Developer floats plan for property near convention center hotel

A local urban design firm on Tuesday presented to a work session of Macon City Council members its vision for developing land across the street from the new convention center hotel.

ZT3 Placemaker Studio, which landowner Earl Barrs hired to develop conceptual design plans for the property, conceives a mixture of uses for the parcel, which is bordered by Coliseum Drive, Clinton Street, Interstate 16 and the Ocmulgee National Monument:

• Two hotels, one with 180 rooms and another with 96 rooms

• 284 residential flats, 80 residential rowhouse units and 30 residential town home units

• 230,000 square feet of medical office space in two three-story buildings

• A four-story office building with 134,000 square feet of space

• An 8,285 square foot restaurant

• Nearly 23,000 square feet of health club and food court space

• A 27,000 square foot conference hall

• A nearly 2,000 space parking deck

• A 3.5 acre nature park

Zan Thompson, president and CEO of ZT3, said the space can catch overflow from the Marriott convention center hotel that will open in the fall, and that the new hotels planned for the site would operate at different “price points” so as not to compete with the Marriott. Some existing building on site would continue to be used, such as the Secretary of State offices or the historic mill building that would be renovated.

The plan also calls for turning Clinton Street into a second entrance into the national monument.

“This would bring a lot of new residents back into the area and put them in close proximity to downtown,” Thompson said of the development.

“I think it really plays off the new hotel and expansion we’re trying to bring over here.”

The site at one time had been the choice of a competing convention center hotel developer. Barrs has owned the property for several years, and has passed on other opportunities to sell it for lower-grade development such as gas stations or fast food restaurants.

“He wants to do something quality here,” said Sid Cherry, the Urban Development Authority’s executive director.

Still, Thompson and others concede, the project that is now drawn up won’t materialize overnight, particularly given the state of the economy. Thompson said some of the hotel developers that are in the mix have been stalled by the inability to obtain bank loans. There is also additional engineering and design work that must be done and the property will need to be rezoned, Thompson said.

Councilman Rick Hutto, whose ward includes the site, said it is good to see such diverse plans for the property.

“I’m delighted we’re having development in east Macon — exactly where it’s needed,” he said.

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.