Though still in the fact-finding stage, Macon’s new urban master plan has begun its digital life and already has led to improvements along Cherry Street.
The effort, dubbed the Macon Action Plan, began its most public phase at the Second Sunday concert this week. People working on the plan, which includes a website and social media pages, solicited advice from attendees for improving Macon’s urban core. They were asked to take a photo along with their ideas, which were written on a chalkboard shaped like a cartoon “thought bubble.”
The resulting ideas were shared on Instagram, the online photo- and video-sharing site, and catalogued by the planning team.
“We received about 30 ideas (at Second Sunday), which is a good start,” said Mindy Watts, with Interface Studio, the design firm charged with developing the plan. “It is part of what we will be doing with the plan, ... but it was also a way to get out and start reminding people that this is happening.”
The effort is funded by $450,000 in gifts from the Peyton Anderson Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to the Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority.
The fact-finding survey will examine all aspects of Macon’s central city. It will gather input from the public about the future course of the area and developing a document that will become a true action plan, said Shannon Fickling, a member of the Urban Development Authority and the head of the Macon Action Plan steering committee.
With new lofts opening in downtown, along with new restaurants and other retail ventures, the time is right to think about and plan for the future of Macon’s urban core, from transportation to commercial and residential makeup, officials say.
To emphasize the action portion of the plan, the Urban Development Authority has already put one element in place that was a focus of early feedback. The authority partnered with the city to replace cobblestones under the trees along Cherry Street with mulch and plantings, softening the street’s appearance.
“We are truly dedicated to making this plan an action plan rather than a ‘sit-on-the-shelf’ plan,” said Fickling, the owner of Fickling Architectural Services. “As soon as we have this plan in hand, we’ll start cranking out the details of it.
“The streetscape is something simple and quick we did so that people can have visuals about the impact of the plan and the impact this plan can bring to downtown so that we can generate excitement for the plan.”
The plan will incorporate existing development plans and take an expanded look at the urban core, going beyond the boundaries of downtown to include areas from Interstate 75 in the west, to Seventh Street in the east, Little Richard Penniman Boulevard to the south and the Ocmulgee and Emery Highway, across the river to the entrance of the Ocmulgee National Monument.
Headed up by Interface
Interface Studio won the contract this February in a competitive process that included a presentation to the community. Interface, which has experience in Macon developing the College Hill Master Plan and subsequent updates and reviews, has engaged specialized companies to complete various aspects of the project, from a web firm for interactive maps for soliciting ideas to firms completing economic analyses of the business and housing environments in the urban core. Including Interface, there are 10 companies directly involved in the project.
Interface will hold its next major public event Oct. 3 in conjunction with First Friday. It will include a presentation of its research along with an open house to solicit input from the public. The company also plans more events in the fall.
In the meantime, Watts said, people may submit ideas and suggest points of interest or concern via an interactive map at MaconActionPlan.com. The final plan will be delivered in the winter or early spring of 2015.
The current research phase will generate the baseline numbers on housing and business, which will inform the rest of the process, said Alex Morrison, executive director of the Urban Development Authority. So far, Interface and its partners have conducted a number of stakeholder interviews and are gathering statistics on Macon’s downtown as well as other cities.
“You need numbers to help you determine what can be accomplished and what your goals ought to be based on those numbers. It also gives you something to compare to -- both where you have come from and how you compare to other areas,” Morrison said. “Things are going well so far, and I think people will get really excited about this once we go from the research phase and really get into the public phase.”
To contact writer Mark Vanderhoek, call 744-4225.