ViewPoint: Leadership needed for downtown survival

June 20, 2007

In a letter sent to WALB yesterday, Daphine McKenzie, owner  of Custom Interiors wrote to Albany Tomorrow Board Members, and City and County Commissioners.

She announced she had made the decision to close the downtown store September 1st, saying: "We have continually lost money in the last 24 months and traffic has slowly dwindled away despite the thousands of dollars spent on advertising".

She told us the final straw was the City and County delaying their decision to support the RiverQuarium, the crown jewel of downtown redevelopment. This followed one poor decision after another delayed or not acted upon, such as the creation of an entertainment district, in-fighting with Albany Tomorrow, Inc. for control, and the hiring of a downtown manager.

The big take-away for our City & County leaders should be, that you are showing a complete lack of leadership by delaying taking decisive actions to support projects vital to our growth and development. If you have some hidden agenda or personal reason for sending a signal, that you won't be pushed around or you must be catered to... the message received by local businesses, is you can not be counted on, and they are on their own.

So what will they do? They will close and move somewhere with more dependable leadership. Local businesses must have confidence in their future. They have lease options, payrolls to make, employees' livelihood, their hands. They have no time for your political games.

Custom Interiors can be proud they committed to downtown early, and expected other retailers to follow.  That just hasn't happened, and many of the businesses that were in the downtown area have since relocated. 

Her letter closed by saying: "It seems everyone is just waiting for downtown to fail.  Other cities and towns around Albany have thriving downtowns. Our downtown should be the city's cultural and social hub, with thriving businesses, residences and an entertainment district.  Our residents are not patronizing downtown businesses, and our city leaders are not providing the support necessary to revitalize this area." 

I'm sure this was not an easy decision for them to make, and Custom Interiors should be thanked for their support of Albany.