Granite “Macon 1823” sign close to finding new home
By PHILLIP RAMATI
It’s not easy to get a public sign erected, given the red tape that’s often part of the process.
Now imagine it’s 40 feet long and made of 10 tons of pink granite.
During efforts to find a home for the “Macon 1823” sign, in storage for the past four years, the red tape has been thicker than usual.
Now, though, it looks like the sign, which notes the year Macon was founded, will be part of the Second Street Corridor initiative.
Appropriately, news about the sign came Monday, the same day that work began on the part of the corridor between Cherry and Poplar streets.
Mayor Robert Reichert said the sign will probably be part of a small, pocket park in the corridor between Little Richard Penniman Boulevard and the bridge over nearby railroad tracks.
“We’ve been trying to locate a good spot for it,” he said. “We’d like to explore putting it in a pocket park -- a place where you can sit, stop and enjoy the shade. It would be just about where you get to the crest bridge and enter downtown Macon.”
There are “two or three appropriate spots” along the route, he said, that officials are researching to see how viable they would be for the pocket park and sign.
The plan follows months of negotiations with state Department of Transportation officials. Initially, city leaders wanted to put the sign back on the interstate, where it sat for years, but for various reasons those talks proved unsuccessful. DOT officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Monica Smith, president and CEO of the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau, wanted the sign put at the visitors center along Interstate 75, close to the border between Bibb and Monroe counties. But Smith said DOT officials ultimately nixed that idea.
“We looked at a couple of options, but (the DOT) determined that due to federal highway regulations, we couldn’t install it there,” she said. “I thought it would be (a good site) because of the amount of traffic that goes through there. ... Visitors would see it and residents would be proud of it. But we had to think about other locations.”
That’s when Smith had conversations with Reichert, landscape architect Wimberly Treadwell and other officials about putting the sign along the Second Street Corridor.
The sign was conceived by the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission and unveiled in 1996 for the Atlanta Olympics, thanks to a $50,000 grant designed to spruce up roads for the games.
The sign was supposed to stand upright alongside the southbound lanes of I-75 near the F. Emory Greene Memorial Bridge. DOT officials balked at the idea of leaving the sign upright, however, saying it was a potential road hazard. So the sign was placed flat along the hill, and many motorists drove by it, hardly noticing it.
In 2003, officials looked at moving the sign to a more visible locale, but nothing came of it.
Then, as part of the road-widening project for the I-16/I-75 interchange, the DOT insisted that the city remove the sign. It was taken in several pieces to the old stables in Central City Park, and it has been out of the public eye ever since.
Because of the size of the sign’s pieces, city officials couldn’t store them inside the stables, so they were stored outside. Smith said the sign is still in good shape, but will need to be cleaned.
The original cost estimates to install the sign at the visitors center was about $5,000, but Smith said it will probably be more now, depending on the final location.
The new park and sign could be completed in the next 24 months.
Once it is installed, the sign will be a great way to welcome visitors to Macon, Smith said.
“I’ll just be happy when we can see it,” she said. “I think it will be great for the community to have it somewhere we can enjoy it.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.
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