Dear Macon: Love, the College Hill Alliance

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Take a bow,

College Hill Alliance 2



n 2009, the two-square-mile collection of historic neighborhoods that stretched from Mercer University to Downtown Macon would take on a role that had never been done in the history of our city. With the partnership of committed public and private stakeholders, a comprehensive master plan collected from community input and an initial $5 million in funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the newly branded College Hill Corridor project set off to prove Macon’s “potential” could indeed be turned into a wildly successful reality. In September that year, the office of the College Hill Alliance opened its doors to support the community’s charge. The College Hill Corridor Master Plan was to be implemented. And with the majority of the funding being provided in $3 million of Knight Neighborhood Challenge grants – opened to anyone who was ready to put an idea that correlated with the Master Plan into motion – it was time to get to work. The Alliance’s time in office was limited, by design. With the community leading the charge, the office would direct the sense of urgency in completing the Master Plan and support the various projects being put into place from all areas of the Corridor. This administrative support ranged from community-led ideas that needed proper permitting to organizing events, such as Second Sunday (a monthly concert series), and formulating event sustainability plans by developing and nurturing continued partnerships. The Alliance was also charged to assist the area in recruiting and retaining local businesses, promoting home ownership and engaging entrepreneurs and residents in the College Hill effort. After six years in office – and an additional Knight Foundation grant of $2.2 million in 2012 – the College Hill Alliance will now sunset. With more than 90 percent of the original College Hill Master Plan complete, a stronger community driving the sense of place, and a hip and historic town and gown connection found throughout Macon’s urban core, the Alliance has successfully completed its job and exceeded expectations. But the work of College Hill continues just as it started – with the neighbors, stakeholders, participants and believers leading the game-changing effort. 1




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Dear Macon, The circus only stays in town for a season. Our job has always been to work our way out of a job.

strength was never in our staff. It was in the believers and doers of this project. It was in you.

The College Hill Alliance was created in 2009 to create positive momentum among community partners and residents to implement the College Hill Corridor Master Plan. Knowing that we only had a few years to accomplish our lofty goals created a sense of urgency that helped us work faster and smarter.

Even after we close our doors, the College Hill Corridor will never end. This vibrant location on Macon’s map is just beginning to lay claim as one of the most desirable places to live in Georgia.

Well, our job is done. The original Master Plan is completed, and we’ve shepherded a community-driven update to the plan. We’ve laid the groundwork for continued revitalization of the Corridor by equipping neighbors and local organizations, especially the College Hill Corridor Commission, with the skills and confidence to carry the plan forward.

Now it’s up to you, the community, to go forth and continue the College Hill success story. After all, the community had led this project all along. TRANSITION IS THE MARK OF SUCCESS

Our ultimate goal is to ensure that the magic of College Hill – our quirky, cool, can-do spirit – continues to weave itself into the social fabric. We want it to be finally obvious that the College Hill Corridor is more than a location. It’s a vibrant place full of new ideas and new faces.

Even after we close our doors, the College Hill Corridor will never end. We were funded twice by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with the goal of making the College Hill Corridor a wonderful place to live, work and play. But our


Without paid staff, there is a clear call to action. More groups like Friends of Tattnall Square Park will likely emerge and become more active around their passions. And a newly reconstituted College Hill Corridor Commission will step up to carry on

our legacy of experimenting with new ideas and bringing the community together to tackle problems and celebrate success.

You are able to create all of your own adventures just because it is there. So get out and play.

The partnerships and attention and brand are all there, built for you to seize. It’s sort of like moving into a house and discovering an awesome fort in the backyard. The kid that built the fort doesn’t need to be there to tell you how to play with it. You are able to create all of your own adventures just because it is there. So get out and play. PASSING THE TORCH – SOAP BOX DERBY STYLE!

The Magnolia Soap Box Derby was our first official hand-off. It was obvious that if we didn’t let the organizers run with it, the event would never grow. Folks don’t need a driving lesson. They are ready to hit the road. That was just the start. Bragg Jam took on the Second Sunday concert series. SparkMacon took on the Makers initiative. Bike Macon took on our bike advocacy. Mercer University’s Campus Life and Alumni Association took on the Reunion Zero networking event. The Mercer Village merchants took on Mardi Gras.

College Hill is already a model for the Macon Action Plan for the urban core. We have been capturing and disseminating as many lessons learned as we can so other neighborhoods in Macon (and nationally) can build an energy and excitement around planning a better place to live, work and play together. We believe that we have created a blueprint for neighborhood revitalization that can be applied in all areas of our community. And if those areas want to fully adopt those methods and can engage experienced support staff, well, we know of a few good hires.

