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Lofts headed into historic building

The Albany Theater is located on Jackson Street in the heart of downtown Albany. Downtown officials plan to create a handful of loft apartments in the building.

The Albany Theater is located on Jackson Street in the heart of downtown Albany. Downtown officials plan to create a handful of loft apartments in the building.

ALBANY, Ga. — More living space is headed downtown as the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority and the City of Albany seek to convert a portion of the historic Albany Theater to loft apartment units.

ADICA CEO and Downtown Manager Aaron Blair said that his office still isn’t sure if it would be best to pursue a four-apartment or three-apartment floor plan for the facility, but regardless the project will likely go out for bid later this month.

“It’s something that is a priority for the city and a priority for ADICA, to have more living space downtown,” Blair said. “We think that, given the historic nature of the space and its availability, that coverting a portion of this space in to apartments makes sense.”

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While the former theater auditorium is in ruin, the front of the building is in good enough shape to build a handful of loft apartments. (Oct. 12, 2012)

The plan is to convert a part of the upstairs portion of the theater outside of the auditorium section into separate apartments. Some of the apartments would be towards the front of the building, while others would be on the other side of the building.

The auditorium itself, the portion that once played host to actors, performers and, later, stars of stage and screen during the film era, is a wreck with a collapsed roof, damaged floors and walls and is even absent the stage

The portion Blair says the “arcade” — a row of individual business space leading from the main entrance off Jackson Street back towards the auditorium — is fully intact and ready for rehabilitation.

“It’s a shame that this once grand facility was allowed to sink into this kind of shape, but thankfully the previous owner did make efforts to salvage a good portion of the structure and we’re hopeful that we can build on that and make this a place people want to be again,” Blair said.

Since the floorplans are still in flux, their size is still fluid, but each of the apartments will be between 700 and 1,000 square feet and there will be a common atrium area in the center of the building that can be used for outdoor mingling or cooking or other various get togethers.

Blair said that officials have yet to determine an asking price and that they will likely let an outside property management firm serve as landlord once the units are finished.

Comments

big2xpapa 1 year, 6 months ago

Won't work. Too small, too expensive and taxpayers will wind up paying for this again.

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ustaknow 1 year, 6 months ago

This idea in various forms has been put on table in Albany before. It so far has not worked and it is an expense that i think will be yet another waste of money. Sure you can build it and brag about it. However, at the end of day, will there be a return on investment. i highly doubt it. IF so Peter Studyl or Bob Brooks would have already capitalized on it for these are two very smart men.

I hope they back off this idea for it is one that the private sector should put on table. Our property taxes were just raised and we have already paid for too many other Cutliff Grove type visions that have failed and fallen back on us to pick up tab for.

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beartrap 1 year, 6 months ago

who in their right mind would want to live in downtown Albany or in a building that the back part is in ruins?

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Shinedownfan 1 year, 6 months ago

I know, I can see it now... "What was that big noise on the other side of the wall?" "Oh, that was the ceiling falling down in the theater..."

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dingleberry 1 year, 6 months ago

Live downtown and travel to the burbs for groceries and shopping. Battle the vagrants to get to your car which is now up on blocks. Good plan! BTW, who is funding this effort? And will lofts limit what can be done with the rest of what sounds like an "incredible hulk"?

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FryarTuk 1 year, 6 months ago

Downtown is best served by court houses, governmental office buildings and lunch shops. Close it down at 5pm and roll up the streets. Stop public building of residences and ridiculous facilities like the Riverquarium. Let the market forces work.

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tocar 1 year, 6 months ago

All of this sounds wonderful to someone living in a fictious world. It would have worked way back when Albany was a peaceful and safe city, but not now. Guess you could always rent to the gang members or those who want to wreck the location.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 6 months ago

Downtown is very safe. I know a couple of people who currently live in downtown and no, their cars are not on blocks and no they do not battle vagrants, etc. I feel safer downtown than I do in my own neighborhood in NW Albany. NW Albany is going to the gangs, not downtown Albany.

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dingleberry 1 year, 6 months ago

Sounds like you are a good candidate for one of the lofts, Kaos. Since it seems public money or public backed money will be the funds source, it would be great if this worked out. However, so much of downtown is already gone or committed for other use that there is not much to work with in the way of residential development for downtown living. I don't see much beyond a "token few" lofts because there simply aren't a lot of buildings to put them in.
The same situation exists with commercial development necessary to give people a reason to locate or relocate downtown. With the bulk of shopping and eating by those with more money now done in the NW, not many are going to be willing to passing such businesses offering choice to get downtown were choices are few.
Lofts work in larger cities because the time and inconvenience of commuting to higher paying jobs in a downtown is eliminated and the surrounding area has all that is needed to live a life some are comfortable with. This isn't the situation Albany and never will be--the reality of the situation.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 6 months ago

Sorry, I already have a mortgage on a house so I will not be moving into a loft anytime soon. I do, however, spend most of my time downtown rather it be for work or play. I have walked the downtown streets late at night and no one has bothered me yet. Now, a few weeks ago I was almost run down in my own neighborhood by a police chase suspect that did put me on edge and made me feel very unsafe in my own neighborhood in NW Albany. But I do understand your point, dingleberry.

