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ADICA OKs loft conversion program

ALBANY, Ga. — Addressing what board member Phil Cannon called the “missing element” downtown, the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority board approved a loft conversion program Thursday that could soon bring residents into the district.

The ADICA board approved at its monthly meeting a low-interest loan program that would allow property owners to borrow up to $50,000 at 1.5 percent interest to convert downtown property into loft apartments.

“Funding for the loans — and I stress they are loans; they will be paid back — will come from the TAD (tax allocation district) bond we have in place,” Downtown Manager Aaron Blair said. “I’ve spoken to a number of property owners who have places that would lend themselves to loft apartments, and the only one who is not interested is (architect) Mr. David Maschke, who plans to use his upstairs space for his office.

“But most of the people I’ve asked about converting to lofts in the first quarter of next year are very excited about this program. Our plan is to get money rolling through the private sector and start things moving.”

Blair said he’s angered by people in the community who complain about money being spent to redevelop downtown.

“I hear people complain about anything we do downtown, but as part of the TAD we are charged with redeveloping downtown,” he said. “This money comes from a program that was approved by the voters of this community. We’re only doing what we’ve been charged to do.”

Cannon said having residents downtown would lend itself to more patrons for businesses located in the district.

“If someone’s living in a loft apartment downtown, they’re more likely to get up on a Saturday morning and walk to get a cup of coffee or whatever,” Cannon, an attorney, said.

The ADICA board also approved a new downtown mural program that would provide materials grants of up to $2,500 for artists working on murals in the district, and OK’d renewal of a facade grant program that helped businesses like Yielding & Wakeford, The LeVee and Gabe’s improve the external appearance of their storefronts.

Blair said the first round of grants, which totaled $48,000, had been successful.

“The results at the businesses whose facades are finished are spectacular,” he said. “If we decide to continue the program, the D’town Arts Coalition (which is planning to open an art gallery at 212 Broad Ave. soon), Our Daily Bread, the pawn shop and (developer) Bob Brooks have expressed interest in (the facade grant program).”

The board voted to renew the program and cap its outlay at $50,000. Businesses interested in applying for the grants will have to have paperwork completed by Feb. 1.

The ADICA board also voted to work with the city of Albany’s arborist to fund a tree beautification project on Flint Avenue. The inner-city authority will pay ($995) for trees to be planted along Flint, and the city will do the prep work and plant the trees.

“Are any of those money trees? That’s what we need,” board member David Prisant joked.

Blair said he will prepare a State of Downtown address to present to Dougherty County, Albany and Dougherty School System officials early next year (as required in the TAD agreement), but he wants to present the address to the public as well.

“I’m not going to sugar-coat anything,” he said. “I’ll tell them the negatives and the positives and outline what we plan to do downtown over the next three years. I think one thing that will surprise everyone is the amount of private-sector funding that’s been put into the district.”

Blair said he plans to address the public at a Jan. 10 event at the Flint RiverQuarium.

Comments

whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

"Blair said he’s angered by people in the community who complain about money being spent to redevelop downtown." Well, Aaron, there are some who have been here paying taxes for more years than you are old who have a right to complain based on where we are in the process, don't you think?

From the standpoint of bang for the buck, the murals seem to offer good potential and will be a welcome addition if something worth viewing is the subject.

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Cartman 1 year, 4 months ago

Blair has the gall to be angry at taxpayers? All we do is provide the money. Why should we be allowed to have an opinion?

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urbanpurpose 1 year, 4 months ago

I attended the meeting last night. As a long time resident of Albany I think they are on the right track. What Mr. Blair was referring to was the fact that people claim he and ADICA are wasting tax payer money. I agree with what he said and I usally dont agree with the City

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ABYtransplant 1 year, 4 months ago

It is obvious that public resources have not been spent as responsibly as possible in Albany's past - indisputable. But only a fool would ASSUME that every public servant, who holds the trust of the taxpayers would squander the money as others have done. It takes a lot of work to even attempt to undo the damage the taxpayers have allowed to occur in the past. Only by breaking down the walls and incrementally trusting the new guard can positive change even possibly take place. YOU hold the key!

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 4 months ago

Lofts are the missing element downtown? Actually I think the missing element is something else.

Why is Albany the only moderate to larged size town in a 100 mile radius that does NOT have a thriving downtown? What's different in Albany? Think on that for a while.

