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How Alpharetta is "trying to build a community"

Created in 1831 through land seized from the Cherokee Nation and originally known as Milton, the city of Alpharetta has experienced resurgence similar to other Northside cities. 

This story originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of Living Northside magazine

As it has evolved, Smokejack Southern Grill owner and family man David Filipowicz would like the community to retain its quaint, small-town character. His young sons ride their bikes along the sidewalks to his downtown barbecue restaurant, and festivals such as October’s Scarecrow Harvest, with more than 100 displays, attract families to the center of the city.

For Filipowicz, Alpharetta’s close-knit blocks of restaurants and shops have the feel of his native New England community. “Twenty years ago, there was nothing in Alpharetta,” he says. “The building I’m in, they built lawnmowers. Now we have a community where a band can play on the lawn, kids can come out to get ice cream and goof around the fountain, [and it] is great.”

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In the last few years, residents have seen the opening of Avalon, an 86-acre development of luxury living, high-end retail, eateries and office space; as well as construction of a North Fulton campus for Gwinnett Technical College, which is expected to add to the workforce of local technology firms.

Last December, the city celebrated the opening of a new City Hall at Park Plaza, the centerpiece of Alpharetta’s Town Center Project of mixed-use development. The charming Southern Colonial structure has a cupola clock tower and large Romanesque columns with an interactive fountain in the front and a park with an event lawn in the back. The city’s master plan at that location includes a new 25,000-square-foot Atlanta-Fulton County library, which opened last summer.

Years ago, downtown seemed left behind as the city grew, says Janet Rodgers, CEO of Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We used to say, ‘You’ve forgotten about downtown,’” she says. “It wasn’t the time. Now is [downtown’s] time.”

The Northside enclave of nearly 63,000 people enjoys year-round outdoor festivals. Taste of Alpharetta brings in 60 restaurants for its annual street party. Wills Park hosts an annual Independence Day celebration with fireworks, children’s inflatables and other activities. Wire and Wood Alpharetta Songwriters Festival features emerging talent from around the country. And April through October, foodies turn out for Alpharetta Food Truck Alley and the farmers market.

“We are trying to build a community,” Filipowicz says. “I like seeing us grow organically.”

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