A “Place” called Mableton
By Jackye Mumphrey, The Real Estate Maven® and Mabletonian since 2003
Link to Audio Version of this article www.ILoveMableton.com
I went to a party over the holiday season and struck up a conversation about Mableton with another guest. During the conversation the gentleman told me he was a real estate agent and decided to move to Powder Springs instead of Mableton because it seemed too industrialized and the market wasn’t quite to the point of being worth investing in and too shabby to even visit but yet he would still sell homes in Mableton if someone asked for his help. He went on to say that all one would have to do is just drive down Veterans Memorial and that would be all the research you need about the area. Of course, I found that interesting, a bit judgmental and uninformed, even as a professional but hey it’s his opinion. At that point of the conversation I didn’t reveal that I too was a real estate agent and worked in lived in Mableton. I wanted to hear what he had to say. I listened to him talk about his home purchase and how he thought Mableton had too much growth still to go before being attractive enough to live there. The host of the party interjected and said the reason why he also moved to Powder Springs was that Mableton wasn’t ritzy enough. He went on to say, “The only claim to fame as far as neighborhoods go, is Vinings Estates which more than half is in Smyrna.” I sat back and mused on it while they continued with the conversation. While still at the party and floating in and out of conversations, my mind kept going back to other discourse I have had recently with people thumbing their nose at Mableton. Whether it is through my Mableton YouTube channel at ILoveMableton.com or from comments posted on my NextDoor sponsorship page or messages sent to me via linkedin.com or SouthCobbPatch.com for articles I post, I from time to time get similar feedback from the people who actually live and own property in Mableton which initially came as a surprise but now I see being a cheerleader for the town you live in is not always welcomed. Although I love living here and appreciate the benefits and assets of our area and can see living here indefinitely, I don’t have a Polly-anna view of Mableton. I am fully aware of the perception that some hold of our area and it’s too bad for them that they don’t see a “place” worth living and owning.
Back at the party during a lull in conversation, I blankly stared at the game that was playing on the TV and thought back to a specific conversation I had about Mableton with a non-real estate professional regarding Mableton not ready for the “big time” and not a “destination”, weeks prior that seemed to stay with me. It was said that Mableton is a place to go home to sleep but not a place to party or hangout. I came home thinking about it. If ritzy is what they wanted, why live in Powder Springs instead of Midtown, Buckhead, Sandy Springs or even Vinings that would be “ritzy” by comparison? I think they moved to Powder Springs because they perceive it to have a “place” or a “there-there”? I’ll explain what I mean shortly.
Some people still hold the thought that Mableton and South Cobb areas in general are “poor”, “trashy”,” crime ridden”, “blue collar”, industrial, and ran down with mediocre schools. Those same people I would say have very short memories of how neighboring Smyrna used to be (and in many parts, still the same) with all those aforementioned descriptors with much of it perpetuated by the very residents themselves.
It’s of my belief, that perhaps it was decades of hodge-podge poor county planning, lack of investment, lack of execution, ignorance, and a reluctant voting bloc with a chip on its’ shoulders that may have been the cause of that perception back in the 60’s 70’s and 80’s. However, that sounds more like Atlanta than Mableton today.
Every community in the world has its’ ills and bright spots, grows in spurts and stops, Mableton included. Economics, education and investments spur growth and that is what is happening in Mableton and in South Cobb County. Within recent years we have had strong leadership in office and an empowered community stewardship helping to guide Mableton into what it is today and the powerhouse it will become. The community has come together to help create the fabric of Mableton with strong ties and bonds within the area through its community groups like South Cobb Business Association and Mableton Improvement Coalition among other groups. Major home builders like Beazer Homes, David Weekley, Kerley Family Homes, Meritage Home Builders, Pulte and dozens of small local companies are vying for sweet land deals to build communities that will shape the South Cobb area forever. Not since the prolific John Wieland Homes with their 10 communities built over a 30-year span, has there been such a large spurt in rooftops in the area until now. Investment dollars are rolling in. Millennials who are the homeowners, voters and community stewards of tomorrow are seeking out Mableton for their future home today. Their children will see strong investments and support in the schools as they vote in officials with good schools as their focus. They will reap the rewards of economic growth, an increase in wealth through real estate and the benefits of a good local economy flourishing with jobs, stores, amenities and culture.
It begs to wonder if people who have taken Mableton off their list in pursuit of living their American dream of home ownership or those thinking of moving out of Mableton, are selling themselves short in the process. Are they missing the big picture? Are they giving up Mableton for greener pastures that they will regret in years to come? Why don’t people see that it is up to them to create the environment in which they want to live? Are they impatient and apathetic about the process? Are they not into placemaking? More on that coming up.
