Revamped Second Street block reopens to traffic

People lining Macon’s Second Street cheered late Monday morning as an unsuspecting motorist was the first to drive through the newly renovated “vision block” when it reopened.

Between Poplar and Cherry streets, Second Street has been closed to traffic since late July for major construction. It reopened with freshly painted bicycle lanes on new asphalt, reverse angle parking, improved sidewalks, shade trees and more, all at a cost of $1.3 million. The money will come from special purpose local option sales tax revenue.

After the first car cruised through the revamped block, Bert Maxwell, owner of Bert Maxwell Furniture Co., said he’s happy with the improvements outside his business.

“I think it will bring in more out-of-town people, and that’s what we need,” Maxwell said. “I like the reverse diagonal (parking). I think it will take people a little while to get used to it.”

Denise Martin, Macon-Bibb County’s key account manager for Georgia Power, said new transformers have been installed beneath the sidewalk in underground concrete-encased vaults.

“It’s a more robust system,” Martin said. “We’re expecting the growth.”

Improvements to the block are part of a bigger plan known as the Second Street Corridor project, an $8 million effort to connect downtown and east Macon with a multi-modal and retail-friendly gateway.

Reichert called the block “a street of the future.”

“This is the start of something much bigger,” Macon-Bibb Mayor Robert Reichert said. “As funding becomes available, we want to extend this same street design from the east side of our community across the river ... through downtown Macon and south to the new connector.”

Reichert said the next step will be the “long talked about, much discussed” south downtown connector that will lead from Little Richard Penniman Boulevard to Second Street, crossing Telfair Street.

Just before the reopening of the Second Street block Monday morning, Macon-Bibb commissioners approved a $2 million tax allocation district for the Second Street Corridor.

“Any improvement in (the Second Street Corridor), be it an increase in revenue or property taxes, goes back into infrastructure improvement. So there’s a dedicated funding source in this area,” Reichert spokesman Chris Floore said. “As development occurs, we can do more.”

June 2016 is the expected finish date for the connector, which includes the bridge over the railroad, Reichert said.

“We’re supposed to break ground in January, or as soon as we can,” Reichert said. “We’re working on final plans ... that have to be approved by Norfolk Southern (railroad) before we can begin construction of the bridge itself, but they’re going to begin construction on the connector.”

Plans for a new park on Second Street also are in the works, Floore said.

Mid-City Square Park is planned for the intersection of Second and Pine streets. Work on the greenspace will be paid for with Community Development Block Grants, Floore said.

“We already know developers are showing interest in building around (the greenspace),” Floore said. “So when we create the park, we incentivize people to move into the area.”

To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4382.