Atlanta’s edge cities are developing City Centers to create a sense of community, and it’s working.
Since the holiday season is in full swing, it feels appropriate to continue the discussion about community I started in my last blog “The Importance of Community Engagement.” I suggested that leaning into our communities through service and events helps us feel more engaged.
But I don’t believe that just happens. It is the addition of City Centers—intentional placemaking at its finest—that elevates the community’s sense of belonging.
City Centers Help You Belong
In a time when negativity, divisiveness and complaining feel ubiquitous, encouraging a sense of community offers people a positive feeling. While “sense of community” itself is difficult to quantify, it is absolutely a constructive and powerful force for a community’s overall health.
Prime Example: Downtown Alpharetta
The re-imagining of downtown Alpharetta is just one example of a city determined to craft community for its residents via real estate. The vision started with the construction of Alpharetta City Hall, a new Fulton County Library, the five-acre Brooke Street Park, the one-acre Town Green, and the trailhead for the Alpha Loop, a network of multi-use paths, connecting downtown with surrounding developments.
Adjacent to these amenities is Alpharetta City Center, a 26-acre mixed-use development that “expanded the existing downtown historic district by six city blocks,” with 82,700 sq. ft. of boutiques, restaurants and residences. In downtown Alpharetta, multiple weekly or annual events encourage community, like the Alpharetta Farmer’s Market, the Brooke Street Park Summer Concert Series, or the recent Season of Celebration, which included Alpharetta’s Holiday Food Drive, benefitting the NFCC Pantry.
Not only do these City Centers promote a sense of community through their offerings, but they also enable residents to achieve an urban lifestyle in the suburbs (and with much more affordability).
Everyone Seeks Community
As a culture, we seem to be losing our sense of belonging. By creating these genteel urban environments as City Centers, smaller cities are giving that sense of belonging back to us. And guess what? A sense of belonging gives people something to invest in—whether emotionally, physically or charitably.
When you participate in community activities—like those in Alpharetta listed above—you become neighbors, rather than just people living in close proximity to each other.
When you see people out and about, conversations ensue. You may say, “Have you eaten at this restaurant?” or “Did you see this event or that opportunity to volunteer?” This is the value-add effect to people being out in their communities. It simply creates more engagement, more goodwill, more improvement.
For sure, real estate has a lot to do with these exchanges, thus with crafting a sense of belonging.
Focus Outward, not Inward
You’ve heard it before, but electronics make it easy for us not to be social. Whether it’s our TVs, computers, tablets or phones, these devices encourage us to focus inward, not outward into the community. City Centers, and the community they build, are the counter offensive to the effects of technology, providing us ample opportunity to connect, belong and invest.
Stan’s Take Away
Atlanta’s edge cities are hooked on this urban trend of creating City Centers.
A sense of community just makes people feel better and therefore more inclined to care about their community; get involved with local politics and elections; and focus on community improvement, like investing in affordable housing, trail systems or education.
If City Centers continue to unite residents in a convenient, affordable and fun way, they will endure and positively strengthen the cities they serve.