We have lamented on these pages the atrocious conditions of our area’s entry ways along Interstate 75, Interstate 16, Interstate 475, Hwy. 247 and Hwy. 80. We have decried what those conditions say to visitors -- and what it says about the people who live here when off and on ramps are overgrown and littered with cigarette butts and trash.
There is a bright spot in an area many have given up on. It’s an important stretch of road that has hundreds of millions of dollars already invested in infrastructure and produces $450 million in annual retail sales, the largest in the county. It’s being dubbed, the “Middle Georgia Education Corridor.” We all know it now as Eisenhower Parkway.
According to Hill Story Gibson Companies LLC, the owner of the Macon Mall, more than 50 percent of all retail sales in the county occur along this corridor that stretches from Middle Georgia State College and I-475 to Pio Nono Avenue. Why brand it the “Education Corridor”? There’s Middle Georgia State College, Central Georgia Technical College and Virginia College along this route. Mercer University is also nearby.
The owners of the Macon Mall have proposed forming a Community Improvement District that would allow the retail outlets in the district to levy an additional tax on themselves (no residential) that would raise about $450,000 in its first year. The plan is to plow that money into improving the look of the corridor by maintaining the right-of-way -- something local and state government cannot afford to do -- and transform what is essentially an overgrown median, into a “coherent landscaped look.”
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In future years the additional levy will be used to, “purchase, demolish and redevelop” areas along the corridor. While the ability to form CIDs has been around for a long time, this will be the first Community Improvement District in Macon. There are at least 16 CIDs around the state, most in the Atlanta area.
This is not an altruistic endeavor. Merchants understand that a clean, inviting environment, attracts more customers and more customers attract other businesses. It’s also about competition.
Many of the retailers that used to be on the corridor have bolted for new shopping areas in the county. While that’s OK, that’s not increasing the pie. This CID wants to increase the pie with new retail outlets and other businesses previously not in the area.
One of the most hopeful goals of the CID, once its passed by local legislation in the General Assembly, is to untie the bottlenecks along the corridor with better traffic signalization, something that was promised decades ago.
This CID is a beginning and will at least make one of our entry ways inviting. We still have to get busy. There’s a lot to do.