For the first time in our 52 year history, we are working simultaneously in two (three, if you count Downtown), neighborhoods. Our experience taught us that focusing on neighborhoods block by block, street by street, house by house bears the most impact on revitalization. We’ve seen this success in Hugenin Heights, Tattnall Square Heights, and now Beall’s Hill. That being said, when opportunities present themselves to do more good, we’re always interested.
In 2012 I spoke on a panel at a statewide preservation conference in Kentucky. One of the other panelists spoke about how Paducah, KY had married arts and neighborhood revitalization with splendid results. That session always stuck with me knowing that artists have pushed the boundaries of revitalization in cities across the country.
Last year, a contingent of Maconites visited Bradenton, Florida. From that visit, the Mill Hill Arts Village was first conceived. Since 1999 Bradenton’s Village of the Arts (VOTA) has been wildly successful by creating a thriving community of residents and businesses that support a creative spirit. True to Macon’s entrepreneurial spirit, the delegation quickly set to work creating a similar arts endeavor in our community.
As with all successful ventures, Mill Hill: East Macon Arts Village is a partnership. HMF was invited to participate to develop the housing portion of Mill Hill. Our organization will do what we do best –fix up dilapidated houses and bring back vibrancy to the area. Thankfully we’ve been able to hire an additional staff member, Michael Philips, who is overseeing our work in the neighborhood. Sabrinna Cox has also joined our staff as the new Preservation Designer. Under the leadership and direction of the Urban Development Authority (UDA) and the Macon Arts Alliance we are bound to succeed.
I hope this isn’t the first time you’ve heard about Mill Hill. This may be the first you’ve heard about HMF’s involvement, but you’ll hear more as construction continues in earnest this summer. We anticipate completing the first phase of three houses by the end of April and will host a walking tour in May for National Preservation Month.
Needless to say, it’s thrilling for HMF to be working in concert with the Macon Arts Alliance and the UDA on a new endeavor in East Macon. More importantly, we’re excited to demonstrate a new approach to neighborhood revitalization, one that capitalizes on creativity. The East Macon Arts Village is one more example of how successful we can be as a community, when organizations collaborate.