Mercer sits on the edge of downtown Macon, reaching from College Street to Little Richard Perriman Boulevard to Ash Street in Beall’s Hill. These streets are major downtown connectors for students at Mercer, and they have each been redeveloped in recent years.
Organizations such as the Historic Macon Foundation (HMF), Habitat for Humanity and NewTown Macon have all contributed to the work done in Macon to revitalize the downtown area.
The Historic Macon Foundation is an organization whose mission is to preserve historical buildings and homes around Macon, many of which are dilapidating. HMF publishes a list every year called the Fading Five. The Five are buildings that are deteriorating which the organization deems historically significant to the city. The goal is to find developers who are willing to renovate the project buildings that have fallen into disrepair. A handful of these properties are within a mile or so from the school, and many of the 18 that it has listed are under renewal.
In order to bring to downtown a bustling economic district, NewTown Macon is a business-oriented organization that has worked to support new businesses in the area. Habitat for Humanity is a global organization that provides housing to less fortunate communities. Both organizations have completed work around Macon that have added real estate and business for Mercer students and Macon residents alike.
The Beall’s Hill neighborhood has been inhabited since the late 1800s, and upon completion of the new two-family complexes, many young families, seniors and a handful of Mercer students moved in.
Much of the new building is centered in Beall’s Hill, which is situated around Ash Street, adjacent to Alexander II Magnet School and the Lofts at Tatnall. In the neighborhood, new pastel-colored duplexes have been built alongside original housing that are home to longtime residents. Additionally, the HMF put in a dog park that provides neighbors a space to gather and let their pets run around.
When asked about why he was drawn to the Beall’s Hill neighborhood as opposed to other living options on or near Mercer’s campus, Akash Patel ‘23 said rent was a large factor in the decision to rent a duplex apartment.
“We pay about seven or eight hundred [a month] between two people,” Patel said. “The biggest thing was price, because if you think about the distance, it’s the same.”
According to Ethiel Garlington, the executive director of the HMF, the rent collected from properties that the organization has worked on is kept by the HMF. The land is owned by the organization and will be rented out as long as there are tenants for the housing. This income makes up a large portion of the money that is needed to sustain and increase the amount of work done in neighborhoods.
The HMF has impacted the area with more and more money being poured in so that its mission can be expanded. The Peyton Anderson Foundation has been a substantial donor for many buildings around Mercer’s campus including the Spearman C. Godsey Science Center.
The Knight Foundation has also been a prevalent partner for the cause, investing more than $3 million into the revitalization of the Beall’s Hill neighborhood, starting in 2007. Most recently, the Knight Foundation contributed $600,000 to match the $600,000 from the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan for urban redevelopment.
Mercer, for its part, was quickly able to pour resources into the idea that was just a seedling at the time. Garlington recalled how, before work was done in Beall’s Hill and around Tatnall Square Park, there was trepidation while giving tours around campus that prospective students and their parents would be discouraged by the neighboring area.
Macon-Bibb County is a benefactor in the investments that are being made with each neighborhood rehabilitation, so they are constantly working in conjunction with the city.
“One of the nice things about our work in Macon is because we’ve been doing it for so long, everyone sort of expects us to be doing it,” Garlington said. “We’ve had so much success and such a track record of it, it’s the expectation.”