Westgate Mall redevelopment, UGA’s ‘pink out’ and other Middle Georgia news

Missed the big stories last week? Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Plans to redevelop Westgate Mall gets OK

The Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission approved plans last week to redevelop the Westgate Shopping Center.

Westgate Mall, which opened in 1961, prospered for more than a decade. The Macon Mall’s opening caused Westgate’s business to decline. Today, roughly 86% of the 411,195 square feet of floor space there is unoccupied.

Ultimate Realty LLC, based in New York City, requested the facility to be used for light industrial use, office space, warehouse space and retail “to serve the growing need of distribution centers,” according to the company’s application to the planning and zoning board. The property is owned by The Shoppes International Place LLC.

The plans still need green lights from a few other county agencies.

Want to know more? Read here.

ICE creating “hyper-realistic” training complex at Georgia army post

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is planning to use Fort Benning as the site for a “hyper-realistic” training complex that mimics the layout of U.S. cities and buildings. The army post in near Columbus.

ICE is set to spend more than $961,000 to purchase five different training structures — the first steps toward a complex that will emulate buildings and structures the agency’s expanding Special Response Teams would encounter across the United States and Puerto Rico, according to a federal contract.

According to the federal contract, one of the training models is a “Chicago” style replica. Another is an “Arizona” style replica. The remaining three facilities are “fishbowls” set up for instructors to view classes from above.

The complex could include up to 50 additional buildings and additional U.S. city layouts and designs, according to the federal contract.

Strategic Operations Inc. of San Diego was awarded the contract for the first five facilities on Sept. 9.

Want to know more? Read here.

Georgia holds “pink out” for Arkansas State coach

The Georgia Bulldogs honored Wendy Anderson, the late wife of Arkansas State head football coach Blake Anderson, following her death from breast cancer.

The Bulldogs played Arkansas State Saturday in Athens, and tens of thousands of Georgia fans wore pink in her honor. The Bulldogs won the game, 55-0.

Blake Anderson said he was grateful for the show of support from his opponents.

“This was one of the classiest moves I’ve seen,” he said.

Want to know more about Wendy Anderson and how the pink out got started? Read here.

Shrimp and Grits Festival on the coast

Want to take one last trip before the end of summer? Jekyll Island is hosting a Shrimp and Grits festival Sept. 20-22.

Organizers expect more than 45,000 visitors. The weekend at Jekyll Island also includes a craft brew fest, an artists’ market and a kids zone, the Associated Press reports.

The festival will take place in Jekyll Island’s National Historic District, according to the festival’s website.

Here’s the schedule for the festival this weekend:

Friday, September 20: 4-9 p.m.

Saturday, September 21: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Sunday, September 22: 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

Nick Wooten is the Southern Trends and Culture reporter for McClatchy’s South region. He is based in Columbus, Georgia at the Ledger-Enquirer but his work also appears in The (Macon) Telegraph and The Sun Herald in Biloxi.Before joining McClatchy, he worked for The (Shreveport La.) Times covering city government and investigations. He is a graduate of Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.