Southside Macon Agriculture Initiative Master Plan

Southside Macon is a predominantly black community among the most distressed census tracts in the country. Led by a third generation Southside resident, the community has galvanized around an effort to combat blight with green. With an unequivocal zero displacement policy, the effort is focused on transforming uninhabited, abandoned properties into usable farm land, with an urban farm center at its core.

From lots assembled by the nonprofit, the masterplan outlines the vision of an urban farm campus with a focus on arts, culture, education, and heritage – the first step to a larger transformation for Southside Macon.

Design Challenge

The central planning challenge was to conceive a strategy to create a campus from the lots that comprises the project area. Beyond the planning, the project should galvanize community spirit and become an economic catalyst and source of community pride and empowerment. The project goal is to establish an urban farm center, while maintaining the strong sense of community and preserve the scale, nature and dignity of the existing architectural fabric of the neighborhood. The solution rejects the idea that a farm "center" had to incorporate the all programatic elements in adjacent proximities, but instead the masterplan disperses the program out into the neighborhood, embracing the neighborhood fabric, with the built elements of the program at the perimeter of the site. This allows the project structures to be placed in scale and alignment with existing residences and integrates the project into the community. The arrangement of the program elements multiplies community vitality. The cafe is placed in line, and in scale with neighborhood houses. The cafe can be expanded into the orchard, that links it with the rest of the farm center. The orchard can also be a used in conjunction with the stage from the the garden theater for seated events, such as wedding, church service or funeral. The garden theater itself is open for impromptu visits, and planned performance. The community garden is made linear, a linking element for the adjacent school and neighbors to show off their latest blooms and berries.

Physical Context

The vision is that the urban farm will be a community hub and springboard for transformation of underutilized and blighted properties, turning them into productive agricultural farmland. There will be a learning center, empowering community members with knowledge and resources to create their own gardens, produce and products. Each program element is thoughtfully placed to work in concert and integrate into the existing neighborhood context. The pavilion will be used for small farmers markets, maker markets, gatherings and community events. This structure is the venue for the most public events and most visitors. Situated at the Northeast corner of the site providing increased access and visibility. This location offers the potential to take advantage of large paved culdesac, and limited use street at the bend in Grants Chappel Alley. This paving area provides ample public event space adjacent to the pavilion without taking away an available farm site area. The pavilion is envisioned a symbol for the community that embodies the self-ignited effort to transform this area The act of tearing down houses becomes an act of creation by integrating the reclaimed elements of the houses into the design of the pavilion and landscape. As each structure is raised, wood framing elements will be set aside to be incorporated into the pavilion. As the public entry portal to the farm campus, it is a visual symbol for a community that is actively empowering themselves to transform their environment.