Atlanta has played an outsized role in southern history, rising above its less-than-auspicious founding at the terminus of the Western & Atlantic rail line to capitalize on its location as a crossroads for the South to serve as a commercial and transportation hub. Local business leaders and city fathers worked together to create an environment that welcomed companies and development.
The area is home to 18 Fortune 500 companies, including Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, Aflac and the United Parcel Service. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is one of the busiest in the world. There are also 57 universities in the Atlanta region, including prestigious Historically Black Colleges and Universities and several top-notch private and public universities.
Since there are no mountains or coastline to limit expansion of housing development, the metro area spreads in all directions. Officially designated the Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Alpharetta, GA Metro Area by the Census Bureau and other federal agencies, there are almost 7 million people spread over 39 counties and almost 8,700 square miles. Public transportation is limited, so traffic and sprawl are issues.
One of the surprising recent growth patterns in Atlanta, according to Mike Overley, director of single-family rentals at Mynd, is the gentrification of the metro area south of I-20, an interstate that travels east to west. Previously, this area had issues with crime and subpar schools, both of which have seen improvements.
“The south side of Atlanta is picking up some steam,” Overley said. “There are a lot of those little pockets that have gentrified that you would not have looked at before.”
A common theme for many of these submarkets leading the Atlanta market in new home starts over the past year is housing in the sub $400,000 price points.
“As affordability continues to be an issue in the Atlanta market,” Overley said, “‘drive until you qualify’ is in full force again as we see the development moving further and further out of the metro area.”
These are among the areas that Overley identified as the hidden gems of the metro area.
1. West side of Atlanta, AKA Grove Park
Grove Park has seen tremendous growth in the last few years. Several tech companies have relocated there, driving up home values some 14 percent in the past year, according to Overley.
One of the corporations making a big commitment to Atlanta is Microsoft, which is developing a 90-acre campus in Grove Park.
"When we open the doors to our offices in Atlantic Yards this summer, we will be able to seat 2,500 employees across the region, including our sales locations in Alpharetta, Buckhead and Midtown. And this number will grow further as we scope and build out facilities in Quarry Yards and Quarry Hills (in Grove Park),” Microsoft president Brad Smith announced earlier this year.
2. Jonesboro is the county seat of Clayton and is known as the official “home” of Margaret Mitchell's “Gone With the Wind.” There are many older homes kept in good condition that lends the city its historic atmosphere. Studies predict job growth in the next 10 years to be 46 percent, higher than the US average of 33 percent.
3. McDonough, the county seat of Henry County, which attracted more than 2,600 new jobs and $451 million of investment from 10 projects in 2020, according to development officials. Zinus Inc., a Korean e-commerce mattress and furniture company, announced a $108-million investment and 804 new jobs last August at an old 1-million-square-feet Toys “R” Us distribution center in McDonough.
4. The six counties of South Metro Atlanta — Henry, Coweta, Fayette, Spalding, Clayton and South Fulton — barely skipped a beat during the pandemic. The availability of developable land, good access to interstates and a well-trained workforce led to the expansion of industrial, logistics and manufacturing operations across the region.
5. Dallas in Paulding County, which is located some 38 miles northeast of downtown Atlanta, is known for its good school system and its historical city center. Visitors and residents can ride the Silver Comet Trail, a rails-to-trail paved path taking cyclists all the way to the Alabama state line in one direction, and to Atlanta in the other. Its population now is up to nearly 15,000, up from 11,600 in 2010, a growth rate of almost 28 percent.
6. Forsyth County has been one of the state’s fastest-growing for the last decade or so, and fueling the growth are job opportunities in nearby Alpharetta and northern Fulton County. It is equidistant between the cultural offerings of Atlanta and the recreational opportunities in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Its housing stock is mostly new and affordable, and the school systems are highly ranked. The county’s median annual household income has risen over $100,000 with the influx of highly paid professionals.
7. Woodstock and Canton in Cherokee County are 30 and 40 miles or so north, respectively, of downtown Atlanta, and Canton is at the southern tip of the Blue Ridge mountains. Woodstock is one of the fastest-growing cities in the suburbs, with a 45 percent increase in the last 10 years. Its population is nearly 35,000 now. Cherokee County now has some 250,000 people, up from just 90,000 in 1990, and it is known for having some of the best schools systems in Georgia.
8. Dacula in Gwinnett County is little less than 40 miles northeast of downtown and has grown almost 50 percent since the last census in 2010 and now has a population of about 6,500. It is known as one of the more livable cities in suburban Atlanta with a good school system.
9. Flowery Branch in Hall County is about 45 miles northeast of Atlanta on the shore of Lake Lanier. Its population has increased by 62 percent since the 2010 census and is now home to more than 9,200 people.
10. Newton County had minimal activity for several years after the downturn in 2008 but has recently seen huge increases in growth the last couple years, mostly fueled by the promise of Facebook investing up to $42 billion in the county and the surrounding area over the next couple of decades.