While visiting nearly two dozen cities during the past several years, Macon native Danny Glover has been able to get a close-up view of how relationships are fostered to improve neighborhoods.
The 28-year-old, who recently returned to Macon after working on the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, has come up with a plan he hopes to adopt in the section of Macon where he grew up. Glover wants to create a corporation, which is still in the planning stages, to oversee four south Macon neighborhood associations that would help spur redevelopment.
The corporation would oversee the process of applying for grants and providing resources for the neighborhood groups. Glover also wants to create a master development plan and start a program that teaches high school students how to become community organizers.
“The city that impacted me the most was Denver,” he said about his recent travels. “They were intentional about making sure each neighborhood had character, an identity and sense of place. It didn’t matter if it was the poorest or most affluent (neighborhood). (Leaders) are hearing directly from the people. There is a structure with neighborhood associations where they are speaking with the mayor and having roundtables. That’s changed my outlook on how we can do things in south Macon.”
Glover wants to divide south Macon into four neighborhood associations such as “Gateway Heights,” which comprises neighborhoods around Mercer University, Little Richard Penniman Boulevard and Eisenhower Parkway.
“Gateway Heights,” which he named, is the prime area to start since it’s an area that includes Memorial Gym, fire and police stations and a school. It’s also near the growth and improvements around Mercer University and Second Street.
That community is where Glover wants to convert the former C&K convenience store on the corner of Second and Ell streets into the corporation’s headquarters. That building, which has been dormant for well more than a decade, also could include retail space such as a coffee shop.
From a fish market to a place that sells produce, the building’s owner, Butch Rouse, has had ideas about what he’d like to see it become, but Rouse has not had any luck finding the right business.
The neighborhood has “changed for the worse” since he moved to that area of Macon about 30 years ago. Those changes include a rise in crime, said Rouse, who pointed out that a house for sale across the street from his store is where a Bibb County Sheriff’s Office employee was killed last October.
Another resident, Keyarrow Gay, said there’s a need in south Macon for more shopping, including a nearby grocery store, as well as recreation opportunities, improved security and programs for single mothers.
“A lot of vacant buildings can be turned into a place that can prosper,” she said. “It’s a little neighborhood, but there’s a lot of people here. We just need more people for inspiration, for people to want to come out and be together.”
The other communities Glover wants to target are neighborhoods around Houston Avenue and Evergreen Cemetery, and along Third, Concord and Edgewood streets.
Another neighborhood association under the corporation would be near Antioch Road.
“There are opportunities to create a new tax stream, new housing options, new opportunities for the business community,” Glover said. “We’re losing a lot of potential people driving from Houston County to downtown Macon for work.”
Glover said there’s plenty of room to develop the area without displacing people.
“We want to make sure we build this area up to where everyone that’s staying there now and potentially (would) move in the future will fall in love with it,” he said.
Glover said he’s attempting to meet with various government, business and other leaders throughout Macon-Bibb to try to make progress on the plans. He’s also visiting communities to meet with residents to see what changes they want to see. Glover envisions using tax dollars or private grant money for a redevelopment that could include rehabilitating homes and improving road infrastructure. A roundabout, bridge repairs and new streetscaping are other steps to improving the safety and look of a community, he said.
Those ideas sound appealing to Troy Higgins, who has lived in the neighborhood around Memorial Gym since 1989.
“I’d like to see the community uplifted,” Higgins said.