The Bibb County school system could move its administrative offices to the Hutchings Career Center, while Hutchings classes would move into the now-empty Macon Promise Center.
School system officials and the Promise Centers landlord plan to meet Wednesday morning to discuss how such a move might be done. The system also has to figure out basic logistics, such as whether the Promise Center would have enough room for Hutchings students, how much renovation costs in both buildings would run or when the moves could be made.
Interim Superintendent Steve Smith floated the proposal before school board members during a weekend retreat, and none of them voiced any disapproval. In the only vote of the two-day meeting, board members approved a feasibility study on whether the moves made sense.
Such a switch would give the school system a large, five-story building in downtown Macon to lease if the central office moved from 484 Mulberry St. The school system just finished paying off the debt on the building, which has more than 100,000 square feet and is assessed at about $16.7 million. The school system bought the building for $4.9 million and renovated it before moving the central office there in 1994.
The Hutchings site is also adjacent to a recently renovated Welcome Center, and it is easy to find on Riverside Drive.
Meanwhile, the Promise Center location is centrally located in Macon close to Pio Nono Avenue and close to Central Georgia Technical College, which could better partner with Hutchings students. The high school specializes in vocational and technical classes.
Cliffard Whitby, who has worked with the Macon Promise Neighborhood effort and the Promise Centers landlord, the Central Georgia Partnership for Individual and Community Development, said the Hutchings move could work well.
It appears to be something that could be extremely beneficial for the overall concept of what the center was designed to do in partnership with the Central Georgia Technical College, Whitby told The Telegraph on Tuesday. Whitby said it was too early to tell, but the proposal could bring many possibilities and help the center better serve surrounding neighborhoods.
Last year, the school system agreed to lease the Promise Center for $575,000 per year for a decade, which underwrites the landlords costs of renovating the building. The system also agreed to spend up to $325,000 a year over a decade on utilities, upkeep and other expenses.
The center aims to bring diverse community efforts under one roof, such as tutoring and family counseling. Macon didnt get a federal Promise Neighborhoods implementation grant last year, and new grants arent being funded this year.
We need to have a use for that facility, Smith told board members Saturday.
Whitby said Central Georgia Tech could open academic spaces and an arena in the Promise Center next month. The lack of federal funding led to a partnership with United Way, and it could lead partners in the organization to find more self-sustaining ways to offer planned services.
Smith said the school board isnt expected to vote on the moves until November or December.
With about 300 students, Hutchings is far smaller than other Bibb County high schools. The school systems central kitchen operates from the site, which is a former Kmart. The school opened in 2002.
During the school boards retreat, officials said they wouldnt likely get much money from a sale of 484 Mulberry St. Smith cited a comparable recent sale of the BB&T bank tower on Second Street. County tax assessor records show the building was sold about a year ago for just $2.6 million, and its somewhat larger than 484 Mulberry St.
That led officials to discuss trying to lease out the entire Mulberry Street building. Current leased spaces include the first floors Bowen Brothers Clothiers and Wells Fargo bank.
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.