You might say that Alpharetta City Center affirms the adage that it takes years of work to become an overnight success.

About 15 years ago, Alpharetta began planning to transform its downtown into a more lively and walkable destination that could serve as an anchor for this fast-growing North Fulton community.

The city received a Livable Centers Initiative grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission to develop a vision for its downtown’s future and later formed a public-private partnership to get the plans off the drawing board.

A City Center is Born

The end result is Alpharetta City Center, a 26-acre development that’s home to City Hall, a Fulton County library branch, restaurants, retail, offices, as well as residential and green space. For more details, including the details on eateries and retail stores that have set up shop, check out this recent Curbed Atlanta article.

Among the companies responsible for this transformation? Morris & Fellows and South City Partners — two of the companies that developed the retail and multi-family housing.

Cheri Morris is president of Morris & Fellows and one of the project’s developers. She said the goal was to revitalize Alpharetta’s historic downtown and get people out of their cars and walking to dinner and shopping.

“That was always the intent, but we didn’t dream it would happen so grandly and so quickly. It’s been instant,” she said.

Creating a Sense of Place

City Center is also connected to the larger Alpharetta community by multi-use trials like the Alpha Loop.

“The city did all the right things in terms of the rehab of Main Street,” Morris says. “Retail is the ground floor of all buildings, so it is the public face of the property.”

She says that much of her focus was on creating the sense of place that people feel at Alpharetta City Center, whose design links the city’s 19th century origins to its 21st century present.

Morris points to such features as The Shade Garden, centered on an 80-year-old, 53-inch oak tree, and Market Street Park, home to a replica of the long-lost Milton County Courthouse that occupied the site in 1858.

Such attention to the surroundings led to the Alpharetta City Center receiving the ARC’s Development of Excellence Award for Exceptional Merit for a Context-Sensitive Town Center.

Morris finds that the success has led to a major increase in excitement over Alpharetta in recent months.

“I’m proudest that [Alpharetta City Center] is creating a strong, friendly, downtown community,” she said. “People who’ve lived in Alpharetta for years are meeting each other, getting to know their neighbors, shopkeepers and restaurateurs,” she says. “That’s how downtowns used to function, creating distinct communities of people who supported and liked each other. It’s really a joy to see that physical energy and friendliness.”

Alpharetta’s Transformed Downtown

What’s Next ATL, produced by the Atlanta Regional Commission, is a community resource that explores how metro Atlanta is growing and changing, and how the region is addressing its most pressing challenges.