If you haven’t driven through downtown Flowery Branch lately, do it. You’ll find that the formerly single-street community has blossomed with new buildings, an airy pavilion, an amphitheater and an explosion of residential development from apartments above retail space, luxury townhomes and infill housing.
The Thursday afternoon farmers’ markets have been augmented by weekend festivals, concerts and outdoor activities, intended to draw area residents and visitors to downtown.
“We love our charm here but we’re bringing more events and activities to the community. This has been our vision since 2014 when we began working on our comprehensive plan,” said Mayor Ed Asbridge, who has served on the Flowery Branch City Council since June 2019. “It’s all starting to come together and we continue to receive accolades from people around the county.”
About a year ago, the city hired Renee Carden as downtown director. With her long-time experience in tourism and marketing development, she has been a driving force in creating downtown-focused events throughout the year, as well as coordinating with new businesses and restaurants who want to make downtown Flowery Branch home.
Several new restaurants are opening in the next few months, including El Sabor Consteno Mexican food and 4 Elephants featuring Laotian specialties. They’ll join restaurants Antebellum, Peyton’s Pies, Beer Me taproom and Whole Bean Café.
The city’s landmark retail locations include Liberty Candy Company and Sample Pleasures, plus several service businesses including Carpe Diem Salon, Edward Jones Investments and a child psychologist’s practice.
“The new farmers’ market pavilion and our new amphitheater are both big draws to bring people downtown,” Carden said. “And our goal is to create more festivals and activities here. There are so many people with a Flowery Branch mailing address who have never been to downtown. We hope to change that.”
Several years ago, the south side of Main Street was rebuilt with street-level retail and restaurant space and second-floor apartments.
“The apartments are all leased, and we’re making great progress in the retail space,” she said.
The area has attracted residential growth as well. The Gibson Apartments at the intersection of Phil Niekro Boulevard and I-985 have a high occupancy rate. Two rows of luxury townhomes on the west side of downtown are seeing traction with buyers.
“More than a half-dozen of the 19 row houses are under contract already,” she said. “New infill housing and remodeling of existing single-family homes is going on at a good pace as well.”
Carden points to the town’s proximity to Lake Lanier as a benefit for residents. “The lake is only about a half-mile from downtown, an easy walk,” she said. “Along with our access to I-985, Flowery Branch is an excellent place to live.”
Flowery Branch’s commercial development along Thurmon Tanner Parkway provides jobs as well as improves the tax base for the city. Retail shopping centers Village Shops of Flowery Branch and Stone Bridge Village on the east side of I-985 make it possible for residents to shop local.
“Part of our vision is to help balance commercial and residential growth here in Flowery Branch,” he said. “This will help us keep taxes down and benefit the city and the people living here. It will take some time but getting people involved and active in what we’re doing is a big part of our plan.”
Photos: by Pamela A. Keene