City eyeing former Albany theatre for business incubator/ health clinic (UPDATED with additional details)

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga. -- The Albany City Commission learned Monday that city staff, in conjunction with the downtown manager, are in negotiations to acquire one of the city's most historic downtown buildings to house its health clinic and retail business incubators.

Assistant City Manager James Taylor told the commission that negotiations are still fluid but that the city had put down up to $1,000 of earnest money to acquire the former Albany Theatre on the 100 block of North Jackson Street.

The city will likely ratify tonight a nonbinding vote it made during a work session earlier this month to award a contract worth roughly $1.2 million over the next three years to North Carolina-based HealthStat for a health care clinic for its employees.

Taylor said Monday that preliminary plans are to turn the two-story building into both a home for the health care clinic and retail "incubator" kiosks and spaces for small local businesses.

"There are people who want to go into retail business who want walk-through and walk-by traffic, but who just can't afford to rent traditional spaces. These are start-up businesses," Taylor said. "And we'll teach them to come up with a right business plan and how to handle their payroll and manage their business so that they, hopefully, will grow and outgrow the incubator and spur some economic development."

The concept of moving the health clinic into the theater space comes about a month after a proposal was made by local cable provider Mediacom to deed its former downtown offices to the city for use as a health clinic, if the city would agree to forgive $139,000 in franchise fees and fines Mediacom owes the city.

That idea received swift criticism from the public, which voiced its concerns through comments at albanyherald.com and the Herald's Facebook page.

Instead, the commission appears content to allow Mediacom to pay its outstanding fees and find a different location for the clinic.

The Albany Theatre is currently in foreclosure and has been foreclosed upon twice in recent years.