Is Albany area's commercial growth slowing? - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Is Albany area's commercial growth slowing?

By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

July 14, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Two years ago Albany ranked fourth in the state in retail sales per household, but now the market may have reached a plateau.

Realtors and Developers say Albany's growth over the last ten years is beginning to taper off and economic conditions aren't helping. While commercial businesses are still interested in southwest Georgia many of them are putting plans on hold for at least a year. Developers say, psychology may have a lot to do with it.

Forrester Crossing sits at one of the busiest intersections in Lee County. Over the last month, it appears as if construction on the site that will hold 18 business condominium has slowed, but it hasn't.

"We're still on our construction schedule, we've never even moved off of it at all. We've got all the infrastructure in sewer, water, fiber optics, all the stuff that comes along with that kind of a development," said William Hancock, Webb Properties.

Two primary tenants have committed to the site, but others like a drug store who has expressed interest is now holding back, developers say many are watching economic conditions and don't like what they're seeing.

"A lot of the retailers we're seeing are putting things off to 2009 for their decision looking out at their business plans and that kind of stuff," said Hancock.

After ten years of strong commercial development in the Albany market, that growth is slowing and the high price of gas and construction materials for new development are also taking a toll.

"It had to have an adjustment at some point and while Albany hasn't reached a point of overbuilding, it had to reach a point where it plateaued off some," said Larry Walden, Walden & Kirkland Realtors.

William Hancock says some of it is psychological, coming from high fuel prices and the mortgage situation.

"We've been hit with a double whammy that is going to have an affect and you've got to make your business models conscious of that stuff," said Hancock.

That's why developers say they're not speculating and are becoming more user driven, building only where retailers have made firm commitments.

Next week, the developer for The Shops at Walden Place plan to announce two new retailers.

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