The College Hill Story in 21 Gifs

Even with the College Hill Alliance’s recent accolades and awards, we are careful to always remember our humble roots in the Corridor. One of the questions we most often answer is “how did this whole thing get started?” Though you can read the whole elaborate story on our website, take a look at an intern’s view of the College Hill story in 21 quick gifs:

  1. Fall 2008: A group of Mercer students were challenged by a professor to “persuade someone to do something” in their senior capstone course. The challenge was bravely accepted.Image
  2. During their four years at Mercer, these students had grown to love the historic community that enveloped their campus and they wanted to challenge more Mercerians to rethink Macon.New World
  3. They partnered forces with the mayor of Macon, Mercer administrators, and key community leaders to make their vision a reality.Ninja Turtles, PRangers, Teamwork.5
  4. The group set out to articulate a vision for the community with input from neighbors, professionals, students, and other stakeholders… and was awarded a grant for $250,000 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation!So Happy woman.14
  5. Community input was compiled to create the a vision to make the Corridor an ideal place to live, work, and play. With the debut of the College Hill Master Plan– our community driving force, the Corridor compass- this rag-tag group of volunteers had a new feel and a new drive behind their mission!Proud of new look.1
  6. The Knight Foundation awarded $2 million to put together a team to implement this Master Plan… and the College Hill Alliance was born!Anchorman, group celebration.4
  7. But the real power to create change was still with the community members, as Knight Foundation awarded $3 million to create Knight Neighborhood Challenge Grants, where individuals can apply to accomplish their community projects. If they can dream it, they can do it!dream big
  8. Enthusiasm must be catching, as Historic Macon begins taking on revitalization projects with renewed urgency. To date, the organization’s efforts have launched the city of Macon to number one in the state of Georgia in historic preservation applications and certifications requested last year, surpassing even Savannah in our efforts to save and reuse historic structures. You can tell we’re a little excited for their successes!Swanson Excited
  9. Thanks to our fellow sojourners pursuing the best for our community, crime has decreased both in the Corridor and downtown Macon through the efforts of neighborhood associations, community organizations, safety walks, and increased lighting.cops
  10. The historic Beall’s Hill neighborhood begins its transformation through the leadership of Historic Hills and Heights and other community partners. This area, once the most blighted neighborhood in Macon, is now a nationally recognized, mixed-use housing development where student rentals, market-rate homes, and government subsidized housing options coexist (and require a waitlist to match growing demand)!hallelujah!
  11. Vacant buildings become thriving businesses in Mercer Village and throughout the Corridor, including student eateries like Francar’s, IVP, Fountain of Juice, Margaritas, and Jittery Joes.YUM
  12. A new competition was born, the Magnolia Street Soap Box Derby! With over 2,500 attendees last year alone, this race has quickly become a community favorite. Dozens of contestants, hundreds of hay bales, one checkered flag, and zero injuries, I think we’d call this year a success!soap box
  13. Second Sunday Concerts are an immediate hit with the community. Maconites, students, families, and our friends throughout Central Georgia get together once a month to enjoy live music in the scenic Washington Park, all for FREE! Stitch plays guitar
  14. Steps are taken to increase safety in the Corridor, starting with the branded bike racks throughout the area and downtown, as well as the sharrows that increase the community’s “bikeability.” bike parking.11
  15. In 2012, the Knight Foundation grant was renewed for $2.3 million… keeping the College Hill party going for another 3 years! Best day ever girl.3
  16. Picasso comes to the Corridor, and thanks to more KNC Grants to individual community members, public art pieces pop-up near our parks, on downtown buildings, and around our schools.Its So Beautiful
  17. Just this year, the International Economic Development Council recognized the College Hill for Real Estate Development & Reuse and Neighborhood Development Initiatives, gaining international attention! Thanks to the community support and individual partners that have made this happen! Happy crowd.12
  18. Our new initiative includes a focus on the work aspect of CHA’s “live, work, and play,” and we’re pushing the Macon Maker’s movement, part of a national trend to promote small business and the independent craftsmen and women who make our economies grow. Folks are stepping up and sharing with us their craft– whether its pallet tables, custom embroidery, laser engraving, or wedding cakes– through our Maker’s survey. College Hill loves all our entrepreneurs! Gru loves businesses
  19. This November, we’re thankful for everyone who has helped realize these successes in the Corridor– the community members, city partners, financial sponsors, neighborhood residents, small business owners, students, volunteers, and friends. You’re the best!thumbs up up up
  20. But we know we’re not done yet… we’re revisiting the Master Plan (in a good way!) to see what’s most important to the folks who call Macon home. Share your idea with us on the Corridor Idea Map and rate what other ideas about public safety, branding, trash/recycling, transportation, business, and housing you’d like to prioritize in the community. You know a good idea when you see it!Joey T idea, surprised.6
  21. Remember, together we can reach our goal and do great things!Together great things.16