I find that Mableton with its resources, community involvement, investment by millennials and interest from the home building industry, it is primed for an explosion in values, retail, sharp changes in schools and environment with the growth of the area. I am not sure if it is necessarily a good thing if things happen overnight. Excessive growth in a short period of time will stress not only traffic but put stress on the school district, water and power grids, create backlogs in permits and the review of plans by the county and will disturb the established ebb and flow of a community on a daily basis. Growth brings nice amenities and new stores and people into the area, but it also brings congestion and higher density in once vast swaths of land. As mentioned by someone I’d spoken to about Mableton being a place to sleep and not a destination to hang out, how fast do we want this growth without it disrupting the blessed quiet that currently exists in Mableton? The answer is balance and smart planning; both vital for developing a quiet yet thriving community.
So, until all this (explosive) growth happens, what are we to do with this “talk” about Mableton not being up to snuff? We all know that the area supports very affordable housing. We know it has an excellent commute distance into Atlanta, Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, freeways, downtown, Marietta Square, Dobbins Airbase Reserve, Cumberland Mall, Braves Stadium and has one of the greatest underutilized resources - the Chattahoochee River. We know the area supports the local job base with big companies like Crystal Springs Water, Boar’s Head Meats, MSC Industrial Supply, UPS and FedEx nearby along with access to Charlie Brown Airport, Six Flags over Georgia and the Epi Center right in its own backyard. Mableton has community and culture with its Arts Center, Mable House Museum, Amphitheater with concerts, community gardens, The Silver Comet Trail and summer Farmer’s Market. As mentioned before, dozens of new home builders have picked Mableton to invest their millions and to carve out homes for newcomers. We know local people are also investing in Mableton with the purchase of the “Mirror” building on Mableton Parkway, Mableton’s only high-rise office building. The old Wachovia Bank building on Mableton Parkway is being refurbished as well as other businesses in the area. New stores are coming in and others that just arrived are settling in nicely in the community like “Café Social” in the Legacy Walk Shopping center at Discovery and Veteran’s Memorial, “Jamaica Me Crazy” in the Leland Shopping strip on Veteran’s at Cooper Lake Road, JG Chicken and Seafood on the corner of Floyd and Veterans Memorial, and many others. They choose Mableton to support their livelihood and those who work for them. What do they see that others do not see, when it comes to Mableton? What does Mableton need to do with its reputation?
To answer those questions, one must think, “What makes a place, an actual place or destination to venture to? What makes Sandy Springs, Dunwoody, Chattahoochee Hills, Decatur, Brookhaven, Milton and other cities around Atlanta a destination or a place to visit? I’ll answer in my opinion of what that means to me in Mableton.
Creating environments that are memorable, clean, nice, entertaining, eventful, relaxing, scenic, and/or charming with strong public relations and social media driven campaigns behind them. In other words, Placemaking and getting the word out.
What is Placemaking?
1- A multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces.
2- Capitalizes on a local community's assets, inspiration, and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that promote people's health, happiness, and well-being.
Projects that would work in Mableton for placemaking, sponsored by local businesses, private citizenry, local governments, and federal grants are:
- Arched bridges over the Chattahoochee River with small recreation areas to sit. Each side of the bridge would include a trail for people to walk with rest areas. This would involve working with Fulton County on the other side of the river.
- A Riverwalk with local businesses including restaurants overlooking the river. (There is an off and on project,” Riverview Landing” on Riverview Road but that has since annexed into Smyrna.) A trail created along the river from Smyrna to the Douglas county line for joggers, hikers, and bicyclists.
- Kayaking rentals and fishing stations, off Discovery Blvd
- A grandstand or gazebo to watch trains which is very popular by train fans who watch at Nickajack Road or at Front Street and Church like the one located in Austell for train enthusiasts
- A roller rink, movie theater and dog park
- A wedding/events venue with view of the river.
- A large Mableton monument with the name spelled out over a scenic view.
- A horse/animal farm for kids to ride and learn about farm animals.
- An ice cream shop like Bruster’s.
- A large venue for bowling, pizza, beer and wings like Dave and Buster’s in Kennesaw.
- A museum with interesting artifacts about Mableton, Cobb, Atlanta and Georgia placed on the land owned by former Governor Roy Barnes, located behind the post office on Floyd Road which would fit nicely into the historic theme of a downtown Mableton.
