Today, we bring the New Voices Atlanta series to a close with sugary spoonfuls of municipal optimism — for the most part. We asked our 45 recent Atlanta transplants how they feel about staying here longterm, and we corralled their thoughts on the future of the city, in general. The big takeaway: By and large, Atlanta is a fairly easy place to find happiness, but it could be — nay, it has to be — a lot better, if it's going to reach its potential. If this series has proven anything, it's that the same aspects of Atlanta can be perceived as different things, depending on the resident's frame of reference, and that it doesn't take long for a majority of newcomers to invest their time, money and ambitions in a place they feel is special, or very well could be. After the jump, we've included the original survey for any ATL newcomer who didn't get a chance to voice their opinions before. A big hat-tip goes out to those who did.
For all its warts, Atlanta's famous magnetism is still working. This metro region, after all, was called the fastest-growing settlement in the history of humankind not all that long ago. Census data show a 6.6-percent population boost in the city proper between 2010 and 2013, and that's before the bulk of the multifamily tsunami.
The vast majority of our 45 respondents are drinking the boomtown Kool-Aid. They were asked, "Do you have plans to eventually leave the city — for another city or another location in metro Atlanta?" The responses can be summarized as follows:
100 Percent Staying, If All Goes Well: 34
Maybe. It Depends: 6
I'm Out, Y'all: 5
And now for some sample commentary, starting with the majority:
"I hope I can find myself a nice Southern femme so I can develop an even stronger reason to call this city home." — a guy from Massachusetts.
"I have no plans to leave and plan on just moving to one of the suburbs when I have kids." — a Realtor from Connecticut, age 26. *
* Womp womp.
"No plans on leaving any time soon — unless the film work dries up for my husband."
"No. We love Atlanta." — reformed Gwinnettian.
"My plan is to be here until I have to go to 'the home' one day." — Midtown retiree from Maryland.
"At this point — no. I love my job and my husband works for UPS, so we'll be staying for a while. And we love the neighborhood we're in and the home we have. While it may not always work if we start a family, etc. we will DEFINITELY always being ITP." — 25-year-old Old Fourth Ward resident from Wisconsin.
"I'd only go OTP if I got married and the wife really wanted to. But that would take A LOT of convincing."
"I think we can 'age in place' here." — recent condo buyer in Old Fourth Ward, age 58.
"Not leaving Decatur, we love it. If we were to take a transfer the only area would be Nashville, TN."
"I have a fiancé who likes more suburban living … so as long as we can find a house that has enough backyard for him to put in a small garden, I plan to stay right here." — 45-year-old Coca-Cola employee from New Jersey, currently renting in Inman Park.
"It would have to be a special opportunity to drag us away from here." — D. Harrod, 31, from New York state.
And now, from those newcomers on the fence:
"If it weren't for my husband's longterm career goals, we would seriously consider leaving metro Atlanta completely due to the traffic problems."
"If schools do not get better, we will have to look for another area to call home, whether it be north of the city or a southern suburb like Newnan or Peachtree City. While that is not ideal, we aren't one of those families that can pay $20K per year, per child, on childcare." — Brookhaven homeowner, 26, from Alabama.
"I daydream incessantly about moving to a better city, but the potential for my career's growth at my company may continue to outweigh external draws. Atlanta may grow into the city I desire in a few decades, but that's a high risk to wait out. I'd rather try and be part of the solution." — 25-year-old Buckhead resident from Pittsburgh.
"No plans to leave Atlanta, but an OTP existence might be in my future if prices keep climbing. Eventually I'd like to have a house instead my current townhome, but homes prices in my immediate area keep going up & the unchanging neighborhood doesn't warrant such increases." — 30-year-old NYC expat in North Druid Hills.
Bon Voyage, y'all:
"All signs point to leaving Atlanta." —30-year-old management consultant who owns a downtown condo.
"I do have a plan to eventually leave and move back to coastal city." — former Los Angeleno in EAV.
"Yes, eventually will move to New England or Pacific NW." — 29-year-old indigent defense attorney and Reynoldstown homeowner from NYC.
GLIMPSE INTO THE ATL CRYSTAL BALL:
We asked respondents how they felt about the FUTURE of Atlanta. Common themes from those who are optimistic: The Beltline. Job growth. A swelling millennial population. Common themes from those who have doubts: Incomprehensibly bad traffic. Lackluster transit. Affordability. Based on the content and tone in responses, we separated them into three categories:
I'm Pumped. Let's Do This: 30 (vast majority)
"I think the economy is doing well, the city seems to be growing very fast, and I'm glad I moved when I did." — former Floridian.
"I think the future of Atlanta is truly exciting. There's an energy here, a feel like the city is on the cusp of some really great stuff. I can't wait to see how it all turns out."
"I moved here at the right time." — a management consultant from Philadelphia, who moved to the Old Fourth Ward around Christmastime.
"Even in my short time here in Atlanta, I have seen so much change for the better. Edgewood Avenue has come alive with small businesses in the last two years; that is the exact kind of change this city needs for a bright future."
