The Albany-Dougherty Economic Development Commission held its first meeting of 2011 on Wednesday.
Albany Downtown Manager Aaron Blair met with the EDC to talk about his plans for the area. Blair says he is working on ways to improve downtown and has big plans for the area. "For the new year we're looking at a business incentive program that will help with the attraction of some businesses hopefully come March we'll have that program ready," says Blair.
One of the big changes in the works is a loft conversion program, something that will bring residential units downtown. "Jefferson to the river and from Thronateeska to the Harlem area; we're going to focus in those areas right now, as far as what buildings will be easy conversions and which ones will take a little more work," says Blair.
EDC President Ted Clem says having residents in downtown would benefit the businesses there. "Right now businesses can't operate in the evening because no one's here so downtown residency makes sense and helps some of the restaurants that are located downtown so I think it's a great idea," says Clem.
But in order for the area to fully thrive, Blair says residents need to spread a positive vibe about the area. "We are trying to get a buzz going about the things going on downtown. A lot of people just don't know what's going on and we want to make sure we are marketing properly so that people know what's going on they can enjoy what's going on," says Blair.
Clem agrees and wants residents to know what downtown is really all about. "We know there can be a negative perception of downtown, but in no way does that reflect reality," says Clem.
And it looks like downtown is off to a good start; several businesses are looking at buildings to move into.