If there was ever a doubt that there is a new glide in the stride of downtown Macon, more evidence just hit the planning table. On Thursday at the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority meeting a $50 million mixed-use development in the heart of downtown was officially announced. The project would include a hotel, retail shops, apartments and a multi-level parking garage. It is the brainchild of Miller Heath III of MMI Capital LLC and Tim Thornton of Thornton Realty Co. The development is called the Exchange Block Project.
Developments like this don’t just happen. They are part inspiration, part consideration and part opportunity knocking. Both Heath and Thornton have operated businesses for over 30 years in the Poplar Street block where they are planning the project -- it’s bounded by Poplar, Second, Plum and First streets. Opportunity started to knock when they saw all the loft apartments being snapped up in the area. Their development should be very attractive to people who work at one of the county’s largest employers -- the Medical Center, Navicent Health. Times have evolved and workers have tired of long commutes. From the project to the Medical Center is just a little longer distance than to one of the hospital’s parking decks.
We’ve trumpeted what we thought were good ideas on these pages before. It is a long road to bring an idea to reality. This project still has some hoops to jump through. While it has received tentative idea approval from the urban authority, the agency needs more information before it can commit to financially supporting the project through bonds.
We would like to offer a few suggestions as the project moves forward. Don’t skimp. The architects and builders who came generations before us left their mark on this community -- a mark that residents and visitors still marvel at today. When completed, this will be a signature project. Long after Miller Heath and Tim Thornton are memories, the project will remain as their legacy. And like the Second Street Corridor and loft development and other downtown enhancements, development builds on itself. This latest project will inspire others to listen for opportunity’s knock.