Walden: Miracle on Macon’s streets

December 20, 2013 

T’was a town in the heart of Georgia who some say had seen its better days. Like the time when Southern rock reigned king, music was business and hometown bands with names like the Allman Brothers Band often played.

But times always change, and this city was no exception. What rose must sometimes fall in order to appreciate the hard-earned lesson. Downtown carried the most scars of this evolution, with the heart of the city’s urban dissolution.

Fast forward a few decades and land in 2013. Look around at downtown -- do you see what I see?

Just a few short years ago, downtown was re-declared the place to be. Some in suburbia scoffed at the notion and questioned their personal safety.

But downtown marched forward and proved time and time again -- just look at the statistics -- it’s one of the safest places in town. And now there are donation meters to further curb those perceptions. Putting change in those meters provides homeless interception.

It’s no longer just Cherry Street that’s seeing a new surge. This was the year that Poplar Street emerged. From the Dannenberg development to two more Hot Plates hotspots, the hang-out is no longer a run-down mart but a beautifully crafted local coffee shop. And let’s not forget some of the original Poplar pioneers -- a thriving global business of theater backdrops just a few doors from Grant’s Lounge’s live music and cold beers.

Bragg Jam had a banner year and the Macon Beer Festival followed suit. Second Street got an enormous country bar, complete with a mechanical bull, to boot scoot.

And if you said six years ago your downtown restaurant choices would one day include Thai, sushi and farm-to-table, foodies would have rolled their eyes and called it Macon fable.

There were plenty of Grinches who shook their heads and said, nah, it could never be done. Clearly, those Grinches have missed out while they rest of us who’s were having First Friday who-fun.

Who knew there would ever be a “Thriller” performance where dancing zombies brought townies together? Who ever thought the Magnolia Street Soapbox Derby would go on with hundreds despite the rain day weather?

Who knew Macon had what it took for its close-up on the big screen? Who’s heart couldn’t help skip a beat when you saw your hometown in those “42” scenes?

Who knew we’d have a pops orchestra in addition to our symphony? Who knew we could blend world-renowned strings with local hip-hop in Macon’s live music melody?

Who knew that bringing back football could put us on the same team? Who knew that notion of a national park here could be more than just a pipe dream?

I encourage you to finish this year with excitement for the next. Find something you can believe in among Macon’s exciting community projects. Support local businesses this Christmas. Drive downtown to see the lights. Better yet, step out of your car and walk the streets at night.

With visions of Second Street, the Lofts at College, new events and unified master plans dancing in my head, there’s no time for long winter naps when there is this much more ahead.

Wishing you the merriest of Macon and a happening New Year.

Jessica Walden is the director of communications of the College Hill Alliance and co-owner of Rock Candy Tours, a Macon music history tour company. Contact her at rockcandytours@gmail.com.

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