The third tangible step in Macon Mayor Robert Reicherts plan to make Second Street into a showpiece corridor is moving through Macon City Council. Three-quarters of the work to turn the corner of Second and Pine streets into a new Mid City Square may proceed smoothly -- but the last part isnt likely to.
Three of the four corners are not only vacant but already are up for sale: the former Southern Luxury Auto Repair, listed by real estate firm Fickling & Co.; and two former car lots, one listed by Bob Lewis & Associates and the other bearing a for sale by owner sign.
The fourth corner, at 557 Pine St. and 680 Second St., is the longtime home of Wilson Electric Co.
Our lands not for sale, owner Roger Wilson said Friday. The city is welcome to build anything it wants with the other three corners, but Wilson doesnt want to be bothered, he said.
Wilson said his family moved to Macon after losing their Jefferson County farm in the Depression, and his grandmother opened a boarding house here. His father started an electric motor repair business in a room dug out beneath the boarding house. When Wilson himself took over the business he expanded it into a wholesale electric supply house, and moved to its current location -- a former grocery store -- at least 30 years ago, he said.
Its a good location, and the business enabled the family to buy back the Jefferson County farm originally owned by his great-grandfather, Wilson said.
I dont see any reason for us to sell our property that took us three generations to get, he said. Aint no use in them coming to me. Theyd be wasting their time. I dont think they could pile up enough money in a four-horse wagon to get us to move.
A resolution that cleared a council committee and is headed for a likely final vote Nov. 5 authorizes buying land around the proposed square site. It includes permission for an agreement with the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority, which would likely handle the actual purchases.
Through Keith Moffett, executive assistant to the chief administrative officer, Reicherts administration deferred comment to Clay Murphey, Second Street project coordinator.
Murphey said the current resolution is aimed at buying from willing sellers.
We hope to begin to acquire some of those that are available now, he said.
The idea for Mid City Square emerged from public meetings held in late 2012 when consultants asked people what features they wanted to see in Reicherts plan to turn Second Street into a pedestrian-friendly corridor linking east Macon, downtown and Mercer University.
At a Sept. 25, 2012, meeting, planner Craig Clements said development around the parklike squares rim could serve employees and patrons of The Medical Center of Central Georgia, which is just two blocks up Pine Street.
Murphey said he has taken calls from several developers interested in building around Mid City Square -- but they all want the necessary public infrastructure in place before they commit.
The city wants to acquire the four quarter-blocks that come together at Second and Pine, he said.
Basically we want to acquire all the way to the alleys, Murphey said. Not all of that is needed for infrastructure; the rest would be resold for development, he said.
The tentative plan called for green space in the center, bounded by L-shaped developments surrounding each corner.
That would amount to a total of 570,000 square feet of apartments, retail space, offices and hotels, Murphey said.
He looks for the land purchases to take place over the next 15 to 18 months.
Wilson said hes not interested in moving to another building, no matter the offer. Moneys not the issue, he said.
What would I want to move for? Wilson said. Man, you ought to see all this damn equipment and these overhead hoists and things weve accumulated down here. I dont want to move all that.
Though the Mid City Square idea has been discussed for more than a year, no one involved with the project has yet contacted Wilson, which he regards as the height of arrogance.
Murphey acknowledges that the one active business on the site hasnt been approached, but he said thats because its still early in a long process.
We have not spoken with Mr. Wilson yet. Right now we are focusing on the properties that are available, he said.
The special purpose local option sales tax that voters approved in November 2011 includes $8 million to start the Second Street project, notably a 600-foot vision block between Poplar and Cherry streets to show what the whole length would eventually look like; and a new 3,400-foot connector linking Second with Little Richard Penniman Boulevard.
The vision block is on schedule, Murphey said.
We hope to begin construction on the vision block before the end of this calendar year, he said.
The curving connector is more challenging, due to old storm drains that may need repair, he said. Associated with the connector is replacement of the hump bridge over the Norfolk Southern rail line, and thats also a hangup, Murphy said. The current line is a single track with enough clearance for single-height railroad cars. Norfolk Southern wants to plan for a double track with enough bridge clearance for double-stack cars, Murphey said.
Thats their long-term plan, he said. The final bridge design must be approved by the railroad, Murphey said.
An early estimate attached to the resolution pegs the Penniman connector at $6.5 million, the vision block at $1 million and Mid City Square at $4.9 million. The square would be paid for with a tax allocation district and SPLOST, as well as local, federal and private funds. The project was projected for 2013 and 2014.
A tax allocation district was created for the area around the Mercer University end of Penniman. It allows bonds to be issued for improvements, to be repaid from future increases in property tax revenues resulting from development.
Murphey said theres no currently designated revenue source for land purchase other than SPLOST money. Its hoped there will be some money left over from construction of the connector, he said.
Mid City Square was not part of the council-approved SPLOST expenditures, Murphey said. He referred funding questions to Alex Morrison, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority and also the assistant director for the citys Economic & Community Development Department.
A definitive plan has not been reached, I would say, Morrison said Friday. While there may be some SPLOST money left from the Second Street allocation, no further SPLOST money would be used; so planners are looking at perhaps using property acquisition funds from the ECD Department or the UDA, he said.
Were keeping as many options open as possible, Morrison said.
To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.