Once a Macon Coca-Cola bottling facility, this abandoned building is getting a new life

Editor’s Note: This article is the first in a new series by The Telegraph and Positively 478 called “In Plain Sight” that highlights buildings people see every day, but might not know the history behind them.

More than 40 years ago, people stopped on the sidewalk as they passed the building at 440 Oak Street to watch as Coca-Cola bottles moved through the building to get filled.

“You could see the bottles coming around the conveyor belts,” said Ann Bowen, who retired from the Macon Coca-Cola Bottling Company after 42 years.

All that is left from the facility is the annex, which the Macon Coca-Cola Bottling Company received a permit to build in 1941, according to Telegraph archives.

Bowen said before they moved to the current Macon Coca-Cola Bottling Co. UNITED building on Jennifer Drive in 1999, the old building was a little creepy. She said one particular previous employee would get superstitious as he left the building.

“Because the building was so old, it creaked and cracked. Oh, it was spooky,” she said, laughing. “He’d get on the intercom. He’d say, ‘If anybody’s in this building, I’m coming out with a stick in my hand.’”

Glenn Ramey, who worked with the company for 28 years, said the building that is still standing was used for vending services and as warehouse space. He said about 80% of the original facility has been torn down.

The old Macon Coca-Cola Bottling Company annex sits on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. Jenna Eason jeason@macon.com

Matt Chalfa, the director of preservation field services for the Historic Macon Foundation, said the annex is the last remaining building from the 1913 bottling facility because the original building where bottling occurred was demolished in 2012 due to health and safety risks.

Chalfa said he enjoys seeing an older, industrial building receiving the care it needs.

“It’s nice to see areas that are outside of the main downtown core being reinvested in and potentially put back to use for the community,” he said. “We’d love to see this building become an anchor as development spreads more towards the west side of downtown or the south side of downtown.”

Chalfa added, “It’s a fairly iconic in its own right being associated with such a well-known, beloved Georgia company as Coca-Cola. It’s always nice to see that put back into use and be an asset to the community.”

In a building that just 20 years ago was bustling with activity and chatter, the only sounds now are the flaps of pigeons on the roof and trucks going by outside. But there are plans to give the building new life.

The plan to turn the remaining building into loft apartments was ratified by the Macon-Bibb County Planning & Zoning Commission more than a year ago, according to its website.

Don Leonard, senior project manager of Stroud and Company, said when they first went into the building, the roof and floors were caving in, so their first priority was to make the building safe.

“We went ahead and secured the facility from the weather conditions and the rain and stuff coming in, so we redid the roof. We didn’t change the intent or the architectural design of what was originally there, but we took out the rotten, bad materials and replaced it and dried the facility,” he said.

He said the plan moving forward is to maintain the historic intent of the building while incorporating a modern feel for downtown loft apartments.

“It has been a challenging project at the moment. We’ve had to jump through a lot of hoops and still doing that in order to maintain the historical preservation of the facility but at the same time bring it to a safe condition and modernize it,” he said.

The application submitted to the Planning & Zoning Commission said the building would be turned into 18 lofts. The existing roll up doors will be the entryway for the first floor units and will be enclosed by black metal fence and gate to form a patio. The second floor units will have balconies with cable railing, the application said. There is no projected opening date at this time.

Jenna Eason is a multimedia reporter at The Telegraph and creates serviceable news around food, culture and people who make a difference in the Macon community. Jenna joined The Telegraph staff after graduating from Mercer University in May 2018 with a journalism degree.