Developers to tour downtown

ALBANY -- Come January, a bus full of economic movers and shakers, political figures and business leaders will come and stay the night downtown in what city officials hope will be an opportunity to jump-start development in the inner city.

Part of a tour organized by the Georgia Cities Foundation, a developmental arm of the Georgia Municipal Association tasked specifically with working with downtown development authorities, the tour should benefit Albany more than some of the other cities on the stop because those on the tour will stay overnight, giving local officials more time to pitch downtown use, officials say.

"This is exactly what we need," Assistant City Manager and interim Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority CEO James Taylor said. "This is an opportunity we can't afford to miss. I mean, having these types of people all in one place with the ability to show off the city is great."

The tour comes as the city is working to reorganize development efforts downtown.

At the top of the new year's priorities will be the hiring of a new downtown manager and ADICA CEO, who will then spearhead efforts to promote downtown development.

Additionally, Taylor said a redevelopment team that will include investment bankers, development officials and downtown stakeholders is in the works.

ADICA will also begin pitching some of its downtown properties to developers early in the year, including the Holman Mule Barn property and a lot near Capitol City Bank.

Taylor also says that inquiries have been made into bringing a possible nightclub and restaurant downtown, along with continued efforts to pitch the former Albany Theatre location. He added that all indications are that Wal-Mart still intends to break ground in East Albany as early as February.

Ideally, he says, the bus tour will help strengthen the vision for downtown viability, which he believes will have to incorporate residential living spaces, strong connections to the historical and environmental attractions, and likely join in some way with Albany State University's campus on the east side of the Flint River.