Empty houses come down on Antioch Road

Macon crews worked Tuesday to demolish the first houses of the fiscal year, tearing into two multi-unit buildings in the 2900 block of Antioch Road.

Public Works crews carried out the south Macon demolition, while Macon-Bibb County firefighters kept down the clouds of dust.

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, Ward 3 Councilman Larry Schlesinger, Ward 4 Councilman Frank Tompkins and Charlotte Woody, the city’s property inspection manager, were on hand to watch and applaud.

“This is continuing the effort the city has taken the past several years to actively address blight in neighborhoods,” mayoral spokesman Chris Floore said.

Schlesinger, one of the area’s three Macon City Council representatives, thanked Reichert and Woody for turning their attention to Antioch Road.

“We do have so much blight throughout the city, but this is one that affects Ward 3,” Schlesinger said. “Hopefully this is the end of the disintegration of the neighborhood and the beginning of the regeneration.”

Tentatively scheduled demolitions in the same general area for the next two weeks include units in the 3500 and 3600 blocks of Antioch Road and nearby Toombs Street next week, and near the 1000 block of Chatham Street the week after that.

“Antioch Road is one of the most depressed neighborhoods in the city,” Schlesinger said. “It’s just been going downhill forever, it seems.”

When he took office, Reichert set a goal of tearing down 100 empty houses each year. Now, after four and a half years in office, the total is nearing 400, Floore said.

This is the first set of buildings to come down in this fiscal year, which started July 1. About a dozen are on the current list, but there are 480 more condemned -- and waiting.

The city has set aside $375,000 to demolish abandoned houses this fiscal year. That will be enough for about 50 houses, including asbestos testing and removal, said Wanzina Jackson, director of the city’s Economic & Community Development Department.

Tuesday’s work was not part of the Five by Five by Five neighborhood cleanup plan Reichert announced last year, but demolitions will coordinate with those cleanups whenever possible, Floore said.

Five by Five cleanups, as the name implies, target five blocks of a particular neighborhood for intensive work by city crews on all public features such as streets, sidewalks, signs and lights. Meanwhile, private agencies work with and encourage residents to join in and improve their own properties. Workers progress through each of the city’s five wards twice a year.

Next, crews will move into the Stinsonville Road area in north Macon, and as part of the general code enforcement effort, any condemned houses in that area may be moved up the list for demolition, Floore said.

In general, the city is trying to focus demolitions in particular areas for maximum impact rather than scattering them across the city, he said. South Macon is in particular need of concentrated attention, Floore said.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.