Crowds of people walked along Poplar and Second Street in Downtown Macon Wednesday evening for the 2019 Tour of Progress, hosted by NewTown Macon.
Pedestrians passed buildings that were previously empty and rundown, but are now booming businesses in the downtown scene.
“Downtown revitalization is really important for the entire community. Number one, these abandoned buildings, they’re a drag on everything in the entire economy, and when we get them filled up, they dramatically increase the resources available for schools and our local government,” said Josh Rogers, the president and CEO of NewTown Macon.
Rogers said 25 years ago they probably didn’t have enough progress to do a tour, but now with all of the development downtown, he said it is hard to choose what to highlight.
“It’s really cool when you’re on the tour to see people’s faces light up because there are things that they didn’t know existed that can make them proud of their community and places they’re going to come back and patronize every time,” Rogers said.
Blake Lisenby, who grew up in Macon, took one of the tours and said Macon seems to be growing at a quick pace.
“I thought it was fantastic. I remember when there was nothing going on and to see all of the changes in the last 12 years has been amazing,” Lisenby said. “It’s wonderful to see for Macon. We’re proud of it.”
Here is a list of places and their progress on the tour:
- Capricorn Studios, which is being restored by Mercer University, was the first stop on the tour. The historic building will open to the public on Dec. 3 as Mercer Music at Capricorn.
- First Choice Primary Care is moving to a building at the corner of Poplar Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. The move is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
- As the tour walked up Poplar Street, the guides talked about the Main Street Christmas Light Extravaganza, which will kickoff Nov. 29.
- The historic Lee Building that housed Karsten Denson Hardware until it moved in 2008 will see new life as Kunj Construction rehabilitates it with 31 loft apartments and three storefronts. NewTown provided a $1.15 million loan to Kunj Construction for the $5.3 million project.
- The fifth stop was Kudzu Seafood Company, which recently moved to 512 Poplar Street, to expand. On this stretch of Poplar Street, three other businesses opened at the end of last year: Famous Mike’s, Your Pie and Decadent Dessert Bar.
- NewTown Macon purchased the Bibb Theatre with the Peyton Anderson Foundation to make improvements to the building. The project will include the Willingham Building at 461 Third Street that will be rehabilitated into nine loft apartments and one storefront.
- The building at 565 Poplar Street will soon be home to Ocmulgee Outfitters, an outdoor and sporting goods retailer. The building has two large loft apartments upstairs.
- The Willow Tree moved from its location at the corner of Second and Poplar streets to 524 Second Street. Chelsea Hughes, a local entrepreneur, announced recently that she would be opening a ramen restaurant and an upscale cocktail bar on the first floor. There will be an ax-throwing club on the second floor.
- The last stop included multiple buildings on the stretch of Second Street between Poplar and Cherry street. The building at 428 Second Street has been rehabilitated into a luxury loft and a new storefront called Lazy Susan. Also, the Macon Beer Company will be opening their new taproom on Second Street soon, and they will have 21 loft units in the building as well.