Mercer Awarded Major Grant for Redevelopment Alliance

Redevelopment efforts in downtown Macon and the surrounding neighborhoods have received a major boost from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Mercer 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 June 6 by Macon Mayor Robert A. B. Reichert and Mercer President William D. Underwood during a news conference at Mercer Village, 1645 Montpelier Ave.

To watch streaming video of the news conference, click here.

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.”

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