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Local News

‘Dangerous’ Middle Georgia State housing needs emergency repairs

Credit: Liz Fabian / Macon Newsroom

Liz Fabian, The Macon Newsroom
January 31, 2024

Middle Georgia State University plans to renovate four “dangerous” student apartment buildings through a bond resolution from the Development Authority of Bibb County. 

Crumbling balconies, busted PVC pipes in the walls, and rusting stairways are not typically highlights on a campus tour of student housing, but Middle Georgia State University President Christopher Blake wanted representatives of the Board of Regents and the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia to see the condition of its oldest student residences.

“I would call them dangerous in certain respects,” Blake told the Development Authority of Bibb County last week. “We needed to physically walk them around to say, ‘Look, are you really wanting students in Georgia in these facilities? We think they’re substandard.’ And they agreed.”

With the Board of Regents’ blessing on the investment, the university successfully appealed to the Development Authority which agreed to up to $27 million in bonds for repairs. In 2011, the Authority also provided the $15 million in bonds to purchase the seven apartment buildings from a private developer.

“The quality of construction in 1998, 1999 on the original buildings hasn’t lasted well, so we knew when we purchased them that they weren’t the best, but we needed accommodation for students,” Blake said. “So, this is kind of going in and providing a stronger facility to make sure that we have can continue to have good quality and highly affordable housing for students.”

The Development Authority’s Patrick Goff, who is an attorney also serving as general counsel for the Greater Macon Chamber of Commerce, pointed out the dire need for funding.

“It sounds like these four buildings that are being renovated with these funds are really currently not suitable for housing,” Goff said.

“Right,” Blake replied.

The Authority approved the bond resolution, but once interest rates and purchase price are set, the deal will be finalized in the coming weeks. The bond deal will refinance the 2011 bonds and fund the renovation of those four buildings at University Pointe, which is across from the lake on campus.

Amanda Funches, MGA’s Vice President for Finance & Business, said Building 800 on the complex has already been redone and is fully occupied.

Rotting wood on the upper right balcony on Building 700 at University Pointe is an example of the hazards caused by poor drainage on the 25-year-old buildings purchased by the old Macon State College in 2011. (Liz Fabian)

Caption

Rotting wood on the upper right balcony on Building 700 at University Pointe is an example of the hazards caused by poor drainage on the 25-year-old buildings purchased by the old Macon State College in 2011.

Credit: Liz Fabian / Macon Newsroom

“Students love it,” Blake said.

It will be a model for the other four, which will be almost gutted to the studs.

“They’ll have new plumbing, new drywall, new — right now we have carpet, we’ll be going to luxury vinyl tile — all new appliances, furniture. And so, just really updating the facilities, but it’s also life and safety concerns,” Funches told The Macon Newsroom.

The renovation will reduce the number of beds in that complex from 336 to 240 as two of the buildings are not included in this project.

The apartments will be reconstructed into four-bedroom, four-bath units with a shared kitchen and living space.

“To make it more high-end for those students in their junior and senior year who are looking for a slightly more adult experience,” Blake said. “So, that gives us a ballpark figure of about 550 students who can live on the Macon campus, as well as commuters and honestly a lot of people who register on campus but do some classes online.”

About a dozen years ago before Blake arrived, the former Macon State College was primarily a commuter college that continually evolved from its origins as the two-year Macon Junior College that opened in 1968.

The 2011 purchase of the apartment complex was its first foray into residence halls.

In 2013, Macon State consolidated with Middle Georgia College in Cochran, which has five residence halls. MGA now also has about 180 beds at Aviation Hall on its Eastman campus for aviation students.

Residence occupancy rates dropped from 90% to 70% on the Cochran campus since the COVID-19 pandemic, Blake said.

Chancellor Sonny Perdue and Blake agreed the two other buildings on the site will remain closed for at least two years until there is a need for more housing as post-pandemic residency trends are rebounding slowly, he said.

Just before COVID-19 emerged, MGA built Lakeview Pointe, student housing for freshmen and new students that features 310 beds in double-occupancy rooms that share a common space and bathroom.

“We now have the Board of Regents helping us. We want to refinance our bonds and it will make for an enriched residential experience on the Macon campus, and a necessary one because the buildings were badly built. So, this turns them into something that we can hand on to the next generation and not worry they were going to fall down,” Blake said.

Development Authority history

Authority member and Mercer University Chancellor Kirby Godsey, who supported the 2011 bond deal as “an important step for the college,” made the motion to approve the new bond resolution.

“I think so highly of the president, here, and the institution has changed so much and become so much more of a resource for this community. It’s quite impressive,” Godsey said before the Authority vote.

In 1973, the Bibb County Commission created the Development Authority which finances projects outside the scope of the Urban Development Authority and the Macon-Bibb County Industrial Authority, said its attorney Chix Miller.

The Development Authority has financed multiple education facilities and other projects at First Presbyterian Day School, Tattnal Square Academy, Mount de Sales, Stratford, Goodwill Industries and the Ronald McDonald House, Miller said.

The Authority also kickstarted the move to make the Ocmulgee Mounds a national park by contributing $50,000 to the boundary study in 2013, said Starr Perdue, the current chair of the Development Authority.

Blake not only thanked the Authority, but said he is grateful for the support of Perdue and the Board of Regents for approving the investment of funds.

“It’s a sign of confidence in the university’s undergraduate future,” Blake said.

– Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at fabian_lj@mercer.edu or 478-301-2976.