Albany city leaders focus on downtown - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany city leaders focus on downtown

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By Len Kiese - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The future of downtown Albany remains fuzzy but city leaders hope to bring it into focus with the help of focus groups. Monday night, the Downtown Manager's office met with the first of three groups to help pinpoint exactly what people want to see in the center of the city.

People say when the clock hits 5 p.m., downtown Albany begins to look like a ghost town. Jacquelyn Craft hopes to help bring some spirit back to the heart of the city she grew up in.

"I came out because I really wanted to voice my opinion," said Craft.

Craft is taking part in one of three focus groups that will take a look at what's desired in downtown Albany. "Our history is so diverse. I think we can really put that to use in the downtown Albany area," said Craft.

Busy taking notes Monday on the suggestions were Albany State University Political Science majors.  It's for a Research Method course. "The first half of the class is learning how to do research. The second half is actually writing a thesis," said ASU Senior Kontorra Davis.

But for Davis, it's about more than a project and grade. "I am a native of Albany so I would like to see my city thrive," said Davis.

"Since we're starting to redevelop and build up downtown, this was the perfect opportunity to get students involved," said Downtown Manager Assistant Monique Broughton.

Students questioned focus group members about how much time they spend downtown.  The answer was very little.  They also wondered if the group shopped downtown.  Most said no. It was a big difference years ago.

"Downtown Albany was the place to shop, to eat, to spend the day," said Davis.

The goal is to bring that back. Participants gave their downtown Albany wish lists. They include everything from a movie theater, Olive Garden and Starbucks to stores like Belk and TJ Maxx. There were also suggestions for a downtown gym and daycare.

"It will definitely be effective and useful when we do get to the point of looking to bring businesses downtown," said Broughton.

Data collected will be presented to the City Manager's office as they continue their revitalization efforts. Craft hopes her two cents count. "I hope they listened and we'll see," said Craft.

Listening is the easy part.  The hard part is attracting those businesses and convincing them to give Downtown Albany a chance.

Focus groups will be held again Tuesday and Thursday at 5:30 at the Government Center downtown.

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