MACON – Mercer University today announced a partnership with NewTown Macon, Sierra Development and Southern Pine Plantations to bring back to life the historic Capricorn Studio as part of the largest market-rate residential development in the history of downtown Macon.
The studio, co-founded by the late Phil Walden, a Mercer alumnus, during its heyday recorded such acts as the Allman Brothers Band, Wet Willie, Elvin Bishop and the Marshall Tucker Band and was the epicenter of Southern Rock.
For more than a decade, the facility sat vacant and fell into disrepair until it was purchased and stabilized by NewTown Macon with a grant from the Peyton Anderson Foundation. In 2010, it was named one of Georgia's most endangered historic buildings.
Sierra Development and Southern Pines recently purchased the property from NewTown Macon and will donate it – along with a substantial cash contribution – to Mercer for the purpose of renovating it into a music incubator. Piedmont Construction, which will be the project contractor, will also make a financial contribution.
The University has committed to raising an additional $1 million to complete restoration of the historic structure, which will be known as Mercer Music at Capricorn. Gifts may be made online at www.mercer.edu/givenow.
"Mercer has invested heavily in making Macon the kind of place that is attractive to talented, creative and entrepreneurial young people. Having a vibrant cultural climate, including an active, engaging music scene, is a necessary component of achieving this goal," said Mercer President William D. Underwood. "Through Mercer Music at Capricorn, we plan on putting this historically important facility back to work, not as a museum, but as a tool to reignite a vibrant music scene in Macon."
A 2014 feasibility study funded by a grant from the Knight Foundation Fund at the Community Foundation of Central Georgia determined that Macon would benefit from a downtown music incubator to promote economic development and serve as a launching pad for new bands and musicians. The study produced design concepts that will be incorporated into Mercer Music at Capricorn.
Once completed, Mercer Music at Capricorn will be available for private rentals, including special events or for musicians to record on their own equipment. The lobby will be renovated for use as one of Macon's most unique live-music venues and will have space for special events, seminars and classes. Plans also include preserving some of the artifacts that recount the history of Capricorn Records and the studio. The second floor will have two large rehearsal rooms, five medium-sized rehearsal rooms and four small rehearsal rooms. The acoustically engineered rehearsal rooms will be available to all types and genres of musicians at a low monthly rate. The second floor will also contain instrument lockers, a small common area and a studio apartment.
Musicians interested in reserving a space in the incubator may contact NewTown Macon at email@example.com to sign a pre-lease.
"I am thrilled that the Capricorn Recording Studio will be restored and help preserve the magic that once happened there," said Walden's daughter Amantha, a Turner Broadcasting executive in Los Angeles. "Mercer University's plan to use the studio as a place for musical instruction and rehearsal is such a fitting way to put this historically significant place back into service and will hopefully help to revitalize the local music scene. My father was very committed to the historic preservation of Macon, so perhaps there is no better way to honor his legacy and the legacy of Capricorn Records. I look forward to seeing how this comes together."
Sierra Development expects to break ground in the first quarter of 2016 on the lofts project, which will envelop the Capricorn Studio building and occupy most of the block bounded by Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Plum Street, Poplar Street and 5th Street.
Totaling more than 150,000 square feet, The Lofts at Capricorn will include 82 one-bedroom apartments and 55 two-bedrooms lofts. The units will feature faux wood flooring, designer kitchens with stainless steel appliances, solid surface countertops and full-size washer and dryers. The fourth-floor units will also have balconies with spectacular views of downtown. In addition, the complex will have a 4,000-square-foot leasing office and clubhouse, an outdoor pool, 189 parking spaces and 13 units with private attached garages. The project will follow best practices of mixed-use design to keep the streets and sidewalks alive, and will have more than 15,000 square feet of new office and retail space.
About NewTown Macon
NewTown Macon is a non-profit organization dedicated to implementing the community's vision of a comprehensive, coordinated and continuous plan for revitalizing downtown Macon, Georgia. NewTown's work in downtown is focused on three areas: increasing residents, growing jobs and creating a sense of place. For more information, visit www.newtownmacon.com.