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Blair offers State of Downtown address

Albany Downtown Manager Aaron Blair received numerous compliments from audience members after his state of downtown presentation at the Flint RiverQuarium’s Imagination Theatre Thursday night.

Albany Downtown Manager Aaron Blair received numerous compliments from audience members after his state of downtown presentation at the Flint RiverQuarium’s Imagination Theatre Thursday night.

ALBANY, Ga. -- Despite cold and blustery conditions, more than 60 community residents gathered at the Flint RiverQuarium's Imagination Theatre Thursday evening for Downtown Manager Aaron Blair's State of Downtown address.

Blair offered an overview of activity in Albany's Central Business District, including an update on new tax revenues generated in the Tax Allocation District since 2009. Those revenues have grown steadily, from $6,900 in 2009 to $20,957 in 2010, $101,133 in 2011 and $218,267 in 2012.

"That's the idea behind the Tax Allocation District, that new tax money will increase to the point that it spurs growth in the district," Blair said during his presentation. "When the TAD was passed (by Albany voters), the tax base was frozen in the district. That amount (in tax funds) still goes to the city, county and school board. Additional tax monies are used for development."

Blair told the crowd downtown development faces specific challenges, such as old, delapidated buildings in the district, distressed adjoining neighborhoods, a decreasing population base, the lack of a true identity and a lack of residential development.

He did note, however, that investment downtown by the private sector over the past two years in such establishments as Homerun Foods, the Nelson Tift Building, the Exchange Building, the Old Northside Neighborhood residential rehabilitation and a number of shops along North Washington Street was part of an overwhelming private-to-public investment advantage.

Blair said private investment downtown, figured conservatively, surpassed $3 million, while public funding through the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority was around $600,000.

"Tonight's meeting was, I think definitely a boost for downtown," Blair said after the meeting. "I was surprised and happy to see people who have not been engaged in downtown there, and several of them told me after the meeting they wanted to meet with me and discuss downtown issues.

"There were no negatives; I actually had prepared for them and was surprised that there were none. This is the kind of event that can revitalize us in our efforts downtown."

The meeting, a first for downtown, followed ADICA's January business meeting. At that meeting, LaNicia Hart was selected as the authority's new chairperson, and David Prisant was selected vice chairman. Hart succeeds Andrew Reid, whose term limit (three consecutive two-year terms) expired at the end of 2012. Reid was presented a plaque in recognition of his service by Blair.

"I've really enjoyed my time with ADICA," Reid said. "I think ADICA and our downtown are on the brink of being a big success. I'll always support you guys in everything you do. I think it will only take one or two things, and you will be off. We just have to hold on to Aaron."

Outgoing board Vice Chairman Phil Cannon, whose term also expired, was not at Thursday's meeting.

The board also voted to approve additional funding necessary to complete the ongoing streetscape project on Pine Avenue. Funding approved by the board includes $4,776 for the city's Water, Gas & Light Commission for work on lighting, $7,320 for damaged sewer pipes, and $59,000 for engineering and work to shore up a space under the sidewalk that ties into a room in the adjacent Albany Herald building.

"We have two options: One for a long-term fix of the problem and another less expensive option," Blair said. "Engineers have indicated the more expensive of the two is the best long-term option. I don't think we can put a price on safety."

Reid asked if the city or The Herald was liable for the space, and City Attorney Nathan Davis said that, because the city is aware of the potential danger, it is liable for making the sidewalk safe for the public.

The board also voted to purchse a $500 table for Monday's Martin Luther King Day celebration.

Comments

dickyboy 1 year, 2 months ago

Didn't mention.. Broad.. Pine..N Jackson.. N Jefferson.. which is downtown proper... but did mention N Washington... (his block)... realize that downtown Albany is made up of partial blocks.. the longest block is the 200 block of Broad which is over 50% vacant..I realize that his job is tough and do have to give him credit for taking it on and wish him luck...

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 2 months ago

Picture looks like Blair and a Clown. Right?

Let's just make it up and see who believes it.

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KaosinAlbany 1 year, 2 months ago

Actually, Ruby, the other guy in the pic is a friend of mine who started the Goodlife Drum Circle.

