Self-guided bike tours, a free Shakespeare in the park series and new public art are among 21 ideas that will be brought to life in downtown Macon.

Before a nightly show of Christmas lights Tuesday evening in Poplar Street Park, Kathryn Dennis, president of the Community Foundation of Central Georgia, announced the winning projects to be funded by the Downtown Challenge.

The three-year $3 million grant program, in its fourth round, has so far awarded more than $1.8 million to projects that help improve economic development, experience, living and connectivity in downtown Macon.

Visit Macon received $7,600 to launch My City Bikes app in Macon, one of several ideas Dennis said she is most excited about.

"It's a national application that people all over the country can log in and find bike trails all around Macon," Dennis said.

The app will offer three self-guided bike tours around downtown, an addition that will support Visit Macon's previous winning idea, which was the installation of Zagster rideshare bikes.

The Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority received the largest grant of $100,000 to connect the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail with downtown by improving Third Street for foot and bike traffic. Also, NewTown Macon received a $75,000 grant to connect Rose Hill Cemetery to the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail by adding ramps on both sides of the Spring Street bridge.

Other winning ideas, according to a news release from the foundation, include:

Main Street Gardens, $70,000: Macon Arts Alliance will transform an unappealing, overgrown street corner into a pedestrian-friendly new park at the end of Clinton Street.

Public Art as Economic Development, $35,000: Main Street Macon will facilitate bringing more public art to downtown and document the process by which public art is approved.

Downtown Macon Sculpture Walk, $30,000: The Downtown Community Association will link Tattnall Square Park to Gateway Plaza by highlighting new and existing art throughout the urban core.

Free Shakespeare in the Park, $19,000: The Situation Room will host four free Shakespeare in the Park events in Lower Poplar Park in spring 2018.

Macon Transit System Route Modernization, $18,000: Macon-Bibb County will convene stakeholders, survey transit users and explore funding options for technological improvements to increase efficiency of the Macon Transit Authority.

Rhythm N Jazz on the Dock, $15,500: The Rhythm N Jazz Foundation will make enhance Gateway Park and continue its free concerts for the community.

Macon Exchange: A Downtown Pop-up and Retail Incubator, $15,000: NewTown Macon will create a training program to help young businesses refine their business models and improve their likelihood for success and then use a pop up shop to test the market with minimal risk.

Be a Regular, $15,000: Main Street Macon will launch a marketing campaign to convince every community member to “be a regular” in Downtown Macon by promoting the urban core as a regional hub for retail, dining and entertainment.

Lower Poplar Park Renovation, $14,000: The Situation Room will partner with Macon-Bibb County Parks and Beautification to transform Poplar Yards between Third Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard into an open greenspace for a variety of community uses.

Slow Roll Macon Series, $13,000: Bike Walk Macon will bring a slow-paced social bike ride designed to keep a large group safe and give a unique perspective of the community to life with Slow Roll Macon.

Booker T. Washington Center Master Plan, $11,000: Macon-Bibb County will hire a consultant to evaluate viable mixed uses for Booker T. Washington Center and formulate a master plan for the center. This preliminary study will help determine the feasibility of and level of County investment there.

Protege Apprenticeships, $10,000: The Mentors Project will pair proteges with downtown businesses to aid the protege with job experience and the business with an additional employee.

Bring Back the Mac Party, $10,000: Main Street Macon will bring students from Mercer University, Wesleyan College, Middle Georgia State University and Central Georgia Technical College to downtown Macon to engage with local businesses and attractions in the urban core, building their desire to stay here after graduation. 


Historic Macon’s Music Registry Tour Brochure and Unveiling, $10,000: Historic Macon Foundation will expand on plaques that can already be found around downtown with information about Macon’s Music History by providing a self-guided tour.

Costarters Scholarships and Resource Materials, $5,000: The Mercer University Center for Innovation will use the Costarters curriculum to equip aspiring entrepreneurs with the insights, relationships and tolls needed to turn businesses ideas into action.

Pop-Up Stem Zone and Raceway, $3,000: The Magnolia Soapbox Derby will integrate a STEM Zone to Soapbox Saturday to engage fourth- to eighth-graders using a Hot Wheels inspired curriculum.

Family Faves Weekend Series, $2,000: The Grand Opera House will host a family friendly, educational, live theater series with shows on Saturday mornings and afternoons.

Art on a Cart, $1,900: The 567 Center for Renewal will pop-up a mobile art-making cart in various medians, alleys and plazas with free art activities guided by local artists.

The deadline to submit ideas for the fifth round of funding is noon March 15. Applications may be completed at https://cfcga.org/grant/downtown-challenge .

The Downtown Challenge is funded by the Peyton Anderson Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.


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