The City of Villa Rica has applied for its first Livable Centers Initiative implementation grant for the engineering phase of the Northside Downtown Streetscape Project.

Villa Rica presented the results of the months-long plan for downtown Villa Rica last Thursday night.

Chris Montesinos, deputy director of community development, said the Northside Downtown Streetscape Project (NDSP) is expected to cost between $14 and $17 million.

“The city would be responsible for paying 20% of that cost,” said Montesinos. “The rest will be paid by the Atlanta Regional division through our federal highway funds.”

Montesinos told the Villa Rican on Monday that the first phase has already been applied for which is planning and engineering.

“This phase is expected to run us $1.4 million of the project,” said Montesinos. “Again, only 20% of that is the obligation of the city to pay, which is approximately $280,000.”

Montesinos said the city will know whether they have been approved for the grant or not by Spring of 2022. Then, developers could possibly start on the project by early Fall.

“Well, once the grant is announced, which will be next Spring, we will need to put together a request for qualifications for the engineering phase,” said Montesinos.

“We will probably make a selection of a consultant for that probably late summer and get started early fall. So we’re anticipating that we’re going to start obligating and expending revenues towards the project, and the very beginning of our fiscal 2023 budget year.”

In 2016, the city unveiled a “master plan” for reconfiguring the downtown area based on the input of local residents and businesses, who were surveyed online.

The results showed that the residents would like to spend more time downtown. So, the plan unveiled during an open house meeting shows how that could be accomplished with more green spaces and a major realignment of streets.

“Our first outreach was through social media,” said Montesinos. “And also doing things like Survey Monkey and online surveys.

“We actually got more input and engagement in our LCI project than we had in the engagement of our last downtown strategic plan, which was the Renaissance Plan.”

However, there was then no financing available to make any of those changes.

But in May 2020, the city was approved for a grant for federal money administered through the Atlanta Regional Commission, and funneled through a program called the Livable Centers Initiative (LCI).

The plan, according to officials, is “conceptual.” The city council on Tuesday approved only “applying for the grant for planning an engineering of an as-yet undecided project.”

The current target areas include the downtown and the Fullerville district (location of an early 20th-century textile manufacturing center).

The Fullerville district would be transformed into an area of new developments anchored by the Gold Nugget Trail and the North Loop Bypass.

The trail is a proposed pedestrian and bike trail that would encircle the city much the way the GreenBelt circles Carrollton.

Beside the trail would be areas for commercial and residential developments made possible by the North Loop Bypass, a much-anticipated new roadway designed to reduce truck traffic downtown.

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 former Butterballs auto shop, which city officials say they would like to see the 80-year plus building become a combination welcome center and retail space.

Montesinos told the Villa Rican on Monday that the estimated completion date for the entire project will be approximately seven years.

“Because we’re using federal funds,” said Montesinos. “There’s a lot of extra layers of tape, environmental, historical, a lot of documentation that has to be done for the use of federal funding, so that tends to drag things out.

“But you know, realistically, the first phase with the planning engineering will take about two years, and that’s just phase one. So, hopefully by the time I’m ready to retire, we’ll have the whole downtown done. That’s going to be my legacy to the city.”

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