Knight’s aspiration for Macon: hip, historic and prosperous

Communities / Article

Today, Knight Foundation announced a $2,261,000 grant to Mercer University to continue the work of the College Hill Alliance. This follows Knight’s 2009 investment of $2 million that has been leveraged with $24 million of additional private and public funding to redevelop this Intown Macon neighborhood.

The results of the first three years of the College Hill Alliance’s work are impressive. In partnership with the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, managed by the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, we’ve discovered what we intuitively always knew – that the answers to Macon’s challenges, and the key to our shared future, come from within our own community.

College Hill is more than a location – it’s a movement. And in addition to creating a sense of place, the thing that makes College Hill different from most neighborhood revitalization efforts is that it is nurturing new leaders at every level.  Developing what I call “everyday leaders”: young, not so young, new people to town, folks who have always been here but not had the opportunity to make a difference. Now they are. College Hill is creating a sense of belonging. This next phase of the work over the next three years will continue to build out the Master Plan, but add a new component- prosperity development – through creating an Innovation Corridor and jobs that will attract and retain the best and brightest.  When the four Mercer University students first came up with the idea of College Hill  in 2006, one of their main goals was to create jobs that would allow college graduates to stay here. We know that since 1990, all net new job growth in America has come from firms that are five years old or less.  And in the last decade, the Macon area has lost 7,600 job s- traditional 20th century jobs that likely will not return. Working with our community members, economic development organizations, local government, and the nationally-recognized Jumpstart America, we will take the next step together to create not only a great place to live, work, study and play, but family sustaining jobs that will retain the best and brightest and attract new residents to our city. Just as we saw with College Hill five years ago when folks said that no one would want to live in Intown Macon, because of the College Hill Alliance, the Knight Neighborhood Challenge, our partners – and their results – that attitude has changed.  Adding the Innovation Corridor strategy is the next step in creating a Macon that is hip, historic and prosperous and we believe will serve as a model for communities across America. And we start today.

By Beverly Blake, program director/Macon at Knight Foundation