In addition to the items mentioned for placemaking, one of the things I have admired about Sandy Springs is the Sandy Springs Turtles that are sprinkled around the area. For those not familiar, in 2005 The Sandy Springs Society place 75 colorful statues around the city. The turtles are about 4-5 feet high, made from composite concrete and are painted with whimsical colors and placed about in public areas like parks, water fountains, trails and corners. They are the mascots and ambassadors for welcoming visitors and spreading good cheer. I mused on what mascot Mableton could have as well for its own version of monuments or statues. As a member of Ring, Nextdoor as well as a plethora of other community groups in Mableton, one thing that is always seen, complained and warned about is our abundance of coyotes. People will often say, “Wiley and his friends a re out” or “Someone just hit a coyote” or just the run of the mill, “I saw a coyote today” type of comments. Perhaps Mableton could do something similar and create colorful coyote statues to place around town in scenic areas, parks, places of interest and local Mableton historical sites. In Sandy Springs, each of their turtles have names, numbers and a map drawn up to show where they all are throughout Sandy Springs. The tourists and locals that visit the statuettes take pictures of them and post on social media which makes them an attraction of sorts and give a boost to the local businesses nearby when people stop in after seeing the turtles.
Now, I don’t wear rose color glasses and know that Mableton has it’s share of challenges just as any other growing town. On the table for discussion is the consideration of cityhood and all the things that entails. Some people are for it and others are against it. There are fears of increase taxes, mismanagement and nepotism which would be true of any new city. Those are concerns but small in comparison to the view point that naysayers have about the area already. Some people who oppose city hood of Mableton, would welcome being annexed by Smyrna and yet others are horrified by the idea they could become Smyrna residents and would rather incorporate Mableton or leave well enough alone. Others don’t have enough information to decide. Many do not want any part of Smyrna with their aggressive approach to growth, the sharp increase of taxes, the unchecked snatching of unincorporated land from the county and the overlay of additional governance by Smyrna in particular. Some moved to Mableton to get away from bureaucracy. Others who are pro cityhood want more control at the local level and to dictate how local tax dollars are distributed. Currently if Mableton opts for cityhood, the town will nearly double overnight if the current plan to incorporate unincorporated Austell spurs ahead. Not only will the population double, but so does the tax base and the ability to fold those local dollars back into the community.
If Mableton gets the green light to incorporate and double in size, what does that mean for Mableton in the eyes of opinion holders? To many, Mableton is already a great place to live with nearly 40,000 residents. Doubling to 80,000 would make it Cobb County’s largest city holding over 10% of the County’s population and largest voting bloc.
Mabletonians appreciate the attributes, the low tax base, the proximity to amenities, the quietness at night, the folksy stores, laid back atmosphere, spacious homes at affordable prices, it’s quirky mix of folks both wealthy and blue collar, bohemian and yuppie, it’s richly mixed demographics, down home charm and peacefulness . They love it the way it is and don’t want to change. Others want to see changes and help pave the way for Mableton to be the economic boon that is placed on its promise and are making plans and designs for that to happen. How do we make everyone happy? Sadly, that will never happen but if most people agree, change will happen for the better.
Thinking back on that party and the comments of naysayers I have spoken to over time; I wonder how they will feel in 10 years. Will Mableton still be too industrialized and not ritzy enough for their tastes? Will Mableton be the place to be with expensive homes and retail galore with a balance of its current charms and attributes? I’m betting it will be and the naysayers of today will be the Johnny-come-Lately of tomorrow and choose to join us when they deem us to be “ready for the big time” and “worth investing in” and at that point pay more than they would now. With that said, I don’t wish to see it become a baby Atlanta; that already exists. What I would like in my heart of hearts are all the things mentioned before in addition to Mableton being the place to live for understated luxury, quiet living, with richly landscaped yards throughout the area, beautiful streetscapes, well-lit with sidewalks everywhere, a Trader’s Joes, a bakery, antique shops, deli, coffeehouses and sit down restaurants that cater to plant-based diets and those looking to eat better. Perhaps lease out the long vacant space where Picadilly’s used to be on Floyd Road in the Publix shopping center. I would love to see flowering Cherry Trees, Crepe Myrtles and Dogwoods in every park with water fountains and a location with a grassy knoll to see both the sunset and downtown skyline in the evenings. That would be my Mableton wish list. Each day, I believe we are getting to that reality of making Mableton a “place” and “designation to hang out”. Time will tell as it reveals all.
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You can hear the audio version of this article at www.ILoveMableton.com
Jackye Mumphrey, The Real Estate Maven® Mableton Resident Since 2003 678-929-8330