Blighted buildings, new duplexes to provide additional housing near downtown Macon

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning allows church in old shopping center, permits demolition of eyesore near Vineville Avenue


Liz Fabian

The vandalized and partially burned Baconsfield Office Park buildings, shown here in 2020, are being renovated into apartments.

The resurgence of downtown Macon is luring more residential development on the outskirts of the central business district.

Three vandalized and partially burned office buildings behind the North Avenue Kroger, on the site of the former Baconsfield Park, will be converted to apartments, while three new duplexes are going up on the other side of downtown, near the railroad tracks across from Little Richard Penniman Boulevard.

At Monday’s meeting, the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission approved 62 apartment units at 776 Baconsfield Drive.

Developer Ashok Patel of Kunj Construction told the commission he is planning one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments in the old office complex near Interstate 16 that became a haven for vagrants and a canvas for graffiti.

About a year ago, Mayor Lester Miller placed the property with its broken windows and fire damage on his top 10 commercial blight list.

Although P&Z staff recommended ratification without debate for the project, Chairwoman Jeane Easom wanted to know if Patel planned low-income housing.

Patel explained it was not a low-income, tax-credit project but would be a standard, market-rate property handled by a management company.

“It will help downtown… (providing housing for people) who can’t afford to live there but want to be close by,” Patel said.

Patel did not mention how much rent the management company plans to charge.

The project qualified for the Urban Development Authority’s Payment in Lieu of Taxes, or PILOT program, that defers taxes for blight remediation.

NewTown Macon is also lending money to the project to close the financing gap with the primary lender.

East Macon resident Stanley Stewart did not oppose the project but warned of investors coming in and buying up property without the community’s best interest at heart.

“Section 8 is coming into the city,” Stewart said. “I just want to make sure we do something in east Macon that’s a positive development.”

P&Z approved the project, which is expected to be complete in about nine months.

Edgewood Avenue duplexes

This termite damaged house will be razed to make way for three new two-story duplexes in the 900 block of Edgewood Avenue. (Liz Fabian)

Commissioners also signed off on the Design Review Board’s recommendation to approve three new duplexes in the 900-block of Edgewood Avenue.

Architect Shannon Fickling will be allowed to demolish a circa 1900 house with extreme termite damage at 935 Edgewood to make room for three new residences.

The previous owner gutted the interior before running into structural issues and abandoning the project, according to the staff summary.

Fickling plans to build a two-story duplex on that lot with units measuring about 1,000 square feet on each floor.

She has designed two other similar duplexes for adjacent lots at 939 and 943 Edgewood.

Demolition, deliverance and delayed development

Davis Wholesale Florist has received P&Z approval to demolish this dilapidated house at 152 Holt Avenue. (Liz Fabian)

Davis Wholesale Florist also was granted permission to demolish a vacant house at 152 Holt Ave.

“We’ve patched it up over the years, but it’s beyond repair,” Davis Wholesale’s Stewart Burgess told the Design Review Board. “It’s a blighted property and we want to do the right thing.”

After demolition, the vacant lot will be cleaned up and seeded, Burgess said.

The commission also approved Shalandra Parker’s application to move her Uncommon Ministries church from shared space on Nesbit Drive to a larger location in the old shopping center at 2730 Bloomfield Village Drive.

Parker, of SEAL Inc., said she plans to use Bible-based concepts to help people coping with life’s challenges or who have faced Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs.

“The goal is to lead people to Christ,” Parker said.

“SEAL will operate with the belief that every poor neighborhood needs uncommon churches that will seek the common good of their communities,” the application read.

When seeking approval to allow the display and sale of portable storage buildings on 6.2 acres at 4970 Sardis Church Road, developer Tim Thornton said he regretted not scheduling a pre-development meeting with P&Z staff. Thornton didn’t realize the proposal would be so complicated and require approvals from other departments such as the Macon Water Authority and the Health Department because of the existing septic tank, he said.

Coffee County Coroner Brandon Musgrove wants to lease Thornton’s property next to Quik Trip and across from the Amazon distribution center so his mostly online clientele can see the type of buildings that can be purchased.

At its last meeting two weeks ago, the commission approved a similar operation at 6423 Houston Road and required 10 feet between buildings and a dedicated path for customers to use as they drive through.

Easom noted in the administrative meeting before the hearing that the proposal was “not the highest and best use” for the property next to the Interstate 75 exit.

Thornton explained that he has another prospect for the land, but wants to strike at least a six-month lease with Musgrove which would cover his property taxes which have gone up with the neighboring development.

“We actually have a cancellation clause so if we do land that big fish,” Thornton said.

During the hearing, Easom told Thornton and Musgrove the very prominent site needs to “look nice” even in the interim.

P&Z Executive Director Jeff Ruggieri said he wants a clearly defined plan for cars to get to the buildings.

“Something where we don’t wind up with a muddy field,” Ruggieri said.

The Commission approved the plan with the conditions noted.

Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.