Commissioners put money toward East Macon Arts Village project

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – Some Macon-Bibb Commissioners are helping the Mill Hill Project come to life. Six of them donated money from their blight funds to meet a challenge grant.

Kenique Smith sang and played the saxophone during Tuesday’s announcement. In a year and a half, the 18-year-old will be performing in the newly renovated East Macon Arts Village Auditorium.

“Music has always been a part of my life,” said Smith.

She fell in love with the saxophone seven years ago.

“During the summer, I perform with the Otis Redding Summer Camp and during the school year with Ms. Phillips and [her] performing arts studio,” explained Smith.

Smith said those places eventually lock their doors. She’ll be able to come and go whenever she wants at the Mill Hill auditorium.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for students like me, who love music, to give them a place that’s always open to come and practice and showcase their talents,” said Smith.

Six county commissioners are putting money from their blight funds toward the project. This phase of the project costs a little more than $1 million dollars. This will cover renovating the Old Bibb Mill Manufacturing Auditorium and demolishing homes where the new park will be. The Community Foundation of Central Georgia presented a challenge grant of $211,000 from an anonymous donor. If the Macon Arts Alliance could come up with the additional funding needed for the project phase, the anonymous donor would give them the challenge grant. Gary Bechtel of District 1, Larry Schlesinger of District 2, Elaine Lucas of District 3, Mallory Jones III of District 4, Ed Defore of District 6 and Al Tillman of District 9 donated a total of $813,000 toward the project.

“I felt like it was a good investment in terms of revitalizing this neighborhood because we’ve got to take it [one neighborhood] at a time. If this neighborhood has a better foundation, [is] more substantial, it affects my district. It makes property values rise,” explained Bechtel.

Construction on the building and new park starts right away.

“There will be a park stretching from Coliseum Drive all the way to the Ocmulgee National Monument. A fully restored 100-year-old auditorium that will be a community arts center with performing arts, community classes [and] workshops,” explained Jonathan Harwell-Dye from the Macon Arts Alliance.

The auditorium will serve as a center for collaboration. Smith believes this drives home the ultimate goal of music.

“Sharing and learning other genres and showcasing other talents. Feeding off [each other] and seeing what you can learn from the other person,” said Smith.

Categories: Bibb County, Local News

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