As developers try to quench demand for suburban apartments, Gwinnett County is capturing the bulk of them.
The second-most populous county in the state is expected to add more than 4,400 units within the next two years, according to data from commercial real estate research firm CoStar Group. Multifamily construction activity outpaces Midtown Atlanta, where approximately 3,500 units are under construction.
Rising rents inside the Perimeter – partly caused by a surge in population and shortage of supply – are sending apartment dwellers to the suburbs. The pandemic freed many office workers from their daily commutes, pushing them to choose space over office proximity.
Other suburban counties are also experiencing an influx of new apartment proposals, but Gwinnett is pacing ahead. Over the same two-year period, developers are expected to complete 1,130 units in Cobb and less than 130 units in North Fulton, according to CoStar.
“When you don’t create places for young professionals to live, and to attract them there, they’re not going to live there,” said Josh Magaro, partner at FIDES Development, which broke ground on a 160-unit apartment project at Jimmy Carter Boulevard and Peachtree Industrial Boulevard.
The contrast between Gwinnett and other suburbs partly comes down to local politics and attitude toward apartments. Gwinnett’s county and city officials are generally more open to working with multifamily developers when it comes to zoning decisions, Magaro said.
“There are always some pockets where it is more challenging, but that sentiment is shifting as more cities mature in their life cycle,” said Rob Sucher, managing director of development at RangeWater Real Estate, which has developed about 1,000 apartments in the county.
The “decentralization” of employment away from Atlanta’s central business districts has boosted the demand for rental housing in the suburbs, Sucher said. Gwinnett has had little success in luring major corporate relocations, but it is home to office parks and a growing technology hub in Peachtree Corners.
The resurgence of town centers – a model that has spread across Gwinnett’s cities – give both young professionals and empty nesters access to amenities without driving into Atlanta, Magaro said.
Duluth, Norcross and Lawrenceville have restored their historic downtown areas with breweries, restaurants and boutique shops. Suwanee and Peachtree Corners both offer large greenspaces in their town centers surrounded by retail and restaurants.
Snellville is in the midst of building a $95 million de facto downtown area known as The Grove, which will include 50,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space. On the other side of the county, Sugar Hill constructed a downtown area from the ground-up about a decade ago.
Even with the surge in apartment development, demand is still outpacing supply, given rising construction costs and delays in entitling land. Over the past 12 months, more than 1,400 renters moved into vacant units in western Gwinnett, while developers only delivered 640 new units, according to CoStar.
“You don’t have to go into Buckhead to get these [amenities] anymore,” Magaro said. “You can easily get into the city on the weekend, but you don’t need to because you’ve got everything you could want up there.”