Carroll County: Strengthening The Connections
Changes at the University of West Georgia, geared to keep students on campus, are spilling over into adjacent downtown Carrollton.
The city is already a significant regional attraction for cultural and sporting events - the result of first-rate city and county recreational departments and the three-year-old Carrollton Performing Arts Center. However, downtown is about to receive another big boost: Ownership of the historic Carrollton Train Depot has just been transferred to the city, which intends to use it for the Carroll County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Main Street Carrollton offices, as well as a train museum. Three-fourths of the facility will be left for special events.
The county is expanding the courthouse to the tune of $11 million. The city is contributing a $6.5 million expansion of parking and infrastructure around the facility. More distant plans include connecting to UWG for an Athens-like, walkable city.
"UWG is a huge part of our economy - let's just say we feel it when school's out. We want the students to stay in town on weekends. UWG is landlocked, surrounded by subdivisions; so it was natural to give them the [246-acre] property," says Carrollton City Manager Casey Coleman, referring to the city's recent gift of a decommissioned spray field to the school for additional parking facilities and athletic field (pending federal approval, that is). "We expect UWG and downtown to be linked by mixed use development, along Maple Street between the campus and main thoroughfare [to downtown] ... . People want to walk more, and the price of fuel has created more interest in mixed uses," he adds.
One new project will convert the former Mandeville Mills into student housing. "When the first developer proposed loft living in Carrollton, I thought they had lost their mind," Coleman says. "Now we can?t build them fast enough."How times have changed. "The last couple of years we've experienced around four percent growth - but this past year, I'm afraid to guess," Coleman says. "It's explosive. We really want to enjoy it but also control our quality of life. We've had more annexations this year than in the past several years, but with conditions to help keep us ahead of the game. We have no desire to be a major metropolitan community, or gridlocked."