Urban blight is not an easy problem to fix and it goes beyond demolishing houses. However, the Macon-Bibb Commission appears committed to reducing urban blight and its mayor Robert Reichert had recently spoke at a conference in an effort to find solutions.
On Tuesday, August 19, the Macon-Bibb Commission is prepared to address this at their called meeting. Reichert acknowledged to the Macon Telegraph that the effort to address urban blight will cost money, perhaps tens of millions of dollars.
Reichert said the following: "It will take a “massive, massive injection of funds,” perhaps $20 million to $30 million, to thoroughly tackle the problem of blight in Macon-Bibb County." Reichert, who has been in office since December 2007 has made a goal of demolishing approximately a hundred abandoned houses per year.
Prior to consolidation, the City of Macon has lost population over the past four decades. Macon's population peaked in 1970 with 122,423 people, according to the Census. However, the impact of integration and 'white flight' contributed to urban blight. By 1990, Macon's population dropped to 106,612.
When more or more people left the city of Macon, the number of abandoned and neglected properties started to rise.
In 2010, Macon's population dropped to 91,351 and the city's African-American population had increased to 69 percent. Overall, the population loss in Bibb County' impacted demographics with the county becoming a majority-black at 53 percent.
One of the ingredients of urban blight is poverty. The poverty rates in Macon have remained high for decades. The city of Macon (pre-consolidation) is at 33 percent which is twice the state average of 17 percent. Even if one includes all of Bibb County, the poverty rate is still 23 percent.
Virgil Watkins, Jr., the District 8 Commissioner spoke to WMAZ-TV recently about the blight study.
"What we're trying to do now is do a comprehensive blight study to thoroughly identify all the areas to attack as well as legal and funding sources with which we can attack blight beyond just demolishing the houses," Watkins said.
Watkins' commission district is a majority-black which encompasses areas south of Eisenhower Parkway, neighborhoods that surround Southwest High School and Jessie Rice Elementary.
Alphabet City and large areas of Bloomfield are part of District 8. Some of the local businesses and notable landmarks are the Westgate Shopping mall which sits near the intersection of Eisenhower and Pio Nono. Mercer University's campus is a part of District 8 along with Bloomfield Community Park