MACON — Jessica Walden has been named director of communications and outreach for the College Hill Alliance, effective Sept. 14. Walden is currently director of communications for Imedia Group, where she edits, writes and coordinates two of the company’s community-based business publications, address Macon and Houston County Magazine.
Walden fills the first of three staff positions for the newly formed College Hill Alliance, which is funded by a $5 million grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation. The grant for the Alliance was announced in June and is designed to reshape the city’s first neighborhoods into a vibrant college town connected by leafy roads and bike paths to the city’s downtown.
“This is an important position with the Alliance and Jessica’s commitment to and experience with this project will prove invaluable,” said Sarah Gerwig-Moore, associate professor of law at Mercer and co-chair of the College Hill Corridor Commission. “We have a great story to tell, and Jessica is the one to help us. Her varied experience in marketing and service to the community makes her a perfect fit.”
Deeply committed to downtown development and her hometown community, Walden has been an advocate of the College Hill Corridor since its inception, regularly attending major events hosted by the organization and participating in the public forums regarding the development and implementation of the College Hill Master Plan.
“After graduation, I returned from Atlanta and became invested in my community. I understand the need for other members of the creative class to do the same,” Walden said. “Working for the College Hill Alliance is truly a professional opportunity to follow my heart and strengthen our community. I’ve been impressed with the momentum, resources and leadership within the College Hill Corridor, and I look forward to working with that leadership to ensure the progressive revitalization of Macon. I hope we can continue to develop Macon as a great place to live, to work, go to school or to operate a business.”
A Macon native, Walden began her career as the public relations and events specialist at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. She later worked as a writer and editor for the 11th Hour weekly newspaper and managing editor of Georgia Music Magazine. For the past three years, Walden has served as marketing chair on the Bragg Jam Festival’s board of directors. She also serves on the MAGA Film Festival board of directors and various other volunteer committees aimed at promoting downtown Macon, community diversity, animal welfare and the local arts and culture scene. Since 2006, she has remained an active mentor with the Mentors Project of Bibb County. She is currently a member of Leadership Macon’s Class of 2009.
“Jessica’s experience and contacts in the Macon community made her the perfect fit for the College Hill Alliance’s communications director,” said Andrew Blascovich, director of external affairs for the city of Macon and co-chair of the College Hill Corridor Commission. “As a member of the commission, I am excited by what Jessica will bring to the overall College Hill mission on a full-time basis.”
Walden graduated from Georgia State University in 2000, cum laude, with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism. During her college tenure, she worked for Capricorn Records, the company her family founded in Macon in 1969.
The Knight Foundation committed $2 million to Mercer University to fund the College Hill Alliance for three years and $3 million to the Community Foundation of Central Georgia to fund residents’ best ideas for transforming the neighborhoods along the College Hill Corridor. The College Hill Alliance, with offices in Mercer Village, will focus on accelerating neighborhood revitalization. Specifically, the alliance will implement the master plan that will beautify the area, create a business case to attract private investment to College Hill and seek additional funding for the neighborhood.
The basic elements of the College Hill Corridor initiative were conceived in a Mercer Senior Capstone class taught by Dr. Peter Brown, senior vice provost and professor of philosophy and interdisciplinary studies, in the fall of 2006. A Community Foundation of Central Georgia grant, from its Knight Fund, allowed the students to travel to Washington, D.C., to meet with Richard Florida of the Creative Class Group to learn how they could help spur economic development in the College Hill area. Florida’s work focuses on diversity and creativity as basic drivers of innovation and regional and national growth. The students concluded that Macon was well positioned to recruit and grow creative service industries, such as graphic design, marketing and the arts, by retaining talented young people graduating from the city’s academic institutions.
Inspired by this visit, the Mercer students proposed a plan to make Macon more attractive to young professionals by connecting Mercer and the downtown area to create a “college town” atmosphere. In response, Mercer President William D. Underwood and then-Macon Mayor C. Jack Ellis formed the College Hill Corridor Commission in the spring of 2007 to make the idea a reality.
About the College Hill Corridor Commission
The College Hill Corridor Commission is a diverse, 18-member organization appointed jointly by the City of Macon and Mercer University. Its goal is to restore the social and physical fabric between the Mercer campus and downtown Macon. 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 enrolls more than 8,000 students in 11 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing and continuing and professional studies – on major campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah and at three regional academic centers across the state. Mercer is affiliated with two teaching hospitals — Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah and the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. The University operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. For more information, visit www.mercer.edu.
— 30 —