Sometimes Macon residents and its leaders can lose sight of just how much impact the College Hill partnership has had on the city, Mercer University President Bill Underwood said Wednesday.
But a couple of awards that the College Hill Alliance just won should serve to remind people of the redevelopment that has happened in the College Hill Corridor neighborhood in fewer than five years.
The College Hill Alliance received two awards from the International Economic Development Council at a ceremony in Philadelphia Tuesday night.
The alliance earned a Gold Excellence in Economic Development Award for its efforts to recruit and retain businesses and foster neighborhood revitalization. The alliance also earned a Silver Award in the category of Neighborhood Development Initiatives for the partnership involving Macon, Mercer and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
Really, its a case that sometimes were too close, said Underwood, who noted that the neighborhood was full of blight before projects such as Mercer Village began. I dont think you can always capture the full significance of whats happened. Thats what this award is. Its the international community looking at us, and thats really amazing.
Underwood said officials from other universities have contacted him about what has taken place in College Hill to apply the same ideas to their own communities.
Beverly Blake, program director for the Knight Foundation, said its been much the same story with other cities that the foundation serves -- seeing whats working in Macon and applying it to those other communities. For example, two other cities are looking to implement the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, which started in Macon and allows residents who pitch ideas to improve the neighborhood and receive grants for those projects.
Its affirming that people from around the country are recognizing the creativity and can-do attitude here in Macon, she said. Im not surprised, but Im extremely pleased. We work together, weve got each others backs, and everybody is coming together to make a better community.
Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said the corridor brings connectivity from the college to downtown, giving residents all sorts of recreational and cultural opportunities.
Since 2009, the alliance has leveraged $78.4 million in public and private investment in the corridor.
Alex Morrison, the executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority, was formerly one of four Mercer students who helped conceive the College Hill project. He said none of them could imagine achieving success on this scale, but the project is something officials point to when trying to recruit new businesses to Macon.
Its a great honor and great to be recognized, Morrison said. When we show people the community, we definitely show off the work thats been done at Mercer and College Hill. ... Theres no better reason for a company to come to Macon.
To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.