Another 111 apartments slated for Alpharetta’s Milton High School district

ECHO on Westside

An article in yesterday’s Atlanta Business Chronicle announced yet another apartment complex to be built in Alpharetta’s Milton High School district. This new development would be in addition to the 400+ apartments already being proposed right down the street by MetLife and Lincoln Properties in an effort to urbanize the Northpoint area.

Pollack Shores Real Estate Group is building a 111-unit luxury apartment community with 5,600 square feet of retail space in Alpharetta.

ECHO at North Point Center will be built at 10105 Westside Parkway, Alpharetta, Ga., 30009

Click on the picture above to read the full article with more details.

The Avalon project in Alpharetta moves forward

Below is a statement released yesterday by the City of Alpharetta. It is a call for public input on the zoning application submitted for a new development to replace the rotting parking garage currently sitting at the doorstep of our city on Old Milton Parkway.

I encourage all of you to participate in this process. It will have an enormous impact on our community, our quality of life and our property values for years to come.

We Want To Hear From You

North American Properties, the new owner of the 80-acre site at the northwest corner of GA-400 and Old Milton Parkway that was formerly known as Prospect Park, has submitted to the City ofAlpharetta their proposed plan for developing the site. As envisioned by the owner, the project, now named “Avalon”, would be a development consisting of retail, office, hotel, and residential uses with additional outparcels set aside for future sale or development.

While the formal public hearings for the Avalon Proposal are tentatively scheduled to begin on March 1st when the proposal is presented to the Planning Commission, the City ofAlpharetta is seeking early feedback on the owner’s plans.

Please take a few moments to visit our Open City Hall online discussion about the new Avalon Proposal.  There you can view the proposed site plan for Avalon and the table comparing the uses proposed by North American Properties to those that were approved for the formerProspectPark.  Then, let us know your initial impressions, thoughts, concerns or suggestions. Your comments may be helpful to North American Properties as its plans are further refined and may also assist the Planning Commission and the City Council as they consider the proposal.

Also, please consider sharing this opportunity with your friends and neighbors.  We want to hear from all interested citizens.

Thank you for your participation.

James T. Drinkard
Assistant City Administrator, City of Alpharetta

Prospect Park under contract

Rumors have been circling for the past few weeks and now the Atlanta Business Chronicle is reporting that Alpharetta’s defunct Prospect Park project is under contract to Cincinnati based North American Properties, Inc.

Three years after construction stalled on Alpharetta’s $750 million Prospect Park luxury mixed-use project, North American Properties Inc. has the 106-acre site under contract.

North American Properties will scale back plans of the project’s former developer, Stan Thomas, who once hoped for 750,000 square feet of retail, a hotel, 350,000 square feet of offices and 81 residences starting at $1.5 million.

You can read the whole thing here.

North American Properties is the same company that also purchased a central piece of Midtown Atlanta’s struggling Atlantic Station project earlier this year. You can read more about what North American Properties has done wtih Atlantic Station here, here and here.

As a resident of Alpharetta I can only hope that this sale will mean Prospect Park can now become the jewel that was originally promised.

AJC Home Sales Report: No telling when we’ll hit bottom

The AJC began a realistic presentation of the Atlanta real estate market in a two part series they call the AJC Home Sales Report. You should read the whole thing here.

Some highlights include:

Our annual analysis tracks the sales of 43,000 houses in metro Atlanta in 2010, and the trend is still going in the same depressing direction.


Analysis from this year’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution Home Sales Report reveals that home values in metro Atlanta remain locked in a four-year slide as the pace of home sales sputtered. Five thousand fewer homes sold in nine metro counties last year than in 2009, accounting for a 9 percent drop. Those that did sell went for less than in 2009: Home prices fell 4.5 percent last year.


Homes in the northern suburbs sold at a faster pace than other areas, though suburban home values continued to slide. Cherokee, Cobb, Forsyth and Gwinnett had increases in the number of existing homes sold. But prices decreased 17 percent to $126,500 in Cobb’s 30067; 11 percent to $135,250 around Woodstock in Cherokee’s 30188; and 15.8 percent to $80,000 around Norcross in Gwinnett’s 30071.


The report, along with interviews with dozens of buyers, sellers, agents and experts, paints an uneven picture of the market. This much, however, is clear: Metro Atlanta’s housing market remains a big gamble.

This is a far cry from seven years ago when home sales began to increase 10 percent a year while median home prices grew about 5 percent a year. That ended in 2007, when home prices in the 20-county region went flat and home sales fell 22.3 percent.

I would love to tell friends and clients that the real estate has hit bottom and everything will be rosy from here on out but that simply isn’t the case. There are still too many foreclosure and short sale properties on the market with more in the pipeline for the market to stabilize.

