Cobb County has become an engine for economic activity in the metro Atlanta region, and that’s likely going to continue in the coming years, said Marietta-based real estate attorney Kevin Moore.
Moore said one trend likely to continue is the primacy of developments containing a mix of uses, such as residential, retail and office.
“From a commercial standpoint, we have not seen, and I do not see over the next year, any increase in standalone retail or standalone commercial, which is translated loosely as shopping center-type developments,” he said. “That has not come back from the recession, nor has it survived the monumental shift to online shopping.”
One of the largest mixed-use projects slated for Cobb County will be Eastpark Village in downtown Kennesaw. Mayor Derek Easterling said construction is set to begin at the end of 2020 on that 68-acre, $240 million project, which will include 900 residential homes including townhomes, senior-restricted condos, market rate luxury multi-family homes and senior-restricted cottages as well as restaurants, office space, retail shops and an outdoor market project.
Moore said the proliferation of online shopping also means standalone commercial development is more likely to be entertainment or service-oriented rather than selling a product one can buy off Amazon.
He also said it’s a safe bet that more office buildings will come to Cobb.
“At this point, office development tends to be of the higher-end kind, that is, any new office development is going to be part of the Galleria-Cumberland area as the halo effect from Battery which continues to expand.”
Some big-name corporations have chosen to move their offices to that area in recent years, including home goods retailer Floor and Décor and German industrial conglomerate Thyssenkrupp, which will have the county’s tallest building when it moves into its new North American headquarters to Cumberland.
Another property to keep your eyes on is the old Marietta Flea Market property at the corner of Franklin and South Marietta Parkway. City officials hope it will become the newest piece in the continuing redevelopment of Franklin Gateway.
In 2013, voters approved a $68 million bond, which the city has used to demolish blighted property on what was then Franklin Gateway and sell it to developers at a loss with the understanding that the new projects would bring higher property values and lower crime rates.
The former flea market was purchased by the city in 2017 for $5.8 million. Its demolition is imminent, and city officials say they are in the process of courting a new developer for the 7-acre property.
How's the housing market?
In recent years, the housing market has shown robust growth and all indications are that in Cobb, that should continue, said Marietta-based Realtor and Councilman Johnny Walker.
“We’re probably having our best start ever for the first of a year. The phone is ringing a lot. Home values have seemed to continue to go up. A lot of good, strong activity around the Marietta Square area (means) people are wanting to be close to downtown,” he said, adding that average home prices in the county have risen about 8% over the past year.
He estimated that average prices in the county sit between $300,000 and $350,000, while Marietta sees average prices closer to $350,000 to $400,000.
Walker said in the current market, which he said favors sellers, homes that are listed quickly get snapped up. But he said home buyers are even willing to buy and renovate old homes or tear down and rebuild around historic city centers or in hot spots like Smyrna and Cumberland, home of The Battery Atlanta and Truist Park, so their families can be close by to enjoy what’s on offer.
Walker said the solid housing market doesn’t appear isolated to just those areas. He said the Cobb County School District attracts families who simply want to live somewhere in the county.
“There’s not that much inventory right now. The good houses get snapped up real quick, like in one or two days, if that. We’re in a good market, and a good strong economy. That sure helps,” he said. “We have great things going on in our community. I think people want to live here, work here and play here.”
Walker said as time goes on, the amount of land available for home developers continues to shrink, especially around city centers. But, he said, northeast and west Cobb still present opportunities for new construction.
“We still have some room left for growth in Cobb County,” he said.
Challenges and trends
The challenge presented by a strong housing market is often that first-time home buyers have a much tougher time finding affordable homes, Walker said. But with growing attention to that issue, the county could see local communities pushing developers to build homes with attainable price points in the near future, he said.
A trend seen in recent years and one likely to continue for years to come is the construction of homes that can more easily fit on smaller footprints. One of the ways for developers to accomplish that is by constructing townhomes, multi-story homes, usually attached to one or more similar homes by shared walls.
Townhomes are a more affordable option for first-time buyers, buyers looking to downsize or those in search of a lower price point, Walker said. He said townhomes also often don’t require the homeowner to maintain a yard.
“It seems like there’s less mega-homes … being built right now. People are realizing, ‘I don’t really need this 6,000- (or) 7,000-square-foot house,” he said. Walker added that construction of townhomes allows more people to live on a smaller piece of developable land.
Given the continued positive outlook for the economy, Walker said Cobb residents and prospective home buyers should expect home prices to stay high and inventory to stay scarce. For sellers, he had this advice:
“People need to have their homes ready to be sold. If you prepare them well and price them well, they’ll sell very quick,” he said.