Plans for Capricorn Records and loft projects move forward; donation announced

The renovation of Macon’s Capricorn Records Studio and the construction of the Lofts at Capricorn, which will wrap around the legendary music spot, moved a big step toward reality Thursday.

The official groundbreaking held at 540 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. beside the Capricorn Records building was attended by about 75 people.

“This building behind us was purchased with a lot of hopes and dreams invested by my uncle, (the late) Phil Walden, my father Alan (Walden) ... and my grandfather Pop Walden and the late, great Otis Redding,” said Jessica Walden during the ceremony. “Once again, even from beyond, Phil Walden is playing a role in one of the biggest comebacks in music history.”

In December, Sierra Development, Southern Pine Plantations, Piedmont Construction, Mercer University and NewTown Macon announced a partnership to bring the historic Capricorn Records building back to life as part of the largest and newest residential development in downtown Macon.

Sierra and SPP bought the Capricorn building and much of the 3-acre site from NewTown Macon, which purchased the historic structure in 2011. The Peyton Anderson Foundation put about $1 million into the building to preserve it. Sierra and SPP donated the Capricorn building to Mercer University, which plans to operate the facility as a music venue and working studio for Middle Georgia talent.

To jump start the fundraising effort by Mercer to renovate the studio, Jim Daws, president of Sierra, and Travis Griffith, president of Southern Pine Commercial Group, announced Thursday they are donating $350,000 toward the project. Mercer is expected to raise about $1 million to complete the restoration.

“I think it would be a great thing if this studio would be preserved as a museum,” Mercer University President Bill Underwood said at the ceremony. “But when I think of Otis Redding; when I think of Phil and Alan Walden; when I think of Duane and Gregg Allman; and when I think of all these other artists who were part of Capricorn, I don’t think of museum pieces. I think of people who made the music that helped shape the story of all of our lives. ... That is why we’re committed to reviving the Capricorn studio. To make a place where future artists will make the music that will help shape the stories of future generations. And that’s what we’re going to do here.”

Alan Walden said after the ceremony that the renovation of the studio “is wonderful news.” A few years ago, he thought the Capricorn building on both Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and Capricorn’s offices on Cotton Avenue were going to be torn down, and that “the Walden name would be erased from Macon’s history.”

“Thank goodness we got enough support out of the Macon people” that that didn’t happen, Walden said. “It meant everything to me to see (the buildings) saved in the memory of my brother and all the artists I worked with.”

Construction of the more than 190,000-square-foot lofts project, valued at more than $19 million, is expected to be completed within 14 months, Daws said. The four-story buildings will have 147 one- and two-bedroom units, and 15,000-square feet of office and retail space and a fitness center.

“Another perk for Macon, it will have an outdoor infinity pool,” he said.

In a partnership with Cox Communications, “and a first for Macon-Bibb,” all the lofts will have 1 gig of internet service included in the rent, he said.

Lynn Murphey, vice president and market leader with Cox for Middle Georgia, said this type of service would mean a high definition movie could be downloaded in less than 60 seconds, and it would take about a minute to upload 1,000 photos.

Following the ceremony, Scott Boyer and Tommy Talton formerly of Cowboy, a Capricorn Records band, entertained the crowd.

The date of the ceremonial groundbreaking also is the anniversary of a groundbreaking musical event. The Marshall Tucker Band's self-titled debut album on Capricorn Records entered the Top 40 charts on Oct. 6, 1973, according to a statement by Jessica Walden.

Linda S. Morris: 478-744-4223, @MidGaBiz