Meet David & Kris Davis: The Ideal Spot

By Mollie Davis

On almost any pleasant night on Mercer’s campus, around dusk, you’ll find students coming in from intramural games, tossing a Frisbee on Cruz Plaza, or heading downtown for a bite to eat. Amid this hum of activity underneath the Mercer spires, you’re bound to run into Mercer English Professor Dr. David Davis and his wife Kris. They’re unmistakable: even if you happen to glance past his towering 6’6” frame, you can’t help but notice their three dogs strutting across the quad, scurrying and sniffing around while their owners catch up with each other after a long day. Though they have been in the Corridor for only five years now, the couple has become a fixture on campus and around the neighborhood.

Born and raised in Taylor County, Ga., David grew up with a healthy mistrust of neighboring city of Macon. He recalls periodically coming with his family to the old Macon Mall to shop, because for him and many families growing up in Central Georgia in the 1980s, Macon was “the big city.”IMG_1702

Much has changed since David first made the trip to Macon. “Our home today was just an old crack house back then,” he admits laughing.

It’s hard to imagine his slate gray house on Rembert Avenue as anything other than a happy home. Greeted with excitement by the family’s dogs, I sat down to chat with David and Kris, a fourth grade teacher at Alexander II, about their move to the College Hill Corridor, favorite community events and special family outings.

In 2008, David transferred from Wake Forrest University in Winston-Salem, NC to Macon to begin his career as a Mercer professor. An accomplished author and avid William Faulkner enthusiast, his work focuses on American literature and southern studies. Though his family has only lived in Macon for five years, he admits the community felt like “home at first sight.”

When they were looking for a place to live in Macon, Andrew Silver, a fellow Mercerian and self-proclaimed Maconite, led David and Kris around town to find a new home for their family of four.

“We looked at a lot of areas downtown, but after we saw the Huguenin Heights neighborhood, we knew where we were supposed to be,” Kris remembers fondly.

The couple recalled the day they pulled into Rembert Avenue to find several young boys playing in the yard, families relaxing on porches, and other couples coming out to greet them at their car. Within seconds, both of the Davis’ sons, Lucas and Ayden, were whisked away to neighbors’ backyards to play, and the visiting family had met half the neighborhood. “Yes, it was a set-up. Andy had told them we were coming and the whole neighborhood was ready to make a great impression,” David admits with a laugh, “but that’s really how it is around here. We love it.”

“We decided to buy the house based on that first experience, we just needed to make sure it had flushing toilets!” He continues. The southern charm and blank potential of the home resonated with the couple, and as their sons made friends and played with the neighbors, the whole thing just felt right. Gesturing to the beautiful early fall day outside, David admits, “In the end, we realized we paid for the neighborhood, and it came with a house to live in.”

Since their move five years ago, the Davis’ have made themselves at home in the Corridor, getting to know their neighbors, enjoying Mercer athletic events, eating at Mercer Village, and walking several of their dogs around the area at night. “In all honesty,” David begins, with the air of an academic musing on his reflections, “we spend 90 percent of our time in a half-mile radius of Tattnall Square Park. Everything we need is here, or in a short driving distance. In terms of convenience and community feel, this was our ideal spot.”

Calling all Makers: Be a part of the Macon Makers Movement!

College Hill is calling all makers! Haven’t heard the news? Check out the press release below:

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The College Hill Alliance launched an open call for people in Macon to join the “Maker Movement,” a growing national network of artisans, craftsmen, small business entrepreneurs and innovators building new, locally-driven economies. Through a survey found on maconmaker.com, the Alliance is collecting the stories of makers who live and work inside Macon. 

 MaconMakers.com
“Makers are an exciting bunch of people. They are our small business leaders, our artists, our risk-takers. They are driving innovation and, increasingly, the American economy,” said Heather Holder, executive director of the College Hill Alliance. “We know these same types of people are here, thriving, in Macon. We see it every day, in the Corridor and Downtown. It’s time we joined this national movement.” 
 
The Maker Movement is the approximately 135 million adults – 57 percent of the American population ages 18 and up – who employ their creative skills in craft activities, such as making clothing, jewelry, baked goods or art. Financial estimates show that these “makers” push $29 billion into the economy each year. Examples of makers range from computer programmers to wood workers and run the gamut of arts and crafts to engineering and technology. 
 
Makers in Macon are invited to take the online survey about their product and business ideas and share their contact information for opportunities to promote their craft. They can also call the College Hill Alliance office at 478.301.2008 and request a survey. 
 
