Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Mayor expects future growth beyond downtown, Macon Mall tourist boom, traffic woes

Lester Miller envisions new development from East Bank down MLK, through ‘Mid-City Square’ and across tracks on Seventh Street

Macon-Bibb County could be on the verge of a major construction boom in the heart of the city if Mayor Lester Miller’s development dreams play out.

During taping of this month’s Ask Mayor Miller program, Miller spoke about projects already underway and those in speculative status.

In a recent property swap with the Macon-Bibb County Hospital Authority, the county acquired the old Macon Health Club and a bank building on the northeast corners of First and Cherry streets. (7:08 into video)

The mayor anticipates reopening a portion of the health club, and welcoming a restaurant, hotel and residences across from the City Auditorium with control of 691 Cherry St. and 368, 353 First Street.

On the City Hall side of the auditorium, he also expects developers to move soon on their plans for the old Shrine Temple, which was initially announced as an e-sports facility and hotel. Enhancements are pending at Rosa Parks Square.

In the recent intergovernmental agency exchange, the Hospital Authority took over Second Street Corridor properties that former Mayor Robert Reichert envisioned as a “Mid-City Square.

Back then, the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority acquired prospective properties at 647 and 818 Pine Street to hold for that project. MBCIA is relinquishing those parcels to the Hospital Authority for a “project intended to create or retain jobs,” according to documents obtained by The Macon Newsroom.

In June, the County Commission turned over the William P. Randall building and seven nearby properties on the Second Street Corridor to the Urban Development Authority with the goal of getting them back on the tax rolls with development to further expand downtown revitalization. Those properties are included in the exchange.

While Miller could not speak to the Hospital Authority’s plans, he said that project would be “something we can all be proud of” that would spur further development toward the current jail site. He also expects that Law Enforcement Center property to be available for future development if a new jail is constructed through a 2025 SPLOST. (10:10)

“I think you’ll see the entire downtown, from the river, starting at East Bank, actually over the Coliseum property all the way through the Second Street Corridor until you get to Mercer, to be developed in the next several years,” Miller said.

After the first of the year, he expects groundbreaking on the Crescent Corners apartments at former Larry Bush Tire location at the corner of Second and Plum streets, its adjacent parking deck and hotel on Poplar Street, and the launch of a residential development and parking deck behind City Hall.

Across the railroad tracks on Seventh Street, more lofts are planned as well as a golf and pickleball entertainment venue on 22 acres near the old coal tower.

The Macon Housing Authority’s Central City Apartments workforce housing complex also will open in 2024.

The County also purchased land along Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. near Greenwood Bottom and the mayor hinted of future growth there, too. (14:40)

“I would expect to see that all the way basically from Carolyn Crayton Park,  you know, all the way down MLK until you get to the Dollar General there, and that area there,” Miller said. “We’re working on some pieces there. It takes accumulating some property and taking some steps, but you can expect, once again, to see that in the very near future.”

Miller is confident Congress will create a national park at the Ocmulgee Mounds and expects the county’s acreage across from the Coliseum to be developed into a new gateway for what would be Georgia’s only National Park.

He also expects Coliseum renovations to be included in a future SPLOST. A new entrance will be built off of the Second Street bridge where the former Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce building was demolished.

Rhythm and Rallying

The mayor also expounded on plans for the amphitheater and new Rhythm and Rally 32-court indoor pickleball facility opening in December at Macon Mall, that is billed as the world’s largest.

Memberships are available at the Rhythm and Rally Sports and Events website , but the public will be able to pay $5 to play for five hours once the facility is fully open.

By the last weekend in November, the Candy Cane Classic on December 16 and 17 had already drawn about 500 entrants from at least 10 states. Miller said a January tournament is expected to have an even broader reach. (1:25)

“I think you’ll see people from all over the world come to Macon. So, we’re going to continue to expand our horizons as far as getting people here from other places,” Miller said. “And our hope is to get them here, let them get a little taste of Macon, and I hope they come back very often.”

With Jason Aldean booked at the amphitheater next October, Riley Green coming in April and Lynyrd Skynyrd with ZZ Top in March, (5:11) Miller said he expects all three of those acts already announced to “sell more tickets than we’ve ever had in our history at any one location in Bibb County.”

“There’s about 27 more to announce. There’s going to be something for every genre. Don’t worry, if you don’t like country music, if you don’t like the rock, so far, there’s going to be something for everyone,” Miller said. “There’s also going to be some local festivals. We have some local promoters that are going to get involved and have a seat at the table and be able to do their own special events at the location. So, we’re very excited about that.”

Growing pains, homelessness, security

While Miller said it was premature to discuss a new “Show the Way” census app United to End Homelessness is using to track those living on the streets, the county is making progress with its unhoused population. (19:18)

“These are human beings. They find themselves in a very bad situation, but we also have to make sure that the aggressive panhandlers, the people there may be committing a theft or causing other problems are handled in a proper way,” Miller said.

Camping under interstate bridges is illegal in Georgia and the county is working with the Georgia Department of Transportation to better enforce those restrictions.

The county also has worked out a temporary agreement with the Salvation Army, he said. (19:55)

“They’re going to start taking single males and females again, and they’re going to help try to build capacity, there. So, we’re continuing to work all together,” Miller said.

New ATVs will be purchased through a $200,000 grant from the Peyton Anderson Foundation for the county to better patrol downtown, Carolyn Crayton Park, the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail and Amerson Park. Miller said either code enforcement, or private security officers will be better able to navigate narrow alleys and paths to make sure they are clear of debris or security concerns.  (12:13)

The public comment period is underway for the Bass Road widening project from Providence Blvd. to New Forsyth Road, but Miller said the public will have to be patient with the congestion in the meantime.

“Believe it or not, we have sped up the project. I can’t control what happened five years ago, of course, and it should have happened yesterday,” Miller said. “We want to hear from the people out in that area. It’s going to continue to grow. So, you now, just fasten your seatbelts and get ready for more growth. Traffic is one of those things a growing community has to go through.”

Miller said the county will continue to work with GDOT on projects such as continuing sidewalks along major thoroughfares like Riverside Drive.

The hiring of a new Transportation Safety Manager is imminent, he said, and he still plans to retool the Pedestrian Safety Review Board with a redirected goal of advocacy and education instead of fatality research and investigation. (21:45)

-Have thoughts on where the county should be headed in 2024? Send your questions and comments for the yearend Ask Mayor Miller to [email protected]. Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.


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