‘Avalon’ project part of construction boom in Atlanta

The nation’s fastest-growing county and region is set to double its population in 10 years with the recent approval of the massive “Avalon” project.

The city of McDonough, located 30 miles south of downtown Atlanta in Henry County, will jump from 11,000 to more than 16,000 residents with the 603-acre Avalon project – part of a trend of mixed-use, work-where-you-live communities in the growing Southeast metropolis. It’s also part of an emerging construction market with no foreseeable slowdown in the near future.

Bill Anderson, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors of America’s Georgia chapter, said concerns about traffic and unplanned growth have prompted the construction of mixed-use communities.

“It’s almost to where they [residents] don’t have to go outside the community,” Anderson said. “It’s a city within a city.”

Anderson said this concept of community has been well received.

And it’s this positive reception that helped developers Doug Adams and Eddie Walker gain approval for the Avalon project, despite it being called one of the most challenging projects ever undertaken in metro Atlanta.

The initial plans for Avalon call for construction of 2,050 apartments, townhouses and single family residences; seven four-story office buildings; and a sizable amount of retail space. Construction will be spread over a 603-acre site about a mile southwest of Interstate 75 and GA 20/81, and is worth an estimated $500 million.

Developers Adams and Walker have completed two similar subdivision projects in Henry County – the 1,300-home Locust Grove Station with 40 acres of commercial space in Locust Grove; and Northbridge Crossing, a 171-acre project with 900 townhouses and condos and 27 acres of commercial development in Stockbridge.

Anderson said the Atlanta area’s expected population increase of 2 million people during the next 15 years is helping push the construction growth.

There are, however, a few problems that could stand in the way.

The Atlanta construction market is expected to face a shortage of skilled construction workers in the next few years. Anderson said the average age for someone in the area’s construction industry is nearing 50.

To combat this issue, the Georgia ABC chapter and other industry groups attempt to educate students from middle school to college on the benefits of the construction field through the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia. “It’s an industry-wide concern,” Anderson said.

Another problem in the Atlanta and national construction industries, especially with long-term projects such as Avalon, is the increasing cost of steel and other building materials. With the cost of oil expected to top $60 per barrel this summer, Anderson said project managers find it hard to estimate costs for construction.

But issues such as these don’t seem to be a deterrent for contractors.

Anderson said with the needed infrastructure expansion of roads and sewage in addition to residential and commercial buildings, the outlook is positive for construction in Atlanta.

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at pbeeson@randallpub.com.