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Developer Uncovers Hidden Gem in Cobb County

A small development company has set its sights on building 57 single-family homes on 13 acres of land on a hill overlooking the Chattahoochee River.

Mon January 20, 2014 - Southeast Edition
Eric Olson

One of the hidden gems of the Metro Atlanta area is a little-developed area in southern Cobb County on the banks of the Chattahoochee River, known as the River Line Historic Area.

The area gets its name from the 6 to 7-mi. (9.7 to 11.3 km) line of defensive trenches and forts that were built by the Confederate Army along the Chattahoochee during the Civil War under the direction of General Joseph E. Johnston. The celebrated Johnston’s River Line has since morphed into its current peaceful moniker, one that links the nearby communities of Mableton, Smyrna and Vinings.

Now, a small development company has set its sights on building 57 single-family homes on 13 acres of land on a hill overlooking the Chattahoochee. The new Volunteer Ridge project is one of a relatively small number of new-home developments in the area just south of Veterans Memorial Parkway, the major four-lane route through the area.

Southern Cobb Seeing a Revitalization

Volunteer Ridge is being developed by Mitch Nimey, a partner with Pebblebrook Development LLC, based in Kennesaw. He said that his project is just part of a larger revitalization happening in this small corner of Metro Atlanta, just northeast of the big city.

“I lived in eastern Cobb County, which was very developed and known for its good schools, while south Cobb was really overlooked for years, but it is still convenient to downtown Atlanta and to Hartsfield International Airport,” Nimey said, “so we feel it is coming into its own.”

As evidence of the area’s resurgence, he pointed to the fact that baseball’s Atlanta Braves recently announced plans to move from downtown Atlanta to a new stadium in Cobb County only about 4 mi. (6.5 km) from the Volunteer Ridge job site.

“There are a lot of older sections of southern Cobb County that still need to be revitalized,” Nimey said. “I really am one of the first developers to move back into this area since the recession.”

Volunteer Ridge is located just off Veterans Memorial Parkway and is only a couple miles west of I-285, known locally as the Perimeter because it encircles Metro Atlanta. That makes commuting to downtown or the airport a relatively quick trip for residents of the area.

Work Is Underway

Nimey and his partner, Larry Thompson, a well-known developer and homebuilder in the Atlanta area for more than 40 years, were able to secure the property at Volunteer Ridge just this past August after buying it from a bank. The previous developer had done all the engineering and gotten permits to build before losing the land in the recession.

Even though rain was near constant in the Atlanta area during the early summer, Nimey said that since they have owned the property they have been able to grade without losing a single day’s work to the weather.

Now, equipment is moving around the site finishing the curb and gutter work and soon, crews will be paving the roads, according to Nimey.

Simple, Traditional Homes Planned

Plans call for Nimey and Thompson to sell the lots to area builders, although he said there is a small chance that they will construct some homes themselves.

“The development has been zoned for high-density residential use, or RA-5 zoning, which means that we can put in up to five units an acre, but we ended up with 4.4 units per acre, instead” Nimey said. “If it were any denser they would be townhome lots.”

The detached single-family homes will employ traditional styles and range in size from 1,800 to 2,400 sq. ft. (167.2 to 222.9 sq m), meaning the lots themselves are 45 to 55 ft. (13.7 to 16.8 m) wide and about 120 ft. (36.6 m) deep. All will be two-car, two-story homes with 3 to 4 bedrooms. Nimey said that they will be priced in the $200,000s.

“We expect home builders to begin closing on their lots in February and March and then begin working,” Nimey said. “We will probably have a model home built pretty soon after the first of the year — maybe in February. I would expect the development to be built out within two years.”

Developer Bucks a Trend

Nimey is one of the few small developers currently working to bring new homes to market in the Atlanta area, largely, he said, because only the big developers and big home builders really have the capital to do so in the aftermath of the collapse of the real estate bubble and the recession.

“The problem is banks don’t want to take any more risks with small developers and lend money for new-home development,” Nimey said. “If you are a small guy and can’t get capital you can’t do these deals. The big guys make up more than 60 percent of the market share in Atlanta now.

“We are fortunate because we had enough capital to get back in business after the recession.”

Area Won’t Be Secret for Long

Apparently, the word has gotten out to other developers that the River Line Historic Area is a good place to be. Since he began working on Volunteer Ridge, Nimey said a German developer has begun working on building a huge, mixed-use development just below his on the river. It will feature single-family homes, townhomes and retail space all in one project.

“You can throw a stone from Cobb County into Fulton County from where we are — that’s how close we are, so I think a lot of people are beginning to see what a great spot southern Cobb County is,” Nimey said. “There are a lot of old parts of the county that need to be revived, but I think that will happen soon.”

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