Macon Joins National Effort to Radically Reimagine Public Spaces
By Renée Corwine
Macon has joined Reimagining the Civic Commons, a national initiative to advance ambitious social, economic and environmental goals through public spaces.
For the next three years, Macon will work alongside Lexington, Miami, Minneapolis, San José, Akron, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia to transform civic assets to connect people of all backgrounds, cultivate trust and create more resilient communities.
Macon’s project will focus on expanding the Ocmulgee Trail network from just a recreation experience along the river into an equitable bike and pedestrian trail network that connects core neighborhoods to downtown. The expanded network will include downtown parks and connections to Pleasant Hill and East Macon.
The team will consist of public and private partnerships. Alex Morrison, of the Macon Bibb County Urban Development Authority, and Robert Walker, of the Macon-Bibb Recreation Department, have agreed to co-chair the effort.
Macon leaders note the important role that public spaces have played during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that joining Reimagining the Civic Commons will help them develop strategies to foster more equitable and healthy neighborhoods.
“We can bring the experience of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail to the urban core by re-imagining our streets and sidewalks as a playground that enriches our souls,” said Chris Sheridan, chair of the Macon Bibb County Urban Development Authority. “We are not isolated in our cars speeding on the same routes from home, to work, to shopping or the same group of friends. Let us reimagine a place where we want to go just to see who we might meet.”
Reimagining the Civic Commons is a collaborative effort of national foundations, including the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.
“Many of Knight Macon’s key local investments (like College Hill and the Macon Action Plan) have featured significant and highly successful public space components. As we look to collaborate with our local partners on future projects, I am confident that work in Macon’s public spaces will be even more highly valued,” said Lynn Murphey, Macon program director for the Knight Foundation. “Joining the Reimagining the Civic Commons network allows Macon to learn from elite U.S. cities who have been leading work in this area … and I’m particularly excited that this timing allows us to focus on our local public spaces just in time for our community’s 200th birthday!”