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dingleberry 1 year, 6 months ago

I don't consider Albany a safe town regardless of where one lives although I personally have not had a problem. We are not alone in that situation these days. I do go downtown day or night but would not do so by myself later at night. Crime follows people and if more people move or go downtown, crime will rise because there are more potential victims. . People are concerned by vagrants "milling around" because you simply don't know how tightly these folks are wrapped or how desperate they are. Most people will not run the risk unless there is a reason which is generally related to an event or meeting of a group.

In the right setting, lofts would be nice but I don't think the Albany setting will work since we made the mistake of "gutting" the downtown years ago. Downtown is basically government now and with what is left to work with, will likely remain that way. When a city reaches the point Albany has where poverty is its largest industry and population is in a historic spiral downward, private development money will be hard to come by as will any chance for growth of taxpaying citizens.

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BettyBowTie 1 year, 6 months ago

The gutting of Downtown continues. Having so many government buildings (all close about 5 pm) helped to kill business. The few that have hung in there are open limited days and hours. Thomasville works because they did not gut downtown, they did not put up modern structures that clash with the historic parts of town. We have little left, more going every day. Our leaders are blind and ignorant of what makes a good and attractive downtown.

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BettyBowTie 1 year, 6 months ago

It is usually a case of too little and far too late.

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ABYtransplant 1 year, 6 months ago

I disagree. There are numerous buildings in downtown Albany that would make great lofts. Lofts do not necessarily have to be in old buildings, new construction in a loft style or as soft-lofts is also an option to increase the critical mass necessary for large scale redevelopment. The pretense that you see just a “token few” sounds arbitrary, unless you have a construction or architectural background and have personally inspected all of the buildings in Albany’s central business district. The reality is that people who historically saw opportunity in run down dilapidated inner city buildings created the loft style of living (and the economic redevelopment that followed) by dismissing the apprehensive attitudes of others who proclaimed such structures as worthless relics of a bygone era.

There is also more than enough commercially zoned space in Albany's Central Business district, so that argument seems erroneous. While statistically higher household incomes exist in the “Northwest Albany” the decision whether or not to come into downtown particularly in the evening is one of misplaced fear of it being “unsafe.” This perception is also not validated by data, nor my personal experiences as a downtown resident for the past six months.

Your last point also fails to be credible. Lofts work in cities regardless of scale or population, the seasoned traveler can find them in cities smaller and slightly larger than Albany such as Valdosta, Thomasville, Columbus and Augusta. They are occupied mainly by those who are younger, empty-nesters and those that are artistically engaging. These residents provide after hours street life needed to support businesses, without them it is extremely challenging for businesses to stay open after the hours of 9a-5p.

According to the U.S. Census, Albany’s Daytime Weekday Population Change is +18.9% yielding a population of 91,513, which means Albany is still a major regional employment center. It also means that residents who would like to live downtown, and are not deterred by high crime hearsay may not actually live in-town because of a lack of housing options. Keep in mind that at least three of Albany’s largest employers are located within walking distance of the Central Business District: The City of Albany, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Albany State University.

I am glad Mr. Blair sees that housing is a critical component to the redevelopment of Downtown Albany. Lofts will fit in with other initiatives such as the Nights @ Dtown and the Art Park to provide a housing option that does not currently meet the demands here in Albany, providing those that seek such a lifestyle the option to reside comfortably in Albany while supporting local businesses, other downtown initiatives, and if you will, setting a physical example for those naysayers amongst us.

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dingleberry 1 year, 6 months ago

Then put your personal funds into it and let 'er rip!

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 6 months ago

Well put, I believe I know who you are. Thanks for you positive comment.

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PumpkinEater 1 year, 6 months ago

This is a "Build it and they will come" approach which is risky, but sometimes necessary to jump-start a market. Any financed private sector project like this would require a market study. That is a tough one to get downtown. In the practical, net rents will never recover the investment in this market. The cost to bring these units online as a mixed use development will be quite high. It will be very tough to get over $1000 per month for these units. Will the property be conveyed to a private owner and put back on the tax rolls? I think ADICA is launching some test balloons here. The "bidding" will likely be concept proposals. If that is the case, it is not a bad approach at an early stage, but will serious developers with funds really be interested? There are a lot of gaps to be filled in. Wait and see.

.

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chinaberry25 1 year, 6 months ago

The folks who can afford to live down there and pay the rent won't be there. Now if GRFA will pick up the tabs, there will be a waiting list. There are much more desirable places that can be converted cheaper. Some of those apartments on Madison close to Phoebe. Some of the bigger homes. Whoever thinks in their fuzzy mind that Albany will come back has to be living in a fantasy land. There are too many government buildings to bring in much foot traffic. On the weekends and the library closing, it will be deader than ever. It is my understanding that the library will only have 6 computers for free usage. That should cause a riot with the long waits.

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urbanpurpose 1 year, 6 months ago

This single fact can turn Downtown around quickly. "Keep in mind that at least three of Albany’s largest employers are located within walking distance of the Central Business District: The City of Albany, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital and Albany State University."

Who is to say that Mr. Blair might actually know what he is doing. Why be so negative!

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redneckgourmet 1 year, 6 months ago

Would you walk to Phoebe or ASU from your loft that is located two blocks from the bus station? They are several miles away, and the "'hoods" you gotta walk through to get there? I wouldn't do it, even if I was packing like Keanu in The Matrix!

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Rutherford 1 year, 6 months ago

why all the negativity? We all know that there are some problems in Albany - but how do we ever expect it to get any better if all we do is sit back and shoot down every attempt to try to make positive changes? If you are not willing to be part of the solution -- stop whining about the problems that you are not willing to do anything about.

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