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Master plan to be revealed for Macon’s College Hill Corridor on Wednesday

When Mercer University approached Kim Collins about locating a Jittery Joe’s coffeehouse near the school, it seemed like a perfect match.

Mercer wants to work with businesses that fit into its grand design for the College Hill Corridor, a stretch of roads, homes and businesses that connect the school to downtown Macon. The school is working to develop the area with the city of Macon.

Jittery Joe’s has drawn much of its success by setting up shop near college campuses such as the University of Georgia and Clemson University.

Collins and her husband, Ben, who own a Jittery Joe’s franchise in Alpharetta, opened their shop on Montpelier Avenue at Mercer Village a week ago, and it’s been so far, so good, Kim Collins said.

“We were approached by the College Hill Corridor committee, who wanted to use our business to help (the corridor area) become a cool college town,” she said. “Every cool college town needs a coffee shop.”

Sarah Gerwig-Moore, a Mercer law professor who serves as co-chairwoman of the College Hill Corridor Commission, said she has been to Jittery Joe’s every day at different times to see how the business is faring.

“I think everyone is pretty excited,” she said. “They’ve had a steady flow of traffic. I think everyone is excited to have a coffee shop downtown that is open on Sundays.”

Jittery Joe’s sits next door to Ingleside Village Pizza, which opened its franchise at that spot nearly six months ago. Owner Andrew Collier said business has been solid and picked up a lot once students came back from summer break.

“I have no complaints,” he said. “It’s gone really well. ... Mercer had an interest in bringing Ingleside Village Pizza (near campus) because it’s a strong name locally. I think the potential is pretty unlimited. We’re getting a lot of good downtown business as well,” including from The Medical Center of Central Georgia.

Both shops will soon be joined by Francar’s Buffalo Wings, which is scheduled to relocate there just after the new year. Gerwig-Moore said Mercer President Bill Underwood recently joked that the village would offer the three basic food groups for students: pizza, coffee and wings.

Mary Jane Davis, who works at one of Mercer’s campus ministries, said the location was perfect for students and staff members.

“It’s a great way to get away from campus without having to go far or take a long drive anywhere,” she said.The businesses are only part of the foundation that officials are hoping to lay for the corridor, which covers more than 500 acres.

In September, the commission used a grant from the Knight Foundation to choose Philadelphia-based Interface Studios to study the corridor area and develop a master plan that will help that part of downtown grow.

Josh Rogers, director of the commission, said Interface and its subcontractors collected a tremendous amount of information about the area during the past few weeks, and the company will be announcing its findings at a public meeting at Mercer’s Newton Chapel Wednesday at 7 p.m.

“They’ve physically surveyed every single building to see if it was vacant, what the condition of the building was, if it was residential or commercial,” Rogers said. “They looked at all the parking lots, where they are, how many spaces they have. ... They’ve done a tremendous amount of data collection.”

Interface is having the meeting not only to report its findings but to solicit opinions and ideas about the area from residents and merchants. Rogers said Interface will take the ideas and present an initial plan in mid-December to the public, then revise it and have the final plan in place by Jan. 31.

Scott Page, president of Interface, said the meeting is a great opportunity to get involved with how that section of Macon develops.

“The main thing people need to know is that we really want to receive input,” he said. “We want them to think of ideas of what the future can hold.”

One tidbit of information that Interface discovered was that the area was only about 7 percent shaded, and it needs to be at about 30 percent for cyclists and pedestrians, Rogers said.

Rogers said Interface’s ideas will become a five-year plan, but with small steps and goals along the way.

He pointed to Interface’s work in Chicago’s Whicker Park that had residents grow saplings in an empty lot that were to be planted later that year. By doing so, the residents were able to grow a large number of trees and get rid of a vacant lot, thus providing a solution to two problems, Rogers said.

Members of the commission hope for a large turnout at the meeting.

“I hope we get a packed house,” Gerwig-Moore said. “This is the first opportunity to get a look at the master plan and the data findings, and (Interface) wants to hear from us, what our priorities are.“We need to have as many opinions there as we can on how to solve (the area’s) problems.”

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.

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