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Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

P&Z approves Allman Brothers Big House Museum expansion, Pleasant Hill housing

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning denied 2 interstate billboards, approved Family Justice Center, warehouse office renovations
Liz Fabian
The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission held Monday’s hearing at Macon Mall for the first time since moving offices from Terminal Station.

After the Allman Brothers Big House Museum faced strong neighborhood opposition to its expansion plans in recent years, no one spoke against the project at Monday’s hearing of the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission. 

The Big House Foundation already secured permission in October to demolish a house at 2353 Vineville and replace it with a new 1,605-square-foot event center, but returned to P&Z for a Conditional Use permit to allow a commercial museum on the property. 

A year ago, the foundation successfully lobbied for a new “museum commercial” zoning category definition in the Vineville Historic District and now needed approval for that designation on nearly 2 acres it owns. 

Four contiguous parcels on Vineville Avenue and a fifth on Corbin Avenue now compose the museum’s campus.

In P&Z’s first meeting at its new Macon Mall location, most of the chairs in the hearing room were vacant. The lack of attendees was a dramatic difference from prior meetings’ standing-room-only crowds who fought the Big House’s demolition of a condemned historic house linked to the first graduate of Wesleyan College, Catherine Brewer Benson. That house was cobbled together from buildings on the old Brewer family estate, according to testimony. 

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved demolition of this 1915 house at 2353 Vineville Ave. in 2023.(Liz Fabian)

With the house now razed, the future event center, which went through multiple meetings of design scrutiny, will host receptions, reunions and the “Reach for the Sky Music Program” to teach children music theory and how to play an instrument. 

The foundation’s neighboring house at 2363 Vineville will house the museum’s archives and a kitchen for catering.

The Big House will hold up to 15 concerts or other events each year on its campus and pledged to stop the music at 10 p.m. — an hour ahead of the 11 p.m. timeframe specified in the county’s noise ordinance. 

Attorney Matt Shoemaker said the existing bandstand pavilion is equipped with a “world class sound system designed to keep the music on the property” as much as possible. 

Attendance for all events is capped at 250. The foundation has 36 parking spaces on campus and 60 more it can use through an agreement with the church across the street. 

The Big House Museum’s regular hours will be from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sundays. Most of its special events and concerts outside of the regular schedule will occur on Saturdays, Shoemaker said. 

“The Big House, despite what people have said, they’re good neighbors and good stewards,” he said. “They’re a valuable asset for tourism and the music industry.”

P&Z commissioners unanimously granted the Conditional Use permit with Kesia Stafford absent. 

Pleasant Hill Landing plans approved

Pleasant Hill Landing will feature three residential buildings, an existing gymnasium and community building on the site of the old Macon Charter Academy.

P&Z Commissioner Jeane Easom was a little concerned about the parking layout for a new residential development on the site of the old Macon Charter Academy at 151 Madison St. 

Once she learned developers included extra parking spaces to serve the nearby soccer field at Betty Tolbert Park, Easom and the others unanimously approved plans for “Pleasant Hill Landing.” 

In-Fill Housing Inc., an arm of the Macon Housing Authority, is seeking Low Income Housing Tax Credits from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs to build 64 apartments and three commercial suites on the ground floor. 

P&Z Commissioner Tim Jones asked if there was any way to get a grocery store in one of those locations, and In-fill’s Kathleen Mathews said: “We’d love to have a grocery store in there.”

Easom asked if those spaces could be converted to residential use if there are no commercial prospects.

“We would love to see some commercial there, but it doesn’t always happen. You can’t dictate where commercial wants to go,” Easom said. 

Mathews said they could be flexible, but the whole deal is contingent on Georgia approving the tax credits this fall.  

Macon-Bibb County recently purchased the 5-acre property for $1.5 million and plans to keep the old gymnasium and another building for community space.

The blighted school building will be torn down and three residential buildings will be built with two facing Walnut Street and another adjacent to the park off of Riverside Drive. 

BTBB architect Will Stanford said the complex will be open to the neighborhood and not feel like a closed-in development.

Downtown Family Justice Center and warehouse renovation

Macon’s new Family Justice Center has a contract on the former Virgil Powers school building to serve as the One Safe Place location for victim services. (Liz Fabian)

Plans will proceed for the new One Safe Place Macon Family Justice Center in the old Virgil Powers Elementary School at 1120 Second St. 

P&Z granted a Conditional Use permit for the new headquarters of Crisis Line & Safe House and more than a dozen other agencies that provide services to victims of interpersonal violence in one central location. 

The new Family Justice Center plans to purchase the property from the Urban Development Authority next month. The county had acquired the property in 2009 amid discussions about building a new courthouse closer to the jail. 

In a pending warehouse renovation at 555 Fifth St., BTBB architects took P&Z staff’s suggestions and tweaked the window design. 

The firm is building new offices for ICB Construction and reopening bricked-in windows on the one-story building. They agreed to revert back to the one-over-one original design for the new aluminum storefront windows. 

With the changes, P&Z approved the Certificate of Appropriateness for the renovation that will include a clerestory on the roof to allow more light into the building. 

Blocking interstate billboards

Due to distracted driving concerns raised by staff, P&Z denied Conditional Use permits for two of three proposed billboards along the interstate interchange near Hartley Bridge Road. 

The one static billboard off Interstate 475 South that was approved was far enough away from the interchange of interstates 75 and 475 as to not be a distraction, staff noted.

“Motorists on this section of highway are engaged in merging and exiting and the billboards are designed to capture attention, diverting their eyes from the road. The northernmost billboard does not pose as much of an issue due to its distance from the interchange, but staff believes the southernmost billboard is not appropriate and will negatively impact highway safety,” the report stated. 

Other agenda items 

  • 130 Florida Ave. — Certificate of Appropriateness granted for design of a fence and gate. 
  • 619 College St. — Design approved for new fence and gate. 
  • 440 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. – P&Z approved a Conditional Use application for a new private event space in a first-floor suite. The 1,800-square-foot space will accommodate a maximum of 75 people for various functions between the hours of 8 a.m. and midnight Monday to Sunday. 
  • 337 Shady Lane – Variance granted for front yard setbacks for Phase 2 of the Summer Grove subdivision.

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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    ErinApr 24, 2024 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for the reporting, Liz. I’ve been skeptical and critical of The Big House expansion into the Historic Vineville neighborhood for a few years. Turning residential homes into commercial buildings in an intact area is not always the answer. The museum is not the transparent and respectable neighbor they once were, despite what a paid attorney proclaims. I’ve attended P&Z meetings, spoken out and written letters to board members requesting consideration for the stakeholders of this neighborhood. Many neighbors and residents of the city have also been doing this for the past few years. Signed petitions of neighbors in opposition have been submitted on more than one occasion. I listened to one former P&Z board member proclaim that it’s their property, they should be able to do exactly what they want with it. That was an eye opening and flippant remark that spoke volumes about board mentality. You see, the rest of the neighborhood cannot operate based on his ignorant remark, we are highly regulated on what we are allowed to do to our properties. Frankly, I’m tired of investing the time to show up, speak out and have efforts ignored or wholly dismissed by P&Z. Must we show up to yet ANOTHER meeting to voice our opposition? The board knows there is a high level of neighborhood objection to this expansion. After years of efforts and feedback from neighbors, P&Z ‘s actions have shown they are less interested in concerns and opposition by neighbors and more supportive of commercial expansion into this intact historic neighborhood. Why should we continue to spend time and energy when our efforts make little to no difference? P&Z was going to allow the expansion to be pushed through one way or another. And they have.