Private investments need to lead downtown development - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Private investments need to lead downtown development

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Albany- This it Lizette Barnes' first time at Riverfront Park with her daughter Zoe.

"It's somewhere to go and it's free, of course, and a good place to bring out-of-town guests," Barnes said.

Even on a cold and overcast day, Riverfront Park isn't empty. It's been a success since it opened in 2004.

"So it's been really gratifying to see how the public's responded to those projects, certainly," said ATI President Tommy Chatmon.

This year, we'll see the completion of projects that started last year, like the 124 room hotel-conference center and the $14.5 million law enforcement center, that's only weeks away from opening.

But there's still work to do. Some of this year's projects include a skatepark that should open in June or July, the First Tee golf course which should be done by late summer and a possible Ray Charles memorial across from the downtown hotel.

"We're certainly not anywhere close to being at the success rate that we want to be at, as far as bringing people down to shop in retail stores," Chatmon said.

Twice the amount of stores opened downtown in 2004 over 2003. But Chatmon says it takes public investment to stimulate more private investment.

"I think that's going to be the biggest story of 2005, is how much private investment is done in downtown Albany."

Investments that may be the key to bringing the life back to the heart of a city.

posted by brannon.stewart@walb.com