Avalon Arrives in Alpharetta

10 facts about Alpharetta’s $600 million, 86-acre neighborhood, opening this month
Avalon Alpharetta
Illustration by Radio

1. It’s walkable (you just have to drive to get there)
This spring, a report from Smart Growth America named Atlanta one of the top places in the country for walkable development and cited projects like Avalon as examples of new models for the metro area. But just a few weeks earlier, Smart Growth called Atlanta the most sprawling region in the U.S. Can both be true?

Yes, says Christopher Leinberger, an urban planning expert and lead author of the walkability report. “Atlanta has had six decades of sprawling development, and that’s not going away anytime soon. But the new development is focused on walkability—it’s a complete U-turn in development there.”

Ever been to Seaside, Florida? Lew Oliver, the master planner responsible for bringing a “new urbanism” feel to Avalon, has said Avalon will have the same kind of walkability as Seaside but with an “element of reality” to it. Meaning, instead of a boutique grocery store where you can buy really overpriced cheese, you’ll be able to shop at Whole Foods, where you can buy moderately overpriced cheese. 

Illustration by Radio
Illustration by Radio

2. It’s all in the fiberhood
Avalon is equipped with fiber broadband, which means Internet speeds 100 times faster than what you’re used to. For firms coming to Avalon, it’s huge. Goodbye, buffering.

3. Avalon is like Atlantic Station, except it’s not
Why the comparison at all? Both properties are in the North American Properties portfolio. Both are ground-up developments, meaning every aspect, from the trees to the inclines, is deliberate. But there are big differences. Let’s start with residential. In the first phase of Avalon, NAP is building 250 rental units and 101 single-family homes. Atlantic Station, though, is much denser: 2,700 residential units on not even twice the acreage. As for retail: Avalon will duplicate some of the shops at Atlantic Station (West Elm, Athleta, Banana Republic). But OTPers will come across brands they’d previously had to trek to Westside Provisions District or Buckhead to find: C. Wonder, Calypso St. Barth, Drybar. Other retailers that take the development’s vibe up a notch include Brooks Brothers, Lilly Pulitzer (coming in phase two), and Vineyard Vines. New to market is Lou & Grey, a Loft spin-off that brings soft, neutral-toned loungewear (essentially the dressy sweatpants that are so popular these days). Plus, Avalon wants something more experiential, so it’s selecting brands to create activities: yoga sponsored by Exhale spa or fly-fishing hosted by Orvis, for example.

 4. An etymological, political, and cultural history of “Avalon”

  • 1136 In a history of English kings, Geoffrey of Monmouth, a Welsh cleric, references Insula Avallonis as the island where King Arthur went to recover after being wounded.
  • 1621 A settlement in southern Newfoundland, called Avalon, is established. An archaeological dig at the site continues today.
  • 1887 A resort community on Catalina Island is given the name Avalon.
  • 1940 Francis Avallone is born in Philadelphia. Will gain fame as Frankie Avalon in a series of beach movies with Annette Funicello. In 2011 he will peddle his sister’s line of canned fruit, Avallone Tomatoes.
  • 1982 Roxy Music releases Avalon, their eighth and final album. The cover features Bryan Ferry’s wife as King Arthur. Avalon’s first track is “More Than This,” sung by Bill Murray to Scarlett Johansson in Lost in Translation.
  • 1983 Marion Zimmer Bradley writes The Mists of Avalon, which imagines the Arthurian legend from the perspective of its female characters. In 2001 it is adapted into a miniseries that will score a 43 on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • 1990 Van Morrison’s album Enlightenment includes the song “Avalon of the Heart,” which references Camelot. That same year Barry Levinson directs Avalon, a film about his Baltimore roots and the neighborhood where his family settled.
  • 1994 Toyota introduces the Avalon sedan, which will get top ratings from various auto magazines.
  • 2009 Readers of San Diego CityBeat name Avalon Tattoo “Best Tattoo Parlor.”
Cru Wine Bar fig and gorgonzola bruschetta

Photograph by Robert Yu

5. Fifteen restaurants—and of course one of them will be Ford Fry’s.
The northern burbs may have the money, but they’ve lacked the concentration of innovative restaurants seen in Atlanta. North American Properties saw an opportunity, wooing some of the city’s most successful chefs to open outposts here. Bocado burger lovers, rejoice. Can’t live without Bantam + Biddy chicken? You’re in luck. Ford Fry, the mind behind King + Duke and St. Cecilia, is launching the El Felix—a Tex-Mex restaurant on Avalon Boulevard. We can’t wait for the lobster tacos and slow-braised bone-in pork shank. Avalon is also making room for the ample ego of Giovanni Di Palma, founder of Antico Pizza; Caffe Gio will overlook Avalon’s Plaza, and yes, there will be an Antico as well. 

We’re most excited for the homecoming of Steve Palmer, an Atlanta native who is managing partner of the Indigo Road, one of the most successful restaurant groups in Charleston, South Carolina. The group will expand its flagship venture, Oak Steakhouse, to Avalon. Big hunks of beef, whole-fried lobster, foie gras sauces, a cavernous wine list—the location will parade all of the exuberance of a contemporary steakhouse. Look for a second Palmer restaurant at Avalon to open eventually. Also coming: Bantu, Cru Food & Wine Bar, Goldberg’s, Kona Grill, Marlow’s Tavern, Ted’s Montana Grill, Pinkberry, Fuzziwig’s Candy Factory. 

Illustration by Radio
Illustration by Radio

6. Steakhouse booked? No problem.
Avalon is sending its hospitality employees through the Ritz-Carlton’s Leadership Center. The goal is to make the concierge service at Avalon—for “Club Avalon” members—akin to that at a resort. Upgrade to the “Black Club Card” for $395 a year and benefits will include free valet, after-hours shopping, and “priority seating” at Avalon restaurants. Dog walking, too!

Illustration by Radio
Illustration by Radio

7. Those Regal lounge chairs?
All of the seats at Regal’s twelve-screen multiplex at Avalon will fully recline. Blankets not included.

8. Want to live here? It’ll cost you.
When NAP partner Mark Toro took us on a tour in July, he mentioned that one of the apartments under construction—a 1,728-square-foot, two-bedroom pad overlooking the Plaza (which will feature an ice-skating rink in the same dimensions as the one in Rockefeller Center)—had just rented for $5,070 a month. That’s close to $3 a square foot, a new benchmark for metro Atlanta.

Want your own home? They have those, too. Three-story, two-bedroom townhomes start at $749,000, single-family houses at $1.59 million, all built by Monte Hewett Homes. Wait lists to tour model homes are in the thousands, according to Avalon reps.

1014__avalonhomes_oneuseonly9. Avalon apartments might go condo, but not anytime soon.
Mark Toro says the plan all along was to stay away from condos at Avalon, though nothing is forever. “There is a significant move afoot nationally away from home ownership for lots of different reasons—mobility, lack of capital, difficulty in qualifying,” he says. “It’s not easy to acquire a single-family residence. And it’s not only the consumer’s ability to finance, but our ability to finance a condo building of any scale. Avalon is clearly a candidate to be converted if the capital markets could support it, but that’s not now.” 

Did you know? Mark Toro, partner at North American Properties, has almost 18,000 tweets in five years.

10. There’s more coming.
Phase two of Avalon will include 276 more apartments, 90,000 more square feet of retail, two office buildings, and a hotel/convention center. Assuming all the permits are in place, expect construction to be underway next summer.

Photograph by Aerial Innovations of GA
Photograph by Aerial Innovations of GA

This article originally appeared in our October 2014 issue.