Jun 13, 2022 - News

Villa Rica, Tucker embrace the alleyway

An alleyway turned paved pedestrian pathway in Hapeville

Hapeville turned a service alleyway in its downtown into a pedestrian pathway and patios. Photo: Thomas Wheatley/Axios

Villa Rica is peeking into alleyways to turn the spaces usually dedicated to dumpsters and deliveries into beautiful places for people. 

What's happening: Suburban cities looking to give residents things to do and local businesses more customers to serve are re-investing in their downtowns. 

  • Some are getting creative. Off-street service alleyways behind buildings, they're learning, can be used for much more than trash pick-ups. 

Details: This month, the Atlanta Regional Commission announced that Villa Rica, the small but rapidly growing city, would partner with the Georgia Conservancy to brainstorm how to enhance its downtown alleyways.

  • Chris Montesinos, the city's special projects director, says he expects the study to help iron out finer details and potentially suggest pilot programs. Possible upgrades could include lighting, art walks, public events and other programming.  

"How can we integrate public art, murals and abstract things to really create a unique sense of place that defines Villa Rica?" Montesinos says.  

Zoom out: Cities across the country, including Seattle, have invested in alleyways. Closer to home, Tucker's 32-mile bike trail plan includes paths in its downtown alleyways (crews are pouring cement now). 

  • The DeKalb County city also recently studied how to add public art and more life to the alleyways.

Hapeville's art-focused alley project is part of a push to establish the city as a hub for creatives.

Intrigue: Decades ago, Atlanta abandoned all but three of its alleyways — all of which are downtown — and gifted the land to adjacent property owners to use as they saw fit. 

  • You can still find some leftover gems in historic neighborhoods like Virginia-Highland, Cabbagetown and Castleberry Hill. 

Of note: The Georgia Conservancy will also lead Villa Rica through a placemaking process — part of a larger vision of trees, public green space and trails connecting residents from large communities like Mirror Lakes to downtown.   


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