Is it a good time to buy a home? Yes. If you need or want to buy a home and are in the financial position to do so this is a great time to buy and there are some incredible deals out there. But don’t let anyone tell you that the overall real estate market has hit bottom or is even close to doing so… yet.

A glimpse into Alpharetta real estate through the lense of one home


The home above is for sale in Alpharetta. It is not far from my house and as a result I have watched it experience the wild fluctuations of Alpharetta’s real estate market for nearly a decade. I do not claim that this home is representative of the overall market in Alpharetta but I do think its history is an excellent example of what has gone on in our local real estate market. I also think the history of this home can help people outside of the real estate profession gain insight into what is going on around them.

The home in the picture is a 5 bedroom brick home on a lot of about a 1/2 acre in a very nice subdivision in Alpharetta. It was built in 1993 and according to the tax records it is about 4300 square feet with a 2200 square foot finished basement. The home has a three car garage. It also has granite countertops and the floors are mostly marble and hardwood.  It also has a beautifully landscaped, heated inground pool in the back yard.

According to tax records the home originally sold for $464,500 in 1993. Then according to records the original owners lived in the house for 11 years before selling it in 2004 for a price of $740,000. That is about 60% more than the original owners paid. When the home sold in 2004 I had just recently moved to the area and was glad to see that kind of appreciation close to my new home because it would help increase the value of my home as well. You know the old saying, “The rising tide raises all ships.”

In 2006 the home sold again. This time the sale price was $850,000. At the time I was surprised because even though it was a beautiful home I just didn’t believe the home had appreciated so much in such a short period of time. While there were homes nearby that sold in the price range those other homes were either much larger, nicer or on the lake. The comparables around us just didn’t support the sales price but it was a time of irrational exuberance and given the lax mortgage underwriting standards of the time the loan was made.

Fast forward to 2011. The home was listed on the market for $549,888. After a few weeks on the market the price of the home is now down to $499,888. The home is scheduled to be sold in a foreclosure auction on the steps of the Fulton County Courthouse next week.

So a home that originally sold for $464,500 in 2003 rode the real estate bubble to a price of $850,000 13 years later. And in the 5 years since that time the real estate market has plunged to the point where a bank will be fortunate to get the original sale price of $464,500 for it.

Sadly, just as the home’s rapid rise in price helped increase the values of surrounding properties it is now helping to drive down the values of those same homes. A rising tide does indeed raise all ships but a dropping tide also lowers them.

Is Alpharetta a good place for a black family?

In looking over the GA Jim traffic yesterday I noticed that someone was directed to this blog after asking a search engine “is alpharetta a good place for black family”. The searcher was directed to my earlier post Racial diversity in Alpharetta? Duh! and I hope they found the answer they were looking for.

And if anyone else ever finds GA Jim looking for an answer to that same question let me give them a clear and unambiguous answer: YES.

Alpharetta has great schools, low crime and a fantastic quality of life. Any family that values those qualities will find Alpharetta is an outstanding place to call home… regardless of race. Welcome to Alpharetta!


Teenage consultants advise Alpharetta on vacant property

The other day Channel 2 in Atlanta had a news report about a vacant car dealership in Alpharetta and mentioned that the city was asking the Atlanta Regional Commission for help in finding a use for the property. You can read the report by clicking the picture below:

Then today I saw this article about kids that had found a use for vacant car dealerships in Alpharetta:

According to Alpharetta police, the five, whose names have not been released, broke into a vacant building in the 1400 block of Alpharetta Highway that was formerly an automobile dealership and set up a skate park.

So a few of Alpharetta’s enterprising youths have already solved the city’s dilemma: The city needs an indoor skateboard facility on the site! The market has spoken.

We are in a hole… Please stop digging!

Last night the Alpharetta City Council reviewed an application from Met Life Insurance Company and apartment developer Lincoln Property Company which would rezone a parcel of land on Haynes Bridge road to high density mixed use from office and industrial. The council has already approved two of these massive projects in recent years and neither one has been economically viable but they still represent about 1000 condominiums which have yet to be built in an already saturated real estate market. I attended the public hearing and you can read my comments below:

I have come to voice my opposition to the Peridot project which is proposed by Met Life and Lincoln Property Company. I oppose this project for many reasons but to save time I will stick to the biggest reason of all: Peridot is bad for Alpharetta.

Will Rogers once said, “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”. So I stand here before you to point out that we are in a hole… please stop digging!

There are 282 condominiums listed for sale in Alpharetta today and last month only 14 of those actually sold. So as you decide whether to approve 500 more condos know that there is already two years’ worth of condominium inventory and that doesn’t include the 1200 condominiums this council has already approved but haven’t been built because the market is saturated. Prospect Park, Windward Mill and the Georgian downtown are already waiting for the demand to catch up with supply. In other words, we are in a hole… please stop digging!

