J. Wayne Baughman conducts the Johns Creek Symphony, a professional orchestra that makes its home in the Northside community.
Photo: Contributed
Photo: Contributed

Johns Creek is Rising

Story by H.M. Cauley/ Photos by JASON GETZ

Johns Creek celebrates its 11th birthday on Dec. 1. This corner of the Northside has formed its own identity and is making moves to become a bigger draw for families and businesses. An active park with an amphitheater, waterfalls and ponds, a bird sanctuary, trails and a zip line is planned for a linear green space at Technology Park, where more than 10,000 people work for various companies. The new Johns Creek City Hall will also be located at the business center.

Development is scheduled to start by the end of March, possibly sooner, says Courtni Bernardi, CEO of Johns Creek Advantage, the economic development agency for the city.

Johns Creek traces its roots to the early 19th century, when members of the Rogers, McGinnis, Cowart and Medlock families, to name a few, set up trading areas along the river. For years, the unincorporated area had four roughly defined communities: Newtown, Shakerag, Warsaw and Ocee. The move to blend them into a municipality began in 2000 and was official in December of 2006.

The city boasts a population of approximately 84,000 residents, with a mix of affluent neighborhoods, schools, picturesque parks, and several dining and entertainment options within its nearly 32 square miles. In 2015, the median household income was $60,291, compared to the state’s $51,244. And those breadwinners skew to the young side, with a median age of 39 years.

Ready to explore? Here are some things to know about Johns Creek.

GREEN SPACE

More than 200 acres are dedicated to providing outdoor areas for walking, jogging and communing with nature, and more are coming. Last August, Johns Creek purchased Quail Hollow, a 58-acre site that borders green space along Cauley Creek. Together, the two properties will form the city’s biggest park. Both border the river near the Abbotts Bridge Chattahoochee River National Recreation area.

In all, the city has 13 miles of riverfront for kayaking, fishing and canoeing. One of the most popular spots is the Jones Bridge trailhead off Barnwell Road. More than four miles of hiking trails meander by a historic bridge and idyllic spots for fishing and boating.

“One of my favorite things to do is hit the Jones Bridge trailhead in the part of the Chattahoochee recreation area that runs through our city,” says Shelby Marzen, executive director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau. “As soon as you turn off Barnwell Road, you’re in a very wooded park.”

The city’s four-footed residents have their own place to romp outdoors. The one-acre Newtown Dream Dog Park has been lauded as the metro area’s top destination for Fido and his friends to run through sprinklers, roll on the artificial turf and burrow through hoops and tunnels.

johnscreekga.gov/recreationandParks

Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center

One of the area’s hidden treasures is the Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Heritage Center, a 46-acre city park that’s also a link to the community’s past. Along with miles of walking trails and picnic areas, a welcome center features wildlife exhibits that include live fish, turtles and snakes. On the grounds, visitors can check out a Victorian house, a historic chapel from the Warsaw community and a farm museum. A recent addition is an old general store that was moved onto the grounds.

Visitors will also find a quirky piece of local history here. According to local lore, sometime in the early 1900s, animals riding in a derailed circus train broke free and roamed the countryside. Area farmers killed many of the monkeys that took to the trees. Several years ago, an anonymous artist created concrete monkey sculptures and placed them in the park, and today the Monkey Massacre Memorial is an odd footnote in Johns Creek history.

9770 Autrey Mill Road. 678-366-3511. autreymill.org

insider Tip: Stop at the main kiosk near the parking area for directions on how to call up a guided walking tour on your cellphone.

CLASSICAL MUSIC

As Johns Creek neared cityhood, area resident and musician J. Wayne Baughman was thinking of ways to create more cultural opportunities for the new town. His goal was to establish a traditional symphony of professional musicians who would specialize in performing a range of works, from Beethoven to Broadway standards.

On the same day Johns Creek became a city, the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra debuted with a holiday pops concert that drew about 1,000 music lovers. Each year since, that holiday concert has grown, and the orchestra has become a permanent and key element of the local cultural arts scene. Now in its 11th season, the orchestra is gearing up for its annual December concert and gala at Johns Creek United Methodist Church. Look for performances in March and May to round out the season.

Christmas Gala and Holiday Pops Concert. 7:30 p.m., Dec. 16. Johns Creek United Methodist Church, 11180 Medlock Bridge Road. johnscreeksymphony.org

ARTISANS WORKSHOP

Johns Creek Arts Center has year round art classes for adults and children. Some sessions, such as an eight-week oil and acrylic painting course, are a mix of painting, lectures and demonstrations. Novices are offered a two-hour introductory workshop to help them get acclimated to the art form. Other adult classes include ceramic arts, jewelry making and a workshop on palette knife techniques.

“A lot of our youth classes are extra curricular,” says Amanda Carman, the arts center’s communication manager. “Some take place at elementary schools and some are held here for students that want more specialized classes like cartooning, mixed media, and science-fiction and fantasy.”

A brief fall session of youth classes starts Nov. 13. Full sessions of youth and adult classes start on Jan. 18.

The not-for-profit center is independent of the city of Johns Creek and holds annual juried art exhibitions. A holiday market exhibit featuring works by local and regional artisans runs Nov. 18-Dec. 23. Paintings, candles, jams, handcrafted jewelry and other crafts will be for sale.

Johns Creek Arts Center. 6290 Abbotts Bridge Road. 770-623-8448. johnscreekarts.org

LOCALLY OWNED EATERIES

Having history, culture and recreation close to home is plus, but it takes a few good restaurants to make a community complete. In Johns Creek, locals have no trouble finding a table close to home where they can enjoy a multi-course dinner or grab a quick bite.

Fresh Fish Market

At Kathleen’s Catch, owner Kathleen Hulsey has fresh seafood delivered six days per week and takes pride in its all-natural, chemical-free quality. While primarily a fresh fish market where you’ll find sockeye salmon, Dover sole and scallops among an array of options to cook at home, Hulsey also serves a limited lunch menu in which popularity has spread through word of mouth. Between noon and 3 p.m., the place gets packed with diners hungry for tuna salad sandwiches, shrimp salad rolls and the No. 1 favorite: lobster rolls. The menu varies each day, so you just might find shrimp and corn chowder or a crab cake sandwich as a featured item. Weekends bring a ceviche special as well.

Kathleen’s Catch, 9810 Medlock Bridge Road. 678-957-9792. kathleenscatch.com

Hearty Fare

Sugo restaurant owners and Johns Creek residents Nancy and Fred Castellucci oversee a menu of Italian- and Mediterranean-inspired specialties, from bacon-wrapped dates with walnuts and zucchini pasta to a chocolate-dipped cannoli and Greek cheesecake. You might’ve heard of other metro Alanta restaurants in the family’s Castelucci Hospitality Group, such as The Iberian Pig and Cooks & Soldiers.

10305 Medlock Bridge Road. 770-817-8000. sugorestaurant.com

Breakfast treats

A café and bakery owned by seven sisters specializes in scones and is named … Seven Sisters Scones. Chef Hala Yassine and her sister, Farrah Haidar, say forget those dry, crumbling creations — their scones are flaky hybrids of a biscuit and a muffin. The duo prepares an array of tasty treats every morning. “Two of us work full time, one helps out when she can, and the other four give their opinions,” Haidar says. Scones range from simple blueberry or cranberry flavors and the like, to bacon, cheddar and chive scones. You can also find bites floating in daily soup servings.

Seven Sisters Scones, 6955 McGinnis Ferry Road. 470-448-1905. sevensistersscones.com

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