Park popular with millennials, first-time home buyers and others. By offering that same element OTP, everyone from young families to empty nesters also can enjoy that unique living experience.
Pinewood Forest, which is referred to as a “new urbanist community,” has actually been designed as a walkable European-style village that offers high-end homes in an area that has retained its natural beauty while being centered around a bustling Town Center. “Seven hundred homes and 600 multifamily units will house nearly 5,000 people when [Pinewood Forest] is fully built out. We have an advantage of being very intentional about what we build and how we create—from building homes that run on geothermal energy to creating a dense community that can leverage pocket parks and a town surrounded by nature. [And] there’s always something new, including a micro-home village that will showcase another flavor of living in our new environment,” Parker says. “Many people are choosing to blend their professional and personal lives right in our community. The notion of walking to work, as well as enjoying all the amenities in Pinewood Forest, is proving very attractive to the commute-weary.”
Serenbe, located just 25 miles outside of Atlanta, is another unique community that has found the perfect balance—this time between nature and city life. “We have been coined many different terms, such as an agrihood, urban utopia, and [leading] the growing trend of wellness real estate,” says Steve Nygren, founder of Serenbe, which is dedicated to creating a self-contained and sustainable environment in which to live and work. Currently, the community, which is actually half the size of the inside of the perimeter and sits on more than 45,000 acres of land, has more than 700 residents living in its collection of townhomes, cottages and estate homes. Those interested in calling Serenbe home can choose to purchase a move-in ready property, secure a short- or long-term lease on a range of rentals or purchase a lot for future building. And the building practices found in the community undoubtedly rival those found in the newest and most state-of-the-art ITP residential offerings. “People are surprised by to learn about the extensive sustainable building practices incorporated [here],” Nygren adds. “Every building is Earthcraft certified, we have the smallest LEED-certified building in the U.S., home and buildings are geothermal heated and cooled, we plant edible landscape and we have a natural waste water treatment plant.” What’s more, the because much of the land is being preserved, Chattahoochee Hills, the city in which Serenbe is located, has become “an oasis from conventional urban suburban sprawl.”
Also bucking the traditional suburban building concept is Marietta, which is also located 25 minutes from Atlanta on its northwest side. Recently, the city has seen an increase in the number of homes built—but not the standard homes that residents are used to seeing in this area. “People are attracted to areas that are walkable and have a mix of uses. Over the past 10 to 15 years, Marietta’s Square has been rejuvenated into a thriving space with a lot of activity and energy,” explains Amanda Sutter, executive director of the Marietta Visitors Bureau. “Coinciding with this evolution, Marietta has also seen the emergence of townhome and dense single-family detached residential development. This reflects preferences of consumers and the lack of large developable tracts. These developments are particularly appealing in places nearby commercial and entertainment amenities.”
Of course, no one can deny that Atlanta is one of the best cities in the country when it comes to entertainment and culture. Renowned restaurants, excellent shopping, beloved theater venues, educational museums, recreation spots, sports stadiums and so much more have been available to residents and visitors for decades. Fortunately, wonderful entertainment and cultural opportunities are now more available than ever OTP as well, as cities have worked diligently to increase the appeal of their downtown and surrounding areas, attracting locals of all ages.
“We have wonderful restaurants and a great quality of life here,” says Jennifer Bennett, community relations director for Smyrna, which sits right on the edge of the I-285 perimeter and just outside the Atlanta city limits. “Our residents enjoy outstanding services, great schools, parks, recreation options, bike sharing and so many great events, such as concerts and the best Food Truck series around. We are one of Money’s 50 Best Places to Live in the United States. Welcomemat Services has named us one of America’s Top 25 Best Neighborhoods for Small Business (No. 5), and food, travel and entertainment media site Thrillist announced the Best and Most Affordable Suburbs for Atlanta Millennials with Smyrna on top of the list.”
Alpharetta has received national recognition as well for its entertainment and recreation offerings, being named One of the Best Places to Visit in Georgia by Vacationidea.com. “Alpharetta has it all. It is a place you can stay, play, dine and shop, or take an adventure out to surrounding locations, only to return for vibrant evenings of nightlife and entertainment,” Jones asserts. “Alpharetta is a family-friendly destination with award-winning parks, hiking and biking trails, arboretums and plenty of free activities; more than 250 shops all within a five-mile radius with eclectic boutiques, luxury brands and renowned retail stores; and more than 200 dining options with locally owned and chef-driven restaurants to delight every imaginable culinary preference. On any given weekend, you’ll find a concert, farmer’s market, parade, festival or art in the park. There is always something fun going on in Alpharetta.”
Particularly when it comes to dining and nightlife options, OTP is giving ITP a run for its money. Braselton, located 37 miles north of Atlanta, has become well known for its culinary selections. “You can get big city meals in a small town. Foodies rejoice here,” says Jennifer Scott, manager and clerk of the Town of Braselton. The same can be said for Marietta. “Sometimes ITP folks don’t realize we have just as many entertainment opportunities as ITP. Most people probably correlate Marietta with the Historic Square and would be surprised with how modern and vibrant Marietta is today. The Marietta Square is plentiful with art galleries, theaters, outdoor recreation activities and authentic restaurants,” Sutter notes. “For example, one could spend the evening bar hopping from the Strand’s Lumiere Lounge to Johnnie MacCracken’s Celtic Firehouse Pub to one of our breweries, such as Red Hare Brewing or Glover Park Brewery.” What’s more, Marietta is only five miles from SunTrust Park, home of the Atlanta Braves.
The City of Powder Springs, which will welcome its own brewery—Railcat Brewing Company—in early 2020, also has seen its entertainment options flourish with the revitalization of its downtown area. New restaurants and retail shops are being added to the city as part of a capital project that’s replacing the old town square with a new central park, which will include an outdoor pedestrian mall, a live performance stage and unique features like ping pong tables, a children’s play area, a water sculpture and more. “Our new city amenity is an exciting project. It will anchor adjacent city buildings, townhomes, restaurants and shops while providing an inviting public gathering place symbolic of our legacy,” says Powder Springs Mayor Al Thurman. “I couldn’t be more pleased with our overall growth and especially the remarkable progress of redeveloping our downtown.”
Serenbe is yet another example of the many OTP locations where residents can access an array of entertainment and recreation options all in one setting. Boasting its impressive “rural urbanism,” the community features incredible walkability, shopping, the ballet and theater and six restaurants. Pinewood Forest also will provide access to these types of amenities when its Town Center is completed. “As our Town Center develops, Pinewood Forest will quickly become South Metro’s primary retail and food destination,” Parker says. “A dozen chef-driven food concepts, 90,000 square feet of retail, two hotels, a movie theater and a performing arts center are all within a seven- to 10-minute walk from anywhere in town. We’ve spent the winter selling a lot of new houses—full of cutting-edge customization—and we don’t expect any slowdown in interest as more and more people discover what we have in Fayetteville.”
ITP vs. OTP
The evolution of the area known as OTP is certainly giving new residents—and even long-time ones—a chance to view this area in a totally new light. And while ITP will always be a huge draw thanks to its urban appeal, OTP has emerged with a variety of comparable options. As Bennett concludes, “What perimeter? We have no limits.”