Talk of the Town - Norcross January 06 2001

Shops, diversity of worship, low-priced homes make downtown a destination

There is a housing option that falls between the astronomical home prices inside the Perimeter and the great beyond of suburbia with homogenized subdivisions and long commutes — Norcross.
Norcross offers reasonable home prices, an easy commute and a community that resembles the United Nations.
On Buford Highway, just north of Jimmy Carter Boulevard, the stores of "Centro Norcross" range from the Guadalajara grocery store to Botanica Mexico, an herbal medicine shop. A bit further down, Beaver Run Plaza has the English counterpart called Good Nutrition and sandwiched between is Black Hair Care. Amongst it all, the historic center of Norcross thrives as well.
"This is as Norman Rockwell as it gets," says Linda Steiger, manager of the recently opened Olde Time Coffee Shoppe. In the blocks around the old train station, which has reopened as a cafe, there are antique shops, a violin shop, a vintage car shop, an Italian restaurant, the Olde Peculiar Public House (a bar) and a hardware store. A Taste of Britain, a store devoted to British goods, opened about 10 years ago, and attracts British citizens from all parts of the Atlanta area.
A diversity of worship also thrives in the district. The Korean Presbyterian Church is around the corner from the Norcross Praise Fellowship Church, a non-denominational institution. Maggie Watson moved to the area about 18 years ago when her father became pastor of the church, which attracts a congregation as diverse as the area's businesses.
The area around the historic district, naturally, is surrounded by older homes with a sprinkling of post-World War II homes in between. A small white frame house just sold for $190,000 and will be rezoned as a business. Other homes in the Buford corridor are selling for prices between $150,000 and $200,000, but bargains can be found in nearby subdivisions. For example, in a subdivision on the east side of Buford Highway, a three-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath split level is on the market for $109,900. The Latin Kings street gang have left its mark on a nearby fence, but that has not created an atmosphere of fear in the rest of the neighborhood. It looks like any other typical suburban neighborhood, with busy residents walking sweater-clad pooches or taking down Christmas decorations. A distinct mark of stability is the lack of houses for sale in the subdivision.
Rental houses were more common in the area a few years ago, according to realtor Dawson Long, who says Norcross has changed from a rental community to a community of homeowners in the last decade. He says he wishes he had not sold two of the three houses he bought in the area, as prices have continued to increase — a sure sign of progress.

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