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

Gee, I don't know Ruby but it's something to chew on for awhile. I'll ask the folks in T'ville while at Victorian Christmas tonight, making merry and eating in one of their fine restaurants. Will also ask how lofts are going since at this time last year things were not that great on the Saturday morning coffee walk. Yet, they still have a great downtown to wonder about and wander through.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 4 months ago

I was in T'ville recently and lived in Downtown T'vill for about 6 months. The reason why T'ville's downtown is doing so well is because they do not have a mall. Duh! I know the demographics of T'ville like the back of my hand. Also, the lofts there are doing pretty well and look gorgeous. I would love to live in one.

I am also a member of the Downtown Arts Coalition in Albany and we have big plans for downtown and are doing great things. We just need the community support but that is growing. It's funny how you start something positive and it becomes contagious. Many groups have spun off of DAC and are also doing positive things for downtown Albany.

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urbanpurpose 1 year, 4 months ago

I agree with Kaos. I have seen a lot of great things going on from what I see.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 4 months ago

Thank you, my friend. :) Makerspace and Kattalist are also doing great things. If you want to voice your opinions go to a Kattalist meeting. That's what they are here for.

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bigbob 1 year, 4 months ago

The biggest diference is in Albany you need a gun to be safe downtown.

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ABYtransplant 1 year, 4 months ago

The missing element is PEOPLE Sister_Ruby. Downtowns are designed for people, walking and strolling, interacting and breaking down what makes us different - that is what makes them different than their autocentric suburban counterparts, where malls are the closest preversion to a downtown.

There are not enough people coming into Downtown Albany, but by methodically providing places for PEOPLE to live in downtown instead of hoping and praying for people from outside of it to come to it, Oh my GOD we can actually lure new businesses. Businesses locate where people are, not where people are not.

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iko 1 year, 4 months ago

Don Buie attorney Phil Cannon claimed that spending vast amounts of additional monies downtown could cause possible residents to buy a cup of coffee.

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dingleberry 1 year, 4 months ago

And on Saturday no less. Could do anything Albany has to offer, a wide range of choices to be sure, they will be "more likely" to get up and walk for coffee. If there is somewhere on Saturday it is unlikely the great feat could be repeated on Sunday.

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

What's the best name for a D'town Albany coffee shop? "Nobucks", which is where it will be with all the Saturday walking coffee drinker sales.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 4 months ago

The missing element seems to be some decision makers with half a brain.

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Bulldawg 1 year, 4 months ago

People do not go downtown if they don't have to as it is. Why on earth does ADICA think that people would want to live in lofts downtown? Perception is everything, and people perceive that downtown is not safe. Until the issues of crime and public saftey are addressed, downtown will never prosper. Sounds like another boondoggle to me with taxpayers money.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 4 months ago

The real truth is Downtown is safe. All the thugs live in NW Albany now. I know because I help run a Neighborhood Watch Group for my neighborhood and talk to the police and my neighbors. We are over run by thugs and are trying to run them out. I would much rather come downtown at night than step out on to my front or back lawn. NW Albany is overrun by criminals now so instead of complaining step up and do something good for your town or neighborhood and help run this thugs off. You will be surprised what you can accomplish with the right attitude.

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Bulldawg 1 year, 4 months ago

My attitude is just fine. Even if you think that downtown is safer than NW albany, many other people in this town do not. I would not agree the downtown is safer than NW albany. If you are afraid to walk out on your front or back lawn then you may want to consider another place to live. NW albany is far safer at night than downtown is. I don't know where you are getting your data, but I think it is incorrect. I would like to see downtown prosper, but the perception of crime has to be changed.

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VSU 1 year, 4 months ago

I am with you Bulldawg, I feel safer where I am at than to pay that kind of price to live downtown. It may be safe as long as it isn't near Turtle Park. We know how enjoyable it is watching the fireworks in that safe area.

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

The TAD is coming up a tad short these days. For those not well versed in the TAD, likely including those who had it formed, it is at the link.

http://www.albany.ga.us/filestorage/1798/2875/18453/Albany_Riverfront_and_Gateway_TAD_Redevelopment_Plan_09_29_08.pdf

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Cartman 1 year, 4 months ago

Yeah look at the map. They gerrymandered the new WalMart into the "downtown" district so they could use the sales tax money to fund the downtown property owners with taxpayer money. One need only look at the map to appreciate the lack of integrity in this scheme.

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urbanpurpose 1 year, 4 months ago

Cant blame ADICA and Mr. Blair for that. We all approved the map and the district

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 4 months ago

Yep, that was before his time here.

