ADICA: Albany Theatre project will 'jump start' downtown

ADICA says residential spaces, like those planned in the Albany Theatre, will jumpstart other downtown projects

Albany Downtown Manager Aaron Blair told the Albany-Dougherty Inner City Authority (ADICA) board that downtown is not going any further if they don't progress on major projects like the old Albany Theatre.

"That's the reason that I moved here, that's the reason I took the job is to redevelop and bring back downtown, so we don't want to just be sitting here having meetings. There's no point in that. We want to have progress and we always want to have something new every month," says Blair.

Plans are in the works to turn the first floor of the Albany Theatre on Jackson Avenue into a retail area and the second floor into lofts.

"We need to take care of the downstairs first because we have some different retailers and people who are waiting for that space; they want to be in that location," says Blair.

He says businesses such as a clothing boutique, marketing firm and photography studio are highly interested in space in the old Albany Theatre; Blair says he's shown them other spaces, but they want the Albany Theatre.

Approximately four 700 square-foot lofts -- priced at $500 per month -- would fit on the second floor.

"Until we get a residential project started, that's what's going to create that nighttime and weekend traffic which is going to create the needs for the services in downtown," says ADICA Board Member Phil Cannon.

Blair says he's contacted Albany Technical College about having students help with the project. He says not only will it cut down on construction costs, but it will also give students experience working with contractors.

Board members are also looking to cut costs by utilizing work already done by the previous owner â" whose plans were cut short by his death.

"What we're trying to do is make any project we do reach out to the community and give whether it's any of our colleges or high schools anyone that we can -- give them an opportunity to showcase any of their skills," says Blair. "With Albany Tech being tied with construction industry it makes sense for us to pull them into the project and let them get some experience."

Cannon also addressed negotiating a lower cost for construction designs and a certificate of operation for the Albany Theatre building. He says the previous owner of the building had completed nearly 97 percent of the certificate of operation process.

"Perhaps there could be some cost savings with going backwards and looking at the older plans and the older occupancy certificate processes so we wouldn't have to repay for something that's already been done," says Cannon.

Cannon says investing in a larger-scale project like they have planned for the Albany Theatre building will help jumpstart other projects and goals ADICA has for downtown.

"This is one of those situations where it's going to cost a little bit more money than what somebody might be able to do in five years from now but nobody else is investing in Downtown Albany right now and it is up to us to kick start this," he says.

ADICA also discussed the art park project for the old NAPA building, which, according to Blair, has been getting a lot of public discussion as well.

"I've gotten a lot of calls from different people whether they have studios on the east side or the northwest who have heard about the art part and just want to be a part of that," says Blair.

He says Patrick Jenkins, who owns Global Essence in Downtown Albany and studied horticulture at Albany Tech, expressed interest in creating recycled art, a community garden and devices to collect rain water for the art park in the old NAPA building.

A $3,600 bid won over a $14,000 bid to knock down interior walls in the building and help with other structural construction projects for the building. ADICA is exploring options for repainting the building; the board decided to paint the building taupe and new shutters black.

"We put the murals on the outside on hold right now. We just want to make sure we get a clean building, get the building open, then we'll relook at that," says Blair.

ADICA is also working on streetscape in Downtown Albany. Blair says work has been done on Broad Street, Front Street and Washington Street, and he wants to focus on Pine Avenue next.