Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

Macon Community News

The Macon Newsroom

P&Z allows virtual reality site for work and play, OKs awning for new downtown bistro 

Macon-Bibb Planning & Zoning Commission revisits two delayed business proposals after approvals expire 
Liz Fabian
Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning approved a new virtual reality business in a suite at 2249 Heath Road. ImpactXR Academy plans a fully immersive and interactive experience for entertainment or education.

Patrons of a new business on Heath Road can tour the world, safely train to do electrical wiring or learn coding skills. 

Monday, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved ImpactXR Academy’s application to use an office suite at 2249 Heath Road as a virtual reality “edutainment space.”

“Impact XR Academy aims to blend learning and entertainment in an innovative and immersive way, providing visitors with unique educational experiences that go beyond traditional learning methods,” Sammy Coons’ application stated. 

Coons plans offer virtual reality (VR) workforce development courses and host private parties in a 1500-square-foot suite in the commercial building near the intersection of Thomaston Road. 

“ImpactXR Academy combines the concept of fully 360 immersive and interactive capabilities of virtual reality technology with the goal of creating an engaging and educational environment where students and visitors can experience a variety of virtual reality content,” the application stated. 

ImpactXR Academy will provide a virtual reality experience inside an office suite at 2249 Heath Road.

Coons will set up labs within the suite, which will include 10 computer stations for research, interacting with the Metaverse in 2D, training and exams.  

There will be five stations for individuals to use the VR headsets and equipment, and three group stations to accommodate parties of two, six or 10. 

ImpactXR Academy plans to be open Mon. – Fri. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Private parties will be allowed from 5-8 p.m. Wed. through Fri. and from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. on Saturdays. They will be closed on Sundays. 

Three employees are expected to run the operation, which intends to partner with schools and businesses to provide certification for some courses. 

New bistro to open this month in downtown 

By the end of this month, another taste of Cajun country is coming to Cherry Street. 

Yay Beignets & Cajun Bistro plans to open by the end of May in the Theatre Macon building that most recently housed Ladda Bistro. (Liz Fabian)

P&Z approved a new red awning for Theatre Macon’s latest tenant, Yay Beignet & Cajun Bistro at 442 Cherry St. 

George Drake, who opened his first location in Atlanta on Irwin Street near the BeltLine and the Krog Street Market, plans to open his second restaurant by the end of the month in the old Ladda Bistro/Lemongrass/Bert’s Bistro/Krystal spot in the theatre building next to the alley. 

Drake followed an Atlanta customer’s suggestion and brought his food truck to last fall’s Macon Beer Festival where he discovered the downtown resurgence. 

“We met a lot of people. We really enjoyed that,” he said. “The area has grown a lot because I hadn’t been here in probably like 11 or 12 years. So it’s changed a lot since then.”

After moving from Ethiopia to the States when he was 8 years old, he says he’s found a new home in Macon. 

“We actually relocated here because I don’t miss the Atlanta traffic,” Drake said. “I like it here.”

In addition to the signature square fried donuts, he will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and sell gourmet Ethiopian coffee. 

“We’ll have Poboys, red beans and rice. We’ll have wings and Cajun. Some pasta, we call it Bourbon Street Spaghetti. We’ll have quite a few different offerings there,” he said. 

Resurrecting expired applications, airing convenience store issues

P&Z approved Vasantha Edussuriya’s latest plans for a used car lot at 4606 & 4614 Log Cabin Drive.

In 2022, P&Z told the applicant for a used car sales office in the 4600 block of Log Cabin Drive that the design need to fit in with nearby “million dollar properties.” (Liz Fabian)

The commission originally approved the conditional use of the property in July of 2022, but the approval expired a year later because Edussuriya did not proceed with the necessary steps toward zoning compliance. 

Edussuriya admitted he did not get the necessary permits to build his office building, either. 

Commissioners noted the two-story building was not the same design they approved nearly two years ago. 

He must get the necessary permits retroactively, but will be allowed to operate his business with a few changes from the original application, including only expecting half the vehicle inventory originally planned. 

Edussuriya intends to offer for sale about 25 vehicles on the front portion of the lot after abandoning plans to store more vehicles on a gravel lot in the rear. 

Another delayed project at 1433 Eisenhower Parkway also was on Monday’s agenda, but Widner & Associates deferred its conditional use application until later this month.

Matt Widner said he planned to use the time to provide more information about the project for commissioners and P&Z staff. 

According to the application, the company plans to build a 48 ft. by 48 ft. canopy over four fuel dispensers serving eight gas pumps near the corner of Pio Nono Avenue and Eisenhower Parkway. K-Mart and Kroger once anchored that shopping center across the parkway from old Westgate Mall. 

The fueling center was originally part of a 2022 conditional use application to build a convenience store in the old Subway location on the west end of the shopping center.

A building permit was approved in 2022, but expired the following year. 

Commissioners noted in their administrative meeting that there are already multiple gas stations near that location, which could contribute to business abandonment and blight if they do not succeed. 

During P&Z’s public comment period, developer Jim Rollins tried to persuade commissioners to drop restrictions prohibiting fuel pumps within 500 feet of a residence or residential zoning district. 

“I don’t think the rule is correct. Most cities on the Eastern Seaboard did away with the distance rule,” said Rollins, who had to remove gas pumps from the new convenience store about to open on Forsyth Street near Monroe Street.

He indicated concerns over cancer-causing benzene gas being released are exaggerated because the Environmental Protection Agency limits the amount allowed in gasoline to negligible levels, and vapor reclamation devices on the pumps reduce the emissions.

Rollins said the real health threat from benzene occurs when it’s in drinking water. 

Commissioners listened, but did not respond, as is customary during public comments.  

Other agenda items

  • 753 College St. — New signs approved for St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. 
  • 986 Cole St. — Design Review Board and P&Z approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for an addition and window replacement. Laurie Fickling plans to demolish a back bathroom and deck and build a new bedroom and bathroom on the rear of the house. 
  • 4443 Napier Ave. — P&Z approved a Conditional Use application for Scott Harley to use the house as a professional office for his lending business, Elite Pre-Settlement LLC, to serve the neighboring used car lot not far from Forsyth Road.
  • 456, 464 Hawthorne St. — P&Z approved a variance for front yard setbacks to allow Ronald Lambkin to add on to the properties.

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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