The new Marietta
Outside it’s raining, but inside the town hall meeting, the mayor of Acworth doesn’t see any clouds. Ever since his community was named one of ten All-America Cities by the National Civic League in 2010, hizzoner has been loose with the accolade. Fairly leaping from flip chart to PowerPoint, he spreads the love—bestowing All-America status on everything from the town’s rec football to its recycling bins. Hey reporter, bet you didn’t know Acworth has the number one police force in Georgia! (Well, for its community outreach, anyway.) And there’s more greenspace per capita than in any other town in Georgia! (Well, that
might be a stretch, but who’s counting?)
Bluster aside, Mayor Tommy Allegood has reason to celebrate. Acworth is the first Georgia city to win the National Civic League award since Marietta in 2006. Before that it was Toccoa in 1976 (okay, and DeKalb County in 1998, but that was a fluke). Like Marietta, Acworth has a quaint downtown and historic neighborhoods, and once thrived as a stop along the old Dixie Highway. But Acworth was never the county seat and didn’t have Marietta’s grand mansions. By 2000 the former railroad outpost was down to 6,000 residents and 300 businesses. That’s when local leaders rallied. Leveraging tax incentives and grants—not to mention revenue from its slice of burgeoning Cobb Parkway—Acworth reinvented itself. When the first new downtown restaurant—the beloved Henry’s Louisiana Grill—opened just over ten years ago, townspeople volunteered to help renovate the turn-of-the-century building. Today Acworth claims 21,000 residents and more than 1,000 businesses. Last year employment was up 12 percent.
These days Main Street’s brightly renovated storefronts are mostly full. There are more than 100 annual events, from classic car cruises to barbecue festivals, drawing crowds into the tens of thousands. And Acworth still has one undeniable edge over Marietta: Lake Acworth and Lake Allatoona, both within walking distance of historic neighborhoods and the central business district.
Photograph of historic downtown by Christopher T. Martin