Downtown grocery coming to Dannenberg Lofts

Telegraph staffOctober 30, 2013 

Downtown Macon is finally getting a grocery store.

Ocmulgee Traders is coming to the Dannenberg Lofts. It would be the first grocery store in a loft development in the state of Georgia, according to a statement from Steve Bell, the owner.

Bell told The Telegraph that the store, which has been planned for years, could open before the end of the year, though he calls that a “lofty goal.”

“Getting the space is the last hurdle, and then everything’ll happen very, very quickly,” said Bell, who also runs an advertising agency.

Bell said Ocmulgee Traders will have about 5,200 square feet, which will include staples, local and regional foods, and higher-end foods. The front of the store on Poplar Street near Third Street will also feature cafe seating, where people can eat a Danish pastry or sandwich from the store, or drink an espresso. The store will also offer specialty meats, cheese and fresh produce.

On Wednesday, construction crews were working to build interior walls in the Dannenberg building.

Bell said the store at 455 Poplar St. will feature 76 parking spaces in front of the building alone, but will also be pedestrian-friendly.

More details of the project will be announced Thursday, Bell said.

Ocmulgee Traders was initially planned for a lot behind the main Macon post office, but financing problems delayed and ultimately killed those plans. That location is now planned to host a mixed-use development with two four-story buildings that will include apartments and retail space, said Jim Daws, president of Macon-based Sierra Development Group, which is planning the development.

Bell said he’s grateful to his “incredibly patient” investors and the developers of the Dannenberg project.

Those developers include Tony Long and Gene Dunwody Jr., who have worked on many downtown projects together and separately.

“For years and years and years, that’s been the one thing that people told us when they were looking to live downtown: That they desperately needed a place where they did not have to get into their car to go buy a few groceries,” Long said.

Long estimated that there are about 100 apartments within a one-block radius of Ocmulgee Traders, and even more apartments not far from there. The presence of a downtown grocery store will make it easier to build more downtown lofts, Long said.

Dunwody said in terms of downtown residents, “The grocery store’s the biggest thing we’ve been missing.”

The Dannenberg project, downtown’s biggest housing development with about 70 lofts, is close to announcing its third and final retailer. Kinetix Health Club will occupy a prominent space as well, said Dunwody, who thinks downtown may have hit the tipping point late last year, possibly with the Dannenberg announcement.

“I think we’re just at the beginning of a very bright day for Macon,” Dunwody said.

To contact writer Oby Brown, call 744-4396. To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.

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