Can Rehabilitating Historic Buildings Breathe Life Into Georgia Downtowns? | Georgia Public Broadcasting

14
Oct

Can Rehabilitating Historic Buildings Breathe Life Into Georgia Downtowns? | Georgia Public Broadcasting

Macon, Ga. — On a Friday night in Macon, people dropped by the atrium of the downtown Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, ready to share their ideas on how to revive the city’s urban core.

Macon urban developers asked them to write down their ideas and stick them up on a wall where people could map and vote on them. It was part of public engagement to support the Macon Action Plan. Some of these downtown redevelopment ideas aim directly at using the historic buildings and nature of downtown development in Macon. One came from Rachel Hollar live in the downtown lofts: “I’d like to see new energy in the industrial area,” she said.

No wonder. Hollar lives in what once was the old Happ Brothers factory building, a place where clothing was made for decades before it closed in the 1980s. The building barely escaped the wrecking ball and eventually the aging structure was rehabilitated and became – the Broadway Lofts.

Historic Redevelopments Surge

In fiscal year 2014 Macon had 35 historic rehabilitation projects receiving state tax breaks that were either in progress or completed. That’s more projects than Savannah, even more than Atlanta. But this surge of historic redevelopment is a statewide phenomenon. An August report by the state’s Historic Preservation Division reported that $85 million in project investment in fiscal year 2014 were funded; these projects that were being made possible through tax breaks. That’s up from about $62 million the previous fiscal year. New historic renovation projects grew from 60 in fiscal year 2013 to 92 in fiscal year 2014.

Carole Moore, who coordinates tax incentives and grants for the division, called the increase dramatic. Moore says that Macon has led this resurgence in historic preservation. One reason: Macon simply has a large number of older unused buildings. But, she said, leadership in Macon-Bibb prompted by the Historic Macon Foundation has worked hard to make developers aware of the tax breaks and credits for rehab projects. And much of that activity is aimed at Macon’s urban core.

“History is foundational in the redevelopment of downtown Macon. Not only in the literal sense with our historic buildings but emotionally and psychologically,” said Josh Rogers, the president and CEO of NewTown Macon, a non-profit working to coordinate and support the revitalization of downtown. Rogers previously headed up Historic Macon.

Rogers will also admit that it remains a tough sell to get developers to believe that historic rehabilitation makes business sense.

via Can Rehabilitating Historic Buildings Breathe Life Into Georgia Downtowns? | Georgia Public Broadcasting.

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