When will downtown take off? - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

When will downtown take off?

December 5, 2006

Albany  --  Downtown Albany's biggest property owner is promoting another big idea. One he says could attract out-of-towners to the Good Life City.

But Peter Studl's critics say he's actually hindering instead of helping development downtown. They say it's time for him to stop talking and start doing.

A long-vacant building, The old downtown Belk store, could become the National Prayer Museum.  "When you invest in some unique anchors, people will come," said Downtown Property Owner Peter Studl.

Studl also wants to create a prayer garden, a prayer and healing spa, and a center for law and prayer. "It's a niche that people will come from around the country to visit. Certainly, from around the region."

Studl admits he doesn't have the resources to make his dream reality. "The Prayer Museum needs to be launched, so whatever resources I can, I would bundle in there, but none of this really needs to be the work of one person. It needs to be a community effort."

Despite that commitment, the building that's supposed to house the Prayer Museum is still listed for sale on a real estate website as part of a whole city block. Studl paid $685,000 for the building two years ago. Based on the price per square foot listed on the ad, the asking price now is nearly $3.5 million. "That's not correct. That's not correct,"  Studl replied.

So,what is the asking price?  "It's not for sale right now. It's gonna be the Prayer Museum."  

It's still advertised, so is it for sale, or is it not for sale? "Well, yeah. I mean it's available for sale, absolutely, but is it directly for sale where I'm advertising that property? No."

Studl insists the listed prices of his properties haven't scared off any serious buyers, and he says his rental prices are lower than many other downtown landlords.  

Music Store Owner Ed Washburn isn't so sure. "I remember I got a letter, and it said your rent's been bumped up 300 and something percent, and it'll be due in two weeks."

Washburn's Stallion Music Store used to be located on West Broad Avenue, but after Studl bought the building, and raised his rent, Washburn moved to North Jefferson. "I'm doing great. In fact, this is better for me," he said. 

Washburn doesn't just blame Studl or high rent for downtown's slow development, but he does say Studl needs to have more realistic plans and follow through on them better. "It's not Disneyland. It's Albany, Georgia. But I think we could hold our own if you just had real businesses and real overheads, people could make it."

For several years, Studl has trumpeted such plans as a pizza restaurant, a blues club, and a puppet theater-- none of which came to pass. Two restaurants and a popcorn shop he did open are now closed.

He admits he should have been more focused. "No one can look back and say that it was perfectly executed, I'm sure. I wish I had focused on a couple of other projects."

Studl says now he is focused on creating a National Prayer Museum he's convinced will build on progress made downtown and help make Albany a destination. "Will it attract people from Atlanta? Is it strong enough to get people to go to Albany for a weekend? Let's go to Albany to visit what they're doing down there."

And does he think that's possible? "I think that's possible, absolutely."  

Feedback: news@walb.com?subject=DowntownStudl/BR

Powered by WorldNow