Dale Nordin and his neighbors are finally close to stepping off metro Atlanta’s economic roller coaster after a grueling ride of five-plus years.
Last week, Nordin and other homeowners in the northern Cobb subdivision of Hidden Forest sold their properties to a developer to make way for a long-delayed $300 million mixed-use village, with restaurants, shops, green space and up to 1,600 homes. That project’s delay was a sign of the times, according to county and regional experts, but so is its rebound, along with the restart of other high-profile developments across the area.
“I think people are confident again,” said Rob Hosack, Cobb’s director of community development. “We’re not only seeing an uptick in stuff like this, but we’re seeing an uptick in commercial permitting and single-family residential.”
In 2008, plans were approved to buy and bulldoze the 50 or so houses in Hidden Forest to make way for the Kennesaw project dubbed “Town Village” near the Town Center mall. But in the years that followed, Nordin and his neighbors tried sell their Cobb County homes only to see the deal repeatedly collapse in the final stages because the developer couldn’t secure funding. Until now.
Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cherokee and Forsyth counties also reported an increase in building permits, which county officials consider a positive sign the economy is improving. Foreclosures have decreased across the metro area, and in Cobb, officials are predicting a less severe decline in property value.
Around metro Atlanta, other stalled projects are also moving forward. There’s the former Streets of Buckhead, a $1.5 billion mini-city that’s been reinvented on a smaller scale as Buckhead Atlanta. Alpharetta’s Avalon off Ga. 400 is a relaunch of a failed mixed-use development called Prospect Park, which stalled out in 2009.
Dan Reuter, community development manager for the Atlanta Regional Commission, said there’s been an increase in economic activity the past six months, especially for developments close to existing jobs and commercial areas. In-town neighborhoods are attractive because of their proximity to shopping and activities; the Town Center area is attractive because of its proximity to the mall and Kennesaw State University, he said.
“It’s a question where Generation Xers and Millennials want to live and buy,” he said. “People are betting they want to be closer to movie theaters, restaurants and coffee shops. That’s the speculation.”
Woody Snell, the developer for Town Village, didn’t return calls for comment, but county officials said when the economy was at its worst Snell could not get funding for the large-scale project. Grace Church at Town Center, which was formerly located in the Hidden Forest neighborhood, is suing Snell over the deal, claiming he didn’t keep promises after the church relocated.
Homeowners say on a couple of occasions they were close to selling and some, like Nordin, even found and put deposits on new homes. In the years of ups and downs the neighborhood withered as homeowners held off on routine upkeep, once landscaped yards grew unruly and more and more properties were turned into rentals.
Nordin, who bought his home 1976 and raised two children there, said he and his wife are ready to move on.
“I am glad it’s over,” he said. “We won’t have any more tension or uncertainty.”