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FryarTuk 1 year, 2 months ago

Listen to the market. It has voted with its feet and purses. " . . . downtown are on the brink of being a big success." They are on a brink alright but it is the brink of an abyss. I do not know why people push the idea of residential sites in downtown. The demographics of this community have no interest in private investments for residences in that location and for good reason. Government projects and section 8 housing will be the only residences people will move into there. Guess what that produces economically?

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chinaberry25 1 year, 2 months ago

Downtown is toast. I hate to see it, but even Bank of America is closing. This will stop a lot of traffic. The bus station is supposedly closing or moving elsewhere. As far as North Washington, what do they have? Joes Cellar use to be hopping. Look at those dirty cars that have been there for years and will be still there when I die. I would make that shop put a fence around them or move them. It is an eyesore. And right across from the courthouse. If public monies are spent, then so be it, for they will do what they want to do. Every restaurant that goes in Sandy Bottom closes. Too far off the beaten path. If McDonalds won't move in you can be assured it is dead.

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RedEric 1 year, 2 months ago

Let Aaron work on downtown. We have the marathon and the throwdown. People living downtown will increase the viability of the farmers market. These events build on one another. Albany has a lot going for it now. Maybe it had more in the past, but that is a common complaint nationwide. I came down 20 years ago and have no regrets except one. I can show you several communities in the north that have the same gang, drug, unrestrained breeding, welfare cheating problems Albany has. Nobody accuses you of being a racist when you complain. I hate it that when liberals start to lose an argument they pull the race card. Even when the connection is so vague it is laughable.

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dingleberry 1 year, 2 months ago

The situation with getting folks to move downtown is like the chicken or the egg--which comes first? Did other cities get lofts downtown because there were jobs and businesses already there or did the lofts bring both? Two of the larger buildings that could be renovated are owned by government. There was an attempt to sneak apts into the WG&L building until the coup was exposed and WG&L abruptly cancelled its plan to move to the Suntrust Building, a good move since we now have a $10 million cleaning bill coming up, The old New Albany Hotel building is being foreclosed on by the city but is filled with subsidized mostly senior renters and will require MAJOR renovation expense so it seems not viable. In terms of major buildings, that leaves two owned by the same person who is a commercial not a residential developer. So, would you believe three public funded apartments in the Albany Theater? But since the zone of consideration goes south to Whitney, perhaps there are some we don't know about yet. Regardless of the approach taken, a mixed income development won't work.

Blair's comment on the TAD raises a real question in my mind. If the values of property in the TAD, which is gerrymandered to include the east Albany Walmart, were "frozen" and any increases in value goes to the development "pot" rather than the general fund, what happens to the money generated by the periodic increases in property value that are unrelated to any development? When property values are escalated, as we do on houses, is all that increased money going to the "pot" even when development did not occur?

All in all an interesting evening with more information than we normally should but don't get. The RQ is a good location for such events where one can at least sit in other than a hard chair.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 2 months ago

Bilair won't stick with it past the end of 2013.

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CaptMurdock 1 year, 2 months ago

Sister Ruby, perhaps if you would have made it to the meeting, you would understand a bit more of what's going on. There were quite a few people there and most were interested in what Aaron had to speak on. The fact that most of the responses to this article have been of a somewhat positive nature are indeed good news. Maybe you need to step away from your crystal ball and come downtown this Friday evening or especially next for the Nights @Dtown. Positive things are already happening and more are coming to downtown, but most folks choose to ignore them.

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RandyLee 1 year, 2 months ago

I attended the meeting and agree that it was positive. I really believe that Aaron Blair is doing everything he can to make downtown Albany grow and he is very passionate about it.He has accomplished much since his time in charge. Our city manager was there and he stepped in as needed and I thought that was a very nice touch. Overall i think downtown is much better now than when Aaron Blair came on board and i think our city manager is wise and compliments our city.

As to the idea of lofts downtown, there were people in the audience who spoke up and said they would like to live in them if they were available. Well heeled people i might add- more than capable of buying a loft " Condo " or renting a loft in they were available.So I think the idea has merit. i lived in Greenville, Sc a while and they had many lofts over the town stores and every Thursday night - an event called "Greenville alive" where music was spread out across many blocks and food and festivity was the norm. This event was usually well attended and local retailers were often open ( not required or expected ) and often were doing business and offering hors d'oeuvres.

I can envision private investment coming to downtown and in fact know of some recent business openings in the works in the broader downtown district.

