Downtown Macon’s “vision block” draws $1.5 million grant for extension

One downtown owner is "crazy" about vision block idea

A grant for Second Street has business owners looking ahead and excited about improvements to downtown Macon.
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A grant for Second Street has business owners looking ahead and excited about improvements to downtown Macon.

More blocks of downtown Macon could receive streetscape upgrades as part of the Second Street Corridor project.

A state grant of $1.5 million has been awarded for Second Street revitalization work between Poplar and Pine streets. The improvements would extend the “vision block,” a stretch of Second Street between Poplar and Cherry streets that features reverse-angle parking, painted bicycle lanes, new asphalt, shade trees, and improved sidewalks.

Mayor Robert Reichert said the work that can be completed along the blocks will depend on the cost once it’s designed. Macon-Bibb officials still have to decide how to pay for the $1.5 million match that’s needed for the State Road & Tollway Authority grant.

One possible funding option could be using some of the proceeds from the 2018 special purpose sales tax initiative, the mayor said.

“We are excited about having the ability to continue the extension of the vision block as we continue making progress on the entire south downtown connector project,” Reichert said Thursday afternoon.

Macon-Bibb officials say the project is part of the plan to turn downtown Macon into a more attractive place for people to live, work and visit. The vision block extension should become another economic catalyst, they said.

“In fact, as we extend going south, there are several opportunities for us to get new businesses in vacant spaces as well as to rebuild some of the buildings along the way,” Reichert said.

The original Second Street vision block has experienced growth through new businesses since the $1.3 million project was finished in 2014, Macon-Bibb spokesman Chris Floore said.

“It’s gone from a nearly dead block where you have a professional building that closes at 5 to ... a vibrant center of activity.”

The owner of a Second Street business where the latest improvements would take place said the renovations should help, but he’s also in a wait-and-see mode.

“We’re very excited about anything that improves downtown Macon, and extending the vision block certainly would seem to be a positive,” said Larry Bush, owner of Larry Bush’s Riverside Tire. “I would have to reserve a little bit depending on what the design is.”

Second Street Corridor

Macon-Bibb has used $8 million in special purpose sales tax revenue on the Second Street Corridor that connects Mercer University with downtown Macon.

Some infrastructure work is being completed as part of a phase that extends from Edgewood Avenue and Telfair Street into Second Street. The first phase of the project was a half-mile stretch that rerouted Little Richard Penniman Boulevard between Nussbaum Avenue and Telfair. That section includes pedestrian lights, sidewalks and more green space.

The connector also ties into a $40-million-plus development — Mercer Landing — that includes a Marriott TownePlace Suites Hotel, restaurants and a pedestrian bridge that connects the Lofts at Mercer Landing onto campus.

Another $50 million planned development, Central City Commons, with parking decks, a Hyatt Place hotel, retail space and residential units, is expected to be built around Poplar, Second, Plum and First streets.

“Private investment is revitalizing downtown Macon’s buildings, and our public spaces have to catch up,” Josh Rogers, NewTown Macon’s president and CEO, said in statement about the vision block grant. “Improving our streetscapes will grow our momentum and extend private investment everywhere that’s easy, fun and beautiful to walk and bike.”

The section of Second Street between Poplar and Pine streets heads in the direction of Navicent Health and the urban green space Mid City Square project. The county has yet to strike a deal with the owner of Wilson Electric Supply Co., who has said he has no intentions of selling his business to make way for the final corner of the park.

Even without that missing piece, having the three other sections become green has been a major improvement, Floore said.

The county may also work with utility companies that updated their infrastructure along the first section of the vision block.

“You want to create these invested areas: the entertainment area, the medical area, the collegiate area,” Floore said. “This grant will allow us to connect the streets, sidewalks and landscaping that will bring them closer together.”

Stanley Dunlap: 478-744-4623, @stan_telegraph