February 2014

A rendering of Avalon, the new eighty-six acre "fiberhood" under construction in Alpharetta.

Courtesy of Avalon

Living in Decatur, I don’t get to Alpharetta much, but I have a feeling that’s going to change later this year. The first phase of Avalon, the massive $600 million work-live-play development going up now off Old Milton Parkway, is scheduled for completion in October. Mark Toro has been a tireless promoter of the project, which makes sense given that his company, North American Properties, is developing Avalon.

I’ve long thought that physical communities—be they neighborhoods or whole cities—emerge organically over time (residences beget businesses to serve them, which beget more residences, etc.), but if living in metro Atlanta has taught me anything, it’s that developers can create a destination from quite literally nothing. Look at Atlantic Station, also owned by North American Properties. Architectural traditionalists may grumble, but as someone who lives in a sixty-year-old house, I’m beginning to understand the appeal of living and working in a place that is new, in every respect. In the case of Avalon, “new” means something quite revolutionary for Georgia. When Avalon is complete, each of its dozens of businesses, 350 homes and apartments, and two hotels—all together spanning 2.4 million square feet—will have access to the Internet at speeds that dwarf what I get at my house. Or office. We’re talking one gigabit per second, which is up to a hundred times faster than normal download speeds. Instead of on copper lines, data will travel via fiber optic. It’s basically the difference between traveling on a high-speed maglev rail line versus taking a covered wagon over dirty roads.

On a personal level this is handy for streaming movies or playing games, but it’s the business applications that are most intriguing. How much time do we waste at work waiting for video to buffer? For files to transfer? And forget video conferencing. To have that barrier removed would not only lessen our annoyance level, it would make an operation more efficient. And as our cover package this month explores, the hunger for more and faster bandwidth remains insatiable. Now if we could just bring these speeds to downtown Atlanta . . .

This article originally appeared in our February 2014 issue.