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Is North Fulton A City Or A Suburb? The Answer Isn’t Entirely Clear

Avalon development in Alpharetta, Ga.

Just north of Atlanta, a composition of offices, apartment buildings and parks form the region known today as North Fulton. Named for the northern tip of Fulton County, North Fulton is composed of Alpharetta, Johns Creek, Milton, Mountain Park, Roswell and Sandy Springs

North Fulton is no longer a suburb, but not quite a city either. Instead, North Fulton has started to become what the commercial real estate industry is calling an urb-suburb. North Fulton is adopting urban characteristics like transit-oriented development and walkable shopping districts while maintaining a sense of suburban charm. The result is what local communities hope will become one of the most desirable places to live and work in the country. 

The Journey Toward Better Public Transportation 

Residents and commuters have historically relied on cars to get around North Fulton, but now that is changing. To save energy, reduce congestion and attract more residents and workers to North Fulton, the North Fulton Community Improvement District is on a mission to bring several transportation options, including better public transit, to the region. 

“Most people in North Fulton are still driving their own cars to get from point A to point B, but more people are now relying on rapid transit and ride-sharing services like Uber,” North Fulton CID Executive Director Brandon Beach said. “We still have a long way to go, but we are investing in new initiatives to decrease cars on the road and increase accessibility in North Fulton.”

Beach, who is also a state senator for Georgia’s 21st District and chairman of the Transportation Committee for the Georgia Senate, sponsored a bill that connects North Fulton and 12 surrounding counties through public transit. This bill also would allocate $100M in state funding to support the development and construction of transit stations. This initiative will help North Fulton achieve success in its overall transit strategy, Beach said.

Many of these public transit reform initiatives are being driven by economic development. As companies seek to attract a talented workforce, location and accessibility become increasingly important recruitment tools. Even car companies are beginning to understand the importance of transit-oriented development.

When Mercedes-Benz relocated its U.S. headquarters from Montvale, New Jersey, to Sandy Springs, a city in North Fulton, it landed on a site near several public transit options. Companies are realizing that their employees want better transit options, and they are making real estate decisions to help them attract and retain employees. 

Northwinds Summit

A Trend In Mixed-Use And Master-Planned Communities

North Fulton has also introduced efforts to make its communities denser and more walkable. Avalon, a new master-planned community in Alpharetta, offers 500K SF of retail, a 12-screen movie theater, 750K SF of Class-A office, several apartments and a hotel with 330 rooms and a 47K SF convention center. The 86-acre development offers the art and cultural activities one might find in a major city while still maintaining a community feel. 

"Mixed-use communities like Avalon are attracting a wide demographic, from younger people who want to experience a balance of suburban charm and city life to empty nesters looking for a lifestyle change,” Beach said. “The idea that one place has everything a person needs is something that has really come to shape the communities in North Fulton."

Nearby Northwinds Summit has taken a similar approach. Developer Pope and Land has owned the property, located at the intersection of GA 400 and Haynes Bridge Road, since the 1990s. 

“Our development team always knew this would become a mixed-use community, but we were really waiting for the right time,” Pope and Land Managing Director of Leasing and Advisory Services Jennifer Koontz said. “Twenty years ago, the market could not support a mixed-use development, but now the demand is higher than ever, and we are coming in at a perfect time.”

In addition to creative office, retail and multifamily assets, Northwinds Summit will feature a multiuse trail and outdoor sculpture art. 

“Our goal is that Northwinds Summit will bring an urban element to Alpharetta,” Koontz said. "It will be a place where people can come and share experiences. Instead of having people pass through and say, ‘That’s a nice building’ and then leave, we actually want people to stay and experience what the community has to offer.”

In order for communities like North Fulton to attract developments like Avalon and Northwinds Summit, it is important to have the infrastructure in place to help these mixed-use communities thrive. The North Fulton CID’s original master plan, Blueprint North Fulton, envisioned these types of uses for areas close to the GA 400 corridor.

The North Fulton CID has been making investments in these areas for over 15 years in preparation for new developments. The North Fulton CID’s Northwinds Parkway Extension, Encore Parkway Corridor Project and Interchange Beautification Projects are just a few examples of such investments.

Windward Parkway in North Fulton

Using Tech To Strengthen The Economy 

Avalon and Northwinds Summit boast a fiber infrastructure that provides access to high-speed internet and cellular connectivity. These high-tech characteristics manifest themselves all across the community. North Fulton is home to over 40 mission-critical data centers and several companies have relocated their tech and data teams to the region. McKesson Technology Solutions, Verizon Wireless, LexisNexis and Comcast are among North Fulton’s top employers.

The North Fulton community has invested more in technology and fiber infrastructure in recent years. The city of Alpharetta’s creation of Tech Alpharetta in 2017 and the Atlanta Regional Commission’s interest in smart cities marked the beginning of a larger investment in technology-related infrastructure. 

As technology and workforce development helps North Fulton emerge as a prime location to live, work and play, the North Fulton CID is working alongside the region to strike a balance between urban accessibility and suburban charm. The North Fulton community will see even more growth over the next decade. 

This feature was produced in collaboration between Bisnow Branded Content and North Fulton CID. Bisnow editorial staff was not involved in the production of this content.