"I think it's going to become even more vivacious than it already is. Working in movie publicity, I am so excited to see more of the world taking notice of Atlanta, its people and everything we have to offer. Plus…the new Falcons stadium is going to be sick and the Hawks bandwagon is a fun ride!"
"I like where it's going. Unfortunately the development brings a lot of bougie stuff, like Krog Street Market. Where else in the U.S. will you get falafel for upwards of $10 dollars? In NYC it's $4 dollars. KSM is ridiculous."
"This place has so much potential. When I walk out on the Beltline on a sunny day, it's unbelievable how many different kinds of people are walking, running, biking, roller-blading. It's invigorating."
"There's no telling what it could be like in 50 years. It has all the bones of a truly world-class city (subway, good weather, trees, major economy, cheap cost of living, great universities)."
A Bright Future Is Contingent On Much Improvement: 13
"The city continues, and rightfully so, development of apartments in already dense areas. However, the existing infrastructure is stressed as is and now we continue to build on top of it and make the problem worse."
"My fear for the future of Atlanta is that gentrification, the lack of affordable housing, and the intersections of race and poverty will make us a less diverse city."
"If transit improves, and more people move into the city, I think Atlanta could be a great city. Right now there is just too much suburban sprawl."
"Atlanta needs to invest more in education to allow working-class people the opportunity to stay ITP as opposed to having to finding schools north of the city."
"Development seems promising, but there needs to be more method to the madness. Zoning and required parking need to be revisited ASAP. Transit should be expanded upon, routes reconsidered, and transfer timing reconfigured."
This Sh*thole's Going Down In Flames. Again: 1
"With the influx of people into the city, we are all going to be in one big traffic jam all of the time. It makes me panic a bit and think I might not be able to stay here longterm." — Westside homeowner from Virginia.
LASTLY, LET'S TALK HAPPINESS, AND MAGICAL IMPOSSIBILITIES!
We asked respondents to dish on their favorite part of living in Atlanta so far. Here's a small fraction of the love-fest:
"DeKalb Farmer's Market — holy sh*tballs, that place is amazing!"
"The weather, good paying jobs, how cordial everyone is here, and low cost of living are fantastic." — that guy from Pittsburgh.
"I have loved the metropolitan feel of it. Coming from a small town and only ever living in really suburban-style places, I love being somewhere with dozens of "designer burger" choices, a museum that has Monet paintings, tunnels covered in ever-changing art, tons of places to see live comedy, and all these other things that make Atlanta a cultural center and hub of humanity. This sounds really odd, but actually driving on The Connector has always gotten the small-town me excited -- it's up close enough to the skyscrapers to really get excited about the size and scope of all those twinkling lights and flashy billboards, but still far enough back that you can realize the sheer number of them ... Atlanta is a city, and a big one — that's pretty awesome." — a Colorado native, by way of Greenville, S.C.
"Since the city is so small I feel like I might have an opportunity to make it better and to get involved. New York already had its shit together — Atlanta needs our help."
"I love that I can live in a metropolitan area but was not required to adapt to a high-drive high-stress high-cost urban environment like Manhattan."
"I'd missed the South a lot. I'd been in the Northeast for five years, so the warmth of the people is very welcome."
"Cost of living is way less than Los Angeles and the Southern hospitality."
"There's more racial integration (specifically black and white) here than I ever saw up north, even in NYC, in terms of people hanging out in the same places. I know there are racial issues here — I'm not naive — but the fact you see people going about their business and playing side by side here definitely stands out, and I think it's a good thing."
"The gentrification here truly encompasses the neighborhood compared to Williamsburg or Loop South, which feels generic. Lots of hidden gem neighborhoods that we had no idea existed: Grant Park. Midtown West. Inman Park. Old Fourth Ward. East Atlanta." — Buckhead resident, who works in commercial real estate, from NYC.
"There's a real sense of progress surging forward right now, and it makes me wish I were 15 years younger, so that when it all really clicks into place, I wouldn't be 60 years old. Ha ha ha ha."
We asked respondents to pretend they had a magic wand capable of making their lives as Atlantans better in one swoop. How would they work that wand? Here are some key answers:
"In my wildest fantasies, the connector is sunk underground like the Central Artery was in Boston (The Big Dig) and a green space runs through the center of the city, all glorious like."
"Combine Midtown, Buckhead and downtown."
"I'd transfer the City of Chicago (and the lake) and place it on top of Atlanta, but we'd keep all the Atlanta residents!"
"I wish the Beltline would move along faster! The way it's connecting neighborhoods is fantastic. I'd probably wave my wand to make it finished — with light rail. Boom. That might also unclog the Eastside Trail on weekends. Selfish me."
"Pass T-SPLOST. Fully fund MARTA and transit expansions. Cap and cover the Connector."
"I hate having to drive to Sandy Springs every day. I have fantasies of being able to work in Ponce City Market, or somewhere else in town, and being able to walk/ride my bike every day."
"I would get more people my age moving into SW Atlanta and get them civically engaged." — 34-year-old RaShaun Holliman, who moved from Ohio three years ago and now heads his neighborhood planning unit.
