‘The Magic of College Hill’: Collaboration drives success in Macon, Ga.

communities / Article

 

Cities everywhere are searching for formulas to make them more successful, whether they face a shift in population, a shift in industries or a shift in leadership. When a city finds a formula that works, other cities want to study what’s happened and see if they can apply it at home. That’s happened in Macon, Ga., a Knight community since 1969. “The Magic of College Hill,” released today, is our attempt to explain it.

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"New report offers lessons in community revitalization, highlights transformation in Macon, Ga." - Knight Foundation press release (12/02/2014)

"The Magic of College Hill" - learning report (12/02/2014)

Over the past seven years, Macon has experienced its own renaissance in a 2-square-mile area that connects Mercer University with downtown. The once-blighted stretch known as College Hill has become an international success story through the work of Mercer, the College Hill Alliance, the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, Knight Foundation, developers, the local government and residents who sought to turn around the decline of a historic Southern city with natural assets.

In 2013 the effort to remake College Hill won a Gold Award for Redevelopment and Reuse and a Silver Award for Neighborhood Development Initiatives from the International Economic Development Council. Since then communities around the world have come calling wanting to know how Macon did it. “The Magic of College Hill” is for them and everyone seeking to make their communities better.

A community-driven vision, leadership across sectors of the city and participation by a range of people and organizations drove the College Hill turnaround, drawing more than $100 million in investment, most of it from the private sector. An area that people once avoided has become a vibrant center of commerce and residential life.

The report captures 11 drivers of success:

  1. Leverage existing assets.
  2. Start small; show impact.
  3. Draw up a master plan.
  4. Create an organization to champion the effort.
  5. University partners play a pivotal role.
  6. Foundations must act as an accelerator.
  7. Government must be involved; even if it does not invest.
  8. Private investment will make or break a project.
  9. Encourage new ideas and participation with competitions.
  10. Capitalize on the energy of newcomers.
  11. Communicate effectively to bring the vision to life.

The work in Macon isn’t done. Blight remains a problem, and the community needs to draw more residents into its vision for the future. But “The Magic of College Hill” is a starting place for the community to move forward into a bright future.

Michael D. Bolden is editorial director at Knight Foundation.

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