Family Friendly Neighborhoods
Finding the Right Fit for Your Children
By Susan Flowers
Relocating to a new city is always challenging. For families withchildren that holds especially true. The process involves much more than finding a new home close to your new place of employment. Schools, the makeup of the neighborhood, leisure activities and many other factors need to be taken into account when choosing a place to call home.
You really have to have a game plan,” says real estate agent Rhonda Duffy, who runs Duffy Realty of Atlanta and has been hailed as one of the top agents in the country by Realtor.com.
That plan begins with identifying specific areas of interest to families with children. If you already know you want to live within the Atlanta city limits, you’ve narrowed your search considerably. Atlanta neighborhoods have much to offer, like Virginia- Highland’s leafy, tree-lined streets, Midtown’s Piedmont Park and Woodruff Arts Center (which includes the High Museum of Art), and Grant Park’s historic homes, park, and Zoo Atlanta.
DO YOUR HOMEWORK ON SCHOOLS
Neighborhood schools are, of course, a critical factor to consider. The Atlanta School Guide, Atlanta’s leading education resource for parents and educators, is a great place to start (atlantaschoolguide. com). Available for free at more than 850 locations across the metro area, this semiannual publication offers features on educational trends, as well as important dates, helpful tips and terminology, and detailed, up-to-date information on public and private schools, summer camps, early education centers, and other educational resources.
SUBURBS AND MIXED-USE COMMUNITIES
If you’re not tied to a particular section of town, your options increase dramatically. Many of Atlanta’s suburbs boast features of interest to families with children. Cities like Alpharetta, Marietta, Decatur, Duluth, and Lawrenceville abound with green space, walkable downtown centers, and other amenities.
Alpharetta, located in north Fulton County, is home to a historic downtown district, several parks, a weekly farmer’s market, and Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre at Encore Park, which hosts outdoor summer concerts by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.
In addition to a beautiful city square, Marietta’s attractions include the Gone With the Wind Museum and Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park: a Civil War site with 16 miles of hiking trails. Decatur likewise radiates a cozy, small-town charm, especially around its historic courthouse and town square. Public transportation is easily accessible, and recreational activities are plentiful in its many parks and playing fields. Just north of Atlanta in Gwinnett County, Lawrenceville features such attractions as the Aurora Theatre, the Gwinnett Stripers minorleague baseball team, and numerous parks offering playgrounds, sports facilities, and trails. Nearby Duluth boasts the 35-acre Southeastern Railway Museum, the Hudgens Center for Arts and Learning, and the Arena at Gwinnett Center: home of the Gwinnett Gladiators hockey team. Both cities are served by Gwinnett County Public Schools, recognized as one of the best school systems in the state of Georgia.
One of metro Atlanta’s newest municipalities (incorporated in 2006), Johns Creek earns rave reviews from residents and national media alike for its quiet, safe atmosphere; excel- lent schools; and excellent recreation opportunities, such as the Johns Creek Greenway. Its proximity to both Atlanta and to the North Georgia mountains gives residents the best of both worlds.
Other family-friendly suburbs worth considering include East Point, home to the Georgia Soccer Park and the Dick Lane Velodrome, one of the leading bicycle racing facilities in the country; Roswell, which features the Roswell Cultural Arts Center and the Chattahoochee Nature Center; and Sandy Springs, which boasts Heritage Green, a four-acre park that hosts free concerts and events.
Mixed-use neighborhoods, which allow residents to live, work, and play within the same area, are also worth considering, especially for families used to living in larger metropolitan areas. “A lot of mixed-use developments are attractive to younger families,” says Robin Lemon, a sales agent with Keller Williams Realty Consultants. “They want their children to experience more of a neighborhood feeling.”
Atlantic Station, in Atlanta’s Midtown area, is a 138-acre development offering an array of condos, lofts, townhomes, apartments, and single-family homes, as well as a two-acre lake and plenty of green space, in addition to a mix of restaurants and shops.
In Suwanee, located in Gwinnett County, the Town Center development features singlefamily homes, townhomes, and condos, as well as retail and office space and the 10-acre Town Center Park. With abundant green space, an interactive fountain, and a 1,000-seat amphitheater, Town Center Park is referred to as Suwanee’s front yard.
Northwest of the city in Cobb County, Smyrna’s pedestrian-friendly Market Village sports an airy, open feel, with plentiful green space, a public square and fountain, charming townhomes, restaurants, and retail and office space.
There are many other suburbs and communities worth a look as well. A good place to start is with a visit to Newcomer’s website (newcomeratlanta.com) and reading about the cities and areas profiled in our “Neighborhood Spotlight” and “Homes and Communities” sections to get a sense of what communities you’d like to explore further.
ASK QUESTIONS AND INVESTIGATE
Once you’ve settled on a neighborhood, ask your potential new neighbors about the area. Duffy recommends seeking out three sets of neighbors and asking them all the same questions. For families with children, those include: How social is the neighborhood? Are there many parties or events? How many kids live in the area, versus how many adults? It’s important to establish whether a particular neighborhood provides sufficient opportunities to make friends with children of similar age.
It’s also a good idea to visit local shopping areas to ensure that there are child-friendly establishments and other retail outlets that fit your family’s lifestyle. A distance of only two or three miles can make a difference. And be sure to investigate any family-friendly amenities in the neighborhood. The fact that a subdivision has a pool, for example, doesn’t mean that the facility has room for all the residents to enjoy it on a regular basis, that there’s adequate seating around the pool, or that sufficient safety measures are in place.
Your search should also be guided in part by the needs and interests of the children in your family. “Are they a computer family? What kind of sports do they play?” asks Lemon. “If the kids are really involved in certain things, I can start gearing a search toward the family’s needs. There are some families that will come in and say, ‘My children are very interested in volleyball, or very into karate.’”
Most importantly, when scouting a new neighborhood and a new home, remember to take your time. “The key to buying a house is to ask a lot of questions that are important to you, and slow down the process,” Rhonda Duffy advises.
By having a detailed strategy, asking questions, and placing special emphasis on neighborhoods and the amenities they offer, you’re much more likely to settle on the perfect home for yourself and your children.