Alpharetta’s Population Story

My early days in Alpharetta.
My early days in Alpharetta.

A good story is a good story.  Alpharetta is a good story.  For one thing, it’s a unique name; O.K., a strange name.  But at least you can be sure that there isn’t another town named Alpharetta – anywhere.   And then, there is the fact that only yesterday it was a country town of around 3000 people.   Only 3000 people lived in Alpharetta in 1980.  About 14,000 people lived in Alpharetta by 1990.  On a percentage basis, that’s a stratospheric change.  But even though by 1990 there would soon be a mall nearby and all that fiberoptic cable had been and was being laid in the ground, and even though you had all of those 14,000 people, Alpharetta was still a country town.  Back in 1990, I had to use a map to find my way up from inside to the perimeter to the Alpharetta Bargain Barn – a retail store on Main Street of great irony.  For in little old Alpharetta, Georgia you could find ready made clothing of the same quality being sold at Phipps Plaza down in Buckhead, only less expensive.

By 2000, the population of Alpharetta was 46,607 people.  This was up from 14,000 people only 10 years earlier; so, a meteoric change.   You are perhaps wondering, if you are not from around here, why this population surge?  Jobs.  No, wait.  Fiber-optic cable.  Internet.  All that.  It really did start with the fiber optic cable.  While the Mobil Land Company master planned a great subdivision in the late 1970’s and called it Windward, that alone wasn’t responsible for the population changes in Alpharetta.   It was the internet age that made Alpharetta prime for business re-location and business re-location meant jobs.  And not just jobs – good jobs, and good paying jobs.  And not just good paying, good jobs, but jobs that attracted Educated People from Elsewhere.  And when all these Educated People from Elsewhere began arriving in Alpharetta, they had certain expectations of their children, and their children’s grades.  And the next thing you knew, the schools won the benefit of all those high expectations of parents and became “high-scoring schools” a description they have held onto for over 25 years now.   And you know what happens when you have high scoring schools?  More Educated People from Elsewhere move in just for the high scoring schools.

By 2010, the population rose by a slight bump to 57,826.  This is a census figure and is reliable.  Recent figures have been anywhere from 67,000 to 80,000.   These are not the stratospheric changes of earlier decades, but there are reasons for that, not the least of which is that Alpharetta is only around 21 square miles.  And Alpharetta, because it is home to so much business, does go through a daily metamorphosis as tens of thousands of people pour into the city to go to work at their jobs, but leave Alpharetta in the evening.

There is a story here – these population changes in Alpharetta.  There is a many layered, good story that begs lots of details and even other stories.  I’ve only told the bare minimum facts.  And it is a fast moving story; so fast that only a few people remember that only yesterday Alpharetta was a town of  3000 people.

As for me, I can only tell what I know and what I have experienced.  And my story intersects with the population story above.  I can tell you, for instance, that we moved to Alpharetta for the high scoring schools.  Although my husband and I grew up in the metro Atlanta area, that didn’t include little old Alpharetta.  When we moved to Alpharetta, we too were Educated People from Elsewhere in a new place.

If you’ve read my “About Me” page you’ve read the very curious entry that “I was plopped down in Alpharetta in 1997 against my will”.  This also is true.  I didn’t want to move to Alpharetta in 1997 because I didn’t want to move at all. I had my home, my life, my plans.  But, corporate America and the need for income changed my plans.  I wonder how many other women there were in Alpharetta who were like me back in 1997?  Lonely in grocery stores.  Wishing to be where we came from.

But, we stayed.

We had the enjoyment of 8 acres on the edge of Alpharetta, but we ultimately sold it and moved into the greatest “kid neighborhood” in Alpharetta – Crabapple Chase.  My kids had plenty of kids to play with and the same is true for families in Crabapple Chase today.  I knew everybody else’s kids.  And I felt safe.  This also is true today.  My kids grew older.  I did a few things around town and got to know the city a little bit better.   And then, you know what?  We moved.  We moved right out of Alpharetta and up the road a piece to catch a glimpse of the mountains.  And yet, I’m still writing about Alpharetta –  not mountains.  Is it because Alpharetta is that interesting?  Is it because I might move back?  Is it because I still have family there?  All of the above, I guess.  Or, maybe it’s just that home snuck up on me.  Alpharetta became home.  But, that’s another story.


3 Replies to “Alpharetta’s Population Story”

  1. I was born in 1958 and grew up in Sandy Springs. I remember thinking Alpharetta was so country and the name was so strange. Now I work for a company in Alpharetta and I think it’s great.

  2. I grew up in Brookhaven and graduated from Cross Keys in ’84. A friend got a job at the Herman Miller factory on Mansell and all of us were wondering “Where the ____ is Alpharetta?”

  3. My wife and I are from Northeast Philly and South Jersey, respectively.
    We moved to Alpharetta from Sarasota in Fall, 2013.
    There were a few other contenders but, this city won our hearts.
    Wow, to have been here in 1980…
    We love it here and are never moving!

    Thanks for your relevant insights and perspectives.

    I look forward to more of your wonderful stories!

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