Downtown business needs a little boost - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Downtown business needs a little boost

March 30, 2006

Albany-- Downtown Albany remains a work in progress. Revitalization efforts are still being made to attract more people but as new businesses pop up, some downtown merchants say business is actually dwindling in the area.

Some downtown merchants on Broad Avenue say when the Goodwill Store left last month, with it went a lot of downtown traffic and business. Another Broad Avenue businessman is also relocating but those who remain have plans to get business back on the up and up.

Spring has hit downtown Albany bringing some added life to the center of the city, something always good for downtown businesses. "It's been good. We've shown steady growth," says Matt Divine. But that downtown growth has ended for Matt's Motorbikes on Broad Avenue. Matt Divine fixes one of his last scooters in his downtown location.

"Foot traffic has gone down a little bit," says Divine. Reduced foot traffic along with the need to expand has Divine moving to Lee County, breaking up what he calls a close-knit family along this strip.

"Everyone on this 400 block of Broad Avenue, we're all on a first name basis and get along well," says Divine. Businesses along the street say since the Goodwill store now sits empty, business has slowed down.

"It affected us but I think we're going to pick up the pace," says Skywater owner Steve Brimberry.

Brimberry feels the family of downtown businesses can make it through this tough transition. "If we stick together, we can go through the hard times like Goodwill leaving," says Brimberry. That's because more businesses are coming. Bio-Buzz will replace Matt's Motorbikes and just next door, new club Downtown Live hopes to give a good rhythm to the area.

"I lived in Atlanta for five years and I think downtown Albany could have a Buckhead type of feel to it," says owner Robert Taylor IV. Business owners say they just have to appeal to everyone that Downtown should be the destination place for Southwest Georgia.

"If you count them up, we have like over 40 stores downtown," says Brimberry. One store will soon say goodbye to this downtown revitalization effort. "A part of us will always be here," says Divine. In the center of the city, business dreams are big and hopes are as sweet as the sights and sounds of Spring.

Downtown merchants will soon begin advertising with other chambers like Pelham, Camilla and Tifton to let those areas know what Downtown Albany has to offer. Some merchants also say bringing residential devlopment downtown could make a big difference.

Merchants say they'll also bring more events downtown other than Mardi Gras and street festivals. This they hope will bring more traffic downtown.

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