The Development Authority of Bibb County agreed Tuesday to issue revenue bonds for up to $40 million for Macon State College.
The school plans to use the money toward building and furnishing a 250-bed student housing facility and an 80,000-square-foot student wellness and recreation center.
“This is a pivotal time in the evolution of Macon State,” said Jeffrey Allbritten, who has been president of the college since July 2011.
Although a merger between Macon State and Middle Georgia College is expected to happen within 18 months, the plans for new student housing and the wellness center “was in the works long before,” Allbritten said.
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The wellness facility is expected to house a bowling center, swimming pool, two basketball courts and a fitness center. It will be built on the north side of the lake on campus.
“(The recreation center) will give students things to do on weekends and in the evenings as part of the whole student life experience,” he said. “So, we’re excited about this.”
A year ago this month, the development authority authorized the issuance of $15 million revenue bonds to help the college finance its first venture into on-campus student housing. It purchased an existing apartment complex off Ivey Drive near the campus that provided about 335 beds for students.
Students have taken advantage of the housing opportunity.
“Our resident hall was 95 percent full last semester and 97 percent full this semester,” said Nancy Stroud, vice president for fiscal affairs. “We are cash-flowing those bonds, and there is no issue with that at all. We are very pleased.”
The forecasted occupancy was 75 percent the first year, 85 percent the second and 90 percent for the third year, Stroud said.
“It is already performing much better than anticipated,” she said.
The school expects to break ground this summer on the new resident facility and rec center and plan to have it completed by fall 2013, Allbritten said.
Bond deal approved for downtown lofts
In another matter, the authority also agreed to issue $5 million in bonds to be managed by NewTown Macon to help developers build downtown lofts.
“This bond issue is critical to the development of downtown,” NewTown CEO Mike Ford said. “For the past two years, perhaps three years, there has not been much construction because of the problems in the financial industry, and with this $5 million we can supplement various investors’ transactions so they can become financeable and we can build basically new lofts.”
Ford said a marketing study showed about 235 new lofts could be added downtown each year for five years and still not meet the demand.
“This $5 million won’t build that many lofts but it will supplement private investors’ capital for maybe anywhere between four and 10 projects,” Ford said. “The projections are going to be good, the returns will be fine, and we are very comfortable that the projects will pay out this debt.”
Two of the first projects that would receive help are the New Street lofts, which would be built behind the American Cancer Society building, and lofts in a building on Second Street near Michael’s on Mulberry restaurant.
If the bonds are issued in February, construction could begin in March on the Second Street project, Ford said. The lofts on New Street would be new construction.
“There hasn’t been any new housing construction in downtown Macon since 1982, which is a pretty sad statement,” said Chix Miller, the Authority’s attorney.
The Bibb County Board of Commissioners have agreed to back any shortfalls in paying off the bonds, if any, Miller said.
NewTown Macon will manage the loft-building process, Ford said.
“We know which buildings are vacant and which investors are qualified to build the projects,” he said. “It will come down to NewTown to decide which projects and how much to put in each project.”
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.