Coffee and tea shop to be first business in new Lofts project

jgaines@macon.comJuly 18, 2014 

A coffee shop is the first new business announced for the Lofts at College Hill complex, and a branch of the bank financing much of the construction will open in an adjacent building Sept. 1, development officials announced Friday morning.

Boba Mocha, a coffee and tea cafe, will be the first business to occupy space in the mixed-use complex. There is 12,000 square feet of retail space, said Jim Daws, president of Macon-based Sierra Development Group.

Announcements of more retail tenants are hoped for soon, he said.

Boba Mocha will be owned by Judy Chen, a Mercer University alumna, and Ken Ong of Atlanta. Daws said the 146 apartments and retail space should open in a year, matching the schedule he cited at the project’s October 2013 announcement. The two-building complex, which includes one- and two-bedroom apartments, a clubhouse and fitness center and other amenities, is going up on the triangular property between Hardeman and Georgia avenues, Monroe Street and the U.S. Post Office on College Street.

Next to it at 494 Monroe St. is a former Atlantic Southern Bank branch, which on Sept. 1 will become the home of a HeritageBank of the South branch, said Hughes Pinson, HeritageBank’s regional president. The bank will be full service, with a drive-thru and ATM.

The Lofts at College Hill plan calls for a pair of four-story buildings, one of them completely residential; a two-level parking deck and many large trees. The building design will have a “hip and cool edge,” said Daws, who also built the Lofts at Mercer Village. The new buildings are aimed at attracting graduate, medical and law students, he said.

Nadia Osman, College Hill Alliance’s director of revitalization and business initiatives, said the development wouldn’t have happened without the help of Mercer, Macon-Bibb County, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Mercer President Bill Underwood said six years ago a student group called for a “cool district” to link campus and downtown, and this project marks the halfway point.

The development had the “full support” of private investors as well as public entities, but key to it was the area master plan the Knight Foundation funded, Underwood said.

Mayor Robert Reichert touted the project as tangible evidence of a new and walkable urban environment in Macon’s downtown and adjacent neighborhoods.

“This trend is catching fire in Macon,” he said. To promote such development, the city is committed to a “complete streets” policy that’s friendly to bicyclists, pedestrians and even golf carts, Reichert said. Golf carts have been discussed as a way for senior citizens to remain mobile, in line with Macon-Bibb County’s just-renewed designation as an “age-friendly community” by the AARP and World Health Organization.

Though work on the Lofts at College Hill already is underway, Daws and other prominent backers of the project wielded ceremonial shovels before a crowd of about 60 at the end of Friday’s ceremonial groundbreaking.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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