ALPHARETTA, Ga. — Alpharetta has decided to end what has become a Thursday night tradition in downtown.
The city announced earlier this month it will discontinue the Food Truck Alley, which, during its heyday drew crowds of hundreds to the downtown area from April through October.
The decision follows a city review of its special events and a determination that the event no longer serves the need it was created for.
The city launched Food Truck Alley in 2012 as a means of bringing people to a struggling business district. A lot has changed since then.
With the opening of City Center in 2018, the downtown has exploded with close to two dozen new restaurants, large-scale office buildings, residential dwellings — and people.
“We began Food Truck Alley in 2012 when the Downtown Alpharetta we know today was little more than an idea,” said Alpharetta’s Assistant City Administrator, James Drinkard. “We really had only three restaurants and a handful of retailers operating at the time, so we lacked a critical mass that would draw people to the downtown core. Without more restaurants and businesses, we could not attract diners and shoppers, but without the diners and shoppers we could not attract new businesses.”
Reaction on social media was mixed, with some residents saying they are sad to see the tradition end. One suggested moving the location to city parks where summer sports are scheduled.
City Councilman Ben Burnett, who serves as liaison to the Alpharetta Department of Economic Development, acknowledged the sentiment.
“Residents are starved to get out. It’s been a really tough year,” he said. “In 2019, Food Truck Alley’s attendance was pretty sad. I’m in favor of special events that bring people together when the governors executive orders allows us to move forward.”
The city still has a slew of downtown events on the calendar, like the Taste of Alpharetta, Brew Moon Fest and concerts in the park. Those events remain in limbo, however, until threats from the coronavirus subside.
Burnett said Alpharetta will respond in kind to keep people engaged with the city.
“We all make decisions that we want back,” he said. “I’m no different. But I’ll own it and learn from it. If the people want food trucks, I’m glad to make it happen.”
The city created Food Truck Alley as a free event that would attract residents hungry for family entertainment that would also allow restauranteurs to “dip their toes” into Downtown Alpharetta without the high overhead of opening a permanent location.
“Food Truck Alley quickly became a huge success that helped to create the vibrant environment we envisioned,” Drinkard said. “It really was the seed from which the idea of Downtown Alpharetta sprouted and ultimately grew into the destination it is today.”
Drinkard said the city had always expected Food Truck Alley to be temporary. It was intended, he said, to provide the boost downtown needed to grow.
City officials say that there will still be regular events happening in Downtown Alpharetta, they will just not involve food trucks or other elements that compete with local storefronts. Instead, the city wants to create activities that help to maintain the vibrant atmosphere and buzz that has grown here, and they want to partner with downtown merchants to do it, Drinkard said.