Hooray for Hollywood

June 17, 2012 

Just as the movie cameras are capturing images of our historic Terminal Station, an old service garage located at Third and Plum Streets, plus the store fronts situated in an area of Second and Cherry Streets, ironically, Macon City Council has to deal with dilapidated houses.

The movie makers came to town several months ago and recognized the prospects in transforming choice facades into what will simulate the airport in New Orleans, a Pensacola Greyhound bus station and a midtown New York City business establishment, circa 1946.

As great as the properties originally appeared, construction crews associated with the movie “42,” a story about baseball great Jackie Robinson spent the better part of two weeks giving each site curb appeal.

Honestly, the brick veneer at Third and Plum hasn’t looked this good in decades. Amazing what a few people, brooms and fresh paint can do to even a broken-down car repair shop.

While elected officials are attempting to resolve the issue of abandoned and decrepit houses and plywood and brick walls that are less than appealing on sidewalks of local eateries, perhaps the Hollywood “make-over” may be the impetus that helps commercial and residential downtown property owners consider a spruce up to the area.

It appears the majority of City Council, Planning and Zoning and Economic & Community Development understand that the standards and codes have to be enforced when it comes to residential properties. Question is: will they implement the codes?

About $375,000 is in the upcoming budget, beginning July 1, that would be used to tear down empty houses. While not totally sufficient, it would be a good start, if implemented. Charlotte Woody, Macon’s property inspection manager, told Appropriations Committee members that at least 1,500 houses are already condemned and ready for the bulldozers.

Even if inspectors enforce city codes, that still does nothing to help establish ownership or locate those owners who have skipped-out on maintaining their properties. And up until this point, the city of Macon codes provide miniscule measures in dealing with banks that do not adequately preserve any of these properties they have on their books, failed to foreclose or have sold the mortgages to investors that remain anonymous.

Because there is an obvious cost associated with destroying the houses I would hope members of City Council would insist that we get more aggressive in the future to prevent the decay we now deal with in some of Macon’s most depressed neighborhoods. To avoid extreme situations in the future, it might be prudent that we take pointers from a DeKalb County code enforcement officer who recently cited 120 homeowners in one neighborhood because of weathered paint.

According to a news story from Channel 2 Action News in Atlanta, the notices instructed residents in the Marbut Commons subdivision to paint their houses or face fines of up to $1,000 and 60 days in jail. Naturally, a county commissioner has gotten involved. DeKalb Commissioner Lee May wants to see what can be done to make sure homes are up to code and no one faces fines or jail time.

The DeKalb County story coincides with the issues of code in Macon. Locally, if we are ever going to clean-up the ruins, our code enforcement will have to be supported by officials inside and outside the city limits. Now if the majority of city officials will insist on flattening the deserted houses rather than wishing and hoping someone, somewhere may have the dollars to revitalize we may begin to see real change to our cityscape.

With the creative vision Hollywood has helped cast by reminding us we can look good, a new level of energy at the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful organization, plus City Council’s renewed interests in cleaning-up the disgraceful shanty’s, this is the ideal time to radically change our community’s desirability.

Kenny Burgamy serves as a marketing consultant and is co-host of the Kenny B. Charles E., TV, radio and Internet program and is a marketing consultant for NewTown Macon.

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