‘Redneck’ city sees new awakening


SMYRNA, Ga. – Over the last 20 years, Smyrna has transformed into a cosmopolitan city and shows no signs of slowing down with redevelopments yearly.

The plan to rebuild Smyrna was established in 1988, first with the construction of a new library and community center in 1991. The $10 million Market Village followed in 2002 and, completed in 2004, the social center of downtown that houses 40,000 square feet of retail space with various eateries, coffee shops and a wine store.

“Eating out and the convenience to walk to different locations are reasons I moved here,” Michael Shuth, a new Smyrna resident, said. “It is also convenient for work. I work in Atlanta, so traffic is fairly light.”

But this progressive city was not always this way. Before the 1996 Olympics, National Geographic magazine published a profile on Smyrna and called the city the “Redneck Capital.”

“It’s easy to look inward and know what you like about your community, but that’s not always what everyone else sees,” said Teri Anulewicz, city councilwoman.

National Geographic’s comment was the catalyst to building the progressive Smyrna that everyone sees today. Over the next 13 years, annual developments and redevelopments began.

The ongoing developments of new homes and apartments in the Belmont Hills shopping plaza and the recently approved $17 million Jonquil Plaza that will house apartments, restaurants and a Publix shopping center are more ways the city is growing.

“Smyrna is the new urbanism,” Anulewicz said. “We’re a part of Cobb County [where] you can see the Atlanta skyline. We’re interconnected with the metro area.”

But the reasons Smyrna is such a popular place to live for the young adult crowd is both its location and geographic build.

“I enjoy living here because it’s pretty, quiet and convenient to the highway,” DeeDee Kennenyfordina said. “There is also great history here.”

Proximity to Atlanta and the beauty of the landscape is another reoccurring trend in why people enjoy living in Smyrna.

“Proximity, parks and the safe area is why my family and I lived here,” Jared Benson, former resident said. “We still come to the pond on weekends, even though we moved to a different area in Cobb.”

With the young-adult population migrating to trendy neighborhoods in Atlanta, Smyrna neighborhoods seem to have their own gentrification developing.

“We call it the halo effect of rethinking how we can live as a community,” Anulewicz said.

Councilwoman Teri Anulewicz. From City of Smyrna website
Councilwoman Teri Anulewicz. From City of Smyrna website

The local saying in the town, “Smyrna is a city with a halo,” means that the success of urbanist mix created a positive effect on surrounding property values allowing the city to lower property taxes by 30 percent in 2010.

Some long-time residents were not happy about the new urbanist movement. Calling the new young residents transients who won’t put down any roots, Anulewicz said.

“They were saying it’s going to be drug dealers, dopers and criminals who are going to be living here,” she said. “But the fact is the rent in these granite countertops and hardwood floor condos is $1,000 to $1,500 a month, so these residents are willing to pay a premium.”

Even with all the developments, not all residents are satisfied with Smyrna just yet. Even some Vinings residents, who frequent Smyrna often because they are neighboring cities, have their qualms about the developments.

“I would like to see more jazz, poetry or acoustics lounges in the city,” Angela Holden of Vinings, said. “There are family-orientated business which is nice, but some more lounges would be great.”

Lounges and jazz music is not the only form of night life that residents would like to see more of.

“More diverse bars would be nice,” Kennenyfordina said. “Not just diverse in race but in age and catered more to the youth.”

In the next 20 years Anulwicz said she hopes to see the city continue to improve with forward thinking.

“You want to look at your city as a destination,” Anulwicz said. “One weekend get a slice of pizza, another weekend get a nice steak.”


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