Pio Nono community center, 2 fast food eateries approved at P&Z

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Liz Fabian

Artist Whitney explains the balloon motif on the new ATAP community center mural at the corner of Pio Nono Avenue and Hendley Street across from Hillcrest Avenue. “We all rise when we lift each other,” Whitney said Monday after the All Things Are Possible organization secured P&Z approval for the project.

Monday afternoon’s breeze blew around a couple of balloon bouquets tethered to what used to be a plain white building.

Colorful murals coming to life at 880 Pio Nono Ave. hint at the future of the old Hillcrest Cleaners as the ATAP Community Center at the corner of Hendley Street.

Macon-Bibb County’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved Sherry Williams-Mitchell’s request to use the building to mentor youth, their parents and artists through ATAP, which stands for All Things Are Possible.

Williams-Mitchell, who told commissioners she moved here from California, is the “Chief Equipping Officer” for the organization that serves the Golden State along with Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Mississippi and Georgia.

She had been helping families at a local apartment complex that recently changed hands and the program was discontinued. In the interim, she has been working out of her home, but has outgrown the space.

“We’d like the building to be a place of unity where people can come and be inspired,” Williams-Mitchell told commissioners.

The P&Z board raised concerns about possible environmental concerns on the property from the years as a dry cleaner, but she assured them she was told there were no harmful chemicals used.

“We want to transform this building into a beacon of light and unity, family, health and wellness in Macon,” she wrote in her application.

They will foster computer and educational literacy, life skills and operate a food bank for the Green Meadows apartments, she said.

The old Hillcrest Cleaners is becoming the All Things Are Possible, or ATAP, community center at 880 Pio Nono Ave., which is at the corner of Hendley Street. (Liz Fabian)

Already a grant-funded coalition of artists has begun transforming the building that sits across from Hillcrest Avenue.

One of them, the mononymous Whitney, was using the balloons for reference to the ones he’s painting.

“I’m like Madonna. Just one name,” he said, pulling out official funding contracts. “Eventhough it’s confidential, it’s not secret. We got funding for this. This is amazing. I’m able to make sure all of the artists in Macon can have the opportunity to do this.”

He points to the balloons to explain the mission of the endeavor.

“We all rise when we lift each other,” Whitney said. “If I lift you up, guess what? You’re going to rise up and you’re going to be in a position to lift others. So, that’s the whole joy and the concept of this piece.”

New Popeye’s revives Forest Hill Village

Planning and Zoning Commissioner Tim Jones had just one question about the planned Popeye’s at 3980 Northside Drive, “When’s the opening date?”

Engineer Don Carter said with P&Z’s conditional use approval, it could be open by the end of the year.

“It only takes about three months to build,” Carter told him before they unanimously signed off on the plan.

By the end of 2021, a new Popeye’s restaurant is expected to open at 3980 Northside Drive in the Forest Hill Village Shopping Center. (Liz Fabian )

Taraz Darabi has secured approval to build a 2,100-square-foot, 28-seat restaurant with a drive-thru on a nearly three-quarters of an acre in the middle of Forest Hill Village. The nearly vacant shopping center also houses Nu-Way and the old Rivalry’s sports bar.

The brick veneer and stucco building could be the first of some new activity for the shopping center as there was talk during the meeting about a new buyer for the property.

Carter said the Popeye’s shouldn’t take up too many parking spaces as the use of the old buildings could eventually be some type of storage units.

“The intensity of use will be much less than it was initially,” Carter said.

P&Z chairwoman Jeane Easom was concerned about traffic flow off of Northside if people try to “save 10 seconds” and circumvent going around the building to get into the drive-thru lanes.

“Not sure we can correct that,” Carter told her.

“Nothing is going to be there to prevent that?” she asked.

“Other than good sense and manners?” was Commissioner Gary Bechtel’s light-hearted reply.

Taco Bell for Thomaston

The latest project approved for the Tobesofkee Crossing Shopping Center is a new Taco Bell at 5571 Thomaston Road, which is in the right corner of the northeast side of the new Publix parking lot.

A new Taco Bell will be built on the northeast corner of the Tobesofkee Crossings Shopping Center anchored by Publix in the 5500 block of Thomaston Road. (Liz Fabian)

The Tacala franchise out of Birmingham, Alabama, will be building the 2,700-square-foot, 55-seat restaurant on about two-thirds of an acre.

A P&Z sign marked the elevated plot that will require developers to build a retaining wall on the back side of the property.

Easom was concerned there was no sketch of the wall’s design, but asked that one be submitted before the permit is issued.

Commissioners approved the use of the property and the variance for the wall with that condition.

OTHER ITEMS APPROVED

468 Hawthorn Trail – Commissioners approved new architectural designs and materials for WJH Century Complete to build in The Highlands neighborhood. Construction stalled in financial crisis of 2007-08.

Lochwolde Drive and York Lane – WJH Century Complete also received approval for 15 new houses in another abandoned subdivision off Thomaston Road. Changes to the original architectural designs were approved for the cluster subdivision at 111 and 115 Lochwolde and 208 – 252 York Lane.

1120 Second Street – P&Z approved a revised site plan for 48-multi-family dwellings at the old Virgil Powers Elementary School at 1120 Second Street and 1161 Third Street. Woda Cooper Development is once again applying for tax credits to build affordable housing for low-income tenants.

1580 Oglethorpe Street – The Design Review Board and P&Z commissioners allowed changes to the exterior for a new roof on the brick house on the corner of Linden Avenue.

Contact Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]