By Geoff Smith
City leaders in Woodstock have worked hard over the last 20 years crafting what has become one of the metro area’s most successful suburban downtown areas. And as the saying goes, success breeds success.
When I was at Chattahoochee High School back in the early 1990s and we traveled to Cherokee High School to play football, it seems like we made it west clear to Alabama. The country started pretty much right after Crabapple Road on 92 in west Roswell and went on for what seemed liked forever. If you grew up in the metro area and have not been to, or heard what’s going on in, Woodstock lately, then you are probably wondering why in the world I’m writing about it.
A real estate agent friend of mine was driving around a family who wanted a house in Roswell for under $350,000. They could not find what they were looking for. She kept telling them about Woodstock, but they just turned up their nose – would not entertain the thought. So my friend headed up Arnold Mill, pretended to get lost, and wound up in downtown Woodstock. That family now lives in Woodstock.
Woodstock had some decent bones to start off with. The town, like many, grew up around a small rail stop. The old town spread along Main Street and one side of the railroad tracks. The other side of the tracks was mostly woods.
City leaders back in the early 2000’s got aggressive and saw what many at the time did not. They partnered with some local developers and coordinated a town center that consists of several city blocks, some five-story buildings filled with condos, apartments, and retail and restaurants on the bottom, and an entire neighborhood of detached and attached homes, all around a very wooded neighborhood park.
The downturn in 2008 halted the project for a spell. But it got back up and going and is at this point running full-steam ahead.
The new buildings are all leased up. The old town on the other side of the tracks is leased up and restaurants seem to be clamoring to get in. A fantastic concert venue called MadLife opened up. It’s a venue that looks like an old jazz club with a huge stage, high-top table seating and a bar on the lower level, and an upper level with a bar. Quality music acts play there almost every night.
And they love their beer in Woodstock. Reformation Brewery is about a mile down Arnold Mill road, and they are planning a new location in downtown. Reformation has expanded and it’s hard to find a grocery store locally that does not carry their product. They also had a great growler shop that grew into a bar/restaurant. The shop’s owner had a great idea to open a bar focusing on carrying a wide-variety of micro-brews, with space behind the bar for a different food-truck to pull up every night. The idea was so new, that the city was not sure how to approve it. It was a restaurant without a kitchen. It was a bar that technically did not sell food. It went against their existing guidelines. But what did Woodstock do? It said ‘hey, this is a great concept. This would make our downtown better. Let’s figure out how to make it work.’. And it did. The second location is going up in Alpharetta’s downtown.
That attitude has created a downtown so successful that city leaders are now getting inquiries from developers who want to build Class A office space nearby. Businesses want to be where the action is. And if Woodstock’s attitude towards those projects is similar to how it took on development of its downtown, Woodstock will soon be a true live, work and play community.