This report has been contributed by Cheyenne Hines and Matthew Causey, two students from Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism.
As the Mercer and Macon communities begin to grow and intertwine, a growing issue of parking -- or lack thereof -- is affecting students, customers and even store owners around Mercer Village area.
With six restaurants, a bookstore and a hair salon open in Mercer Village, it’s a main hub for students and people living in Macon.
However, the lack of both retail and student parking poses a threat for customers, students, and business owners.
“We love Mercer students, and we love our downtown customers, but there is a conflict. Parking is a big issue,” said Francar's Buffalo Wings owner Carl Fambro. “When school is back in, we lose a fair amount of downtown customers because of parking.”
Mercer Village’s most convenient retail parking is located beside and behind the Center for Collaborative Journalism and Francar’s Buffalo Wings, but this lot is also shared with those students who live in the Lofts at Mercer Village, which causes limited parking for both parties during heavy business hours, like lunch and dinner.
Sauced Pizza manager Brooke Smith said that parking “is one of the hardest things to deal with” as an employee.
Smith added that her employees typically end up parking in the very back of the lot, where they don’t feel safe walking to and from at night.
Mercer Police Chief Gary Collins explained that they try to get the word out of where students can and can’t park, but that it may not always be the most convenient to where they’re going.
“If people will utilize the parking that is available, I don’t think there would be too many complaints,” Collins said.
The complaints, Collins said, are due to the lack of convenient parking, an issue all college and universities have.
In addition to Mercer Police monitoring the parking issues, they also offer escort services to students and customers alike who do not feel safe walking to and from their destinations, according to Collins.