Albany’s Downtown Manager Aaron Blair continues to work on a number of projects for downtown revitalization, and he spoke to the Kiwanis Club of Dougherty County on March 3 to highlight some of them.
He started by thanking the club for holding its weekly meetings downtown at the Hilton Garden Inn. “We’re glad to have you here to see some of the changes that are going on first-hand.”
A major facet of redeveloping downtown is the Flint River, an asset Blair said many downtowns don’t have. He wants to “engage the river” in attracting downtown visitors, so a project that’s been underway for about 18 months is building pads for launching kayaks and canoes.
“We have a great river,” said Blair. Although it doesn’t allow larger boat access, “it does all for kayaks and canoes. Three launch pads are under connection, he added: one at the Georgia Power dam (“There’s a launch there already, but we’re building a separate one so there’s not a mixture of boat activity, for safety.”), and two downtown, by the Ray Charles plaza and the railroad bridge.
Blair hopes that will lead to another downtown business: an outfitter. “We need someone downtown,” he said, “for kayaking, fishing, bicycling, things of that nature. We need someone to meet that need.” A couple of bike shops have expressed an interest, he added.
Plans are also underway for a biking trail near downtown. “We have something called IMBA, which stands for International Mountain Bike Association. We have an official chapter here in Albany. In the mountain-bike world, if you’re not IMBA-certified, you’re not legitimate,” Blair said.
Art and the Downtown Art Park are another component Blair believes is vital to reenergizing downtown activity, or more specifically, street art. Work is underway in conjunction with the Albany Convention & Visitors Bureau to create a “street art experience” for bus-tour visitors at the art park.
“We have a lot of bus tours that come to Albany and they’re looking for a unique experience,” said Blair. “Street art is one of the most popular things in today’s society,” he said, noting that portions of major cities have been completely redeveloped around street art projects.
Blair said he has visited other large cities, and “I think what we have here in Albany are some of the best street artists that I’ve seen,” including places like Miami.
A street art event is planned for this Saturday, March 8, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the Art Park on Pine Avenue. For a $5 registration (payable at the Albany Welcome Center gift shop or over the phone at 229-317-4760), people can learn the basics of street art, spray-paint, and mural painting from some of the area’s best local artists, and then participate in creating a large group mural. Registration includes a supply of spray paint.
Blair cited the importance of art and music downtown to “make the place the most diverse it can be” for attracting visitors.
Albany Downtown Manager Aaron Blair, an Ohio native who came here from a similar position in Florida about three years ago, speaks to Kiwanis of Dougherty members about current projects underway to revitalize the downtown riverfront area.