P&Z: Changes coming to downtown Macon historic churches; ‘Crisco House’ hotel project update

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission also approves new industry expansion, Windsor Academy goat barn, more downtown lofts but pauses on group homes


First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church plans to create an outdoor worship space by removing the old Sunday School building and office of the late architect Ellamae Ellis League.

The First Presbyterian Church may proceed with building an outdoor worship space after the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission gave its blessing to updated plans Monday. Those plans include the demolitions of the nearly century-old Sunday School building and the former office of trailblazing female architect Ellamae Ellis League.

Last fall, P&Z ruled decisions it made in the 90s to permit the demolition of the two historic buildings on the church’s Mulberry Street grounds still stood since the church’s master plan introduced 30 years ago was still a work in progress and had not been abandoned.

In prior meetings, Historic Macon Foundation and local architects spoke against the demolitions, but P&Z ruled the matter was already settled.

In November, the Design Review Board had concerns about the incomplete design of the courtyard lighting and other features, so they asked architect Trey Wood to return when the layout was finalized.

Earlier this month, the DRB lacked a quorum to formally vote on the updated design but did not raise any major objections. DRB Chair Chris Clark did suggest replacing planned Yoshino cherry trees with Japanese magnolias to mimic the Mulberry Street median.

“Looking forward to seeing the plan come to fruition,” Clark said. “I think it would give a great space for the church.”

The church has agreed to let Historic Macon Foundation to fully document the historical nature of the two buildings that will be removed to preserve their memory.

The Design Review Board also signed off on Christ Church’s landscaping plan for 566 Walnut St. which P&Z also approved during Monday’s meeting.

After the decay and removal of two water oaks on the grounds, the church will plant new trees to replace them as well as bring in some camelias and other plants in front of the parish house.

Alex Smith Garden Design Limited also plans a creeping fig vine to be trained over the arched front entryway to the building.

P&Z commissioners did not hear about plans for an upscale inn at 619 College St. that originally was on the agenda because the applicants withdrew their proposal for now, but still plan to move forward. In recent months, Michael Rivellino and Carrie Genzel met with neighbors at Historic Macon’s headquarters to talk about their proposal to convert what is known as the “Crisco House” into a private residence with rented guest rooms.

The 1901 Beaux-Arts home was built for Wallace E. McCaw, the president of the Macon Manufacturing Company that created the vegetable shortening.

The couple was seeking to have the property rezoned to allow the commercial operation, but has reached the limited of allowed deferrals and had to withdraw the application that is expected to be resubmitted once plans are finalized, according to P&Z staff.

New industry already planning for expansion

Agile Cold Storage hopes to open Phase 1 of its construction later this year off Joe Tamplin Blvd. (Agile Cold Storage)

Weeks after Agile Cold Storage broke ground on 30 acres off 917 Joe Tamplin Blvd., the Georgia-based company was already expanding its plans for the Macon-Bibb County industrial park.

The prospect of new customers, the need for a rail line and the need for more space for workers brought Agile back to planning and zoning with updates to its two-phase construction project.

The company, which will be freezing poultry for transport and storage, originally planned to build 271,000 square feet but now desires to increase that to 320,000 square feet.

With the expansion, Phase 1 is expected to employ more than 150 workers, so engineers added additional space for offices, breakrooms, lockers and restrooms for employees.

P&Z approved the changes and the company hopes to be in operation later this year.

Group home decisions must wait 6 months

The decision whether to allow a few proposed group homes will have to wait until this summer due to a required six-month waiting period for such residences under Georgia law.

At 4528 Cavalier Drive, applicant Joycelyn Adams wants to open a re-entry facility catering to females at least 21 years old who may be returning to society from prison or the military, as well as those struggling to keep a roof over their heads.

Adams has been seeking approval for the property since July of 2021 and has submitted different versions of her proposal.

She first sought to have a halfway house, but after concerns were raised about the proximity to Mount De Sales Academy’s athletic fields, the application was withdrawn before the end of the six-month waiting period, according to P&Z.

Last February, P&Z approved Adams’ second proposal for temporary housing for young adults who had aged out of foster care. Residents would have been limited to ages 17-22 and could not have had any prior legal offenses, substance abuse or behavioral issues.

The P&Z staff report on the latest proposal commented: “Halfway homes and affordable housing are an important resource for the community. The difficulty is locating these homes in an appropriate location that will not harm existing nearby uses.”

The report further stated that the “only potential source of discord is the Mt. De Sales athletic complex located at 4659 Cavalier Drive.”

Commissioners also are considering whether to grant approval to turn the home at 1343 Carling Ave. into a rooming house for up to 15 women recovering from substance abuse.

Recovery Under the Healer, or RUTH, will provide housing while the women seek treatment, but does not plan to offer those services at the house.

Commissioners must also decide whether to approve the Macon Rescue Mission’s expansion plans at 6601 Zebulon Road.

The mission, which moved to the 196-acre grounds of the former Hephzibah Home after zoning approval in 2018, wants to build a transition house for women where they can work towards independent living. The home is just one aspect of the two-phase plan, but means the project will require the same six-month waiting period.

The Rescue Mission wants to renovate three buildings, two to become multipurpose buildings and a third for maintenance. They would also like to add a 10,000-square-foot metal building to process donated materials for their retail thrift shop and an additional 2,000 square feet for furniture restoration.

Phase 2 would call for four additional multi-purpose buildings, and four more houses – two for men and two for women. At the completion of the project, the Rescue Mission would house up to 240 residents on the campus near Interstate 475.

After P&Z held Monday’s hearings on these group homes, the board cannot render its decision until at least July 23, but must do so before Oct. 23, under the law.

Windsor Academy gets their goats

The new 4-H agricultural learning program at Windsor Academy will be getting a 30 by 40 foot metal barn on its 28-acre property at 4050 Jones Road, after P&Z approved its application.

The school needed a variance in distance requirements to build the barn on the rear of the property.

Ashley Fisher, the school’s 4-H advisor, wrote in a letter to P&Z that the private school recently created a “Garden to Table” project for elementary students to grow and harvest food in addition to the new Livestock Show Team.

“Windsor is the only private school in the Middle Georgia area that offers this program for their students,” Fisher stated in the letter.

A neighboring property owner wrote a letter of support for the project.

Goats are expected to be housed in the enclosed barn from June to October.

In other business

496 Second St. – Oliver’s Corner Bistro was approved for 16 window replacements, 15 on the second floor and one on the first floor, at the corner of Poplar Street.

985 MLK Jr. Blvd. – P&Z rezoned the 0.27-acre property from wholesale and light industrial to Central Business District 2 to allow for construction of 22 new loft apartments, including 16 one-bedroom efficiency units in the former 20,121-square-foot warehouse. The project was deferred three times as the owners secured additional parking that would meet guidelines. They have a pending agreement to purchase 1047 MLK Jr. Blvd. which will provide 21 spaces.

An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Michael Rivellino. Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.