Love, The College Hill Alliance 5


2007: All-volunteer group spearheads the

2011: 113 students move into the Lofts at Mercer

College Hill neighborhood revitalization effort.

Village. • Over 16,320 people have attended events organized by the College Hill Alliance. • The Knight Neighborhood Challenge has awarded 68 grants totaling $1,078,032 to fund innovative ideas for the Corridor.

2008: John S. and James L. Knight Foundation issues a $250,000 grant to the effort. • Ingleside Village Pizza, Jittery Joe’s and Francar’s Wings become first retailers in Mercer Village.

2009: College Hill Corridor Master Plan is published. • The Knight Foundation grants $2 million to form the College Hill Alliance and $3 million to the Community Foundation of Central Georgia to establish the Knight Neighborhood Challenge grants.

2010: Historic Hills & Heights is formalized to redevelop area neighborhoods, starting with the Corridor’s Beall’s Hill neighborhood.


2012: The Lofts at Mercer Village Phase II is developed. • Mercer Village becomes home to the Center for Collaborative Journalism. • The Knight Foundation announces an additional grant of


$2.2 million to continue the College Hill Alliance’s successful work.

2013: The College Hill Alliance receives a Gold and Silver Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council. • Knight Neighborhood Challenge has awarded 111 grants totaling $2,119,081. • The return of Mercer football!

2014: The College Hill Master Plan is revisited

and released. • College Street reopens with a roundabout and pedestrian-friendly streetscape transformation. • Knight Foundation announces $3 million in grants and loans with Historic Macon for continued work in Beall’s Hill.

2015: Tattnall Square Center for the Arts opens to all. • Residents move in to the new Lofts at College Hill. • Mercer announces its largest freshman class. • The Lofts at Mercer Landing Tops Out. • The Make-End Maker Festival Makes its Debut. • The Fountain in Tattnall Square Park is complete.

2016: The College Hill Alliance office has officially sunset.

NOW: The work continues in the Corridor and beyond!



Leadership has a new look




o far, in six years and two square miles, the combined College Hill Corridor efforts have leveraged more than $150 million in private investment, increased annual tax revenue by $1 million and bucked real estate trends with historic rehabs and newly constructed homes selling in Beall’s Hill in less than 30 days. But one of its biggest signature successes is inspiring new, active, engaged leadership within Macon. Unlikely leaders emerged. Fresh community voices were discovered. And a culture of how to get things accomplished in community development was forever changed. That culture proved actions spoke louder than boardroom discussions. Input from the improbable of places led to civic transformation. Community engagement – building from the public vision up – was, and remains, the key. Propelling this rise in new leadership was funding from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge (KNC), an innovative grant program managed by the Community Foundation of Central Georgia. Anyone could apply through the program’s accessible, simple application process that leveraged funding directly into community-based projects found in the College Hill Corridor.

College Hill Corridor Commission, an all-volunteer group representing a cross-sector of College Hill’s multiple constituents, from the neighborhood and private business to the public sector and community development, vetted the applications. Funding was awarded based on solid ideas that tied directly back into the College Hill Master Plan – and the applicants’ willingness to roll up their sleeves and lead the project’s implementation. A total of $2,591,594 was awarded to 130 grant recipients over the five-year grant program. The average grant was $19,935. Projects ranged from the practical, like tools to clean up the neighborhoods, to the whimsical, like the 60foot slide down Coleman Hill. But no matter the amount, each grant project proved to make an impact that was multigenerational. For the people leading the projects, a new way of getting things done was accomplished in the Corridor. Meet change agents of the College Hill Corridor as they reflect on what made this project successful – and how Macon can take their lessons learned and apply them to all parts of its cityscape. The lessons learned are more than advice – they are from the heart to all of the community we love: 9



Heather Bowman-Cutway Past Co-Chair, College Hill Corridor Commission

You know you’re in the College Hill Corridor when instead of talking trash, the garbage cans speak poetry. Your streets have more than a brand but an identity. And your neighbors always know to leave the light on. It’s the simplest of safety gestures. Porch lights are always on because neighbors gave neighbors dusk-to-dawn light bulbs. The bright idea was part of a Knight Neighborhood Challenge grant called “Leave the Light On,” a project implemented by Heather BowmanCutway, Mercer University Biology Professor, past College Hill Corridor Commission CoChair and resident of College Hill’s Magnolia Street.

