Residential revitalization could be the root to downtown development - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Residential revitalization could be the root to downtown development

June 4, 2007

Albany--  Downtown development leaders have an ambitious plan for the heart of the city. The goal is to attract more people to the area, not just to shop and work, but to live. They're working on a long-range plan to focus not just on the business district, but nearby neighborhoods as well.    

Leola Judge has many memories of her home near downtown Albany. They began in the early 70's.

"I moved here February of '74," said Judge.

The childhood markings of now grown grandkids line her sidewalk on Tift Avenue. They serve as a reminder of the past.

"Then years later, it just started changing," said Judge. Judge now waters her plants between an old, ugly rock and a rough place. A boarded up house sits to her left where vagrants sometimes sneak in to live.

"I worry about living with these empty buildings over here," said Judge.

An overgrown lot is seen through her fence to the right. "Oh my God, yes that too," said Judge.

That too can be seen in many downtown Albany neighborhoods. On West Residence, there's more overgrown grass and newly renovated homes sit next to dwindling ones. There could be a revitalization effort in the near future.

"It's a true revitalization of a residential neighborhood from a very dilapidated state," said Phil Cannon.

ADICA member and downtown merchant Phil Cannon says it'll just take some cleanup and the fixing up of some of those homes to hopefully get people to move to the downtown area. He says it just takes one family to lead the way.

"That will get the next family in. Then the next thing you know, you have ten families down there," said Cannon.

Cannon says there is good traffic downtown between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. but if more people lived in the area, the traffic would be constant. However, the plan will take some work.  That's why Cannon proposes area colleges and schools get involved. For instance, Turner Job Corps students could help out with landscaping and construction projects.

"I feel with our sixteen trades that we have on center, I'm sure that we can provide that support," said Turner Job Corps Director Steven Belk.

"It's time for us to have a break over here ," said Judge.

Judge knows a revitalization would make a difference. "Oh it really would. It really will because this is my home for life God willing," said Judge.

So she's depending on this new plan to make her home and neighborhood just like it used to be.

Other ideas to get more residential life downtown includes possibly using The Goodwill Building as loft apartments on Broad or even the top of the Cookie Shoppe on Jackson. But of course a big key to all of this is funding, which Phil Cannon says there is none of at this time. He just wants to get the ball rolling.  This way, the incoming downtown manager will have something to work on.

The group of community leaders  who met to discuss the plan include members from Albany Tech, ADICA, Albany State University, Turner Job Corps and the transitional center downtown. They planto meet again on June 18th. They'll use the next two weeks to come up with more ideas to share on how to make the ambitious plan work.  

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