Loft, retail development proposed near Macon post office

lmorris@macon.comOctober 21, 2013 

New_Lofts

This building in the middle of Hardeman Avenue and Forsyth Street, just east of Interstate 75 in Macon, is a proposed site for a new mixed retail/residential development.

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A proposed large development with student apartments and retail space is in the works near the main Macon post office.

The mixed-use development would be built on the triangle-shaped property bordered by College Street, Hardeman Avenue and Monroe Street behind the post office.

Preliminary plans for Lofts at College include 145 one- and two-bedroom apartments and about 13,000 square feet of retail space, said Jim Daws, president of Sierra Development Group, a Macon-based commercial development company.

“The apartments would be basically for graduate students, medical students and law students,” he said.

Daws wants to get feedback from the community about what they would like to see in the retail space and has scheduled a public meeting at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Sidney Lanier Cottage, 935 High St. in Macon.

Before his company built the Lofts at Mercer Village, Daws solicited community input about desired businesses, and he wants to follow the same model.

The buildings currently on the proposed site -- all vacant except for a small sign company -- would be torn down. The sign company is on a month-to-month lease and was notified some time ago about the proposed project, Daws said. A SunTrust Bank branch and a Colonial grocery store previously were on the property, he said.

“It’s been an eyesore for years,” he said.

In February 2012, a plan for an urban grocery store was proposed for part of the property, but that fell through because of financing. That plan included renovation of the former bank building.

For the new proposal, Daws would build two four-story buildings. Three of the buildings would be completely residential, and one would include retail on the ground floor. The property would include plenty of large trees, he said.

“It will be similar to Mercer Village other than the design, which will be completely different for Macon,” Daws said. “It’s going to be very modern, contemporary. ... It’s one of the gateways to downtown.”

Jessica Walden, director of communications for the College Hill Alliance, said Lofts at College would be the largest new project in the College Hill Corridor.

“That part alone is exciting,” Walden said. “We are definitely excited about how it will transform the neighborhood and create a pretty substantial retail and residential gateway into the College Hill Corridor. ... It dovetails with so much we already have in place.”

Walden said her interest in the project is not only important to her because of what it will mean to the corridor but also what it means to her personally.

“As a resident, I’m excited about the idea of possibly bringing in another restaurant and bar to the area,” said Walden, who lives a block away from the proposed site. “We all want to see businesses that will benefit the neighborhood. ... As I understand it, (the development) would be easy to get in and out of from both sides.”

Daws said he is under contract for the property and hopes to get the project on the Dec. 9 agenda of the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission.

“I would like to break ground in the spring with a delivery date in summer of 2015,” he said.

Jim Thomas, executive director of the planning and zoning commission, said the property currently is zoned for commercial use and would need to be rezoned for the multi-use project. Thomas said he has discussed the proposed development with Daws and looked at a preliminary design.

“There might be concerns that need to be addressed, but based on what I’ve seen so far, I would expect this to be a good project,” Thomas said. “It kind of leans toward contemporary, but it has brick and stone.”

Some historic homes are on the Hardeman Avenue side of the property, the Georgia Avenue side has some 1960s commercial buildings and the post office on the other side, he said.

“So (Daws) is trying to fit it all in,” Thomas said.

To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.

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