Ground broken for Ray Charles Plaza - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Ground broken for Ray Charles Plaza

June 4, 2007

Albany --  A two million dollar project that hopes to put Albany on the minds of tourists broke ground Monday downtown.

Construction of Ray Charles Plaza along Front Street near the Flint River is expected to begin in the next two weeks. The park will showcase a life size statue of "The Genius" and feature his music. When complete in four months the project hopes to bring music lovers from far and wide to Charles' birthplace.

Two years of planning, five months of sculpting, and now the sounds of a musical genius can be heard faintly in the distance. The Ray Charles statue that will grace Albany's riverfront is a week away from completion.

"Ray's at the foundry. Right now they're putting on the patina which is basically the colorizing and protecting the bronze casting itself so that it wears properly in the elements, but he's ready to go," said Sculptor Andy Davis

In the next two weeks, construction will start on the plaza that will hold Andy Davis' statue and honor a master who always had Georgia... and home... on his mind.

"I think he would really appreciate this because this is home and anytime home recognizes you, you really appreciate that," said Marye Wright, Ray Charles' Second Cousin.

While both Albany and Ray Charles faced obstacles... the city hopes like Ray, it can overcome the problems it's had attracting tourists.

"Ray Charles I think embodies a lot about downtown Albany and a lot about the community of Albany in that Ray Charles overcome to represent what we hope to do in downtown Albany and revitalize downtown Albany," says Greg McCormack, ATI Interim Director.

Hoping the sweet sounds of a native son will bring not only tourists to downtown, but also new business.

"I would say it's on more reason to have an entertainment district, I think it's something everybody would like to have. We'd like to look at downtown Albany and find out ways we can improve it and I think this is certainly one of the ways that will help," says McCormack.

Family members it would have made Ray smile. "He would be smiling as he you know would always rock and smile so he would be doing that," said Wright.

To know that he may be able to help his home town in some way.

Crews hope to have a substantial amount of the plaza's work completed in time for what would have been Ray Charles 77th birthday on September 23rd. The officials opening of the plaza is scheduled for October.

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