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ABYtransplant 1 year, 4 months ago

Cartman, since it is well documented that Wal-Mart ships jobs overseas, provides low quality products and puts mom and pop shops out of business, why shouldn't people that choose to shop there be taxed for the negative impacts on society and our community that results from their decision. Makes sense to me.

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Cartman 1 year, 4 months ago

Not blaming Blair for the gerrymandering. But ADICA was alive and well at the time. It was a dishonest gimmick even if the public voted on it. But that's my opinion. I'm sorry my having an opinion that I'm helping to fund another bad idea angers Mr. Blair, but I'm not losing sleep over it.

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Oldguy 1 year, 4 months ago

Two factors inhibit development of this healthy business climate. First, the physical state of many of downtown buildings is deteriorated. Private building stock has not been maintained, and public investment in downtown has been insufficient. Secondly, the neighborhoods surrounding downtown are distressed…

Taken directly from the link listed by whattheheck:

Has ADICA made a survey of downtown buildings and determined suitability for residential and business use. Have they determined if suitable parking and infrastructure would support a business or residential use of each and every building in the downtown area? Have they approached Albany Police Department to arrange better coverage of the downtown area 24/7 with a noticeable police presence? Remember the old saying "Poor preparation makes for a poor presentation." Do their homework on suitability of the structures and approach businesses that would fit each location. Instead ADICA seems to spend their resources trying to pry funds from taxpayers and government sources. I happen to be retired and would volunteer my time to assist ADICA if it would make any difference. Just my 2 cents.

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urbanpurpose 1 year, 4 months ago

Actually if you look, ADICA is working on the old northside neighborhood next to downtown and phoebe(surrounding neighborhood), and if you come downtown you will see a number the buildings are being fixed up. Sounds like they are working on the issues to me.

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urbanpurpose 1 year, 4 months ago

I heard discussions before the meeting that there will be two open seats on the Board in January due to tterm limits. I think some of us should join

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 4 months ago

Yep, get involved, people and make a difference if you don't like the situation.

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VSU 1 year, 4 months ago

Who would want to live in those lofts downtown? Sounds like a waste of money to me, but that is nothing new.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 4 months ago

Uh, a loft became available on Broad St. yesterday and lots of people were calling about it. It is very nice and a private developer made the lofts so it looks like Aaron maybe on to something. Actually, the loft is nicer than my house. The bathroom in it is my dream bathroom.

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whattheheck 1 year, 4 months ago

I don't see lofts working for children so most would be two person units. If 20 lofts were built, is there much to be gained from 40 people? Most of the lofts I have seen in old buildings are very upscale and sales or rentals become pricey which cuts down on potential. T'ville was having problems selling its very nice units in a building Albany would die for located in a vibrant downtown. Had to resort to rentals rather than sales even under better conditions than we have here. The key to the issue with most folks is "how much public money or public liability for money have we or will we create? If public money is not involved, who cares?

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ABYtransplant 1 year, 4 months ago

40 people would be great whattheheck! If you look at the data currently 62 people live within a 1/4 mile of downtown. If you could increase that population by 66% that would have a tremendously positive impact on downtown and help support the downtown businesses. The streets wouldn't seem like a ghost town after the 9-5 crowd leaves and others from outside who visit downtown would experience positive interaction, a "community" if you will downtown. Every positive change starts from humble beginnings.

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Oldguy 1 year, 4 months ago

In response to urbanpurpose,

Looks to me that they are simply putting up a façade to make it look like things are progressing, spending more money on old buildings that should be torn down to make room for newer up to date structures and parking. Art galleries and other such enterprises are great but they bring only small groups of interested patrons that will not create a true business climate in downtown. Remember many people drive through downtown headed to the Mall, put in something to draw their attention and create a reason for them to stop and shop in downtown. I know this is a tall order but it could be done. How many businesses have opened in the downtown area to simply close in a year or two and move to a better location. First three laws for a successful business are location, location, location. Make downtown a business friendly area with reasonable rent and infrastructure to sustain a business climate there.

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Oldguy 1 year, 4 months ago

In response to KaosinAlbany,,

Does the loft have in door parking for the resident so their vehicles will not be vandalized, stolen or broken into? Does it have secure entrance so the resident can move from their vehicle to the residence without fear of being robbed or harmed? Does it have suitable fire and burglar alarms? I do consider downtown to be a relatively safe place but much crime exists mere block away. Downtown must loose the stigma of being unsafe after dark to be viable.

