A new report and website give lessons on helping build successful cities, and they highlight work in the once-blighted College Hill neighborhood in Macon.
The report, “The Magic of College Hill,” outlines the factors that have contributed to the renewal of the area that connects Mercer University with downtown. It tracks the collaborative work of the Knight Foundation, the College Hill Alliance, Mercer University, developers and residents.
Over the past seven years, they have partnered in a demonstration project to turn around the 2-square-mile section of town, a collection of historic neighborhoods.
In 2007, four students at Mercer University completed a senior project with a revitalization plan for College Hill, and their idea caught on.
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During the seven-year stretch, the area has experienced a renaissance, attracting new residents and becoming a hub for arts, culture, education and history. It also has become an example of civic action, mobilizing previously disengaged residents to contribute to the city’s success, according to the report.
College Hill redevelopment efforts have resulted in acclaim for Macon and attracted nearly $100 million in private investment since 2007.
“Cities can learn from both the achievements and the setbacks of the College Hill neighborhood and move closer to developing their own formula for success,” Beverly Blake, program director for the Knight Foundation in Macon, said in a statement.
The report highlights lessons for cities facing similar challenges and outlines 11 drivers of city success. They include:
Leverage existing assets. College Hill redevelopment efforts relied on Macon’s rich history and strong local partners.
Start small, show impact: The neighborhood is 2 square miles with 4,300 residents. It proved ideal as a testing ground for wider city revitalization.
Draw up a master plan. A strategy shaped by the community helped Macon focus the rollout of the redevelopment.
Create an organization to champion the effort. The College Hill Alliance, established to propel redevelopment and attract talent, provided a strong anchor for the plan.
University partners play a pivotal role. Mercer University shared common goals with other partners to grow its student body and propel the city’s success.
Foundations must act as an accelerator. The Knight Foundation acted as both a community funder and connector to nurture revitalization efforts.
Government must be involved, even if it does not invest. Local government in Macon paved a path for attracting private capital and grass-roots volunteerism.
Private investment will make or break a project. The entrance of small businesses, followed by a prominent developer to the neighborhood, helped build momentum.
Encourage new ideas and participation with competitions. The Knight Neighborhood Challenge, which engaged residents in the community transformation, awarded almost $3 million and generated an economic impact of more than $9 million.
Capitalize on the energy of newcomers. University students new to Macon helped recognize the city’s potential for innovation.
Communicate effectively to bring the vision to life. The College Hill Alliance and other partners were encouraged to communicate openly and often to build community trust.
To download the report, visit: www.KnightFoundation.org/maconmagic.