Wal-Mart has closed on Clark Avenue property

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- East Albany is one step closer to having its own Wal-Mart after government and development officials confirmed Thursday that the retailer had bought and closed on the land where the store is to be built.

Dougherty County Commission Chairman Jeff Sinyard and Albany Mayor Willie Adams broke the news during a special called Dougherty County Commission meeting Thursday.

"Words can't describe what kind of opportunity this is for Albany and Dougherty County," Sinyard said. "Wal-Mart has been cutting projects like this all over the country, and for them to keep the Albany store alive shows how committed they are to the area."

The project, which has been in the works for years, has been hanging by a thread since the recession took hold, developers say, with the retail giant slashing construction projects nationwide.

At a February Albany-Dougherty Planning Commission meeting, Alexa Wagaman with site developer Myers Bright said that at several points during the preplanning stages, her company received notification that the project had not been placed on the cut list without having any knowledge the project may have been in jeopardy.

Albany Mayor Willie Adams said Thursday morning that he feels confident Wal-Mart's move to purchase the property was a good sign of its intentions in Albany.

"If they've bought the land, that shows me they want to build," Adams said. "It's a staggering move for East Albany and the entire city and will bring jobs and opportunities to a part of the city that could really use that right now."

Adams said he's been told the development could create anywhere between 300 to 500 jobs, including the retail jobs that would accompany the store itself. Wal-Mart officials say that 60 percent of those retail spaces have already been leased.

The development will likely break ground at some point in April, and Sinyard said Thursday that the announcement was merely an update to counter rumors circulating around town that the project was dead.

Ward 1 City Commissioner Jon Howard, whose constituents have been asking for a major retail establishment for years, said he was "doing cartwheels" when he heard that the paperwork had been signed.

"To have this kind of development in one of the most economically depressed parts of town is just amazing," Howard said. "For us to turn around the economic situation in Albany, we need jobs. I know these aren't the ultra-high-paying skilled jobs everybody talks about, but they are jobs that will put people to work."

Howard said the development will also create jobs in the construction sector and other areas.

Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission President Ted Clem said Thursday that the Wal-Mart development is one that has required months of behind-the-scenes work to keep the project moving.

"That development will be an economic engine for not only East Albany but all of Albany and Dougherty County," Clem said. "But it's not just about Wal-Mart, its about the businesses that come with it and the incentives that are there for small business."

The store's future location at the intersection of Cordele Road and Clark Avenue falls within a tract of land designated as a special Military Zone, which makes any business that relocates to that area eligible for special tax credits designed to promote growth.

Additionally, the downtown area appears poised to benefit from the move, given that the site is also located within an approved Tax Allocation District -- a special section of the downtown and East Albany areas designed to promote redevelopment through the use of tax dollars accrued by businesses.

"It's the anchor for the TAD, which will benefit dilapidated areas and businesses in that area," Adams said.

The TAD generates funds through the improvement of the value of property within its bounds. As a piece of property improves its value, the difference in the taxes collected go to a fund that is used to improve other buildings within the TAD, which in turn increase in value.