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  Betrayal of Pleasant Hill, Macon, Ga ? 

Thought you might find this news interesting.  So much for any historic preservation for Pleasant Hill. I guess their historic heritage is still not important or valued...
James H Webb
Cell: 478-747-9555



Sent: Friday, June 17, 2016 1:14 PM
Subject: Re: Little Richard's house and other Pleasant Hill houses

Thanks Mr. Webb for the email. I  didn't get a response from GDOT until after I wrote the first story last week, but a spokeswoman said they plan to build two dozen homes instead of relocating them. That's interesting if Mayor Reichert is seeking funds for the housing. I'm away from work until Tuesday, but will check into this when I get back. 

--Stanley Dunlap

On Fri, Jun 17, 2016 at 12:48 PM, James H Webb <> wrote:
Mr. Dunlap,
In your Telegraph article a few days ago regarding the possible moving and rehabbing of Little Richard's childhood house in Pleasant Hill you also mentioned that, as part of the agreement between GDOT and the neighborhood (and the community, for that matter), another 24 or 25 houses were supposed to be relocated and rehabilitated.  This was, as you said, part of the original set of promises GDOT made to Pleasant Hill as mitigation for the damage done to the neighborhood when the interstate was first put through in the 1960s, as well as for further damage that will be done as part of the enlarging of the interstate interchange now on the books.
About a year or so ago there was a local television news report, which was never repeated as far as I have been able to find out, that was about this issue of the other houses.  In this news report, and I am sorry but I cannot recall what station it was on, there was an interview with a GDOT representative (an employee involved in this project) who said that those houses were not, in fact, going to be saved because it was going to cost an average of "$600,000 per house" to do so.  (Of course, that figure is absurd.  These are roughly 1,000 to 1,200 square foot houses and there is no way in the world it would cost anything approaching that figure to accomplish these goals.)  In vain, I tried to find some other news source that covered this issue.  The Telegraph, as far as I could see, never covered it, and the news report was not repeated on that television station's late evening news broadcast, even though it was not an overly-busy news cycle.  Frankly, it seems to have simply evaporated.
Fast forward to May 24 and the attached article was sent to me.  About the same time, we started hearing that GDOT was reneging on their promises regarding the two dozen Pleasant Hill houses although, again, I never saw anything in the Telegraph about the issue.
Last week Mayor Reichert asked the Urban Development Authority to help fund the project involving these houses, saying, as was reported to me from attendees at that meeting, that GDOT was not going to pay for this part of the mitigation and that the money had to be found to do it or it might jeopardize the entire interchange project.  Where the politics of all this are now is something that is unknown publicly, and it seems to be being kept intentionally quiet.  Again, there was no Telegraph report on this to my knowledge.
So, I am suggesting as a member of Macon's community that it might very well be worth investigating to find out just what is going on and what is, or is not, going to be done to realize the promises that were made in order to get Pleasant Hill not to oppose the massive interchange project.  In case you are not aware, the idea of these mitigation projects was pushed through the Macon City Council (this was before consolidation) on a very short time-table with a seemingly arbitrary deadline, and the push to get the City Council and the Pleasant Hill neighborhood to agree to these much-deserved mitigation efforts was done in such a way as to create an "either / or" adversarial scenario, pitting the environmental justice for Pleasant Hill against the efforts of a rather wide coalition of some 55 community organizations that opposed the overbuilding of the interchange. 
I hope you will be able to get to the bottom of things and shed some light on this issue.  There are many problems with the interchange design that is going to be imposed on the heart of Macon and that will disrupt our community for years, as well as numerous smaller, and less-impactful measures that could be undertaken to actually improve the situation, but for GDOT to now simply say "never mind" to the Pleasant Hill neighborhood and not follow through with the mitigation promises that were made is a travesty approaching the scale of the injustice done to the neighborhood and Macon when the interstate was first built.
I appreciate your consideration.

James H. Webb

GDOT Targets Historic Black Macon Community for Highway Expansion.doc

GDOT Targets Historic Black Macon Community for Highway Expansion
May 24, 2016 GLORIA TATUM Leave a comment

