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Riverfront closing a bad sign for downtown

By   /   January 10, 2013  /   Comments

Something smells in downtown Albany.  Yesterday, we could chalk it up to chemicals.  Today, not so much.  No, what stinks is apparently the likelihood for businesses to actually thrive downtown, despite all the money our city officials have poured down the black hole that downtown has become.

We have been told over and over again that it’s vital we have a bustling downtown if Albany is to have a hope in hell of making it.  Yesterday, we learned that the latest casualty is Riverfront Barbeque.  If you’ve ever eaten there, you know what kind of a loss that is for downtown.

When I took over as publisher of The Albany Journal, lunching in downtown offered a pile of choices.  The Pizza Shoppe, Cafe 230, and Riverfront were among my favorites.  All three have graced the news as closing their doors downtown. All three offered some really good food.  Now, they’re gone.

There are still some good choices downtown.  In fact, I’m partial to Our Daily Bread which seems to be doing fine.  However, it’s clear that things aren’t looking good for downtown.

Part of the issue is that rent tends to be high downtown.  I’m going to reach out to those property owners and point something out.  If businesses can’t make it, you will have a lot of property that is creating no revenue for you.  Drop your rents and give these businesses a chance, and you’ll cover the difference by keeping the building occupied.

Unfortunately though, that’s only part of the problem.  While we have spent millions on the Riverquarium and the civil rights museum, we aren’t seeing the massive numbers of tourists we were told to expect.  Why is that?  Perhaps because all the marketing being done is local marketing?

The problem is, people in the area already know about these attractions.  What we need is money coming in from outside the region, and apparently people outside the region don’t have a clue what we actually have here.  Marketing to other areas may help bring folks to downtown Albany to visit our museums and attractions.

What does this have to do with Riverfront or other restaurants?  It’s simple folks.  If people come to downtown to visit our attractions, they’re likely to get something to eat.  Enough of that, and you’ll see downtown start to thrive.

For what it’s worth, I remain unconvinced that economic activity must be in one particular part of town for a town to make it.  However, since it seems so important to so many people, then maybe it’s time they start recognizing where the mistakes are and start doing something about them.

It would be a nice change of pace, if nothing else.

Tom Knighton is the Editor and Publisher of the Albany Journal.

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About the author

Owner / Editor / Writer

Tom Knighton is the publisher of The Albany Journal. In November, 2011, he became the first blogger to take over a newspaper anywhere in the world. In August of 2012, he made the difficult decision to take the Journal out of print circulation and become an online news agency, a first for the Albany area.

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