Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, left, and Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard speak with a reporter about the demolition of a dilapidated restaurant in East Albany on Sept. 6, 2012. The demolition is part of the city's effort to get rid of blighted buildings.
ALBANY Anyone with even a modicum of understanding of the goings-on of the Albany City Commission knows there are two sure things about Ward 1 Commissioner Jon Howard: He’ll vote no on any item that has to do with alcohol and he is an unflinching proponent of blight cleanup.
So Howard was truly in his element Thursday morning as he and Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard inspected the remaining bit of rubble at the old Shoney’s restaurant site just off Oglethorpe Boulevard in East Albany.
“What this means to the people of Albany is that we’re one step closer in trying to beautify our city and we’ve gotten rid of one more eyesore,” Howard said as he and Hubbard visited the site after an early Pension Board meeting. “This kind of thing will impact our city for years to come.
“Places like this are eyesores, but they also pose health risks. Plus, if a business is considering locating in Albany and they see an old building like this, it’s not very likely they’re going to invest five or 10 million dollars when a place just like this could end up next to their building.”
Hubbard, who promised during her mayoral campaign to make blight cleanup one of her priorities, said the demolition of such delapidated structures as the Shoney’s site, the former Heritage House hotel on West Oglethorpe Boulevard and the run-down ex-Ford dealership on Slappey Boulevard offers visitors a more positive image of Albany.
“I’m not quite sure how many, but we have a number of other properties on our demolition schedule,” she said. “This one has been on the list for a long time, and it’s the kind of place that can negatively impact economic development as well as invite criminal activity.
“This building caught fire in 2011; another reason we’re so glad to see it come down. We’ve now placed a lien on the property, so no development can take place here (by the owner) until that lien is taken care of.”
Howard said demolition of such properties can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $5,000, but costs could double if asbestos or soil contamination are present.
At its business session on Aug. 28, the City Commission OK’d an additional $150,000 above budget sought by Code Enforcement to finance ongoing demolition efforts. Howard said that will be money well-spent.
“My vote will continue to be in favor of blight cleanup,” he said. “As long as these eyesores or there, I believe we have to continue to work to tear them down.”