A tentative plan to develop the long-unused Bibb Mill site on Coliseum Drive emerged Tuesday in a surprise announcement by Macon-Bibb County Mayor Robert Reichert.
He unrolled a concept plan for a 5,500-seat minor-league baseball stadium with adjacent restaurants and small hotels, plus a parking deck.
It’s all tentative, but designer Zan Thompson was asked to come up with a plan that would fit the site, Reichert told commissioners.
“The only thing I’ve done thus far is to ask Earl Barrs, who’s the owner of that 14 acres, if he would be offended if we did a feasibility study to look and see; and he said ‘Not only would I not be offended, I’d be interested in seeing (the result),’” Reichert said.
The area is part of a tax allocation district, where development could be funded by bonds based on the expectation of higher future tax revenue. A plan that commissioners tentatively approved earlier this month includes $500,000 for development planning on the Bibb Mill site.
“I would not want to build it without someone saying that they were interested in coming if we build it,” Reichert said. “I thought that with baseball in Atlanta changing the way it is, and moving the Braves stadium up into Cobb County, it’s going to make it a lot more difficult for people from Macon and Warner Robins to get to a baseball game and home in one evening.”
Barrs, owner of Due South Investments LLC, bought the Bibb Mill site for $1 million in 1997 and cleared most of the old cotton mill. One three-story, brick building remains, which would be kept and redeveloped -- perhaps as offices -- under the concept plan. Now a new entrance to Ocmulgee National Monument is being developed next to the Bibb Mill site.
Barrs said Tuesday evening that he owns a total of about 24 acres on and around the Bibb Mill site and has intended for years to develop it. He said he thinks a baseball stadium could be viable there.
“I think it would be quite an attraction for Macon and all of Middle Georgia,” Barrs said.
In 2004, he was in talks with the former Macon city government about building a convention hotel there, but instead officials opted to build the Marriott City Center across Coliseum Drive, directly attached to the Macon Coliseum and Convention Center.
Barrs said he hasn’t talked with any potential minor-league teams, or worked out how it would be financed.
“That’s really still in the talking stages at this point,” he said.
Barrs said he is looking forward to working with Macon-Bibb officials to make it happen.
At the start of Tuesday night’s regular commission meeting, Macon Housing Authority CEO June Parker announced that her agency’s application for a major redevelopment tax credit has been approved.
In-Fill Housing Inc., the housing authority’s nonprofit development arm, plans to redevelop the former Hunt Elementary School at 990 Shurling Drive into 60 units of senior housing. Some would be in the former school itself, with the rest going into two new buildings on the 10-acre site. Rezoning the land for the $8 million project was approved in May.
Commissioners unanimously approved a 20-year schedule for payments in lieu of taxes by Korean tire-maker Kumho, rising from 2 percent of assessed value in the first year to 100 percent in year 20. The company plans to build a factory employing 450 in the Sofkee Industrial Park, with production starting in early 2016.
The jobs will pay an average of $45,000, Cliffard Whitby, chairman of the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, said in July.
The project, first announced in January 2008, was delayed by the subsequent global financial crisis.
Attorney Kevin Brown said Tuesday that Kumho originally planned to invest $225 million to $375 million but has increased that amount to $413 million to $600 million.
Under the new agreement, one-third of the payments in lieu of taxes will go to the industrial authority, one-third to Macon-Bibb County, and one-third to the Bibb County school system, Brown said. Those other agencies must also approve the payment schedule.
T.Y. Lin International Inc. will design the new pedestrian bridge over Mercer University Drive, connecting the college campus with a planned student housing, hotel and restaurant complex. Commissioners unanimously agreed to pay the design firm $415,000 to design the bridge, its approaches and adjacent plaza.
T.Y. Lin already is designing features of the Second Street Corridor, which connects to Mercer University Drive, and this project is added to an existing agreement, Reichert said.
Mercer University wants the student housing open by July 2016, so the bridge has to be finished by then, he said. Early this month, commissioners approved a plan to spend $2.2 million in bond funds on the pedestrian bridge.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.