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Macon artist lives in what used to be abandoned neighborhood as part of redevelopment project

In 2016, the Urban Development Authority and Macon Arts Alliance created the Mill Hill Project to redevelop part of east Macon into an artist village.

MACON, Ga. — What was once an abandoned east Macon neighborhood full of blighted homes is now the Mill Hill East Macon Arts Village. Back in 2016, the Urban Development Authority and Macon Arts Alliance created the Mill Hill Project to redevelop part of east Macon into an artist village in hopes of preserving the homes and history in the neighborhood.

Some would say that being a first-time home buyer is... tricky. For Hannah Frey, she fell in love at first sight. 

"It's just my favorite thing. It's literally, I don't know, it's like a character. It really is. It has so much character on the inside," said Frey.

Frey says her 120-year-old home in the Mill Hill arts village stuck out for many reasons.

"I thought it was adorable. I love the fact they kept the original two doors, everything inside of this house is pretty much original. The fireplace is still in there, the wood floors are original as well," said Frey.

When she saw the home, she knew she had to buy it.

"As a first-time home buyer, I needed a little bit of assistance. So, I reached out to some people, and they were like, 'Hey, do you do any art?'" Frey said.

Ironically enough, art is one of her passions. Her realtor told her about the Macon Arts Alliance's assistance program for artists.

"Basically, it's where they'd help with the assistance of moving into the house and in return I'd basically do volunteer community service work," Frey said.

So that's what she's doing, from teaching art classes to putting artwork into shows held at the community arts center.

"As downtown grows, which we are super happy about, the development and cool things going on down there, it gets harder and harder for people to afford to live in those cool lofts and those spaces. So, one thing that we wanted to do here is preserve the affordability of a place to live that's also still near downtown," said J.R. Olive.

The Mill Hill Village now includes rehabbed homes, a park and the new and improved Macon Arts Center.

Olive, project director of the Arts Alliance, says the program gives them a chance to preserve this historic area and to help people accomplish dreams.

"In Hannah's case, she was a practicing artist who had a body of work that she wanted to display, but had never been able to do a gallery showing. Now, we're able to use the gallery in the community center to really show her work for the first time," said Olive.

"It's always been my dream to be in the art field and it just so happens that when I came here, the opportunity was given to me. It was the perfect timing, right place. It just kind of meshed together and all worked out in the end," said Frey.

Olive says it feels good to know that he helped turn an abandoned and vacant neighborhood into something that people truly cherish, and that the Macon Arts Alliance couldn't have done it without the Urban Development Authority.

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