"I would magic up a public transit system that would allow me to ditch my car and still live where I want to live, work in my current office, and go to my favorite places all over the city with little hassle."
"Improve the APS school system so that more of Atlanta had access to high-quality, FREE education. I'm less confident I have the answers about how to do that."
"Have a subway that goes from my house to Midtown, and widen Howell Mill (Road)."
"MORE dog friendly patios :) "
"Really nothing, i'm very happy with what I have."
WAIT A MINUTE! LET'S GET ALL NEGATIVE, ONE MORE TIME!
For last the item on our survey, we encouraged the newbies to rant at will. It got good:
"I don't think I'm a prude, and I'm not talking about the occasional rifling-through of cars (although the fact that that is somehow okay is sort of messed up, too). It's the gunfire and house break-ins and carjackings and actual violent crimes that are ruining otherwise really great neighborhoods. I just don't think, if given $500K to buy a house, that it makes sense to buy it somewhere that you have to worry about your safety."
"Waiting for the state to turn more blue."
"The real problem is that people think that it's bad nobody uses MARTA. That's the best part about living here — I can own a car." — Buckhead apartment renter from New Jersey.
"What's with the guns?! I mean, seriously. I don't want to take them away from anyone – I just don't want anyone drunk in a bar with one." — 30-year-old most recently from Boston.
"I love Atlanta. As it stands Atlanta is a pretty great place to be right now. But what keeps me excited is where it looks like Atlanta is headed. I just wish it would hurry and get there before I move someday or die."
— a church evangelist, age 24.
"What is it with drivers here not going around a car waiting to make a left turn? I've never experienced this anywhere! Why wait behind someone who is waiting to turn when you can go around and be on your merry way!!!???" — Kristin Fabrizio, 39, from New York City.
"Springdale Elementary (School) needs to turn off their gym lights off at night."
"Atlanta has a lot going for it: Great parks, great restaurants, and internationally recognized infrastructure projects. It has an airport that provides nonstop flights to nearly anywhere on the planet. It hosted the '96 Olympics for crying out loud. Atlanta is in need of that next great accomplishment. If the Beltline can keep on track, and the streetcar is built to specification, I think we will have it."
"We would not have picked ATL to live, but now that we are here, we are very happy. This city is only improving year over year. We come from New Orleans, which is very unique and amazing, but infrastructure, business, and school-wise there is not a comparison."
"There are a lot of complaints about Atlanta as a transient city, which isn't necessarily unfair, but the core of people who really care and love the city seems to be growing, and I think that will only continue."
"Atlanta has been a great experience for me—one that's opened a mind I like to think was already pretty open. I'm really happy here. Every friend from the Northeast who has visited has loved it, too."
"I feel genuinely lucky that twists and turns in my life have led me to live in Atlanta. It's such an exciting time to be an Atlantan. Whether it's the food, film, entertainment or fashion industry — Atlanta is really becoming a hub of artistic expression. I'm so excited to see what I can contribute to and benefit from my new city in the years to come!"
"I feel like I was able to vent a lot — thank you!"
IN CLOSING ...
Below you'll find links to all previous installments of the New Voices Atlanta series. Below that, we've pasted in the actual 20-question survey that was distributed to new residents interested in supplying input.
Many people requested the survey after we'd begun analyzing/dissecting/exploiting other responses, which prevented us from distributing more.
For those people and/or anyone else who's moved to Atlanta in the last couple of years: Please feel free to paste the survey, or individual questions, into the comments section of this post, answer the ones you want, and let your voice be heard! It's more interesting if you provide a little context about who you are, and why you've come to call Atlanta home.
NEW VOICES ATLANTA, the recap:
NEW VOICES ATLANTA, the survey:
1. Can you please provide your name and age? (If you prefer confidentiality, please provide your first initial and last name).
2. How long have you lived in Atlanta (or some equally wonderful ITP city)?
3. What do you do for work, and how do you commute there (if work requires a commute)?
4. Where did you most recently live before Atlanta?
5. Can you briefly describe the circumstances that brought you to Atlanta (50 words or less, please)?
6. What type of dwelling do you inhabit (rent an apartment, own a condo, rent a house with roommates, bought a townhome, etc.)?
7. Which neighborhood do you call home, and why did you pick it?
8. In very general terms, what were your initial impressions of the city?
9. How does your opinion of Atlanta differ from those first impressions, if it does?
10. What have you liked the most about living in Atlanta?
11. What have you liked the least?
12. Briefly, what are your thoughts on public safety in Atlanta?
13. How about transit in Atlanta?
14. And what are your thoughts on the FUTURE of Atlanta?
15. Pretend you have a magic wand. How would you use it, right now, to make your life as an Atlantan better?
16. Do you have plans to eventually leave the city — for another city or another location in metro Atlanta?
17. On a scale from 1 to 10, how would you rank Atlanta, overall?
18. All things considered, would you call Atlanta "affordable" right now?
19. How would you feel about raising children in Atlanta, if you aren't already?
20. Lastly, feel free to rant and/or rave, right here: