Downtown struggles to be viable - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Downtown struggles to be viable

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By Jennifer Emert - bio | email

November 25, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - More businesses are about to open in downtown Albany, four new leases have been signed.  But as fast as new businesses arrive, two older businesses are headed to northwest Albany.

Owners say they need to go where the traffic is. It's caused the downtown manger to re-evaluate what works downtown. He says downtown can't compete with new development and he doesn't want to. 

Envy's downtown Albany store is closed. It's moved to northwest Albany where owners say in the last week and a half, the store's traffic has doubled.

"A lot of new faces, and people coming in at all hours not just the lunchtime rush I've got people in here all day," says Julia Temples, Envy Owner.

A&K Fashions is also opening a store on Nottingham Way at Ledo Road and hasn't decided the downtown store's fate.

"With the economy the way it is people are looking for customers and downtown is just slow, it's great, but it's slow,"  said Ella Woodard, A&K Fashion Owner.

Downtown manager Don Buie says downtown can't compete with brand new construction in northwest Albany that's why he's looking for what works in downtown and for the 48-hundred people who work there daily. He's believes he's found it.

"What we know works right now are food establishments, entertainment works downtown, and as we look to build residential housing we'll look to increase the model on the other side."

Along Jackson Street, the Subway plans to expand and has taken over the lease next door. Next to that a national retail chain will occupy the next two storefronts. Buie said he can't fix all of downtown in a year, but he continues to work one block at a time but it takes cooperation from downtown landlords.

"You cannot let one person or a couple of people stop a movement, this is a movement, downtown will progress."

It's already progressing to the very blocks Envy just left and where A&K Fashion remains along West Broad Avenue, where Buie is finalizing more leases for downtown entertainment.

Downtown manager Don Buie plans to release more information about the businesses coming to downtown at a city commission meeting Tuesday.

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