Downtown Challenge awards $480K in project grants to local businesses
MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) – The Downtown Challenge has done it again–and by ‘it’–we mean bringing nearly half a million dollars of investment into Macon for several new projects.
Community Foundation of Central Georgia President Kathryn Dennis says progress in downtown has been a 20 year ‘overnight success’.
“The Peyton Anderson Foundation created Newtown Macon 20 years ago to start breathing life into our downtown, but I would say the last three years it has really grown exponentially,” said Dennis.
Dennis on Tuesday announced funding from the downtown challenge for 21 new Grants awarded to local businesses totaling $480,000.
“Having a strong downtown is a community wide meeting place, it belongs to everybody and so for everybody to be able to come down town and work and have entertainment options. It’s important to have that vibrant downtown,” she said.
Money will go toward big projects like expanding the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail. “That will improve the trail that currently goes through Rose Hill Cemetery and connect it to the rest of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail,” said Newtown Macon’s David Moore.
“The idea in the Macon Action Plan is to bring the trail into downtown and then downtown back out into the trail,” said Dennis.
They also had announced funding for a few smaller scale projects like the new My City Bike app that’ll make biking around city streets a different experience.
“The app basically allows anyone, tourists, visitors–whoever wants to use it to be able to go on one of the tours that’s featured on the app. They can visit local attractions we’ll have restaurants highlighted and other highlights for the downtown area,” said Visit Macon VP Valerie Bradley.
Other projects include comprehensive planning toward Macon-Bibb County’s Booker T. Washington Community Center in Pleasant Hill, and Newtown Macon’s retail incubator which is a chance for a business to test the sale of its products in downtown.
Here’s the full list of projects provided by the Community Foundation.
Protégé Apprenticeships, $10,000: The Mentors Project will pair protégés with downtown businesses to aid the protégé with job experience and the business with an additional employee. The idea meets a need in 1.1 (c) – Build Better Support for economic anchors by expanding commercial businesses.
Macon Exchange: A Downtown Pop-up and Retail Incubator, $15,000: NewTown Macon will create a training program to help young businesses refine their business models and improve their likelihood for success and then use a pop up shop to test the market with minimal risk. The idea meets a need in 1.2 (a) – Strengthen competition and re-establish natural churn in the local market by increasing number and diversity of businesses.
Public Art as Economic Development, $35,000: Main Street Macon will facilitate bringing more public art to downtown and document the process by which public art is approved. The idea meets a need in 1.2 (b) – Initiate Downtown-specific business attraction efforts.
Bring Back the Mac Party, $10,000: Main Street Macon will bring students from Mercer University, Wesleyan College, Middle Georgia State University, and Central Georgia Technical College to Downtown Macon to engage with local businesses and attractions in the urban core, building their desire to stay here after graduation. The idea meets a need in 1.2 (d) – Initiate talent attraction efforts to build local economy.
Be a Regular, $15,000: Main Street Macon will launch a marketing campaign that convinces every community member to “be a regular” in Downtown Macon by promoting the urban core as a regional hub for retail, dining and entertainment. The idea meets a need in 1.2 (e) – Customer attraction.
Costarters Scholarships and Resource Materials, $5,000: The Mercer University Center for Innovation will use the Costarters curriculum to equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships, and tolls needed to turn businesses ideas into action. The idea meets a need in 1.3 (a) – Embrace and support start-up culture.
The fourth round of projects supporting the “Experience” funding priority are:
Pop-Up Stem Zone and Raceway, $3.000: The Magnolia Soapbox Derby will integrate a STEM Zone to Soapbox Saturday to engage 4th-8th graders using a Hot Wheels inspired curriculum. This idea meets a need in 2.3 (a) – Maintain support for existing events and add new events.
Rhythm N Jazz on the Dock, $15,500: The Rhythm N Jazz Foundation will make enhance Gateway Park and continue their free concerts for the community. This idea meets a need in 2.2 (b) – Improve and expand open spaces in the urban core to create a central gathering space.
Art on a Cart, $1,900: The 567 Center for Renewal will pop-up a mobile art-making cart in various medians, alleys, and plazas with free art activities guided by local artists. This idea meets a need in 2.2 (a) – Improve use of underutilized spaces including alleys, medians, and vacant storefronts.
Lower Poplar Park Renovation, $14,000: The Situation Room will partner with Macon-Bibb County Parks and Beautification to transform Poplar Yards between Third Street and MLK Boulevard into an open greenspace for a variety of community uses. This idea meets a need in 2.2 (b) – Improve and expand open spaces in the urban core to create a central gathering space.
Free Shakespeare in the Park, $19,000: The Situation Room will host four Free Shakespeare in the Park events in Lower Poplar Park in Spring 2018. This idea meets a need in 2.3 (a) – Maintain support for existing events and add new events.
Third Street Park Trail Connection, $100,000: The Macon Bibb Urban Development Authority will bring the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail into downtown by making Third Street more pedestrian and bicycle friendly. This idea meets a need in 2.2 (c) – Integrate the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail as a key downtown amenity.
Rose Hill Spring Street Connector, $75,000: Newtown Macon will connect Rose Hill Cemetery to the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail by adding ramps on both sides of the Spring Street Bridge. This idea meets a need in 2.2 (c) – Integrate the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail as a key downtown amenity.
Family Faves Weekend Series, $2,000: The Grand Opera House will host a family friendly, educational, live theater series with shows on Saturday mornings and afternoons. This idea meets a need in 2.3 (a) – Maintain support for existing events and add new events.
Historic Macon’s Music Registry Tour Brochure and Unveiling, $10,000: Historic Macon Foundation will expand on plaques that can already be found around downtown with information about Macon’s Music History by providing a self-guided tour. This idea meets a need in 2.3 (a) – Maintain support for existing events and add new events.
The fourth round projects supporting the “Living” funding priority is:
Main Street Gardens, $70,000: Macon Arts Alliance will transform an unappealing, overgrown street corner into a pedestrian-friendly park new park at the end of Clinton Street. This idea meets a need in 3.3 (c) – Revitalize East Macon’s Main Street Neighborhood.
Booker T. Washington Center Master Plan, $11,000: Macon-Bibb County will hire a consultant to evaluate viable mixed uses for Booker T. Washington Center and formulate a master plan for the center. This preliminary study will help to determine the feasibility of and level of County investment there. This idea meets a need in 3.3 (d) – Focus investment in Pleasant Hill near neighborhood amenities.