Villa Rica has been awarded a $1.14 million grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission that will kick off what city officials say will be a major renovation in its downtown.
The funds are part of the ARC’s Livable Cities Initiative, a program that involves federal funds and is intended to improve pedestrian and vehicular access to downtown areas.
Villa Rica’s grant will pay for engineering designs for the Northside Downtown Streetscape, a proposal that would fundamentally alter the look of downtown, including what amounts to a merging of Temple and Main streets into a single thoroughfare.
City officials say that such a transformation will be years in the making, but the grant will help the city in planning how it will all come about.
“The Northside Downtown Streetscape Project is a legacy investment that will truly transform the look and function of the city,” said Chris Montesinos, the city’s Special Projects Director. “The project includes wider sidewalks for outdoor dining, traffic calming through the use of textured roadway materials and parallel parking, much needed landscaping and canopy trees, and a dedicated central town green for hosting concerts, festivals, and other special events.”
Making the city easier to navigate by foot is one of the main purposes of the LCI, which identifies specific projects that might be funded through federal money administered by the Atlanta Regional Commission. Last spring, Villa Rica was one of a handful of cities in the area to qualify for the program.
But the Northside Downtown Streetscape project would do more than aid transportation. It would introduce a greenspace in the middle of the city; a park that would stretch from North Carroll Road to North Candler Street, replacing part of the existing Main Street.
Temple Street, which fronts the city’s entertainment district, would remain, but would merge into the remainder of Main Street through a meandering curve, turning Temple Street into a serpentine avenue lined with greenery and other recreational spaces.
Thus, the space that is now between Temple and Main streets would transform into a park, anchored at the North Avenue end by a planned splash pad water feature.
Another major change in city streets would be an extension of Cheeves Street across Montgomery Street into a sweeping curve that would cross Highway 78 and connect with West Wilson Street. That would form a parklike section that would include the site once occupied by Butterballs auto shop.
Funds through the Livable Cities Grant offers a pathway for funding many of the concepts for downtown which were articulated in the 2016 Renaissance Plan. Many residents and business leaders participated in the Renaissance project, giving urban planners their ideas for what they wanted for the city’s downtown area.
“Downtown Villa Rica stands at the crossroads of the community, and the Northside Downtown Streetscape, Gold Nugget Trail, and Mirror Lake Connector will all serve to draw people into the downtown district,” said Montesinos, who spearheaded the grant application. “The future of downtown Villa Rica is one of vibrancy, vitality, uniqueness, safety, and togetherness.”
Press Release provided by the City of Villa Rica