Changing the narrative:
Some Cobb communities embracing apartments, mixed-use
By Aleks Gilbert
With estimates its population will pass one million before 2050,
Cobb, long the picture of a suburban community, is running out
of space. And though building up, rather than out, can still be
controversial, the county’s almost-urban population centers are
indeed making way for a newer kind of Cobb resident, one with a
different notion of the good life.
The share of the county’s housing stock has changed little since
2010, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. While the number
of “total housing units” has grown from 286,000 to almost 305,000
in 2019 — the most recent year for which Census data are available
— the share of single-family, detached homes has fluctuated
between 66% and 65%. But the share of townhomes and buildings
with 20 or more units has increased. Both were at 7% in 2010 and
grew to 9% by 2019.
Although a far cry from Manhattan density, Marietta, Smyrna,
Powder Springs, Acworth and Mableton have all in recent months
welcomed mixed-use developments of varying sizes, each of which
featured either apartments or townhomes.
Phase two of Smyrna’s Riverview Landing development, currently
under way, will triple the amount of retail space and almost double
the number of mixed-use residential units there.
City officials hope the development will further transform the
waterfront property along the Chattahoochee River at Riverview
Road and Nichols Drive from an industrial area to a bustling
community that attracts locals with the lure of walking and
biking trails, restaurants, shops, a kayak launch and hundreds of
Elsewhere in town, a marquee mixed-use development steps from
Truist Park and The Battery Atlanta was approved unanimously by
the Smyrna City Council in July.
The project will replace what developer RASS Associates called
“a deteriorated and vacant office park” between I-285, Spring Road,
and Cobb Parkway with 300 multi-family apartments, a 188-room
Hilton hotel, and nearly 40,000 feet of retail space.
And in May, the council approved a 277-unit mixed-use
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development off Cobb Parkway featuring 21,000 square feet of
ground-level commercial space, with roughly half set aside for retail
and the other half for office and co-working space.
The development is geared toward young professionals, according
to documents filed by the developer, Grubb Properties. The target
demographic is between 25 and 34 years old, and 77% of the 277
apartments would be one-bedroom apartments, with the remaining
23% being two-bedroom apartments.
In Marietta, council members broke a decade-plus moratorium
on approving new apartments when they gave the green light to
a 303-unit apartment complex with two commercial buildings at
2086 Cobb Parkway South.
Although council members insist they are not about to open the
floodgates, some, including the mayor, said the city needs more
young adults, many of whom rent rather than buy.
And the Cobb County Board of Commissioners has OK’d large
apartment developments in Mableton over the last 12 months.
One such development sits on 60 acres at the intersection of Floyd
Road and East-West Connector, and would add 402 residential
units — to include approximately 42 townhomes and 360 luxury
apartments — to the community.
Although it was approved before she took office in January, south
Cobb Commissioner Monique Sheffield made the case for such
developments early this year.
“‘Apartments’ somehow has become synonymous with crime, and
with low income ... and the apartments are like $2,000 (to) $2,500
(per month),” she said. “It’s a different type of buyer, so we need to
change the narrative and the thought as it relates to apartments.”
Single family homes, 2010:
Single family homes, 2019:
Large apartment buildings, 2010:
Large apartment buildings, 2019:
Cobb housing stock
Source: U.S. Census Bureau estimates. “Large apartment buildings” are defined as those with 20 or more units.