Villa Rica, Georgia

August 30, 2023
Villa Rica, Georgia

Villa Rica, Georgia

investing in its bright future


With a focus on infrastructure, residential developments, and a more vibrant downtown, Villa Rica is poised for continued impressive growth

There’s deep history with the town of Villa Rica, Georgia, a western suburb of Atlanta located about a 35-minute drive from the state’s largest city. It is an old mining and railroad town that also experienced a gold rush in the 1800s.

The city took on a new growth phase in its history when Interstate 20 reached it in the mid-1970s, making it more accessible to a wider range of visitors. Yet with a population of nearly 20,000, Villa Rica retains a small, hometown feel especially in its traditional downtown area which serves as a gathering place for residents.

Highlighting numerous events and attractions for both residents and visitors

One of the best-known features of Villa Rica is its reputation for putting on community events, many of which draw guests from around the Atlanta metropolitan area. The MILL Amphitheater is a 2,500-capacity “greenspace” venue that hosts concerts, festivals, classic car shows, and numerous events throughout the year, most of them for free. Its presence downtown provides increased visibility for local retailers and restaurants, and in many ways serves as the anchor of the downtown district, according to Villa Rica Deputy City Manager Sarah Andrews.

Musical acts at the MILL include a large Jazz Fest in April and numerous local songwriters and cover bands, such as a Bob Seger cover band that recently drew a huge crowd downtown.

The largest event hosted each year is the July 4 celebration, which draws a regional crowd with fireworks, musical acts, water events for the kids, and more. It is held  on July 03 July 3 at the Villa Rica Civic Center and Sports Complex although the fireworks can be seen from various parts of town.

“We want to be able to draw large groups of people downtown because that helps our local businesses and gives us more (exposure),” says Andrews.

The Villa Rica Civic Center is a 6,000-square-foot indoor facility available for such events as weddings, business conferences, and family reunions although it also hosts nine lighted outdoor baseball and softball fields, attracting teams for regional tournaments. The center is managed by the Villa Rica Parks and Recreation Department, which is heavily involved in managing many city events. The department is also managing a growing interest in pickleball, and the city offers some dedicated pickleball courts that are commonly filled with players.

One of the notable attractions in Villa Rica is the Pine Mountain Gold Museum, which hosts numerous events during the year. Its Ghost Train in October is always sold out and features a “haunted’ train ride that is intended to frighten riders with ghost actors. The featured December event at the museum is a Winter Wonderland Train which has no ghosts, but actors who help bring the holidays to life with song, scenes, and more fun.

In addition to providing history about Villa Rica and the surrounding area, the Pine Mountain Gold Museum also offers picnic areas and is adjacent to hiking trails that can be enjoyed by families.

Villa Rica, Georgia

Ongoing developments

Villa Rica is a microcosm of the national housing shortage trend. One example of this is the fact that the city began to build a 4,000-unit single-family unit planned development in 1998. Construction continued for a decade but stopped during the Great Recession in 2008 for financial reasons. Construction didn’t begin again until 2017, only to stop when the pandemic began.

That’s when another trend began to take shape. In 2020, developers began to show interest in creating numerous multi-family developments. More than two dozen developers were involved in initial discussions and work continues today. The expectation is the latest round will include eight completed condominium projects and eight completed apartment projects.

Some other development projects are on pause because of rising interest rates, says Villa Rica City Manager Tom Barber. However, demand for residential growth should remain in future years, likely in spurts based on macroeconomic factors.

Arbours is leading the effort for mixed-use commercial downtown development in the city, including an apartment complex geared toward workforce housing. To ensure these developments are properly serviced, infrastructure must be upgraded and maintained. Barber characterizes the city’s infrastructure needs as a “mixed bag” of constraints.

While Villa Rica has adequate sewer capacity, its collection technology needs to be upgraded.

Additionally, Villa Rica has access to enough water to cover a percentage of its needs. However, the city is forced to purchase some water from third-party sources to address a water shortfall.

The last type of infrastructure investment that is at a critical stage is for new roads in certain areas of the city. One road, in particular, is being constructed as the first project within a newly created tax allocation district, the first one that is located in West Georgia, Barber says.

