Tift Park, named for Col. Nelson Tift, who founded Albany, is not for sale, Albany City Manager James Taylor says. A social media effort to save the park is apparently caused by no one checking to see whether it was in danger of being divided up and sold. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — James Taylor’s well aware of the “contact your local officials” campaign that has sprung up around the city’s “plans to sell off historic Tift Park, parcel by parcel.”
There’s just one thing the Albany city manager says is wrong with the campaign.
Tift Park’s not for sale.
“We have no intentions of selling Tift Park; there’s absolutely no truth to that,” Taylor said.
As Taylor talks about the rumors that have circulated throughout the community over the last several days, it’s not hard to hear traces of either irritation or reservation in his voice.
“Here’s the thing that bothers me,” the city manager said. “There’s nothing secret about what we’ve been doing at the park. We’ve advertised our intentions, been very public about it. But until you called me, not one person has bothered to ask me what we’re doing.”
Taylor said he believes much of the misinformation about plans for Tift Park stems from the city’s recent survey of the entire park to facilitate possible sale of a parcel in the northeast corner of the park. That parcel, which is at the corner of Jefferson Street and Seventh Avenue, was until recently the location of stables that housed horses used by the Albany Police Department. But that facility has been closed for months and sits vacant. The parcel also is separated from the rest of the park by the Boys and Girls Club facility that fronts on Jefferson.
“We cut out that one site because nobody is using it, and there are no plans to use it,” Taylor said. “It’s in a strategic retail location and could bring quite a bit of money to the city. Frankly, I thought it was the best idea for that land.
“I will tell you that Dollar General was interested in purchasing the land to build a store there, but we told them that, since it is city property, we cannot sell directly to them. They would have to participate in a public auction so that anyone interested in the land would have an opportunity to bid on it.”
Taylor said the entire park, which once housed the city’s zoo before it was moved to Chehaw, had to be surveyed before the unused parcel could be sold.
“We checked with the Boys and Girls Club folks to make sure they were all right with it, and they said they had no problem,” Taylor said. “The city of Albany owns a lot of land that we have no plans to use, so we’re auctioning them off in an effort to, first, get the property back on the tax rolls, and, second, to find uses for the property that might benefit the city.
“We will continue to try and market that piece of property, but rather than put it up for auction on the courthouse steps, we’ll market it through an agent. But there are absolutely no plans to sell Tift Park. Trust me, I am well-aware that I cannot sell anything without approval from the City Commission.”
Taylor said the Tift Park stables site was one of a group of properties that was auctioned by the city Wednesday, including the defunct L’Jua’s restaurant at 704 Radium Springs Road; 14-plus acres of land off Westover Boulevard that had previously been purchased by the Water, Gas & Light Commission; 30-plus acres of land off Lockett Station Road, and the neighborhood police center at 2223 Dawson Road.
“People have asked about the police center, but it just isn’t used,” Taylor said. “There may be officers who go in there to write a report or it may be authorized for use by a citizens’ group, but if you don’t have a key, you won’t get in there. That property has the potential to generate a lot of retail interest, so why not get it back on the tax rolls?”