Heart & Soul tour could have impact on Downtown - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Heart & Soul tour could have impact on Downtown

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By Cade Fowler - bio | email

ALBANY, GA (WALB) – A bus tour could be a key to bringing new development to downtown Albany.

The Georgia Cities Heart and Soul tour rolled into Albany Wednesday evening.

It was the fourth of nine stops in Georgia for business leaders, developers, and philanthropists who could become catalysts for job growth downtown.

"Our soul mission is to provide low interest loans for the revitalization and redevelopment of downtowns in Georgia," said Michael Starr, board president of Georgia's Cities Foundation.

First stop in Albany was the Ray Charles Plaza where guests were greeted with an a cappella rendition of Georgia on My Mind.

But on the minds of many in Albany is the future of downtown with all its empty storefronts. And that's a big reason why the group is here.

"At the foundation we like to see all the buildings filled. And there's a lot of activity here and a lot that's going on. And a lot of the public facilities look terrific," says Starr.

Atlanta developer Emory Morsberger has overseen successful downtown developments in other Georgia cities.

"We restored downtown Lawrenceville in Gwinnett County. We bought about 25 buildings. Basically, with a lot of respect to their historic significance, we turned them into offices and restaurants and all kinds of great things," said Morsberger.

And with a large number of vacant properties in Albany's downtown, there is promise, according to Morsberger. But bringing in new development and attracting investors will require smart economics.

"It takes a lot of vision to make that happen. And it takes some strength to not just do some quick buildings that are going to be a nice thing to look at but aren't going to produce long term job creation."

The group toured the Thronateeska Heritage Center and the Riverquarium. The three day tour will make stops in Cordele, Moultrie, Thomasville, Tifton, and Valdosta.

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