New planning effort for Macon’s urban core underway

lmorris@macon.comDecember 4, 2013 

The Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority announced Wednesday it launched a collaborative planning effort that would combine several different master plans into one coordinated plan for downtown.

The authority is seeking a planning firm to coordinate the yearlong process, Alex Morrison, executive director of the authority, said during a news conference.

“The process will be driven by members of the community ... which will take downtown to the next level,” he said.

A new urban core master plan would combine existing plans, such as the NewTown Macon Strategic Plan, the Second Street Master Plan and the College Hill Corridor Master Plan.

The expanded urban core is roughly defined by Emery Highway to the north, Seventh Street to the east, the Norfolk Southern “S” line to the south and Interstate 75 to the west.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Peyton Anderson Foundation are each providing half of the $450,000 needed for the planning effort, Morrison said.

“We’re at a historic point in this community,” said authority Chairman Chris Sheridan.

A lot of studies have been done in the past, and now it’s time to bring all those efforts together “to create a unified vision,” Sheridan said.

Mayor Robert Reichert said it is important that people realize that downtown Macon is larger than just a few streets in the heart of city. The new plan should include a land use plan for all elements of downtown, including entertainment, loft living, restaurants and “places for quiet contemplation,” he said.

“We have got all the ingredients ... what we need now is the recipe,” Reichert said.

Jim Thomas, executive director of the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission, said after the news conference that his office would be a stakeholder in the planning process. For example, the commission may be asked to create a special zoning district for the new urban core.

Mercer University President Bill Underwood said the new planning process would be similar to the one that created the College Hill Corridor Master Plan, which was used successfully to elicit investors interested in improving the corridor between downtown Macon and Mercer.

The authority has released a request for qualifications from planning firms to begin the process of providing the framework for the future development of the downtown area.

This planning process is expected to begin in January after the selection process for the planner leading the effort, Morrison said.

The request for qualifications for the master planning services is at www.cityofmacon.net/bids. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 20, and a final selection is set to be made by the end of January.

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

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