MACON, Ga. — Many of you followed the big story Wednesday on big plans for the Macon Mall.
According to the 13WMAZ Facebook page, some people have mixed feelings due to concerns about crime at and around the mall.
Lillians Taylor says she is "100 percent for this project" and is "sure the Mayor will address crime in the plans."
Hannah Wilson said, "How about 100 million towards stopping the gun violence?"
Ashley McDaniel said, "How do you get businesses to want to be there?"
We took comments and questions to Bibb-County Sheriff David Davis and Mayor Lester Miller for some answers.
Both Sheriff David Davis and Mayor Lester Miller support the big plans for the Macon Mall, including a 10,000-seat music venue.
However, they also know the challenges that come with starting it.
"Some people want to be down on progress," Davis said.
Miller said, "We're always going to have some naysayers out there."
They both acknowledge that people have safety concerns.
Davis said, "It doesn't matter about the area of town. Yes, we've had some serious things happen there, but now, we are showing that we care about this particular property and people will be coming back -- safety in numbers."
"Yeah, I understand that. I think it's an overplayed hand. You've had one serious incident at the mall in several years. That was isolated, one-on-one, not because it is conducive for violence," Miller said.
They say the sheriff's office is prepared and trained to keep people safe at an amphitheater by adapting current security plans that they use for any large event, like the Cherry Blossom Festival or concerts.
Miller says the ticket sales will pay for more light, more security, and more cameras around the mall.
Davis also said, "We've secured events all the way from a presidential visit to a country music show to a football show. We are able to adjust our plans accordingly to whatever type of event or venue that may eventually come out there to the mall."
You also asked, "How will this not involve taxpayers' money?"
Miller said, "When the Urban Development Authority takes over the property, they can issue bonds, bonds anybody can buy out there, revenue bonds."
That means the development authority will borrow money to build the amphitheater, and pay it back with revenue from the mall, including tenants' rent.
Miller says they plan to renew current mall tenants with leases through the Urban Development Authority and move four government offices, including the Board of Elections.
"Departments that we would already move over there now are already paying $800,000 rent elsewhere, so instead of paying $800,000 rent elsewhere, we'd be paying ourselves," Miller said.
Davis said, "Have an open mind. Be willing to whenever the amphitheater gets open, whenever some of these shops, the restaurants, be openminded. Go shop. Come to a show. Don't be such a naysayer."
Miller hopes they can break ground in February, and say the amphitheater could be complete sometime in 2023.
So far, Miller also says, they don't have a contractor or detailed plans.
The county hasn't done a feasibility study on whether that music amphitheater will fly.
Miller met with people at the mall on Wednesday to make the plans happen.
He doesn't look at it as "the county being in the mall business."
"This is a multi-level prospect where you have the government, sports, entertainment and retail, all in one location. Then, you're going to have a lot of other development around there. The more people you have there, the more jobs you have there, the more traffic you're going to have there. It'll be better-run and more financially stable for our community," Miller said.
"It's a private investment. Number one is the value of the gift based on the appraisal done to Bibb County to Urban Development Authority, value of amphitheater, value of the land and assess currently on the property, outparcels, value of improvements on building itself with tenants that may come in like the pickleball courts, value of any potential hotel, is well over $100 million. We believe we are on the conservative low side of 100 million, but that's how we come up with the investment amount for that 75 acres of land."
Miller also plans on investing in east Macon, too. He did not share specific details.