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Plan to revitalize East Albany has new life

On Tuesday, city commissioners voted to adopt an update to the East Albany Revitalization Plan. / Mary Green

Back in 2001, the City of Albany created a comprehensive plan to bring back East Albany, but in the 16 years since, that side of town is still falling behind the rest of the city.

On Tuesday, city commissioners voted to adopt an update to the East Albany Revitalization Plan, which is 46 pages long and includes several goals and steps to target specific problems in that part of the city.

The plan’s five strategic goals are: crime in neighborhoods; infrastructure repair and maintenance; housing and property issues; encourage economic development; and reduce poverty.

Each strategic goal also includes several “action steps” specific to that goal. Some of the projects listed are already in the works and covered by SPLOST, while others call for more investment, either at the local, state or federal level, through grants, or from community partners.

“Politics is a very slow process, but if they decide to stay in the next years, it’ll be like Missouri, the Show-Me State. They will be impressed with East Albany,” said City Commissioner Jon Howard, whose ward, Ward I, encompasses most of East Albany.

Howard has been fighting for years to make sure his community isn’t forgotten or left behind, and he said he’s excited about what the plan could do.

“It’s not going to be the panacea for East Albany, but at least we got it back on the table, and it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

Some people who live and work in East Albany said they’ve been ready to see changes come to their community.

Gordon Hall owns Shabazz Fish Supreme on East Oglethorpe Boulevard. He said East Albany needs infrastructure upgrades, especially along East Broad Street.

“This is very much long overdue,” he said. “I’ve been talking about this subject matter for the last seven to 10 years.”

Hall’s restaurant has been in its current location the past 29 years and has built up a strong clientele in that time. Hall said that’s led to many conversations with customers about their community’s state.

“They talk openly to me, and I talk openly to them, and I have a good idea about how people feel about different things in Albany, Georgia,” he said.

In the same plaza as Shabazz is Odyssey Records. Its owner, Gilbert Udoto, said he also wants to see change, but of a different nature.

“More jobs and have more stores,” he said. “Maybe when you go to look for people to invest or start a business, we need to bring them to East Albany.”

The revitalization plan is supposed to be actualized over the next five years. The businessmen said that change can’t come soon enough.

“That way, we can have people wanting to bring their children over. People want to come over here; they want to do business here,” Udoto said.

“If we can beautify it with tree lining, new lighting, sidewalks, that would make everyone who lives in those areas decide, ‘Well, I need to do something better for myself too,’” Hall added.

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