Politics & Government

Macon-Bibb could turn annex building into apartments

The Macon-Bibb County government annex building, named for former City Councilman Willie C. Hill, could become loft apartments or mixed-use retail and residential space.

A resolution to let Mayor Robert Reichert explore the idea passed the city-county commission’s Economic & Community Development Committee by a 4-0 vote Tuesday morning, with Commissioner Al Tillman absent. It’s likely to come up for a final vote by the full commission Sept. 2.

Reichert said a visiting developer told him the building at 682 Cherry St. would be better used as retail and apartment space rather than government offices. He said he began thinking about it and the fact that various offices are being reshuffled as part of government consolidation anyway, he said.

Some of the building’s space is unused, sheriff’s deputies are moving out and other offices could follow, Reichert said. Meanwhile, the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission, which also uses the annex building, “is talking about trying to relocate to the Terminal Station,” he said.

Hill was the first black president of Macon City Council. He died in 2006.

Josh Rogers, president of NewTown Macon, said loft apartments are much more marketable than retail space in downtown Macon. A 2011 market study showed a great need for new apartments there. Only about half the estimated number needed have been built, meaning prices are high and new apartments fill fast, he said.

Rogers said it should be easy to find a developer and new residents for a loft project.

If a loft apartment deal materializes, Reichert said perhaps a parking deck could be built across the street, even linked to the building by a third-floor pedestrian bridge.

The resolution originally would have authorized Reichert to arrange the building’s sale or set up a public-private partnership. Commissioner Elaine Lucas objected to that, saying it gave Reichert too much power.

County Attorney Judd Drake said any actual sale of the building would have to come back for commission approval, but the resolution was amended to limit Reichert’s action to exploring the possibilities.

Reichert has raised the idea of selling the annex building before, suggesting it several years ago as one possibility for paying money owed to a city pension fund.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.