White announces run; plans for Heritage House

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Former Georgia State. Rep. John White kicked off his mayoral campaign Thursday night by unveiling his plans, including how he would handle the former Heritage House hotel.

Speaking at his first campaign rally Thursday night, White told supporters that he's spoken with the heads of the owners of the Heritage House -- Greenbrier Holdings, LLC -- and believes that the city shouldn't waste money tearing the former hotel down.

"It doesn't look very good, we understand that, but if the city spends $1 million to tear it down, all you'll ever have there is an empty lot," White said. "I've been talking with the owner and it's a sound structure, all we need to do is put a new face on it."

Unveiling an architect's rendering of what he said was the future of the Heritage House, White said that a vibrant new hotel in downtown Albany could create new jobs.

White's plan comes as the city has taken new steps to put pressure on Greenbrier to shore up the property or tear it down.

City Attorney Nathan Davis has sent a letter to the heads of the company demanding that they make the property safe or face a lien from city.

The city already won a municipal court decision in which Judge Willie Weaver determined the structure to be a danger to the public safety and welfare of local citizens. Greenbrier is appealing that decision to superior court where it will likely end up on the October trial calendar.

White's vision for the Heritage House appears to be a strike at the heart of City Commissioner Dorothy Hubbard's campaign for mayor.

Hubbard has made demolition of the Heritage House and other blighted properties a key part of his platform.

White said that the Heritage House was just the first of many projects he's working on "that would blow you away."

A state representative for 22 years, White gave up his seat to run for state senate against Mark Taylor in 1996.

White and Hubbard are two of four candidates who have publicly announced intentions to run for mayor. They join restaurateur B.J. Fletcher and businessman Kirk Smith. Qualifying ends in August.

In addition to his statements on the Heritage House, White called for an aggressive city agenda to beautify the city, to promote cooperation and enhancement of the city's three main colleges and universities and to attract more private and industrial investment into the city and, specifically, the downtown Riverfront area.

That investment includes, he said, construction of high-rise buildings on the East side of the river and construction of the world's first Ray Charles Museum.

White talked about the need for a second airline at the Southwest Georgia Regional Airport "so that we don't have to drive to Atlanta to take a plane."

He also pushed for renewed support for the growth and expansion of Chehaw Park.

White said that he would call on his previous relationships in the state legislature to get those items accomplished.

"I want to see Albany become what I have envisioned it to be," White said.