So , to Mr. Blair and Mr Taylor a thank you and keep up the good work.

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whattheheck 1 year, 2 months ago

I hope you have inside information on "recent business openings in the works" that actually materialize and have viable potential. But I don't have such inside knowledge--nor do I know any "well heeled" people who are in the market for downtown digs--and frankly have doubts we will see either.

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RandyLee 1 year, 2 months ago

I don't think either my self or Aaron Blair or Mr. Taylor is saying everything is perfect now. What i think we all are saying is that there is improvement and it is verifiable.

 This city will be here long after the naysayers are dead and gone- so my advice is for those that just cant stand to be here " Liquidate and move on "

They have realtors and auctioneers for those that want to leave.

The bottom line is for me is that we work together to try to overcome the bad and i see progress little by little.

just in last 3 years or so- We have seen in the "BROADER DOWNTOWN" (meaning imo- from Darton College to Albany State -east and west and Philema road to Airport North and South ) make progress at the private sector level. Examples: A )Demolished old ford building and new Zaxby's in front and in future we will see build out on the other side of street. B ) new Short and Paulk where old closed down Giles building was C) New battery store opposite of Short and Paulk D ) New Home run food store in front of bus station E ) New Walgreens where old vacant Tony's Gym was F ) Dew U save it pharmacy at corner of Flint and Jefferson G) Magnolia mattress rehabbed the old chucks furniture building H) New Church or something going on in old Elctricval supply house in front of little red dog house I ) New Pawn Shop coming to Old magnolia Mattress building or also known as Old Reeds Hardware building J ) Albany Chemical and Pool move back to their building on Broad K ) Brooks Furniture rehab their interior very nicely L )Miles Towing open up in the building opposite of U save it and they painted it up nicely M ) demolished old Heritage house hotel N ) new Auto parts store on broad opposite of magnolia Mattress and Albany Chemical and pool O ) Mr Brooks is renovating several downtown properties and will work with any tenant to help them start their business P ) New Oreily Auto Parts store at corner of 8th and Slappey Q ) new Little Ceazars pizza R) Another new groud breaking art corner of Jefferson and 7th avenue right now S ) Dialysis clinic expand on Jefferson T ) Demolition of old houses on Byron road U ) expansion of chemical company on Pine- Sasco chemical I believe V )New air conditioning company right beside them X ) Habit for humanity expand their operations into a bigger location on pine y )several new business downtown Z) i will stop now- but you get the point i hope.

 I am sure I can think of more but the broader point is that all is not negative

and I really believe that if Riverfront bar b q had not opened up the Leesburg store that the original riverfront would have continued to do very well- but when you compete against yourself you will experience some diminished revenue.

I am not ignoring other issues that we hear about but i am saying that neither is our city leaders.

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Ihope4albany 1 year, 2 months ago

While I was not able to make this meeting, I am glad to read and hear that it was positive.

Still, it appears that a universal problem; the haves not wanting to live with have nots, must somehow be addressed. The "wealth" flight from Albany and Dougherty is no different. As the flight continues, it is leaving a population less able to sustain a vibrant Albany, Dougherty. And not unexpectedly for this region of the country, the secondary cause for this flight is race.

While this may still not be a popular proposition, I submit that Albany/DOCO's future is directly tied to the ability of this community to further address centuries-old unfinished business --how to create new, meaningful and sustainable economies and social systems that holistically integrate the generationally underdeveloped population of people descended from those oppressed under forced labor.

If more wealth can be created for the race of people that is remaining, at least this locale can stabilize. Then, perhaps an identity can be created around attracting people to a new Albany, Dougherty County, a place seeking a new generation of all people who embrace economic, racial, and social diversity in this new global society.

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whattheheck 1 year, 2 months ago

"If more wealth can be created for the race of people that is remaining, at least this locale can stabilize. Then, perhaps an identity can be created around attracting people to a new Albany, Dougherty County, a place seeking a new generation of all people who embrace economic, racial, and social diversity in this new global society."

The only part of this I can find any value in is your acknowledgement that such pap proposed is not a "popular proposition". So, you hang around, dude, and see what you can do to achieve this end. Those of us who are the "oppressors" will be long gone leaving you to share the accomplishments and benefits of the holistically integrated venture--and pay the bills! Enjoy.

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