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.