Newtown Macon revitalizing downtown, looks for unique business for Bibb Theatre

MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT)— The Bibb Theatre is one of the vacant buildings that Newtown Macon owns in an effort to bring new life to downtown. CEO of Newtown Macon, Josh Rogers, says it might take years to make financial sense but they’re willing to wait that long to make sure buildings like the Bibb Theatre get saved.

According to Historic Macon, the building for the Bibb Theatre was built prior to 1884. It went through several versions of a grocery business. Then in the 1930’s it became a string a retail stores, before eventually becoming the Bibb Theatre in 1938.

Matt Chalfa, the director of field preservation services with Historic Macon, says it was renovated in the 1960’s with the modern façade and marquee we see today. He says preserving a building like this is important for downtown’s character.

“There’s sort of a practical point of it’s such a high profile building and such a high profile street, that it would be a shame to just let it continue to be vacant or torn down just to be an empty lot,” Chalfa said.

Newtown Macon president and CEO, Josh Rogers, says they partnered with the Peyton Anderson Foundation to buy the Bibb Theatre in 2019. The building has been vacant for 40 years, but it’s so unique that they felt they had to step in and save it.

“It was a perfect opportunity for the non-profit sector to step in,” Rogers said. “And it may take us 50 years or 100 years to make this make financial sense but we’ve got a long enough horizon to be able to wait that long to make sure the building gets saved.”

Rogers says there’s no obvious use for the building. They’ve worked to stabilize it, and they’re ready to work with a business to put it back in use.

“We’re ready to finish it out to put it back into use,” Rogers said. “But we want it to be the right idea that’s really going to be unique and different and fun and has got a really good chance at success.”

The Bibb Theatre is one of many buildings Newtown Macon owns.

Right now, Newtown is involved with 30 projects across downtown. Rogers says they’ve increased storefront occupancy from 30 percent to 80 percent. Also about 1,000 people live downtown now, compared to virtually zero when they started.

“It has really been incredible how much downtown has changed,” Rogers said. “I think it provides a lot of inspiration for the community as a whole, showing that we can make the impossible happen in downtown really increases what’s possible for the whole community.”

If you are interested in bringing a unique idea to the Bibb Theatre:

  • You can contact Newtown Macon on their website.
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