Another new downtown hotel planned; Macon Rocks Climbing Gym project update

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Liz Fabian

A new Avid hotel could open as early as August of 2021 on this vacant lot at 567 Second St. in downtown Macon.

By the end of next summer, InterContinental Hotels Group, or IHG, hopes to open a new Avid hotel in downtown Macon.

Crow Hospitality Investment Group’s John Crow presented his plan Monday to the Design Review Board of the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission.

On the vacant lot at 555-567 Second St., between Poplar and Plum streets, Five Fifty Five LLC proposes a four-story, 87-room, limited service hotel with no restaurant or bar.

A “grab-and-go” pantry would offer prepared food items and beverages for take-out.

This would be the community’s second Avid hotel after P&Z approved in February a 92-room location at 3969 River Place Drive off of Arkwright Road.

“It’s a prototype plan as we have to balance meeting brand standards with any requirements that you all have,” Crow told the board as they looked over the design from the newest division of IHG.

Although the nearly 40,000 square foot hotel would front Second Street next to Larry Bush’s Riverside Tire, the main entrance would be on the Poplar Street Lane alley.

“It’s an urban location. We wanted the front to have a storefront kind of look with glass panels, brick accents and the doors coming in,” Crow said.

The bulk of the building will be synthetic stucco known as Exterior Insulating Finish Systems panels, or EIFS, the staff report noted.

“In this case, these new materials are not visually similar to the traditional materials of nearby historic buildings. … The goal for compatible new buildings in historic districts is high-quality design and construction that respects nearly historic buildings,” the report stated.

The review board has approved similar materials in downtown and signed off on this proposal with a couple of reservations concerning signage, parking and emergency access.

Crow explained that when the hotel was first proposed, property owners MMI-Thornton LLC planned to develop the whole “Central City Commons” block and were in negotiations to build a six-level parking deck with 427 spaces covered by a canopy of solar panels. That stalled parking project was key to the previously announced 140-room Hyatt Place full-service hotel with rooftop terrace and sidewalk café proposed for Poplar Street between First and Second streets. The fate of that project is uncertain.

The new Avid hotel would have 44 parking spaces on the lot and additional parking nearby through an agreement with partners, Crow said.

On the right side of the hotel is the newly renovated Crescent Building, now marketed as Central City Commons office space, which originally was considered a Phase II project of the Central City Commons block.

Board members questioned whether fire trucks would have adequate access to the building and suggested developers meet with county engineers.

The hotel’s lighted sign on the building that spells out Avid in lower case letters will also have to come back before the Design Review Board along with a smaller sidewalk level entryway sign.

The project will go before the full commission Monday for final approval of the design and a conditional use application. If approved, the company hopes to begin construction in October and finish by August of 2021.

New gym could rock downtown this fall 

Weeks of rain, steel shortages and COVID-19 have delayed the opening of Macon Rocks Climbing Gym until late this year.

Bryan Nichols, of Capricorn Investment Group LLC, returned Monday to the Design Review Board for revisions to his plans for the Macon Rocks Climbing Gym at 527 D.T. Walton Sr. Way near Poplar Street and Government Center.

Nichols revised his plans after he was told the project was not eligible for historic tax credits because the third floor was added in the 50s. Development Review Officer Adriane Wood disputed that since early maps show it was built as a three-story building.

To bring the building in line with the old Capricorn office building next door, Nichols wants to put stucco on the disputed upper floor, which is brick.

The board approved the stucco and a new wooden front entry way for the business that Nichols hopes to open by the end of November when he will light up downtown again for the Christmas Light Extravaganza.

Although he initially planned to open by this summer, delays turned out to be a blessing with the onset of COVID-19.

“We originally wanted to be open by the Olympics because rock climbing was going to be in the Olympics for the first time this year,” Nichols said.

The coronavirus was preceded by weeks of rain, then came a steel shortage and the postponement of the Summer Games.

“So we can slow down and I’m really looking forward to opening up before Christmas,” he said.

The plans go before the full P&Z commission Monday.

Contact Civic Reporting Senior Fellow Liz Fabian at 478-301-2976 or [email protected]