Soon grass will grow where three buildings now stand on the planned site of Mid City Square in downtown Macon. But Wilson Electric Co. remains firmly rooted on the square’s intended fourth quarter.
Three unoccupied buildings on the other corners are about to be demolished. Silt fences already are up around two parking lots, preparing for springtime grass. The large former garage at 710 Second St. will need to have some oil-soaked dirt removed after it’s torn down, but that should be a minor task, said Clay Murphey, manager of the Second Street Corridor project.
It has been several months, though, since Wilson Electric has heard from anyone involved in the project, said Wilson Electric Supply Co. President Mike Wilson, son of the business’s owner, Roger Wilson.
“Our current position is that this is our property, and it ought to stay our property. We don’t want to move,” Mike Wilson said.
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He takes the silence as an indication that Macon-Bibb County officials know they’ve treated Wilson Electric badly. The company has never been asked if it would spruce up its façade or landscape its lot to match plans for the square, Wilson said.
“It’s just ‘No, you’ve got to go,’’’ he said.
Signs in the company’s front window denounce eminent domain, under which a government can forcibly buy property at its appraised price. In late September, on a bus tour of various projects, Macon-Bibb commissioners mentioned the possibility of using eminent domain to get the Wilson property, but they indicated they were uncomfortable with the idea.
County Manager Dale Walker said in October the plan called for Mid City Square to be built within the next year.
“Until this point, we’ve been focused on negotiating with willing sellers,” Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said Friday. “Without the fourth corner, however, we don’t have a square.”
The government wants a “mutually beneficial agreement” with Wilson, Floore said via email, but he didn’t directly address the question of whether eminent domain was an option.
“Since we just completed acquiring the other three corners, it’s too early to map out how future discussions will go,” he said.
Mid City Square is, literally and figuratively, a central part of Mayor Robert Reichert’s plan to turn Second Street into a landscaped, pedestrian-friendly showpiece corridor from the Ocmulgee River through downtown, then up to Mercer University via a soon-to-be-built curving connector.
Murphey, overseeing the connector road and related work, said Mid City Square is a great feature for “tying together” Second Street’s major components.
A concept plan calls for construction of a central plaza ringed by L-shaped commercial and residential buildings. Businesses, apartments and perhaps a hotel likely would serve employees of the nearby Medical Center, Navicent Health, along with patients and their families.
The Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority bought portions of land not needed for the square’s actual infrastructure, while federal Community Development Block Grant money was used to buy land for the infrastructure itself, Murphey said.
“We have not done any engineering on it yet,” he said. Once the technical plans are finalized, it’ll be time for “more serious discussions” with Wilson, Murphey said.
Until then, the former site of the three empty buildings will be seeded with grass, he said.
Floore said Reichert wants the public to see attractive green space on three corners instead of the current “asphalt desert.”
“The mayor wants (the three buildings) down by the end of the month,” he said, acknowledging that may not be possible.
“The only building that got torn down so far was a concrete block frame of a building,” Murphey said.
He’s heard no talk of using eminent domain to acquire Wilson Electric, just proposals for voluntary sale and relocation, he said.
Mike Wilson said he sees no reason for the family business to move for a revitalization plan on which they weren’t consulted -- especially since Wilson Electric has done business on the spot for 80 years.
“When everybody else was moving out from downtown, we stayed,” he said.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.