Albany City Manager has plan for Downtown - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany City Manager has plan for Downtown

December 22, 2006

Albany - - Downtown Albany has drastically changed in recent years, but some people worry downtown redevelopment has stalled. City leaders are considering a shakeup in the oversight of downtown development.

Albany Mayor Willie Adams and City Manager Alfred Lott propose taking money away from Albany Tomorrow, a public private partnership that develops and manages downtown projects. They want to hire a Downtown Manager who would report directly to city leaders.

Lott says he's interested in a national search to recruit a qualified person with experience in downtown revitalization to get downtown Albany going. But one of the people who started Albany Tomorrow says that group is already doing it. 

The Albany Dougherty Inner City Authority or ADICA was run by the same person who ran Albany Tomorrow.

"That's the way it was before. My proposal is to separate that," Lott says.

With Albany Tomorrow Director Tommy Chatmon resigning and with the group's contract up for renewal, things may be changing. 

Recently the city's downtown development program, ADICA, has become dormant - according to Lott. Now, he wants to boost the program. The first step is hiring a city leader to head it.

"That person will be used to go out all over the country and find investors who would be interested in investing and building downtown Albany."

Former State Representative John White, an original board member of Albany Tomorrow feels it would take away power from that group.

"Under the city, they have such strenuous regulation because that person would be a city employee and under Albany Tomorrow wouldn't have the kind of constraints that the city places on one", White says.

He feels that Albany Tomorrow, which consists of business leaders and city officials, would keep the community involved in developing downtown.

"Private industry has to continue to work at it, public officials are part time. They have other personal and private duties."

White says ATI paved the way for several new buildings downtown and questions why any changes need to be made.

Lott maintains its for the best of the city.

"ATI did a fine job of managing SPLOST projects but that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about someone who can recruit and market the city and bring deals into the city," Lott says.

But White doesn't buy it. He says with the help of the city, development should lie in the hands of the community.

"Rather than locking it around elected officials who may or may not be there next year," he says.

Lott's plan would cut ATI's annual budget by $50,000 to hire the Downtown Manager. He also says partnership between his proposed Downtown Manager and with Albany Tomorrow can still exist.

Albany Tomorrow isn't funded solely by the city. It also gets money from the county, development fees for projects, and membership fees from Board Members.

Lott says the city will review ATI's contract in mid January.

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