The same thing goes for the commercial & retail space the applicants are requesting. There are brand new, vacant buildings across from the Best Buy on Haynes Bridge Road and all along Highway 9 near Windward Parkway. In fact there is empty space all over Alpharetta because supply already outstrips demand. When this council considered building more retail in the city center project downtown I pointed to the vacant storefronts across the street and asked you not to add more inventory to an over saturated market. You acted wisely in that case and now those storefronts are filled. You need to exercise restraint like that again. In other words, we are in a hole… please stop digging!

Prospect Park is an eyesore on our doorstep. Windward Mill is mothballed along with the Georgian townhomes and City Center project downtown. The collapse of the condo and commercial real estate market are not this council’s fault and I don’t mean to imply that you are the reason we are in a hole. But we do find ourselves in a hole and you can stop digging.

A few years ago someone that used to work with me on zonings ran for city council. The Alpharetta Neighbor profiled him and said that filling empty retail and commercial space was one of his top priorities. They reported that he would “like to see all empty retail and commercial space filled before more development and construction are approved”. That candidate understood that it is bad for the city of Alpharetta to keep adding supply when there is too little demand. The people of Alpharetta understood too and that’s why Councilman Kennedy is now sitting up there on the dais.

I ask all of you to heed what the people of Alpharetta voted for and what Councilman Kennedy understood when he ran for office. Adding the Peridot project to an oversaturated market will depress real estate prices even further in Alpharetta and cripple our chances of ever completing the other mixed use projects already begun. I ask that you not approve this project because Peridot is bad for Alpharetta. We are in a hole… please stop digging!

After hours of discussion the city council ended up tabling the mixed use application until next month and only approved the requested variance which would allow MetLife to proceed with the channeling of a stream. In what was the most stunning revelation for me the application actually said that they originally approached the Alpharetta Community Development department about a simple stream variance and it was the city’s staff that recommended they pursue this project now.

Are you kidding me? I love this city and have no interest in being negative but if we are not realistic we will continue to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Two restaurants have been torn down in the Northpoint area and one remains an empty lot. The retail center across from Best Buy was completely redone at our community development department’s urging and yet it still sits vacant. There are at least three new shopping centers on Highway 9 north of downtown that are either completely vacant or largely unfilled. As I mention above there are three major projects (City Center, Prospect Park and Windward Mill) which have either been approved or for which there is a great deal of support within the community.

And yet with this oversaturation of residential, commercial and retail real estate the Alpharetta Community Development department took it upon themselves to urge a developer seeking a stream variance to spend tens of thousands of dollars bringing another high density mixed use development before city council. Unbelievable.

What was the definition of insanity again?

You might have a saturated market if you have 15 years worth of inventory

Since the City of Alpharetta is in the process of approving another 500 or so condominiums for our fair city I thought I would check and see how badly they are needed.

To determine the demand for more condos I pulled the December’s multiple listing statistics for Fulton county condominiums within zip codes 30004 and 30005. There are currently 132 condos for sale in this area and the whopping sum of nine actually sold in December. That means that there are currently enough condos on the market to meet demand for 15 months.

So if you add the condos planned for the MetLife project, the Windward Mill project, the Prospect Park project and every other project not yet built we would have enough inventory to last about 15 years as long as nobody else in Alpharetta wants to sell their condo!

Brilliant. I sure am glad I don’t own a condo in Alpharetta.

Alpharetta Planning Commission supports 500 more condos

Thursday I wrote about the next step the city of Alpharetta is taking to transform itself into an urbanized concrete jungle similar to the Perimeter Center in Sandy Springs. You can read that post here.

As I predicted the Alpharetta Planning Commission unanimously approved the high density development that directly conflicts with the comprehensive land use plan. Since the city of Alpharetta typically ignores the land use plan the action comes as no surprise but it is disappointing nonetheless. The MetLife project is now scheduled to go before the Alpharetta City Council for final approval on Monday, January 24th.

I will write more about the details of this mega-project later but for now I would like to point out what disappoints me most about Thursday’s decision: Not one person on the planning commission stood up to defend Alpharetta from this continued urbanization. Not one? Not one single person on the planning commission stood up to represent the Alpharetta residents that want this urbanization moderated if not completely stopped. That is sad.

But I don’t blame the planning commissioners. They are simply doing what they think is best. I happen to know several of them and while they rarely represent my family’s best interests, there is nothing wrong with good people disagreeing. 

The real problem is that not one city councilperson has nominated a commissioner that represents my family’s best interests. Not one city council member nominated a planning commissioner that would vote against a project that adds 500 condos to the Milton High School district and puts 12,000 more cars on the road between downtown Alpharetta and GA 400.  Not one. So let’s be clear, the urbanization of Alpharetta continues because not even one city council member wants it to stop. 

Soon the campaigns for Alpharetta’s new mayor along with several city council seats will begin. If you are unhappy with what is going on I suggest you pay close attention.

In the meantime you should call city hall and let them know what you think: 678 297-6000