ADICA eyes new project

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- Downtown Albany is on the cusp of a series of developmental changes fueled, in part, by an injection of cash from the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority.

Following its meeting Wednesday, ADICA decided to move forward with discussions to deed over a portion of properties it owns downtown to the Destiny Group, a firm of private developers who have approached the group about partially backing millions in multi-phase developments, Downtown Manager Aaron Blair said.

The first development planned is construction of a Homerun Foods convenience store and gas station on the site of a vacant parking lot on Oglethorpe Boulevard near Capitol City Bank.

As an incentive, the board is considering using $1 million of a $6 million bond initiative to spur the development. Destiny has pledged $2.9 million of its own funding toward that project and revitalization of the Greyhound bus station and former Heritage Bank location downtown.

Blair said Destiny also is planning to redevelop some areas along Highland Avenue and to help further connect the Harlem district to downtown.

In total, ADICA is considering pledging up to $2.2 million of the bond funding to the various redevelopment projects. Those funds will be repaid, he said, through the increased value of the Tax Allocation District, which the voters approved through a referendum in 2007.

"We've been pretty stingy with that money so far, because we know once we dip into it, we'll have to pay the interest on it," Blair said. "But by providing an incentive for private business, we're increasing the value of the TAD, which we can use to start repaying the bonds."

The TAD is funded through an adjustment in how revenues generated through property taxes from downtown buildings are distributed.

If a building in the downtown TAD area sees an increase in its property taxes because of improvements made to the property, the amount of the increase in taxes stays within a special TAD fund while the original, or base tax, amount is distributed as it would normally to the city, county and School Board.

Having the TAD essentially promotes improvements downtown. The more improvements, the more the property assessments go up; the more the assessments go up, the more money goes into the TAD, which can then be used to help property owners improve other buildings.

The move doesn't come without reservations from those on the board, and from the public.

The bond issue itself was controversial when it was first passed and has narrowly survived a series of court battles.

Blair acknowledges the concern, but says that once his office gets the first project developed, he feels it will be a step toward rebuilding the public's trust in downtown and in ADICA.

"I know people are concerned, and rightly so," Blair said. "But the only way to get past the things that have happened before, is to show the public that there can be successful developments and it starts with the first one."