Dear Macon, Sharing a little light can go a long way. The idea was simple: take a light bulb, give a light bulb. My idea “Leave the Light On” received $2,100 in funding from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge. The funding paid for 200 dusk-todawn bulbs that were distributed to College Hill residents so that there was always a light on when evening came. What I learned from this project is that we can all play a role in making our neighborhoods feel welcoming and safe. Giving away light bulbs also helped me become more connected to my neighbors and neighborhood by actively working to making it a better place for everyone to live. Let good ideas shine! Love, Heather 11



Koryn Young Past Co-Director, Magnolia Soap Box Derby

You can’t deny the vibe found resonating throughout the College Hill Corridor. The events made the loudest and proudest mark on the Corridor’s treasure map. What brings people from all walks of life together? The kind of fun that keeps us forever young. Second Sunday started simple: host a free concert in a park, encourage picnics, and make it worth the time. Who knew that basic formula would attract crowds of 5,000 in the name of live music and fellowship? The same went for the Magnolia Soap Box Derby. Keep it simple, but make it fun. It was the residents who took the wheel to the annual event and made it one of the most exciting events in neighborhood revitalization. Thanks to a push start from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, the annual race is now completely self-sustaining and eagerly anticipated. First a competitor and then a lead organizer, Koryn Young shares how they upped the cool ante in the College Hill Corridor:

Dear Macon, Don’t be afraid to go with it for the thrill of it! Sure, we

require helmets, working brakes and of course, steering,

these days, but the Magnolia Soap Box Derby didn’t become one of the most exciting weekends in Macon because of a safety net. The neighborhood realized we were onto

something with the derby. With an initial investment of $11,000 from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, the event is now

completely self-sustaining through sponsorships and entry fees. With the addition of the High School Gravity Racing

Challenge, our participation has doubled. It continues to be led by a group of neighborhood doers, who volunteer

year-round to pull off one of the coolest Saturdays of the spring.

What we’ve learned in six years of racing down Magnolia

Street in College Hill is three-fold: Even when it is pouring rain, a fabulous event like this is still attracts more than 1,000 people. Smart people, doing cool things is totally

infectious, and without the support of the entire community, this event could not exist. Most importantly, people young and old love a good, old-fashioned street race, and even those minor crashes are part of the fun. Love,

Koryn 13



Andrew Silver President, Friends of Tattnall Square Park

The largest, most-evident transformation in the College Hill Corridor happened in a historic city park that had seen better days. Today, Tattnall Square Park is more than a green space. It’s an outdoor hub of community in daily action, where Macon goes to believe in a better place. The renaissance of Tattnall Square Park wasn’t meant to be an overnight success, but with its night-to-day transformation, its last six years are a whirlwind of major change. The most heralded success wasn’t its centerpiece fountain. It was the formation of Friends of Tattnall Square Park, an all-volunteer group of newly minted community leaders who started by planting over 200 trees and ultimately rooted over $2 million in public investment, private donations and Knight Neighborhood Challenge grants into the park. At the helm of the group is Andrew Silver, a passionate English professor who decided to do something about the once-neglected park in his front yard.

Dear Macon,

Our parks and public spaces are the measure of our

commitment to one another, and to our children. Parks are a community covenant between generations past,

present and generations to come. They should be places of natural beauty, places of creativity, places of delight. They should be showcases for a city’s ingenuity and innovation

– sources of civic pride. We in Friends of Tattnall Square Park are just neighbors who wanted to see our public

parks match the progressive spirit of this city. We had no

expertise, no experience, no power. We only had curiosity,

passion and each other. But we worked for four years to turn a nearly blighted park into a showcase for everything exciting in Macon’s rebirth. People a block away used to

avoid Tattnall Square Park; now they travel from out of state just to see it.

Here’s what we learned from the renaissance of Tattnall Square Park: start small, dream big, reach wide and don’t stop working until the city you see matches the beautiful dreams you have for it. Love, Andy




Carl Fambro Co-owner, Francar’s Wings

The mom-and-pop shop anchors the independent spirit of College Hill’s local businesses. It’s more than just business in the Corridor. It’s about being a part of something bigger than the bottom line. Almost a decade ago, Carl Fambro rolled the dice and moved his longtime Log Cabin Drive wing restaurant to unchartered college campus territory. Today, Francar’s Wings is quintessential College Hill, catering to college students, neighbors and its longtime wing recipe followers. As a mentor to young business owners, a father figure to many, and a proud Mercer graduate, Fambro leads the charge of restaurant collaborations, block parties and a Saturday market as the lovingly appointed “Mayor of Mercer Village.”

