Some people don’t make the connection between placemaking and economic development. They seem to believe these are two different areas in our cities. Placemaking improves the built environment and provides programming, such as concerts, to build strong neighborhoods and communities. Economic development is often viewed separately, as recruiting businesses to move their operations and employees into a community. The reality—and an approach that economic development professionals are increasingly recognizing—is that placemaking is essential to building prosperous communities. I traveled to Philadelphia this week to see Macon honored for making that connection.
On Tuesday, our College Hill Alliance received two awards from the International Economic Development Council at its annual conference. A Gold Excellence in Economic Development Award honored the alliance for its work in Real Estate Redevelopment and Reuse. A Silver Award in Neighborhood Development Initiatives recognized the city of Macon, Mercer University and Knight Foundation for reinvigorating the College Hill Corridor. The alliance, based at Mercer, began with a $2 million grant from Knight Foundation to revitalize Macon’s historic neighborhoods and business districts.
The work that’s been done in College Hill traces back to a report compiled in 2007 by four Mercer University students who wanted to renew connections between some of Macon’s neighborhoods and its people. Since then, a community-created master plan has driven the revitalization of College Hill, and the alliance has leveraged $78.4 million in private and public investment in the corridor. If that isn’t economic development, I don’t know what is.
Renewed housing stock, new businesses, new residents, and new leaders: They are all at work here in Macon. And we’ve encouraged everyone to get involved through the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, which supports this creative approach to building community. In fact we just announced 10 new projects through the challenge that will make College Hill even better, with improvements to our parks and even the installation of public art.
Creative and inclusive placemaking, with a goal of prosperity for all, equals economic development. That is what College Hill is all about.
College Hill is what’s right about Macon. We know we’re on the right track because we live it every day, but we can’t help but be proud when a big organization gives us a big round of applause.
Beverly Blake, Macon program director at Knight Foundation
The next deadline for the Knight Neighborhood Challenge is Dec. 31. Learn more or apply on the challenge website.