The City of Macon began the second year of its 5x5 neighborhood beautification program Monday, in which various departments concentrate their efforts on one five-block area at a time, rather than spreading their efforts across the city.
Dealing with blight in a post-industrial urban landscape can seem a task fit for Sisyphus. It’s not a surprise this one-neighborhood-at-a-time idea was borrowed from Baltimore.
Crews came through East Macon last year repainting sidewalks and replacing signage. Now they’re back for a second pass, and Keith Moffett with the mayor’s office says they’ve learned from their mistakes.
"Especially the coordination of the different departments," Moffett said, with leaf blowers roaring behind him. "Like tearing down houses, to where you make sure you don’t do something and the next day another department will come through and leave a mess. You see today, even blowing the grass and everything, we want to make sure that we coordinate that so we don’t wind up giving ourselves more work to do.”
After five weeks of this, they’ll move on to the Southside. The city has managed to largely avoid criticism that it’s helping some neighborhoods at the expense of others by rotating the program across all wards.
Macon-Bibb Urban Development Authority executive director Alex Morrison says the program, in which he is not involved, has proven effective.
"Cleaning up some debris, fixing potholes, patching sidewalks, and even demolishing some blighted houses – the people in the community recognize it. And that’s one of the most important things about that project, is giving those communities a jump start," Morrison said.
City officials say they’ve received queries from their counterparts in Cochran and other communities interested in trying the same approach.