If you are deciding where to live in Atlanta, you will need to make a choice about living inside or outside "the perimeter." Fortunately, the differences between inside and outside the perimeter—also known as ITP and OTP—are among the first things you’ll learn. You may have even already had a few beginners' lessons on the two distinct areas of the city, separated by the dividing line of Interstate 285. The interstate encircles the urban part of Atlanta and serves as the perimeter, distinguishing “in town” from the “suburbs.”
Maybe you are already aware that sporting events, plays, concerts and most big-ticket entertainment take place inside the perimeter. Though you may understand that most of the action happens ITP, you might not fully appreciate the benefits of living in each of the areas.
In years past, families may have preferred migrating to the ‘burbs OTP, while young singles probably would have been more attracted to city living ITP. The city, in general, has grown, however, and Atlanta neighborhoods on both sides of I-285 have a lot to offer people of all ages, interests and walks of life. With fabulous restaurants, good schools, art galleries, museums, businesses, shopping and a variety of entertainment choices on many levels, you may find both ITP and OTP neighborhoods that fall into the category of the best places to live in Atlanta.
Inside the Perimeter
The most affordable properties ITP tend to be ones such as mixed-use developments and one- and two-bedroom condominiums—properties that are most appealing to young singles, whether they are renters or first-time homebuyers. Of course, as in most city limits, the square-footage in living quarters is not as spacious as in the suburbs. Depending on the size of home you are moving from, you may need to look into storage units in Atlanta so you can stow items you don’t want to give up, but don’t have room for in a single bedroom condo.
Living ITP means a shorter commute for most people, too. Many residents live as little as a 10-minute drive from work, and some are even close enough to walk when they are in the mood. When you live ITP, you will be within walking distance of shopping, entertainment, and fine dining. What’s more, the city recently renovated a former railroad passageway to create a greenbelt known as the BeltLine Trail, which runs right through some of the trendiest ITP neighborhoods, including Old Fourth Ward and Inman Park.
That is not to say that families wouldn’t be happy ITP. There are a number of neighborhoods in Atlanta that fall inside the perimeter where you can purchase a single-family home with as many as five bedrooms. A family with school-aged children has access to excellent public and private schools, and there are many parks, golf courses, ball fields and other recreational facilities within walking distance of ITP neighborhoods such as Chastain Park, Morningside, Grant Park and the Garden Hills/Buckhead area. You may not have the yard size or square footage that you would get for the same price OTP, but your commute will be shorter, and the entire family will be close to the entertainment and amenities offered by living in Atlanta.
Outside the Perimeter
If spacious living quarters are a priority, you will find that the homes OTP are roomier with larger yards, and you’ll get more of a house for your money than you would ITP. Also, although the schools ITP are considered “good,” when U.S. News and World Report ranked Georgia’s public high schools head to head, more OTP schools made it into the top 10—six from the suburbs versus only one ITP school. It is factors such as these that tend to make OTP the choice for families.
There is a trade-off you will make for choosing to live on the suburban side of the perimeter. Your drive to and from work will certainly take a chunk out of your day. Most people living OTP spend an hour commuting both ways each day. Plus, you will have to make that drive if you want to take advantage of the entertainment options in the city.
Still, OTP neighborhoods such as Marietta, Suwanee, McDonough, and Woodstock do offer enjoyable things to do other than jogging in nearby parks, touring museums or celebrating regional traditions at festivals held in historic squares, which are all options OTP. Each neighborhood also has its own collection of local shops and boutiques as well as restaurants that serve up cuisine to suit almost any craving.
On the Border
If you are the type who wants to have your cake and eat it, too, you might want to consider living in an Atlanta neighborhood on the border of the perimeter. Neighborhoods in Atlanta such as Dunwoody, Tucker and Sandy Springs are just on the outside of the perimeter. There is even an area known as Perimeter Center that is largely a commercial and business district, but that is also a neighborhood that attracts young couples and even families with children who like living close to the city, without actually living in it.
Perimeter border neighborhoods are ideal for working couples when one spouse is employed OTP and the other works ITP, as it centralizes the starting point for both to cut commute time. Plus, depending on the neighborhood you settle in, you should find the larger homes and yards available in the suburbs, along with the parks, ball fields, and occasional town squares. However, you will still be close to the events and entertainment found ITP, a plus for the whole family.
Considering both sides of the perimeter have so much to offer, choosing where to live in Atlanta can be difficult. With its rich history, unique cultural and artistic attractions, and a festival to commemorate just about everything from music to the Dogwoods to, of course, the peaches, there really is something for everyone living in Atlanta, no matter which side of the perimeter you land on.