Guide to Gwinnett
City Series: Norcross
Forward-thinking, fun and friendly. That's how I'd describe the City of Norcross. But I'll let an expert give you more information in this next installment of our City Series. Mayor Craig Newton gives us some interesting insight into this exciting town.
1. Describe your city in one word.
Imaginative. We call ourselves “a place to imagine” and it’s true–every day we imagine what we can be and we take steps to make that dream a reality, always forward-thinking.
2. Tell me about any new developments that are happening.
Let’s see, there is so much going on this year!
We are still working to stretch Norcross’ downtown area toward Buford Highway, and in so doing we are working with the county to relocate and expand the existing library branch to Lillian Webb Park. Designed to be a 21st century library, the new branch will be approximately 22,000 square feet and will include a community room and larger areas for computer services, creative projects, and interactive programming and services. The best part is the 2,000+ square feet of dedicated “maker space,” equipped with a 3-D printer and other equipment to facilitate entrepreneurship development.
In addition to the new library, over 700 new residential units have been approved for the area within walking distance of downtown, and will become available over the next two years. In The Brunswick, which is being built alongside Buford Highway near the new library, several “live-work” units will encompass both commercial and living space within individual rentable units. Other residential development is taking place in The Kelly, Norcross Seven, Old Norcross Estates and Adams Vineyard.
Also, we are always working to expand access to parks and greenspace throughout the city. We recently completed Pinnacle Park in east Norcross and will soon see enhancements to Veterans Park, Discovery Garden Park and Johnson Dean Park. Another project of ours is creating a trail system to connect our greenspaces with Downtown Norcross and other parks in the county.
3. What upcoming events are you most excited about and why?
We have so many happening in the city, just about every weekend in fact, and it is my personal source of joy to see so much variety in the events calendar. If you like music we have the Summer Concert Series, Jazz in the Alley and First Friday Concerts which ensures live concerts all year long. The history buffs have the Historic Trolley Tours; our green gurus the Norcross Community Market and events by Discovery Garden (and new event coming this August, the Indie Green Vegan Festival); art lovers enjoy our monthly exhibits at The Rectory as well as the annual Art Splash Festival in October; car fanatics have the Classic, Italian, British AND Porsche Car Shows….for me the excitement comes in seeing so many different groups of people coming together and enjoying Norcross.
4. What’s your favorite event and why?
My favorite event is the Gateway International Festival. Part of the city’s contribution to Welcoming America’s “Welcoming Week,” it showcases the region’s best multicultural talent and various ethnic foods while highlighting the rich cultural contributions of our local communities. I feel very strongly about embracing the diversity of our neighborhoods, and this event is truly the perfect way to do that. At this event I’ve seen performances and tasted the authentic flavors of Bulgaria, India, El Salvador, Thailand and more. And, Gateway was just named a Top 20 Event by the Southeast Tourism Society, so if you don’t want to take my word for how amazing it is, you can take theirs!
5. What must-try restaurants should visitors know about?
Did I mention we have diverse neighborhoods? Just in our downtown alone, you can try authentic Cuban (Mojitos), Italian (Dominick’s and Paizanos), British (Iron Horse), Mexican (Zapatas) and more. We have great American cuisine too–The Crossing, Chase’s Grille, 45 South Café, Bleu House and more all serve up local classics.
6. What are some unique outdoor/recreation experiences people can participate in?
In the summer, kids LOVE the splash pad in Lillian Webb Park. All of our parks are really great places to get outside and enjoy the sunshine, though, and whether you want to play soccer, go for a walk, throw around a frisbee or listen to great music at an outdoor concert, there’s a park nearby where you can do that. Also of special note, all of our playgrounds have ADA-friendly elements, and the one at Rossie Brundage has been 100% developed with children with special needs in mind. Definitely check those out if you have a child who would benefit from such features.
7. Where’s your favorite place to shop in the city?
My wife might be better equipped to answer this question, but I do have to say we have some pretty unique shops in Norcross. Besides antiques and apparel, we have a neat little shop called Taste of Britain where you can find literally ANYTHING from the UK (gifts, grocery, candies…). There’s also an olive oil tasting room called the VSOP Taproom, which I have to admit I never saw myself enjoying but is really quite good–each one really does taste so different and delicious!!
8. What’s something people might not know about your city?
The first Peachtree Road was in Norcross. Over 200 years ago, there was a well-traveled trading path leading to the Chattahoochee River called “Pitch Tree Road,” after the pitch the Native Americans tapped from abundant local pine trees to seal their canoes.
Also, the first car manufactured south of the Mason-Dixon Line was actually produced right here in Norcross. Called the NorX, it was built by a company owned by Edward Buchanan, who grew up in Norcross and went on to make it big on Wall Street in the early 1900s.
Finally, my personal favorite fun fact is that in the late 1800’s, Norcross was known as “Atlanta’s Summer Resort!” A commuter train called the “Airline Belle” would bring visitors up from the city to escape the heat and camp by the Chattahoochee River, or stay at one of the three hotels in town. The Brunswick Hotel was well known for the rockers on its front porches (on both the first and second floors) and also its chicken pot pie. While the hotel isn’t here anymore, we actually just named our new residential development by Lillian Webb Park in its honor!
It seems like the possibilities for fun in Norcross are endless. Be sure to keep and eye on our calendar of events so you don't miss a thing!
Want to learn about some of Gwinnett's other cities? Check out our story about Duluth.