Macon cat rescue group seeking new home

pramati@macon.comJuly 8, 2014 

A Macon-based cat rescue organization is seeking a new home after learning this week its current lease won’t be renewed.

Anne Brennaman, founder of Macon Purrs N’ Paws, said she was informed Monday by the company that owns the Fall Line Plaza shopping center off Rocky Creek Road that the cat rescue will have to vacate the premises when its lease ends Oct. 15.

Brennaman, who said the facility is at capacity with 105 cats, isn’t sure what may become of the rescue group. She said Tuesday she has been searching for other commercial spaces to rent, but she’s been unsuccessful for a variety of reasons: Her nonprofit organization can’t afford the rent, the space in question isn’t zoned for an animal-based business, or landlords don’t want to rent to an animal-based organization.

Several attempts to reach Alpine South Properties, the new owner of the near-vacant shopping center, were unsuccessful.

Brennaman said Macon Purrs N’ Paws is the only animal rescue organization she knows of between Marietta and Valdosta that almost exclusively rescues cats. She said she moved into the Fall Line Plaza location in October 2011, after the shelter’s previous space flooded, causing cost-prohibitive repairs.

Thanks to an agreement with the shopping center’s previous ownership, Macon Purrs N’ Paws also uses two connected adjacent commercial spaces in the shopping center as well as a warehouse space, but was paying rent for only one space. Brennaman said because her organization is a 501(c)3 nonprofit, the previous landlord was getting a tax write-off instead of the rent for the extra space.

Purrs N’ Paws gets by on the generosity of donors and can’t afford to pay more than it’s paying now, she said.

“I can’t afford to buy a new building,” she said.

According to a presentation made to the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission last spring to change the signs at the shopping center, Alpine South said it wants to “breathe new life” into the center “by attracting several national and regional retail brands.”

Two other tenants in the shopping center say they aren’t aware of any notices sent to them about their leases.

Diane Hunnicutt, who rents a booth at Classic Cuts beauty salon, said the shop’s owner hasn’t informed her about any changes.

“I hope they don’t make us move,” she said.

The owner of Lottery & Arcade, who declined to give her name, said she’s already in the process of selling her store, so her lease ending likely won’t affect her.

Brennaman said the shopping center is located in a crime-riddled, low economic part of Macon, and she doubts that the new ownership will be able to attract upscale new businesses.

“We’re a mile down the road from one of the worst neighborhoods in Macon,” she said. “There are shootings every week. The clientele from north Macon (the new owners) think they’re going to get, they’re not going to get.”

Brennaman said if the situation isn’t resolved before Oct. 15, she’ll likely be forced to close the rescue. Any cats she has at that time will have to be euthanized, since the Macon-Bibb County Animal Welfare shelter is almost always near capacity. She’s hoping to get an extension from the new owners at least until the end of the year.

“If I can’t find a place, I’m going to have to close up shop and go home,” she said. “I don’t know if I want to stay involved. I don’t know if I want to fight anymore. This has taken the wind out of me.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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