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National magazine names Gainesville a top retirement destination
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Residents of Lanier Village Estates stroll through the garden area at the retirement community Wednesday afternoon. Where To Retire magazine rated Gainesville a top retirement destination. From the left they are Dale Kreutter, Flor Schroder, Jack Enkemann and Howard Amos.

The news is hardly surprising to many retired residents who already are living here, but Gainesville will be listed as a top retirement destination in an upcoming national magazine.

The city will be featured as one of the top “laid-back lakeside living towns” by Where to Retire magazine in the July/August edition.

The other communities making the list were Traverse City, Mich., Lake of the Ozarks, Mo., Murray, Ky., Granbury, Texas, Sandpoint, Idaho, Lake Tahoe, Calif./Nev. and Lake Havasu, Ariz.

The magazine will be available nationwide on June 19.

“Lakeside communities, such as Gainesville, offer retirees a laid-back lifestyle away from big-city hassles and with all the recreational perks of water access,” said Mary Lu Abbott, editor of Where to Retire, in a press release sent out this week.

Local officials and business leaders say that retirees’ attraction to Gainesville is obvious.

“We’ve got the perfect seasons here,” Gainesville Mayor Danny Dunagan said. “And our hospital and medical centers are outstanding. I think with our hospital and with our medical community growing like it is, that’s helped a lot with our retirees.”

For some, the magazine story will just be further confirmation of a trend.

However, Hall County does have a history of drawing retirees, said Frank Norton, president of Norton Agency.

More than 100 years ago, local sulfur springs drew aging populations to health resorts in Northeast Georgia, he said. Later, after Lake Lanier was built, retirees bought lakeside homes in the 1950s through 1970s.

The latest boom in the last decade, he said, is thanks to the establishment of large retirement or age-restricted communities.

Lanier Village Estates, which offers independent and assisted living, opened 11 years ago. It drew retirees from Georgia and across the United States.

For the residents who live there, the amenities — which include a range of health services in addition to social and recreational perks — were a huge draw.

“There are all kind of things to do here,” said Richard Schroder, 70, who came from Maryland to live at Lanier Village Estates with his wife, Flor.

But with similar neighborhoods scattered around the country, including Florida and Arizona, there were also certain perks specific to Gainesville.

For Caroline Van De Pol, 76, the arts and cultural opportunities were a big plus — as was the proximity to North Georgia’s mountains and Atlanta.

Dale Kreutter, 74, said Gainesville’s climate was just right.

“My wife didn’t want to go to Florida because of the hurricanes,” he said. “I wouldn’t go north because of snow.”

New age-restricted, active adult communities like the Villages of Deaton Creek in South Hall and Cresswind in Gainesville also are springing up.

Norton said the latter group of residents aren’t necessarily retired, but are nearing retirement.

For them, one of the things that distinguishes Gainesville, Norton said, is the “recreational lifestyle.”

Activities on the lake and the abundance of parks and sports leagues appeal to adults looking to stay busy in their leisure time.

“We are a community inside of a park,” Norton said.

After Where to Retire magazine concluded that Gainesville was a top contender for its story on lakeside living based on statistics, Stacey Dickson, president of the Lake Lanier Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the editorial staff reached out for information on what makes the city unique.

“Obviously it was things around the lake and the public parks and our great library system,” she said.

One of the huge advantages for active retirees is its location “sitting between the urban Atlanta area and the vibrant Northeast Georgia mountains.”

“It’s a pretty easy sell,” she said.

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