Attracting new employers while maintaining the downtown’s feel

Downtown Villa Rica has undergone a bit of a transformation in recent years. Changes were made to help make it more attractive to visitors and shoppers over the last decade under a planned renaissance plan instituted by city leaders. Some of its buildings have been renovated to add a bit of character to the area.

For years Villa Rica was best known for a gas explosion on December 5, 1957, that damaged numerous buildings downtown and killed 12 individuals. It remains the most disastrous loss of life and injury in Carroll County history.

That tragic history though is fading away as the city looks to the future. Villa Rica Mayor Gil McDougal supports the idea of the city continuing to assist locally owned businesses in the downtown area and working with any entrepreneur interested in pursuing their dream.

Barber says that most of the businesses in downtown Villa Rica are “mom and pop” stores while national chain stores are populated along the local state highway. The reality is that the majority of Americans, and even Georgia residents are employed by small businesses. City leadership is looking to create more unique business opportunities to help attract tourists and visitors to Villa Rica.

One of the ways to support small business owners is the Villa Rica Main Street Program. That organization is committed to making the most of the city’s unique sense of place by harnessing local economic opportunities and creating a supportive business environment that helps all small business owners and entrepreneurs build on their dreams.

A continuing challenge for entrepreneurs is finding money to start or expand a business. The Main Street Program is designed to make this process a little easier through financial awards, grants, and resources. Much of the financial assistance granted through the Main Street Program does not have to be repaid.

For larger employers, Villa Rica’s Mayor has an extremely specific goal in mind. “What we’re doing is looking for companies that bring good paying jobs that don’t require huge amounts of resources,” McDougal says.

According to Barber, Villa Rica is also looking to establish the location of a second industrial park to address the rising demand for new employers in that sector. The existing Villa Rica Industrial Park is less than one mile north of I-20.

While there is warehouse space for lease at the existing industrial park, the rest of the park is currently full. “We have a big demand and (finding space for the industrial park) is one of our biggest priorities,” Barber says.

Villa Rica, Georgia

Mayor Gil McDougal was elected in 2019. He and the city’s executive team have guided Villa Rica with a program of planned, smart growth as the city has continued to expand.

Schools and colleges provide high-quality education and career development opportunities

Villa Rica families send their children to the Carroll County School System, ranked among the top one-third of country districts in Georgia. Most elementary and middle schools in the city, along with Villa Rica High School, are at capacity with their student population. With no new schools planned, the city’s growth efforts need to consider that population, McDougal says.

Students who do attend Carroll County schools in Villa Rica have the opportunity to participate in workforce development programs. Some of those programs have shifted their focus in recent years to trades where there is a high demand for jobs and great opportunities for good-paying, stable careers.

“We do have several employers (in the city) willing to work with students to support their desire to work in the trades and blue-collar fields,” McDougal says. He adds that college or community college is a great option for some students, but that with an apprenticeship or technical trade knowledge, the city and surrounding communities offer many options. For those students, West Georgia Technical College in nearby Carrolton is a great option.

Villa Rica is also minutes away from the University of West Georgia, a public four-year college in Carrolton with an undergraduate enrollment of nearly 10,000 students.

Plans down the city path

According to McDougal, current goals include upgrading traffic infrastructure to support more efficient traffic flow. He also wants to ensure that current infrastructure needs are addressed, particularly for additional sewer capacity. Any current projects must also be completed.

“We have enough projects in place to keep us busy for a while,” he concludes.

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Villa Rica, Georgia


Villa Rica, Georgia

What: A western suburb of Atlanta



West Georgia Technical College –

West Georgia Technical College supports student success, economic development, and the community by providing a skilled workforce, through the delivery of relevant education and training, via high school equivalency, college credit associate degrees, diplomas, and technical certificates of credit, as well as corporate and continuing education opportunities.

Tanner Health System –

Tanner Medical Center/Villa Rica is an acute care hospital offering maternity care, minimally invasive surgical services, inpatient care, an intensive care unit, interventional cardiac services with angioplasty and stenting, advanced diagnostic imaging services as well as a new emergency department, observation unit and surgical services center.\

Fuqua Development LP. –

Spurred by the City of Villa Rica’s desire to connect Mirror Lake Boulevard to the growing downtown area, this site was selected to create a premier mixed-use development with best in class residential and retail. Our project includes a grocer, restaurants and retail, all surrounded by residential options.

Walton Communities –

Southwire –


August 2023

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