The College Hill Alliance is seeking Macon Makers as part of its expanded focus to boost entrepreneurship and attract homegrown businesses to Macon’s Downtown and College Hill Corridor. The call for Macon Makers is open from now until early December. Makers gathered from the survey will be highlighted across social media and web platforms through the holiday giving season. A meeting of Macon Makers will be held in early 2014.

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Lessons from Macon

Architect and Developer in downtown Birmingham Alabama, Jeremy Erdreich, notes Macon’s historic and architectural assets and how the community “seems posed to become a real jewel of a Southern city.”

Bhamarchitect's Blog

A recent trip to Macon, GA –about a 4 hour drive southeast of Birmingham–revealed an interesting downtown undergoing a revitalization. Above is one of the many blocks in the historic core whose streets are divided by large, park-like medians. Not only do these medians give the pedestrian an alternative to the sidewalk, but they introduce a large amount of green space into the core.

Having that much space given over to trees, paths, and fountains in the middle of the street feels “Southern”: it implies a more leisurely pace and a warmer climate. On a weekday, these spaces including the one above appeared well-used.

As a companion to those wide median-parks, the sidewalks on principal streets have extreme depths (above). In Birmingham we are often barely able to get a tight row of cafe seating on the sidewalk, where minimum clearances for pedestrians must be observed. This is clearly not…

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Planting Deep Roots in the Corridor: Meet Eric & Greta O’Dell

By Mollie Davis

Though neither are Macon natives, the O’Dells have planted deep roots in the community surrounding their historic home in the Huguenin Heights Neighborhood. In the fall of 1988, Eric arrived for the first time in Macon as a freshman studying art at Mercer University. It seems his studying paid off, as he was recently appointed full time professor of fine art and displays a myriad of original works at his art gallery downtown, Liberty Studios. As we talked about campus improvements, he quickly pointed out how much the area has changed since his time in undergrad. Nearly all the campus buildings have been remodeled or repurposed, including the Sherwood hall he lived on for three straight years. As he grew up moving often, Eric admitted his time in Sherwood was the longest he had ever lived in a single place.O'Dell Family

“Mercer Village was just a gas station where we could buy cheap cigarettes,” he remembers, laughing, “and now there’s actually a stadium on Stadium Drive!”

Eric met his wife Greta in her hometown of Panama City Beach, Florida, and the couple moved to Macon in 1997. At the time, their house on Lawton Avenue was not the welcoming home it is today, in fact, pictures of the original house show that the O’Dells signed up for quite the remodeling project. The couple was intimately involved in each aspect of the renovation process, from designing their dream home with refinished fireplaces, converting closets into walkways, and personally installing plumbing and electricity into the converted attic space their daughters now use as bedrooms. Eric, Greta, and a team of their friends planted a Bradford Pear in 1998 to christen their new Macon home.  Overall, the remodeling project was so extensive (and so successful) that the Macon Telegraph featured stories throughout the year to highlight the transformation!

“It was our first home, and we weren’t looking for a traditional, cookie cutter type of home,” Greta remembers. Eric envisioned walking to Mercer to teach everyday, enjoying nearby Tattnall Square Park with his children, and taking in the sights and sounds of downtown where he hoped to establish an art gallery. Making their mark on this historic home was just the first step in realizing their dream.

Many neighbors shared the O’Dell’s optimistic vision for the community. After their home was remodeled, several more houses in the Huguenin Heights community underwent reconstruction, and enthusiasm swept through the neighborhood. This passion for revitalization was contagious; after years of seeing individuals take small steps toward community revitalization, a group of Mercer students presented their senior capstone project, which became the College Hill Corridor, to an InTown board meeting in 2007. As a member of the board, Greta remembers the students’ initial presentation and being excited for what their project could become, but both her and Eric are truly amazed at the community’s progress so far.O'Dell House

“This community has developed and matured beyond our hopes,” Eric admitted. “We thought we saw potential for growth when we decided to move here, but we are amazed today at how far we’ve come.”

Today the O’Dells and their two daughters, Elizabeth, 14, and Helen, 11, take full advantage of the blossoming community around them. Eric walks to his office on Mercer’s campus, out to the Village for lunch, and often treats the girls to dinner downtown near his art studio on Mulberry Street. Greta, who works with the River Edge Behavioral Health Center, still serves on the InTown Macon board and keeps the family involved with their favorite events throughout the community and in their local church, First Baptist of Macon.

The Bradford pear Eric and Greta planted their first summer living in Macon, over 15 years ago, now shades their porch and stands nearly as tall as their historic home. The O’Dell family, which has similarly rooted themselves deep in the Macon soil, has certainly flourished at their historic home in the Corridor.