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The State of Downtown Albany

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February 5, 2008

Albany - About 30% of the properties in downtown Albany are vacant, neglected or blighted. So what's being done about them? Not much... until now. The Manager of Downtown Albany presented a concrete plan to wipe out those dangerous eyesores to the city commission this morning. A plan they hope to take action on soon.

Take a tour of downtown Albany with Don Buie and he can easily accentuate the positive. But he is also hoping to soon eliminate the negative. "This is completely open. Any kid could jump right in there," Buie said as he pointed out a building missing a window.

He says blighted, vacant structures in downtown Albany have to go. "You cannot have a blighted property where you and I can look straight up into the sky and say that we are serious about Downtown redevelopment," He said. "Now's the time that we're going to make up our mind that we're going to take blight very seriously or we're going to allow blight to continue to spin out of control."

Buie says the first step to getting rid of the blight is to take control of the code ordinance. "We will move and move very quickly in locating these property owners and forcing them to make a choice," said Buie. "Either you come up with a development plan or we're going to court. It's as simple as that."

He's asked the city commission to put more teeth in the code ordinance, making definitions clearer and to provide two additional code enforcement officers who will focus on downtown. That's something Morris Gurr, who represents Ward 3 says he's more than willing to consider. He said, "This is not just the heart of my ward, it's the heart of this city and we need to get it healed."

And it's the health of the city, and the people in it that Buie says is at risk if action isn't taken now. He said, "In order for downtown Albany to be the Good Life City that we talk about, to be a place that is a destination spot, that can truly be the hub of retail like we say we are, we have to deal with properties like this."

A ballpark price tag on getting in more officers and implementing the plan is $150,000. A cost Buie says will only increase if action isn't taken soon.

Violators will be get a notice, then have the option of agreeing to a 30 day redevelopment plan or going to court. If found guilty, they could lose their property.

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