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ABYtransplant 1 year, 4 months ago

Oldguy,

Since I have lived downtown for the past 8 months I feel like I am in a unique position to describe my place of residence.

  • It does have indoor parking in one of the two city garages, my old apartment on Westover did not have that, sure I have to walk less than a block, but that's good exercise. My vehicle which is a 2010 model was never vandalized or damaged, I was always sure to leave valuables out of plain sight though, so someone foolish may not be so lucky.

  • I never feared being robbed or harmed, and never was. I know there are more than a dozen cameras downtown, plus I see dozens of police cars EVERYDAY, mostly changing shift at the central police department behind my residence, but none-the-less a greater presence than I saw in NW Albany where I saw about 1 a week

  • I have 3 smoke detectors and an alarm system I installed myself and use consistently. It is monitored and I receive instant text alerts for any event. Fortunately it has never had to be utilized for an emergency event, however the response time from police and fire I assume would be faster than wherever you live as they are 35 feet and 1,600 feet away respectively.

If you have any other ideas on how to remove the stigma of downtown being unsafe please let me know, I will be happy to share them and help implement them. My strategy to help remove the stigma was to move downtown and provide a demonstration to Albanians, I like to call it leadership.

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sad_for_albany 1 year, 4 months ago

What I don't understand is why hasn't Mr. Brooks turned that building at Washington and Broad into Condo's/Apartments? Put a private parking garage in back where the old news paper used to be.. Take the bottom floor, make it a lobby, perhaps add a resturant. Have valet parking for residents and bonified guests. Have a livery service drive guests to events at the theatre, the civic center etc. Imagine the view of the river and fireworks from the tallest building in downtown.

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sad_for_albany 1 year, 4 months ago

Not to mention, imagine if we had a TGI Fridays or a Carraba's downtown on Pine and after dinner the partons could walk across the street to the baby IMAX theatre that the Riverquarium owns and they have leased to Carmike to show IMAX movies in the evenings and weekends.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 4 months ago

Brooks buys buildings, does not seem to develop them,

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ABYtransplant 1 year, 4 months ago

LIke buying a chair and never sitting in it, or letting anyone else sit in it either.

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Amazed2 1 year, 4 months ago

Brooks is somewhat like Studl the buy and sit or do a lttle to keep things moving in the hope that somebody else will want to buy it.

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iko 1 year, 4 months ago

Of course Mr Blair would support this. He needs a paycheck. Of course Don Buie friend and lawyer Phil Cannon would support this. He needs your tax dollars to rescue his investment. Who is looking out for the interests of taxpayers?

Is anyone else shocked that this boondoggle/Phil pill should come up the very same week the city pumps more money into the Riverquarium boondoggle/Phil pill. Yet another failure which was promised to be self-supporting and not a risk of tax dollars.

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iko 1 year, 4 months ago

Facade grants. Sound familiar?

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Cartman 1 year, 4 months ago

Why is it that these great ideas always involve our money? In other words, why don't private investors sweep in and build loft apartments? Why is our tax money being lent to subsidize Phil Cannon and other downtown property owners? After the RiverQuarium, two arches, and other financial mismanagement - I'm not impressed with ADICA's track record. I would rather see a tax cut.

I sincerely wish the downtown property owners the best of luck, but why does it always have to cost me money?

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Amazed2 1 year, 4 months ago

Heck im just worried about these murials? Who is on the commitee to approve the art or paint content of painting up the walls. Kind of like government graffiti paid for by tax dollars.

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Oldguy 1 year, 4 months ago

Abytransplant,

Perhaps I stand corrected on some of my comments. Maybe just maybe they are on the right track by having a residential presence downtown. Time will tell, let's see if you are still happy there in a year. Perhaps a nice Steak House or Buffet Restaurant would be very good for downtown, something with name recognition and reasonable prices. ADICA would have to arrange big concessions to any investors to make it happen. They would have to provide ample parking, Big property tax breaks or low cost lease, low cost utilities, etc. Albany is an Eat Out town. I wonder if anyone affiliated with ADICA reads these comments? Again I say, there a hundreds and perhaps thousands of people driving through or close to downtown going to the Mall everyday, give them a reason to stop.

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urbanpurpose 1 year, 4 months ago

I have met with Mr Blair a lot to talk about Downtown issues. I can tell you he cares a lot about downtown and this City. If any of you knew him you wouldn't talk so nasty about it. I suggest that if you feel you have a solution to send it to him, he really does care.

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