Michael Jackson, left, and Member Holsey of LRA Constructors work Thursday on one of three canoe/kayak launches the company is building downtown for the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority. ADICA hopes to have the launches along the Flint River ready for public use by early spring. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — It’s rare that Albany businessman Bob Brooks is told no, but the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority did just that at its December meeting Wednesday afternoon.
The ADICA board voted not to take action on Brooks’ $43,000 bid to purchase the downtown Albany Skate Park property, citing the businessman’s failure to supply information on plans for the property.
“I know we want to get that property back on the tax rolls, but since there is no plan in place for the property, what we essentially would be doing is creating another vacant property,” board member Thelma Johnson said. “It’s up to the board, but I will vote no on selling the property without a tenant in place.”
Downtown manager and ADICA CEO Aaron Blair said Thursday the board is caught in a “Catch 22” situation.
“Mr. Brooks can’t really market that property to a potential business until he owns it,” Blair said. “But the board doesn’t want to sell the property until they’re sure there’s a tenant in place. I think it’s a good thing the board tabled the matter rather than voting it down. That gives us time to discuss it further with Mr. Brooks.”
Blair said he was “surprised” by the board’s decision, mostly because the location of the property (at 125 College Drive) makes it difficult for potential businesses hoping to draw traffic off busy Oglethorpe Boulevard.
“I was surprised (at the decision) because I’ve been trying to market that property since I’ve been here,” he said. “It will be hard for a business to locate there without purchasing adjacent property that would allow ingress and egress. If we’re going to hold onto it, we’re going to have to be more aggressive in our (marketing) approach.”
Blair said state officials’ decision to release water from the Georgia Power Dam into the Flint River had hampered progress on the ADICA-financed canoe/kayak launches being built downtown by LRA Constructors. An LRA official said Thursday that project was progressing well despite the rising water.
“As the water gets higher, we’re not able to work out into the river,” LRA Job Superintendent Scott Sherman said. “But the project is going fine. We’ve got crews working on two of the launches right now.”
Despite cooler weather, LRA crews were working Thursday on launches adjacent to the old train trestle and at Ray Charles Plaza.
Blair told the ADICA board the city’s Procurement Department is putting together bid documents for demolition work at the old Albany Theater building on South Jackson Street. Rather than move forward with construction on the project, the board voted to complete needed demolition work first.
“There is interest from the private sector, and by taking this slower approach to the project, we’re hoping private-sector investors will get involved,” the ADICA president said. “We still have hopes that there will be interest in developing that property into loft apartments. The residential element is essential to redevelopment downtown.”
Blair said a young couple had moved into a converted loft apartment at 212 W. Broad Ave., giving hope that there is interest in downtown living.
“That’s amazing, awesome,” Blair said. “It proves the point that people do want to live downtown.”
The ADICA board voted to approve 11 applicants who’d sought appointments to a newly formed Art Park Advisory Board. The applicants are Lorraine Farkas, David Griffin, Femi Anderson, Lisa Deming, Russ Carter, James Malphrus, Vinh Vu, Justin Andrews, Kris Letlow, Juby Phillips and Jon Miller.