Changes coming to downtown Albany - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Changes coming to downtown Albany

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December 5, 2007

Albany--  Albany city leaders admit downtown has an image problem. They hope some ongoing projects will help improve that image and the new downtown manager has a plan to clean up the area.

If you weren't sure about the progress of downtown Albany, you can see signs of it by the construction taking place.

"There are a lot of things that we can build upon downtown," said Don Buie.

Crews are working fast to put finishing touches on the Ray Charles Memorial Plaza in front of the Hilton for its dedication Friday. But new Downtown Manager Don Buie says it will take more than an Albany native to revitalize downtown.

"Right now we have to deal with the image issue," said Buie.

Buie has hit the ground running, meeting with downtown business owners and city leaders. He turned a rough area of Baltimore around.  His focus is now on Albany. "We will turn downtown around," said Buie.

He has a five-strategy plan including a downtown renaissance. That means many areas will have to clean up their act. Buie wants to make sure codes are enforced because what he calls blighted buildings can have a negative impact on development.

"Once you have properties that look good on the outside, then your job becomes easier in attracting the right type of tenants in your building," said Buie. And it will take the right mix of residential development, restaurants and retail to get things going.

The Albany Museum of Art could soon join the mix. They just extended their lease six months with the option of moving into the old Mule Barn on Broad.

"We've always wanted to be a part of downtown. We feel like the cultural amenities are downtown," said AMA President Bonnie Dorough.

"The construction itself would take a year so we're looking at 18 months to two years from this point," said architect Mack Wakeford.

Buie says the whole process won't be overnight but has words of assurance for anyone who doubts what can happen with downtown. "Downtown will be the place that everyone finds something to do, be it entertainment, shopping or coming downtown just to hang out," said Buie.

So with that said, the progress in Albany's core could soon get a grade of A.

Buie plans to take a block by block approach, filling as many spaces as possible by offering incentives. He's also working on a marketing plan. By May, downtown should have its own logo and website. The next big event downtown is the unveiling of Ray Charles Plaza at 10 a.m. Friday.  

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