(APN) MACON — The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) plans to build  “truck only lanes” between Macon and McDonough for two billion dollars, to bring cargo from Savannah to Atlanta – a move that would continue to decimation of a historic Black community in Macon, Georgia, known as Pleasant Hill.
The widening of Interstate 75 will take more land and twenty six homes in the small community of Pleasant Hill in Macon, Georgia.
Pleasant Hill is designated as a national historic district, and is struggling on several fronts to preserve its historic African American ancestral heritage.
“Per square foot there is no place in the country that has produced more historic iconic African American leaders than Pleasant Hill,” Dr.Thomas Duval, a historian told Atlanta Progressive News during this reporter’s research trip to Macon.
Many know that “Little Richard” Penniman, the architect of Rock and Roll, who was born and began his career in Pleasant Hill.
But few people know all the other historic iconic African American leaders who are from Pleasant Hill.  Dr. Duval took APN on a tour of Pleasant Hill and shared the stories of prominent leaders from that community.  Here’s a few who overcame racism to achieve greatness.
William Sanders Scarborough, who went from slavery in Macon to become the president of Wilberforce College.
U.S. Rep. Jefferson Franklin Long, the first elected African American to serve in the U.S. Congress from 1870 to 1871.
Lucy Craft Laney, who founded the first school for African American children in Augusta, Georgia in 1883.
L.H. Williams, who founded the Academy for the Negro Blind (ANB), which was located where MCA is today.  Ray Charles attended ANB.
John Oliver Killens, who co-founded the Harlem Writers Guild; his politically charged novels earned two Pulitzer Prize nominations.
Sgt. Rodney Maxwell Davis, who posthumously received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, with too many people to name in this article.
Today, GDOT plans to widen I-75 through this historic neighborhood.
In a video prepared for the public, GDOT paints a rosey picture about how lovely the widened highway will look.  Toward the end of the video, it begins a section of Mitigation Measures, without ever really saying what they are mitigating.
GDOT describes how placards and signs will tell the history of a community that once existed and thrived, and also, by the way, that 26 homes will be moved.

In the 1960’s, Interstate 75 split the Pleasant Hill neighborhood in half without any regard for or input from the community.
“They did it with reckless abandon… people were told your house is in the way so it’s got to go,” Peter Givens, President of Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group, told APN, remembering what happened some fifty years ago.
A portion of Linwood Cemetery, the final resting place for many of Pleasant Hill and Macon’s prominent African American citizens, was taken for I-75 over fifty years ago.
“There were atrocities done in the sixties… bodies were not exhumed, they were just bulldozed over picked up and put in a dump truck and dumped who knows where,” Givens told APN.
That is why the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group has been working with GDOT since 2005 to make sure such atrocities don’t happen again.
The Neighborhood Group has already been successful in one phase, with the 26 houses that are going to be moved to another location in Pleasant Hill.
“Those people were paid for their homes above fair market value because they would have to purchase another two bedroom home today at a higher rate.  You could not do that at a fair market value, so we got them to offer more money,” Givens said.
The mitigation plan was written by the Pleasant Hill Neighborhood Improvement Group and this is what GDOT is supposed to honor to reduce the damage to Pleasant Hill with the highway widening.

It includes the following projects:
Create two new parks in Pleasant Hill.
Move “Little Richard” Penniman house to another location and turn it into a Community Resource Center.
Replace and upgrade the David Lucas Pedestrian Bridge that crosses over I-75.
Improve sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and create a walking path for a heritage tour.
Transform an open drainage ditch into a grass covered culvert.
Construct noise and visual barriers.
Move and fully restore up to 26 historic properties.
GDOT has purchased all the twenty six homes and fifteen alternative lots for those houses to be moved on.
“None of the mitigation plan has been acted on physically.  It’s been a lot of paperwork and back and forth with GDOT.  It’s an ongoing project and we are constantly meeting with GDOT to work out problems.  It hasn’t been easy and you never know…. but we are working to make it come to fruition,” Givens said.
However, some say that the State of Georgia does not have to widen the highway in this manner, and that there are viable alternatives that could protect Pleasant Hill.
Ted Terry, the new State Director of the Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club, wants to see more commuter rail and high speed rail between Atlanta and the rest of the state.
“At some point we have to recognize that… we keep widening roads and putting our tax revenues into an infrastructure that may be harmful to the long term health of the environment,” Terry told APN
“The Sierra Club is interested in environmental justice to protect Georgia’s environment but also how we do it in a way that marginalized communities don’t suffer at the cost of growth and development,” Terry said.
“Commuter rail and high speed rail will benefit the environment and the economy… and will stop marginalizing minority neighborhoods that tend to be most impacted by these mass projects like the pipeline and truck routes,” Terry said.



  Roundabouts are the "Safest in the World" optional type of intersection.  They are less expensive to build and to maintain than signalized intersetions.  They calm traffic.  It is impossible to run a Red-Light at a Roundbaout. They prevent T-Bone and Left-Turn collisions.  Federal Grant$ are available to retrofit existing dangerous signalized intersections.  Pedestrians are safer at Roundabouts.  

Federal Highways - Roundabouts (click) simple but old overview.  (big book) Informational Guide.

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