In 2007, as the College Hill report explains, a Mercer student began the College Hill project to develop the area between Mercer and downtown Macon. The initiative received over $5 million in grants and awards with a mission to revitalize residential, business, community and historic characters of the Corridor area through development of commercial and residential real estate. It claims to a safe environment with affordable living for people of all backgrounds and futures.
Mercer greatly supports this movement. Its College Hill Alliance, created in joint by Mercer and Macon, helps keep up the goals of the project. The Alliance has done a wonderful job so far, as confirmed by President Underwood in the College Hill Report to the Community. The project has attracted multi-millions in investment funds, and reports to foster a friendly atmosphere for walking and biking, which Mercer promotes in regards to parking.
Why am I not allowed to live there, then? Mercer has required the freshman class of 2012 and on to live on-campus through its junior year at least. I can understand requiring campus housing for freshman, since these students need to focus on adjusting to independent living, and on-campus residence eases this transition. As a sophomore, though, I’m prepared enough to live off-campus; had I been given that option, I would have chosen to. Mercer instead restrained my living to its own housing options, few of which give an adequate parking lot or an adequate kitchen. How can I contribute to Macon’s economy if I cannot get off-campus to dine at local restaurants or buy food to cook at my home?
If Mercer supports the College Hill Corridor initiative, why is it stunting its development by preventing the majority of its students, who constitute a huge chunk of potential residents, from living there? Many students would gladly buy or rent houses or apartments in this area, since they are so new and so close to campus. The Corridor offers more job opportunities for those students looking for work, and a degree of independence while maintaining the Mercer community spirit. Off-campus living fosters awareness in and of the Macon community, developing students as active Macon members which in turn would aid in Mercer’s community service missions.
I love Mercer. I want to love Macon. Loving a community from within its boundaries differs from loving a community from afar. Mercer’s service, duty and respect for Macon changes when its students become not only Mercerians, but Maconites. If Mercer wishes to teach students the value of community, as it obviously does since Integrative Program 201 class is literally called “Building Communities,” then it should allow its students to join the Macon community. I love Mercer, let me love Macon.
Note: This headline, printed in the Oct. 9, 2013 issue of The Cluster, contained an error. It has been corrected here.