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Wednesday, September 24, 2014 - 5:05am

A Decline In Population In Macon Leads To An Increase In Blight

From its founding on the banks of the Ocmulgee River, Macon was a growing city. By the 1970 census, the city boasted 122,423 people. Then Macon’s downward slide began.

One-quarter of the city’s population disappeared over the next four decades. Many explanations have been offered by demographers and other experts: Suburbanization. Integration. White flight. Better highways, making it easier to commute. Increased sewage service outside the city limits with smaller lots, so housing became cheaper.

Fewer residents meant more empty houses. Some of the vacated homes have been torn down. Others burned. But plenty of others remained empty by the latest census. Vacant houses were most common in the neighborhoods that lost the most population. Macon’s urban core was hit hard, while more suburban locations were mostly robust.

By 1980, Bibb County’s population was just barely above the combined population of the contiguous counties of Crawford, Jones, Houston, Monroe, Peach and Twiggs. By 2010, those surrounding counties cumulatively had about 89,000 more people than Bibb had. From 1970, Bibb County grew just 8 percent. The surrounding counties grew 110 percent, more than doubling their populations.

As Macon’s oldest neighborhoods declined, other parts of Bibb County boomed. The areas known as Lizella and north Macon roughly quintupled their populations between 1970 and 2010. South Bibb County more than doubled.

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