Ray Charles Plaza to be unveiled soon - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Ray Charles Plaza to be unveiled soon

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January 23, 2007

Albany--  A project to honor hometown hero Ray Charles is now moving  forward.  Developers insist it will be a first-class park that will give proper praise to a music legend.

Downtown Albany is changing.  Cars now pass through a gateway arch at Oglethorpe Boulevard.  Kids play nearby at Riverfront Park and hundreds of guests call the Albany Hilton Garden Inn a temporary home.

"Been great. We've been well received by people in town. Business is good," said Hilton General Manager Todd Cleveland. So far, good changes to the city and more changes are on the way. Soon, people staying at the Hilton will be able to walk out of the doors and bump right into a music legend.

"We're really looking forward to the Ray Charles Plaza. It's something we've been looking forward to since opening," said Cleveland. The plaza will be directly across the street from the hotel. Cleveland says hotel personnel aren't the only ones eager for Ray. Guests are eager to check him out also.

"A lot of guests have seen that and asked us exactly where it's going to be and what it's going to entail," said Cleveland.

"These are some renderings from it here," said Chatmon. Outgoing ATI President Tommy Chatmon shows renderings of the plaza that outline the project.  He's excited to see the project play out.

"I think all together it's quite unique actually, and again quite exciting," said Chatmon.

Early pictures of the design show Charles seated at a piano with life-like hands on piano keys. Renderings show quarter notes and piano keys as seats.  People will be treated to historic narratives of the Albany Native, but that's not it.

"Ray will perform and will perform his music with full lighting and sound," said Chatmon. Ray of course will be the main attraction.  Chatmon says the project will bring a sense of enormous pride to the city.

"I really think Ray Charles Plaza is going to become perhaps the most visible icon we have as an attraction," said Chatmon.

It's even more reason for people to travel from miles away to get a glimpse of Albany, Georgia. "It'll be great to have a nice feature like this across from the hotel for guests to visit, to sit and read books, walk, take a stroll in the morning or evening," said Cleveland.

It'll add to the changing face of downtown and help us all keep Ray on our minds. 

Construction should begin in April and may be finished by the end of September. Chatmon says the city may be asked to rename that part of Front Street Ray Charles Way.

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