Downtown Macon landmark could provide new housing by 2019

The Macon-Bibb County government annex building, named for former City Councilman Willie C. Hill, is on track to be redeveloped into apartments and retail space.
The Macon-Bibb County government annex building, named for former City Councilman Willie C. Hill, is on track to be redeveloped into apartments and retail space. wmarshall@macon.com

A downtown Macon high-rise project, including dozens of new apartments, could be finished in the next 18 months.

Tax credits have been awarded to redevelop the Willie C. Hill Government Center annex, the 11-story tower located at the corner of Cherry and First streets. The goal is for construction on the multimillion-dollar project to begin about May, with completion by July 2019, architect Gene Dunwody Jr. said.

There are more details that need to be addressed, but the project has made significant progress after an extensive tax allocation process, he said.

The building, which now houses government and commercial offices, could feature several dozen apartments and penthouse suites, ranging in size from 600 to about 2,000 square feet, as well as retail or commercial space.

"We have a really clear path of what we’re doing," Dunwody said. "Right now we’re in the process of pricing the project."

The companies behind the Integrity Development Partners project include IDP Housing, based out of Valdosta, and Stratford Capital Group. Dunwody/Beeland Architects, out of Macon, has redesigned the building, which first opened in 1941 and was once one of the tallest buildings on the East Coast.

The agreement with Integrity Development says the company would buy the building from Macon-Bibb County for $1 million, contingent on the tax credits.

But before construction can start later this year, various offices and Macon-Bibb departments will have to move out of the annex, located across the street from the City Auditorium.

They include the departments of Human Resources, Business Development Services and Internal Auditor, as well as the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission and the Macon-Bibb County Land Bank Authority.

U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop's district office, credit counseling service Home First and real estate company Bob Lewis & Associates will also relocate from the building.

"This move out of the annex has implications on offices in the Terminal Station, Government Center and courthouse," county spokesman Chris Floore said in an email. "We have a target of the end of February to have everyone out of the annex, but there is some flexibility in that date."

Historic building

The Willie C. Hill annex, named after the first black Macon resident elected to City Council citywide, was known in earlier times as the Bankers Insurance Building and the Southern Trust Building.

Dunwody's grandfather, William Elliott Dunwody IV, also played a major role in the building's history.

"It's a very special project to us because my granddad designed it," Dunwody said. "My dad remembers as a kid going to the construction site."

When the building opened in 1941, it was dominant on the Macon skyline, and it was believed to be the tallest building constructed after the Great Depression between Miami and New York City.

Even with the building's redevelopment, some of its unique features will be retained.

For instance, the property has an elevator with what appear to be the original motors, and it may be the fastest elevator in Maon, Dunwody said.

Much of the work will involve demolishing the offices and repurposing them into new types of space.

"What we’re going to do is scrape it down to the bones of the structure and then put it back," Dunwody said.