Is Trilith, a ‘Company Town’ for Marvel’s Georgia Production Workers, the Template for Future Cities?

Imagine that you’re a makeup artist or a production manager on a Marvel movie. You’re working long hours and barely have time to shop for groceries or get in any exercise, let alone do yardwork or socialize. But what if your house was a pleasant 10-minute stroll from the studio, during which you passed a craft beer bar and outdoor concert stage? You’re too tired when you get home to think about grocery shopping, but that’s OK, because the delivery robot has just rolled up in front of your house with your weekly order.

That’s the almost-too-utopian promise of Trilith, the town portion of Trilith Studios (formerly Pinewood Atlanta), the homebase for Marvel’s Georgia productions. Pinewood’s (now Trilith) stake in the studios and town was bought out by River’s Rock Trust in 2020. River’s Rock is the independently managed trust of Chick-fil-A principal Dan T. Cathy and his family.

The wholesome suburban development might not appeal to everyone, but its innovative, environmentally conscious design shows that new home developments don’t have to be generic cookie-cutter boxes.

Originally called Pinewood Forest, the four-year-old residential portion of Trilith was modeled after the building styles and village feel of European cities, plopped into the middle of Georgia countryside 13 miles from the Atlanta airport. But it’s not a quaint replica town, nor is it aiming to rope in fervent fans in the same way as Disney’s housing developments.

Instead, Trilith is a new town for about 5,000 people, created using the principles of New Urbanism, a concept that means neighborhoods should be walkable and compact, with varied building types and less emphasis on cars — basically the polar opposite of the vast majority of tract house developments across the country. Not everyone who lives at Trilith works in entertainment — about 30% of single-family home residents and about 70% of apartment dwellers have some association with the productions at Trilith Studios, according to the developer.

Designed by architects and town planner Lew Oliver Inc., some of Trilith’s houses and condos are reinterpretations of traditional European and British-style designs, while others sport more modern facades. They’re built closer together than the typical tract house to make the neighborhood more walkable, most with no yards to speak of, but plenty of pocket parks — a boon to busy production workers. Garages are in back so cars are de-prioritized, and the energy-efficient homes are powered by geothermal energy from underground.

“We’ve got a waiting list,” says Trilith Development president Rob Parker. “If you come from the film industry, it’s easy living.” The single-family homes are priced around $700,000 and up — more than twice what homes go for in surrounding neighborhoods, but reasonable by L.A. or N.Y. standards.

Sorry, Marvel fanatics — you won’t find any streets named after the Avengers or other corny tie-ins, though you might stumble across “WandaVision” being shot on your street. “There’s about a dozen different looks” for shooting in the town, says Parker, who points out that Wakanda was built in the open area down the road. Meanwhile, “Family Feud” shoots on the town side. Trilith village includes coffee shops, restaurants, a multiplex, fitness facilities, retail shops and community gathering spaces, along with 51% of the 200-acre town devoted to green spaces.

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Trilith’s small lake is a popular spot for dog-walking. Courtesy Trilith

Some production workers relocating from New York or Los Angeles find the convenience worth the higher price.

“I feel like I’m actually living here,” says stunt woman Shauna Galligan, an early Trilith home buyer. Galligan, who worked on “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Avengers: Endgame,” sold her house in Los Angeles and says enough industry people have now moved to the neighborhood — an actress, an assistant director, a director — that “we could pretty much film an entire movie with the people we have now.”

“I have three dogs, we live at the lake, watching the sun go down,” she says. Galligan likes remembering shooting films like “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” when she looks out at the stages across the lake.

Galligan says the higher home prices didn’t dissuade her, because “It’s got that style you wouldn’t see anywhere else. I was blown away by the architecture and the details.”

Coby Lefkowitz, a New York-based developer who makes a daily practice of tweeting about new buildings that are both useful and beautiful, recently highlighted Trilith for showing a level of thoughtfulness that’s not often seen in new construction. “We can still build great places in America,” he contends, “There’s a large trend right now of creating more walkable places.” Though the suburban Atlanta area isn’t normally known for its walkability, Lefkowitz applauds Trilith’s parks, trails and interior walkways, as well as thoughtful home and commercial building design. “There’s a lot of variety, which is really important,” he says.

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A micro-home area at Trilith has a European village feel. Courtesy Trilith

Another thing that’s fairly revolutionary for new housing developments, Lefkowitz points out, is that Trilith isn’t just single-family homes — apartments, a hotel and “microhomes” (basically small condos with community courtyards) — make the community accessible to a wider range of incomes and work arrangements.

Lefkowitz sees only a few drawbacks to Trilith’s grand vision. The town isn’t integrated into a broader transportation system, he points out, since suburban Atlanta doesn’t have a deep public transportation system to begin with. And despite a variety of housing types, none of them are categorized as affordable housing. That means that while actors, catering managers and crew members could potentially afford to live there, it’s unlikely that the maintenance crew would be able to. But those considerations aren’t as big an issue in Georgia, he says, where lower-priced housing is generally more available. Trilith isn’t perfect, but “It’s still doing more than other developments,” he says.

While Chick-fil-A has distanced itself from making donations to conservative organizations lately, Georgia’s stance on political issues including abortion and voting rights continues to create tensions for entertainment companies working in the state. But Marvel’s productions at Trilith Studios show no signs of slowing down and the town will likely continue to grow.

Parker says Trilith has enough land to double the size of the town. “It’s very attractive to a lot of different people,” he says.