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Aaron Blair updates Exchange Club of Albany on progress made revitalizing downtown

After two years on the job, Blair is sensing a renewed optimism in downtown Albany

Albany Downtown Manager and ADICA CEO Aaron Blair updated the Exchange Club of Albany on Friday as to what had been accomplished toward revitalizing downtown over the past year and what might be in store for the future. (Staff Photo:Terry Lewis)

Albany Downtown Manager and ADICA CEO Aaron Blair updated the Exchange Club of Albany on Friday as to what had been accomplished toward revitalizing downtown over the past year and what might be in store for the future. (Staff Photo:Terry Lewis)

ALBANY — Albany Downtown Manager and ADICA CEO Aaron Blair told members of the Exchange Club of Albany on Friday that 2013 was a “very hard year in Albany, but the tail end of the year showed promise.”

Blair ticked off a list of accomplishments from the past year and gave the club an update on how the revitalization of the downtown area was coming along.

“We are making good progress on three kayak launch points,” Blair said. “It took a year to get all the approvals we needed and we are hopeful that project will be completed by the end of March. We are pleased to be a certified Urban Kayak Trail. The track down the Flint River from the dam to downtown is exactly two miles, and that is the minimum distance needed for certification.”

Blair added he was trying to put together a triathlon which would involve trail running, mountain biking and kayaking.

“We are trying to build a certified mountain bike track on the old First Tee property,” Blair said.

“If you’ve been down Front street lately you will notice we’ve redone the facades on all the building fronts,” he said. “It’s really transformed the street.”

The ADICA CEO said he and his team have also been focusing on some of the neighborhoods surrounding downtown, specifically mentioning Residence and Society Avenues.

“We are currently in the process of putting in historical period street lights and signs throughout the neighborhoods,” Blair said.

Blair also pointed out that the city has finally been granted Main Street Program status.

According to preservationnation.org, “communities are using the Main Street approach to revitalize and strengthen their traditional commercial districts, whether they have officially designated Main Street programs or simply incorporate Main Street into existing economic development, historic preservation, city management, or urban and community planning programs. Whatever form a preservation-based revitalization initiative takes, the national network of coordinating and local Main Street programs provides action and support on all levels.”

“We are a start-up community,” Blair said. “They (Main Street) provide technical assistance and funding to smaller cities. Financially we are in a good position because of our tax allocation, we just have to be frugal with the money. But we can use their technical assistance.

After two years on the job, Blair is sensing a renewed optimism in the city.

“Part of my job is to restore faith in Downtown Albany and develop relationships,” Blair said. “From my point of view I am seeing a lot of support for downtown … the most I’ve seen since I’ve been here.”