Left to Right: Mike Ford, CEO of NewTown Macon, Kevin DuBose, co-chair of the College Hill Corridor Commission, Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, Mercer Law Student Matthew Wetherington, Mercer President William Underwood, Ingleside Village Pizza Franshisee Andrew Collier and IVP owner Tina Dickson, cut the ribbon to officially open the pizza restaurant, located across from Mercer's Macon campus.
MACON — More than 100 Mercer University students, faculty and staff joined President William D. Underwood and a number of city officials on April 23 to celebrate the opening of the second location of Ingleside Village Pizza on Montpelier Avenue, adjacent to Mercer’s Macon Campus. The celebration also marked the beginning of the University’s and College Hill Corridor Commission’s vision for the retail area along Montpelier, just north of campus. The new project, currently under development, will be called the Mercer Village and will eventually include a number of college-friendly businesses.
One of Macon’s local favorites, IVP is the first college-friendly businesses to open in the College Hill Corridor – the area between the Macon campus and downtown – since the formation of the College Hill Corridor Commission, which resulted from a student class project. Among the students who worked on the development of the Commission idea was Matthew Wetherington, now a first-year law student at Mercer.
“I really appreciate all the input and the encouragement we’ve had from all areas of the city and all areas of this university,” Wetherington told the gathering. “This is a great first step in bringing students off campus and really seeing what we have to offer as a Mercer-Macon community.”
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert was also on hand to celebrate the event and praised the initiative. “This is the kind of good thing that can happen when strong institutions, like Mercer University, and local government, like the city of Macon, can partner with private enterprise and to come to together to create something that is so wonderful,” he said. “It provides a service, it provides a significant attraction and benefit to everybody – not to mention the fact that it goes back on the tax rolls today — so from the city’s perspective we really appreciate that.”
The College Hill Corridor Commission was co-created by the City of Macon and Mercer University to create a physical, cultural and social path to connect Mercer University and downtown. Part of that process has been working with Mercer to chart the future of Mercer Village, a historic neighborhood commercial center that is currently underutilized. The Commission has held two community design charrettes with leading college town planners to explore possibilities. The Commission has reached a community consensus that Mercer Village must be a beautiful place. The Commissioners also believe that the Village should consist of traditionally designed buildings with mixed uses such as student housing and retail. Finally, the Commission is prioritizing “college town cool,” locally owned, unique tenants that invite both students and neighborhood residents to eat, shop, relax and interact.
The College Hill Corridor Commission received a grant from the Community Foundation of Central Georgia to develop a master plan for Mercer Village. Inspiring ideas such as new infill buildings, roundabouts, student housing, coffee shops, bookstores, porches and even a market could be part of this plan, which is still under development.
Referencing the plans for the expansion of retail redevelopment along the Corridor, Commission Co-Chair Kevin DuBose, also the city of Macon’s director of economic and community development, gestured eastward toward downtown Macon as he addressed the crowd.
“Now listen, this is step one, this is store front number one, we’re going that way,” DuBose said. “We’re going that way and we’re going to make a great connection to downtown.”
Though the idea of drawing students toward downtown is one of the primary objectives of the College Hill Corridor Commission, NewTown Macon CEO Mike Ford told the crowd to expect many downtown residents and business people to come westward to amenities such as IVP.
“I have a surprise for you – this is also a connection of downtown to Mercer,” Ford said. “I think you’re going to see a lot of us older guys and girls up here. We’re very excited about this opening, it’s a big thing for Macon and here we come!”
After the ribbon cutting, students, faculty and staff packed into the nearly 3,000-square-foot pizza restaurant to sample the pizza, cooked up by IVP owner Tina Dickson and IVP Franchisee Andrew Collier.
Students at the event expressed their excitement about having such a great amenity so near campus.
“This just makes the campus that much more complete,” said Kevin Waits, a senior biology major.
Yasmen Srour, a senior biology major, lamented the fact that she was graduating before she could make full use of the restaurant. “This is a great idea, and it will be so convenient for everyone, especially for people who commute to school and don’t want to have to drive far away to grab lunch.”
Kate Mudrak, a junior sociology major, was even more effusive, and said she would be coming to the restaurant at least once a week.
“This is the best idea Mercer has had since I’ve been here,” she said.
Wetherington, who was still talking with friends in the restaurant after the ribbon cutting, said he hoped the ribbon cutting was just the beginning of the process of linking Mercer students to Macon’s downtown.
“This is an important first step in getting students to come off campus and see just how much the city of Macon has to offer,” Wetherington said.
— 30 —