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Riverfront Retail project gets eight business letters-of-intent

Businesses ready to open storefronts along Pine, Front downtown

ADICA President/Downtown Manager Aaron Blair, left, talks with Kattalistt Group President James Malphrus in one of the many rooms of the massive, 11,176-square-foot former IRS building at 110 Pine Avenue Thursday. Malphrus and his group are among several who’ve signed letters-of-intent to occupy downtown retail space. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ADICA President/Downtown Manager Aaron Blair, left, talks with Kattalistt Group President James Malphrus in one of the many rooms of the massive, 11,176-square-foot former IRS building at 110 Pine Avenue Thursday. Malphrus and his group are among several who’ve signed letters-of-intent to occupy downtown retail space. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — On the day he announced that he would be leaving Albany for a leadership position in Fresno, Calif., Downtown Manager Aaron Blair talked excitedly about what could turn out to be the biggest triumph of his almost four years in Southwest Georgia.

The Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority board offered tacit approval of a call for $450,000 in funding to go with a $1.1 million investment by Shandon Marketplace Development that could bring as many as eight new storefront businesses and dozens of other smaller shops downtown along Front Street and Pine Avenue.

The ADICA board voted Wednesday to commit the funding once Shandon Marketplace officials complete a “formal proposal” that would set the benchmark for future funding requests downtown.

“This would give us a means by which we could assure every applicant that we’re treating them the same,” ADICA board member Thelma Johnson said at the authority’s monthly meeting.

Shandon principle Patrick Plettner and local partners Orlando Rambo and Mary Carter asked the ADICA board Wednesday for a commitment of the $450,000 in funding, which had been approved previously by the board. They said their bank needs that commitment before it will loan the development group the $1.1 million it plans to use for property purchase, upfit and renovations on the buildings along Pine and Front.

And while Shandon has letters-of-intent from businesses that would fill storefronts along the 100 blocks of Pine and Front, all funding is contingent upon having signed leases by the tenants. Blair said letters-of-intent have been signed by The Kattalistt Group for the massive 11,176-square-foot former IRS building on Pine, for a children’s boutique, for a men’s clothing store, for a “grab-and-go” hamburger/hot dog restaurant, for a bike shop, for a barber salon/spa and for a specialty restaurant.

The Shandon group would also purchase the storefronts currently occupied by The LeVee and Cool Scoops on Pine.

James Malphrus, president of the Kattalistt Group, said he’s excited about the possibilities at the former IRS building, which includes — not counting a consignment/retail area planned by that group — 42 separate rooms ranging from 42 to 650 square feet.

“We plan to lease/manage the space and operate our consignment/retail area,” Malphrus said Thursday afternoon. “We’ll be looking to sublet the other rooms for anywhere from around $100 to $150 a month, depending on the size of the room. We hope to lease for $1.25 to $1.50 a foot, so some of the larger spaces could cost more.

“We’ve already had five or six people express interest in sub-leasing some of the spaces before we even announced our intent to lease the property. We’ve had interest from people looking for art studio space, maybe a little coffee shop, a band room. There seems to be quite a bit of interest.”

Malphrus said persons interested in sub-leasing one of the rooms in the building can contact him at (229) 395-8066 or email jcm@changeintoanidea.org.

Blair, who admitted his pending departure is made even more bittersweet by the momentum downtown, said he thinks there is a “more than decent chance” the latest development plans downtown will move forward. Blair is leaving at the end of the month to take a position in Fresno, Calif.

“I can tell you, the ADICA board is all-in,” he said. “Shandon is all-in. It’s really up to the businesses now. Once (Shandon Marketplace) secures the funding, none of it will be approved until there are signed leases by the potential tenants.

“The funding that’s being allocated for this Riverfront Retail project will be used to make repairs, purchase property and also to keep the rental rates down. That’s exciting. We’re moving forward with the 100 Block Master Plan even faster than we expected. All of the people who’ve signed letters-of-intent said they’d like to be in place by October, and three said they’d like to be in by September. I think it’s pretty exciting, too, that two of these businesses are already established on the west side of town.”