Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Miller: Housing could save Pleasant Hill school, lofts likely near Macon Mall, old hotel coming down, Dist. 9 appointment explained

‘Ask Mayor Miller’ gives the public a chance to question Macon-Bibb County Mayor Lester Miller monthly by emailing [email protected]

Macon-Bibb County intends to spend $6.3 million on two properties on the edge of downtown, lobby the Georgia General Assembly, welcome a new District 9 commissioner to District 9 and evaluate progress of the Macon Violence Prevention program.

During this month’s taping of the Ask Mayor Miller program, Mayor Lester Miller elaborated on his plans for a number of projects including purchase of the old Hilton hotel on First Street for $4.8 and buying the old Progressive Christian/Macon Charter Academy property at Madison and Walnut streets.

The blighted high-rise hotel will be torn down as Miller estimates it would cost $120 million to renovate it. (0:38 into video)

“Folks that tried it before went bankrupt, right? You can’t just inject a little capital there thinking you’re going to save this building,” Miller said. “So, it’s going to be cost prohibitive.”

The mayor plans to salvage as much of the contents as he can from the former Ramada and Downtown Hotel, make money from selling the property and possibly even get paid for an implosion.

“Probably doing a demolition or implosion or explosion, whatever you want to call it. Maybe for made for TV, but the building needs to come down,” he said. “Between the dirt underneath the building and the contents, it’s going to exceed the $4.5 (million) to $4.8 million that we’re paying for it. So, it’s make way for some great development in that area right there outside the courthouse and even riverfront property. So, we’re excited about that. And I think people are going to be satisfied with the final product.”

Affordable housing is the goal in the county purchasing the old school property in Pleasant Hill for $1.5 millon. (2:41)

Although the main building was built less than 10 years ago for the Macon Charter Academy, it also needs to come down, he said.

“It’s got major, major problems. It wasn’t the best construction there. I’ve been in the building. I wouldn’t go there now without a full hazmat suit on,” Miller said. “The walls are just black and mildewed. There have been leaks there for ages. Looks OK on the outside, but it wasn’t constructed very good.”

Desperately needed affordable housing could also save the neighborhood elementary school.

“L.H. Williams has been one of those schools that has lost a lot of property and is in jeopardy of having to close or consolidate. One way to save it is to have great projects like this that bring children to the neighborhood and give affordable housing so they can keep the school up to code there.”

Miller is consulting the Pleasant Hill neighborhood about plans to put a gymnasium and another building on the property to community use and possibly set up a food co-op.

New development at Macon Mall

While the Macon Action Plan is currently eliciting public input for project to boost the community, Miller explained plans for several acres recently acquired by the Urban Development Authority across from the new amphitheater at Macon Mall near Central Georgia Technical College. (20:34)

“Mixed use development would be the best case over there to have some additional retails and restaurants, as well as some, we call them lofts these days, but really just housing units there for professionals and for students and things of that nature,” Miller said.

He also hinted of a major announcement coming soon on the mall property itself where the Rhythm and Rally, the world’s largest indoor pickleball facility, recently opened. (21:01)

“I think the pickleball itself has shown the need for a hotel, perhaps on the site, and I think that’s something we’re definitely looking at, and some more restaurants and other retail possibilities there,” Miller said.

The amphitheater is on track to open in March, but the mayor is still mum on what is planned for the first event. Seats should being installed in the coming weeks and the public will soon learn details about what the venue will be called I the “very, very near future.”

With early voting in the March 12 Presidential Preference Primary beginning Feb. 19, Miller said he is confident the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections and Supervisor Tom Gillon will have the necessary signage to guide voters to the new office on the west side of the mall near the old Sears location. (22:39)

“We’ll have plenty of signage there. I’m not worried about that. And we’ll also be addressing very, very soon, you’ll hear about the plan for seniors that can’t maybe make it the entire way to the Board of Elections to have other options there very nearby,” Miller said.

Violence prevention and politics

Miller also said he has no local legislation before the Georgia General Assembly, but applauded the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce’s plans for Macon Day on Feb. 1 at the State Capitol.(13:32)

“I think it’s very important if we’re gonna look for those dollars to make their way outside of Atlanta to Macon-Bibb County, we’ve got to better partner,” he said. “Let them know who we are and the numbers that we have an how important that Middle Georgia is, and Macon is to the state of Georgia.”

The mayor also explained his thought process on how he chose to nominate Macon-Bibb County Commissioner Brendalyn Bailey for the unexpired term of former commissioner Al Tillman, who stepped down from his post in District 9 to pursue business opportunities with Macon-Bibb and other local governments. (6:14)

After Tillman announced he was stepping aside during taping of a Central Georgia Focus program, allegations surfaced that he was no longer living in the district. Tax records show Tillman’s wife sold their home last May, which prompted local NAACP President Gwen Westbrook to question whether Tillman’s resignation was timed to necessitate a political appointment rather than a special election.

Miller also said he had no knowledge that Tillman might have been living outside of the district.

“I’ve never known at one point the Mr. Tillman didn’t live in his district. Far as I know, he continues to live in the district and always has been,” he said.

The mayor also elaborated on plans to evaluate the success of the various services operating with grants from the Macon Violence Prevention program. (16:14)

An update is planned for the County Commission in March.

Send your questions for the next 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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