The new 134-acre Halcyon development, which broke ground on Feb. 5, is the latest sign that the business environment is strong in Forsyth County.
I remember 15 or so years ago, New York Life decided to build a regional data center in south Forsyth. The project was much more than a big win for the business community and the addition of jobs. It was a Fortune 100 company doing some serious due diligence and putting its stamp of approval on the future outlook of the community. The then-CEO of the company flew down from its Manhattan headquarters to celebrate with the local Forsyth leaders.
Today it seems like New York Life made a good bet. Forsyth County leaders have done a lot to try to improve the quality of life there. Among developers, they were known for years as having some of the area’s highest impact fees (fees charged to developers during the permitting process) – which they used to build schools, fire and police stations, parks and libraries.
Forsyth residents passed a $200 million bond referendum that will add one lane each way on Ga. 400 from McFarland Parkway to Bald Ridge Marina Road, adding an interchange on Ga. 400 at McGinnis Ferry Road, and extending Ronald Reagan Boulevard from Majors Road to McFarland Parkway.
The Board of Commissioners in Forsyth is now talking about significant makeovers of every Ga. 400 intersection which would include better on and off ramps, and beautification that could include public art, sculpture effects and architectural fencing.
There is a movement to try to create a community improvement district – which is a district in which all the businesses contribute a tax to go toward improvement projects put forth by the CID’s board. There is a similar district in Alpharetta that has been responsible for beautification of Alpharetta’s Ga. 400 intersections and the construction of the new Encore Parkway bridge over Ga. 400.
The county mimicked Alpharetta and built its own greenway along Big Creek, which it hopes to connect with Alpharetta’s Big Creek Greenway to one day have a continuous biking trail along that creek from Forsyth County south through Alpharetta and into Roswell.
These projects and others are the reason Forsyth County was the 11th fastest-growing county in the country last year. It grew by an estimated 4.2 percent, adding an estimated 8,556 new residents. They are the reason one of its high schools, Lambert, is consistently recognized as one of the best in the state. I’m not sure they are the reason for this, but it should be noted that the county was named the healthiest county in Georgia for the last several years in studies by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.
Just as the New York Life project was a significant stamp of approval on Forsyth’s leadership and direction, so is Halcyon. Developers RocaPoint Partners and the Georgetown Company are betting $370 million that the community will support this project. That is a lot of money.
Halcyon was designed by award-winning master planner Lew Oliver, who also planned Avalon. The project is a 134-acre planned community that is based on town centers in England and France. Centered around a town green, the project will include 500,000 square feet of residential, office and retail space. There will be 92 residential lots, 280 apartments and a hotel associated with the project. The architecture is sure to be fantastic and the project will link to the Big Creek Greenway, which cuts right through the property. It will be at the intersection of McGinnis Ferry and Ronald Regan Boulevard and phase I is scheduled to open fall 2017.
The project will also add something the county has been lacking: a true live, work, and play town center project.