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September 14, 2012 9:28 pm
In the 1936 civil war novel Gone With the Wind, author Margaret Mitchell described Atlanta as a town built by “pushy ... restless, energetic people”.
Today Atlanta, in the US state of Georgia, is a sprawling metropolis. Its skyline is a mix of modern and postmodern buildings, punctuated by impressive skyscrapers, mainly the product of the city’s unprecedented economic growth of the past 15 years. The city hosts many Fortune 500 companies, including UPS, Home Depot, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines.
Known as a “city of neighbourhoods”, there is no true city centre, with many residential areas and business districts having sprung up across the region. Atlanta is divided into 25 areas made up of 242 neighbourhoods. Interstate Highway 285 creates a 64-mile loop around the city, and Atlanta’s geography and real estate are divided between those inside and outside this perimeter. Those living inside trade off more expensive homes and higher taxes for a shorter commute.
“Atlanta has lots of space – it just keeps on going,” said Sarah Kenagy, a proposal development co-ordinator at Care USA. “There are very few places in America where you can own a family home right in the heart of a city. Atlanta is one of them.”
Kenagy owns a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house in Candler Park, about two miles east of Atlanta’s downtown business district. The neighbourhood, popular with those looking for true in-town living, features quaint bungalows and craftsman-style homes on tree-lined streets.
For those who choose to live further out, a car is essential. Payson Schwin, a strategic marketing and business development manager at Ericsson, who lives in the Oakhurst neighbourhood, says: “Traffic is very bad and the metro doesn’t stretch to enough places. There isn’t a transit system that is good enough for the average commuter.”
The US census shows that Atlanta’s population jumps 62 per cent during the day thanks to commuters. The Beltline, a 22-mile loop around the city connecting more than 40 neighbourhoods with walking trails, parks and, eventually, by either light rail or streetcars, was expected to improve connections, but the project has been dogged by funding issues that are likely to prolong congestion problems.
Schwin chose to move to his four-bedroom, family home in the Atlanta suburb known for its arts scene, coffee shops and speciality stores, and for its good schools – the top priority for Atlantans.
“In Atlanta you are limited by school districts,” he says. “You can get cheaper housing in other neighbourhoods, but I would like to have children in the future. Also, property values hold over time in neighbourhoods with good schools,” he said.
Atlanta was one of the cities hit hardest during the housing market collapse that accompanied the financial crisis. Home prices are 30 per cent below their 2006 peaks and have only recently shown signs of recovery.
Janice Quinn, an estate agent at Coldwell Banker, said: “Prices are stabilising. I deal a lot in the luxury market and while the number of showings I have are not the same as before, the buyers are still out there. Now is definitely the time to buy if you have the money.”
Quinn says the highest demand is in Buckhead, Garden Hills and Dunwoody in the north, where there are good schools.
Among Coldwell Banker’s listings in the area is 2081 Dellwood Drive, a $599,000 three-bedroom, three- bathroom family home, a short walk from Memorial Park. More expensive properties, such as 508 Peachtree Battle Avenue, a four-bedroom, four-bathroom renovated home with heated pool valued at $2.47m, are also listed.
While the north of the city is fairly affluent, and the far east and far west mainly industrial, the south side has many lower-income neighbourhoods and the airport. Founded as a railroad hub in 1837 and originally named Terminus, the city is now an airline nerve centre.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta international airport has, since 2005, been the world’s busiest airport by passenger traffic and number of landings and take-offs, serving 89m passengers a year. Residents in and around the neighbourhood joke that they have to “hold grandma’s picture from falling off the shelf every time a plane takes off”, which happens once every 10 minutes on average, day and night.
The state has offered tax incentives to film, television and digital entertainment companies, which has brought individuals such as Neal Holman, an art director, to the city. Holman, who paid $355,000 for a three-bedroom 2,900 sq ft home in the eastern suburbs of Atlanta, said the city offered an affordable standard of living to its residents and spoke highly of its arts and restaurant scene.
East Atlanta offers affordable, spacious homes with big gardens, while neighbouring Grant Park, one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, is known for Victorian-era mansions, cottages and early 1900s bungalows. At Keller Williams Realty, 512 Park Avenue, a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home in Grant Park, is listed at $650,000.
Until recently Atlanta placed little importance on the preservation of its historic architecture, and many venerable buildings were lost. Few structures survive that are older than the turn of the 20th century, with many buildings in the city’s skyline less than 30 years old. But while the city has antebellum roots, Atlanta looks and feels young and vibrant, a testament to its ability to reinvent itself.
Despite the city’s constant upheaval and renewal, segregation between Atlanta’s black and white populations still remains. Atlanta is one of the US’s largest black-majority cities and has played a central role in the cultivation of black wealth, political power, education and culture.
Peter Bade, agent at RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside, said the city was still divided along income and colour lines. “Segregation is a hindrance to the city. The mindset of some people and lack of diversity in some neighbourhoods is not a good thing. But this is changing with time,” he said.
● Relaxed pace of life
● A well-connected airline hub
● Good public-sector schools
● Heavy traffic
● Lack of diversity in some areas
What you can buy for ...
$100,000 A one-bedroom condo
$1m A three-bedroom home
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