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.