NewTown Macon is planning to approach the Bibb County Commission with a $5 million bond deal as part of its mission to bring residential and commercial projects downtown.
“We did a marketing study about three years ago that says we could add 189 housing units every year for five years and not exceed demand,” NewTown CEO Mike Ford said Monday. “With a small amount of money we can combine it with bank financing and contributions by the various (property) owners, too.”
The preliminary plan NewTown put together comprises 16 downtown properties including the Dannenberg and Silvers buildings on Third Street, the Mission building on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and the former Grant’s Pastries on Second Street. It also includes The Lofts at 425 New Street, a new apartment project planned behind the American Cancer Society building.
The proposal includes eight properties in a first phase and eight more in a second phase, but Ford said some of those properties could move around on the lists. If all the properties are developed, it would add 276 residential units downtown.
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“It might change depending on how much money we wind up getting, if any,” Ford said. “It’s a proposal at this point.”
NewTown officials plan to discuss the plan Tuesday with the commission’s Finance Committee, which will begin right after the Engineering Committee meeting which begins at 9 a.m.
The proceeds from the $5 million bond deal would be used to redevelop properties in the central business district, according to a memo dated March 7 from attorney David Lucas to Kirby Godsey.
Godsey, former president of Mercer University, is also on NewTown’s board of directors and a member of the Development Authority of Bibb County.
“Interest on loans and any proceeds from payments would be applied to the debt service on the bonds,” the memo states. “Bibb County would agree to guarantee the ultimate payment of the bonds.”
While the memo says NewTown would enter into a contract with the Development Authority of Bibb County to manage the bond arrangement, Ford said Monday that NewTown also could present the plan to the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority.
Developer Scott Thompson, who co-owns Piedmont Construction Group which owns the Silvers building, said he wasn’t aware of NewTown’s plan. He didn’t want to comment about it until he learned more about it.
“I think adding living spaces would be great,” Thompson said. “I’m clearly a proponent of people living downtown and businesses moving downtown.”
Chris Sheridan, CEO of Chris R. Sheridan & Co, general contractors, said he would like to see NewTown’s plan succeed, even though he also wasn’t aware of all the details.
“I think it would be a major key to unlock some real development downtown,” said Sheridan, who last week ended his term on the Macon-Bibb County Urban Development Authority. “The only thing that’s preventing people from satisfying the demand with new product (for residential spaces) is the inability to get construction financing.”
Short-term financing is a problem, he said.
“The key to the overall health of downtown is to get residents down there,” he said. “And this absolutely would go a long way toward getting to that point.”
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223.