Dear Macon, The secret really isn’t in the sauce. The recipe for a successful business is found in the hard work and collaboration with not only your community but your fellow business owners. We work hard, but we play hard in Mercer Village. With the help of the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, we got creative with our business model and hosted numerous block parties and events that not only boosted our customer base, but it branded Mercer Village as more than a retail destination. Our restaurants don’t just serve food; they create a sense of place. What I’ve learned as an independent business in the College Hill Corridor is it’s good to think BIG, make plans and to execute with all you’ve got. Be creative. Be innovative. And business will come! Finally, what I’ve learned is Mercer Village is our home. Be proud to make the most of it. Love, Carl 17



Ellen and Craig Byron

Home is the heart and soul of the College Hill Corridor. It’s more than a physical address. It’s a sense of place and purpose. It’s everything you want to make out of it. It’s location, location, COMMUNITY. The definition of the College Hill Corridor lies within its collection of Macon’s most historic neighborhoods. Among those areas were the sad streets of Beall’s Hill. The neighborhood needed help. More than anything, it needed neighbors who loved one another. Thanks to a unique, innovative partnership with Mercer University, Historic Macon and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Beall’s Hill Neighborhood began a physical and social transformation that directly addressed blight and supported one of the strongest, community-led neighborhood associations in the city. With down payment assistance offered for Mercer employees, historic rehabs that have included $50,000 in property tax freezes, and brand new construction that energizes the old with the new, Beall’s Hill now has some of Macon’s most sought-after residential real estate. But none of this would be possible without its residents. Ellen and Craig Byron are longtime believers of Beall’s Hill. For nearly a decade now, they’ve raised their family to not just live in a neighborhood but to thrive in a community.

Dear Macon, When we moved to Beall’s Hill nine years ago, we weren’t expecting instant change – after all, ours was one of the only

inhabitable houses on the block – but we jumped in with both feet. We were lucky to have partners on the ground in organizations like Historic Macon and the Knight Foundation to help us along the way, but we also benefited from some really great neighbors. These folks come from all walks of life. We don’t look alike or have the same backgrounds, but we came together and worked tirelessly to make Beall’s Hill what it is today: a revitalized urban neighborhood where people share a sense of community and purpose. Whether it’s attending the monthly neighborhood meeting, working in the community garden, cleaning litter off the streets, or just hanging out on a neighbor’s porch, Beall’s Hill is a place where significant relationships are formed and meaningful work is accomplished. And it can’t be overstated how important the Knight Neighborhood Challenge grants have been to facilitate our transformation. In quiet moments, we reflect on what living here has meant to our family, and we hope we’ve inspired our daughters to live their values, to choose people and community, and to embrace the richness that comes from living with diversity. Love, The Byrons 19



Stacey Harwell-Dye & the Roving Listeners

College Hill’s success wasn’t for one reason alone. But if there was one hallmark that any neighborhood project can do, anywhere in this country, it is this: listen. Listen to ideas from all facets of the community. Listen to your elders. Listen to your future. The Centenary Church community has been an anchor of the College Hill Corridor project since its inception. Throughout the planning process, launch and various public meetings as a result, the historic church across from Tattnall Square Park and at the corner of Beall’s Hill is a gathering place for the Corridor. But the Church’s outreach goes well beyond its physical space – and into the soul of its surrounding streets. Minister Stacey Harwell-Dye assembled a group of area youth to set out in the neighborhoods and discover the gift of learning from one another. Thanks to $11,500 in grants from the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, the newly formed Macon Roving Listeners collected personal histories and testaments from a collection of College Hill’s longtime residents. The project melded a community’s past with its future – and inspired us all along the way.

Dear Macon, Did you know that you have EVERYTHING and EVERYONE you need to succeed right here already? You’ve got amazing people right under your nose. You’ve got talent in places you didn’t even think you had talent! Did you know that in Beall’s Hill, there’s a man who built a replica of the Seattle Space needle, and it’s in his yard? Did you know that there’s a woman named Ella Mae who makes beautiful quilts? Or that Geneva down the street bakes delicious pies? As part of the Roving Listeners, we got to listen to your stories in your neighborhoods. And you know what? After hearing them, we are even more proud to live here. When we listened to one another and really got to know one another, we found out that we just might like each other. We found out that neighbors are the best experts on their community - they have a rich sense of community history and a finger on the pulse of what’s happening around them. We also found out that they are just great people to get to know. We found out that it doesn’t matter whether you are rich or poor, able-bodied or differently abled, white or black or Latino or Asian, from the East Side or from Beall’s Hill . . . everyone has a gift. And we can make our communities great places to live when we live into those gifts. We can’t be who we need to be without everyone stepping up to the plate. Thank you Macon, for sharing your stories with us. Love, Stacey & the Macon Roving Listeners 21

Call the COLLEGE HILL Content Contributors: Jessica Walden Dan Grech Heather Bowman-Cutway Koryn Young


your home!

Carl Fambro Ellen & Craig Byron Andy Silver

New and rehabbed homes are currently available through Historic Macon:

Stacey Harwell-Dye Photography by Maryann Bates Design & Illustration by Erika Burks 22 Phone: (478) 742-5084

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