New urban plan and fund partnership spur revitalization

New Urban Network

Beall's Hill neighborhood in Macon, Georgia, where a volunteer charrette initiated a revitalization, benefits from the nation's largest revolving revitalization fund, according to one report.

In November 2001, the Knight Program in Community Building of the University of Miami conducted a charrette that produced the basic elements of a plan for bringing new housing and other improvements to the 30-block, somewhat decayed, mostly African-American neighborhood on the border of Mercer University in Macon.

The city adopted a refined version of that plan with the help of architect Dhiru Thadani, a member of the original team, and redevelopment began in 2004.

The revival has gained momentum with the help of a partnership of Historic Macon, the College Hill Alliance, Historic Hills and Heights (an existing partnership between the city and the College Hill Alliance), the city and Mercer University, reports The Telegraph newspaper.

The paper reports: "The partnership has put together the nation's most active neighborhood revitalization revolving fund in the nation, said Josh Rogers, director of Historic Macon.

"Through the end of October, the partnership has built five new homes and rehabilitated six others, investing nearly $1.4 million into the project. Four of those homes have been sold, and two more are under contract to be sold, said Pat Madison, executive director of the College Hill Alliance.

"None of the other cities that participated in the National Preservation Conference has come close to that level of production, Madison said. 'There are so many of those funds that are not active now or are operating at a deficit,' he said. 'You can't depend on a charitable foundation or the government to prop up non-productive housing efforts. We're functioning like a private development company. Our goal is to sell more than what we're building to generate profit. We're generating enough sufficient revenue to keep it going.'

The location of Beall's Hill is a key factor to its success, the paper reports. 'There's an increasing trend in the nation toward new urbanism,'" mayor Robert Reichert said. "People don't want to live on a house with 3 acres on the outskirts of town. ... This program offers young professionals a house in the $100,000 to $150,000 range. The program has been well thought out and well executed.' The partnership ultimately wants to create about 60 new or refurbished homes within the 30-square-block neighborhood." Reichert and Madison said the Beall's Hill project has been a winner all the way around," the paper reports. "It offers affordable new or refurbished homes to local families. It revitalizes the neighborhood, making it safer by attracting more residents. And it generates tax revenue for the city among properties that were abandoned."