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MACON — Redevelopment efforts in downtown Macon and the surrounding neighborhoods have received a major boost from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Mercer University has been awarded a $250,000 planning grant from Knight Foundation to facilitate a voluntary alliance of redevelopment partners to coordinate plans and leverage new investments. The grant was announced today by Macon Mayor Robert A. B. Reichert and Mercer President William D. Underwood during a news conference at Mercer Village, 1645 Montpelier Ave.
This grant will fund start-up costs for designing and implementing the alliance along with the creation of a master plan for the College Hill Corridor, a year-old initiative by the City of Macon and Mercer University to improve the social and physical connection between the University and downtown. Together, these initiatives will help engage residents in designing and implementing comprehensive improvements in the central city.
Based on a model pioneered by the University of Akron (the University Park Alliance), Macon’s alliance seeks to provide enhanced communication, coordination and investment in downtown and Intown Macon. This voluntary alliance will include anchor employers such as Mercer University, the City of Macon, Macon Housing Authority and Bibb County Schools and current redevelopment efforts such as NewTown Macon, the Hills and Heights Development Corp., Historic Macon and the College Hill Corridor Commission to coordinate all redevelopment plans and propose cooperative projects.
By working together, these institutions and organizations will be able to leverage larger investments by private and public agencies and sustain these developments in the long term. The initiative will also build on the success of nationally recognized redevelopment efforts in the Beall’s Hill, Huguenin Heights and Tatnall Place neighborhoods. The alliance will coordinate neighborhood-driven economic development, preservation of historic buildings and the attraction of locally owned neighborhood businesses. The City of Macon will benefit from a stabilized tax base through the elimination of blight and the infill of new houses on empty lots.
“Collaboration and cooperation are the keys that will allow Macon to realize its potential, and Knight Foundation has facilitated future efforts with their generous grant today,” said Mayor Reichert. “I envision a great downtown with highly revitalized neighborhoods – well defined and vibrant. We need a coalition on a grand scale to get there, and this grant will be a great start for us.”
“From my arrival in Macon two years ago, I have been struck by the opportunities for economic renewal in the historic neighborhoods around downtown,” Underwood said. “Downtown redevelopment is gaining momentum, and the success of initiatives such as the Beall’s Hill neighborhood redevelopment provide a solid foundation for further expansion of redevelopment efforts. I am deeply grateful to Knight Foundation for providing a major grant that will allow the partners to combine and more effectively coordinate their efforts, while attracting new partners and additional expertise, to make this endeavor a national success story.”
“Communities are stronger when everyone works together for the greater good, and that’s what this alliance is about,” said Beverly Blake, Knight Foundation’s Macon program director. “A similar partnership in Akron, Ohio, capitalized on an initial $3 million investment and has since garnered upwards of $500 million in infrastructure, new college and community buildings focused on life-long learning, affordable housing and new business development. Macon has ideal conditions for replicating the Akron success.”
About the College Hill Corridor Commission:
The College Hill Corridor Commission is a diverse commission co-created by the City of Macon and Mercer University to create a pedestrian and bike-friendly path between Mercer University and downtown. Along the way, the Commission intends to add economic value to the city's tax base, beautify residential and commercial areas, attract and retain creative young professionals and program fun public events. For more information, visit www.collegehillcorridor.com.
About Mercer University:
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University has 7,300 students; 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies; major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah; three regional academic centers across the state; a university press; two teaching hospitals — Memorial Health University Medical Center and the Medical Center of Central Georgia; educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta; an engineering research center in Warner Robins; a performing arts center in Macon; and a NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation:
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of Macon and 25 other U.S. communities. Knight Foundation focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change. To learn more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.