EDITORIAL: Bold plan to complete the signature entrance to the city

It has been hanging around for 75 years and has spawned some of the city’s finest residents. Lawyers, doctors, contractors and people with every other known skill have called Tindall Heights home. It has transitioned from the public housing complex everyone wanted to be in to the oldest of the properties managed by the Macon Housing Authority, all while keeping an occupancy rate well above 90 percent. To visit Tindall Heights is to go back to a time when expectations of personal space were defined differently. The clotheslines in the back of each apartment are reminders that no matter the size of the family living there, the units weren’t built to accomodate washer or dryers. Central air and heat? Not an option. The last time Tindall Heights was renovated was 30 years ago.

The Macon Housing Authority has been trying to figure out what to do about Tindall Heights. It applied for HOPE VI grants in 2010 and 2011 to no avail in an effort to apply the same magic touch it used on Oglethorpe Homes. But those plans would have cost about $50 million. But now the stars seem aligned. First, Mercer built soccer and lacrosse fields directly across from Tindall Heights. Then it built the football stadium. The mayor’s Second Street Project is coming right down Little Richard Penniman Boulevard where a pedestrian bridge will span the four lane road and create a signature entrance to the city. And there stands Tindall Heights.

The Macon Housing Authority is asking the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which owns the 28-acre site, for permission to tear it down and start over. Once Mercer announced its plans to jump across Little Richard Penniman, Tindall Heights became a target once again.

What of the people who live there if this is approved? Is this mass gentrification by government fiat? Those same concerns were raised when Oglethorpe Homes was demolished. The Macon Housing Authority did a fantastic job of preparing its tenants and seeing that they had places to live with much more space and amenities that cost no more than where they lived before. Some were eligible to move back. If this plan works out, the 412 units will be replaced by 270 larger units with retail. Sixty units for senior citizens will move across town to the site of the old Hunt school. This is a bold, innovative plan that we hope finds quick approval from federal authorities.