Newest effort at downtown revitalization will

Posted September 27, 2017 at 9:08 am

Farmers Market Concept.psd

begin organizing at Friday morning meeting

An effort that will hopefully see a chain-effect result for the next few years to bring a revitalization process to the downtown Albany area will get its official start this Friday morning.

Christy Nuetzman Guffey, Clinton County’s University of Kentucky Extension Agent for Consumer and Family Sciences, has been heavily involved in a series of projects and programs that began as separate activities in the past few years.

Having spearheaded most of those separate projects and worked toward bringing them together into this revitalization effort, she is hoping to see all of those efforts begin to be funneled toward a common goal when an organizational meeting is held this Friday morning.

“I’d really like to see people take an interest in our downtown and be ready to join the partnership. We need more folks involved to move things forward (business owners, elected officials, community leaders, etc.),” Guffey told the Clinton County News in an email response to questions Monday morning. “Friday is the conversation starter for the most part, but we will review the goals from the Local Foods, Local Places workshop related to the downtown area and think about what the most logical next steps will be.”

That meeting has been slated to get underway at 11:00 a.m., at the Clinton County Extension Office just north of Albany.

The meeting will hopefully result in enough enthusiasm about what will be presented, to see the organization of a new downtown revitalization committee being formed in an effort to enhance the square and entire downtown area.

The effort will also look at the efforts that are underway currently by a collection of organizations to build and develop a new Farmers Market facility just north of the Clinton County Courthouse Square.

Current plans to relocate and build a new Farmers Market facility has been one of the recent projects undertaken by the Clinton County Community Foundation.

That group’s efforts have a goal of seeing the new, modern building and surroundings being constructed on the now vacant lot on Washington Street between the Clinton County News and the Albany Building Center’s Farm Store.

Guffey also explained that a large portion of the push behind the project centered around a common goal of producing opportunities for our residents to improve their health status by adopting lifestyles that would cut down on health issues that haunt people in this region of the country – obesity, diabetes, heart disease and a host of other ailments.

“The CDC Obesity Prevention grant really ignited conversations around our built environment (i.e., how we can promote and enhance physical activity opportunities), how we can encourage people to make healthier food choices and how to encourage people to support local farmers/producers by shopping locally,” Guffey continued.

A huge portion of the program has also centered around a series of visits by Mark Fenton, a “walkability expert”, who gave an outsider’s view of the downtown area, and offered ways to make the area more accessible to walking and biking traffic.

“Mark Fenton’s visits to the community prompted us to think about walkability in a different way,” Guffey said. “He really sparked our motivation and helped document our plans in print. Since then, the Extension Office has looked for other opportunities to bring additional technical assistance and resources to the community.”

Guffey also explained that a cooperative effort with Clinton County Judge/Executive Richard Armstrong’s office also brought the Kentucky Division of Forestry into the effort, which she noted had also been a tremendous asset to the overall conception.

The new effort had an introductory “preamble” of sorts last week when a group of interested citizens gathered at the Clinton County Welcome Center to view a presentation of conceptual drawings that show what such a revitalization effort could produce.

In addition to showing what a new Farmers Market might look like and how it could be situated on the now vacant lot, Thursday’s presentation also included how the entire effort could eventually incorporate new sidewalk construction and graveled walking paths that would connect key locations in south Albany, downtown Albany and north Albany together in an effort to make foot and bike traffic easier.

“The presentation incorporated ideas from so many different community discussions we’ve had over the past few years as we’ve looked at how we can promote healthy lifestyle choices throughout the community,” Guffey said. “It addressed paths/trails, connectivity, and local foods through the downtown Farmers Market in such a polished and professional manner.”

Last week’s presentation was a joint effort by the Kentucky Division of Forestry, with the main emphasis to explain the conceptual drawings coming from the Community Design Assistance Center of Virginia Tech State University.

That portion of the presentation included explanations of nine separate views that were distributed to those attending Thursday’s meeting, which ranged from views of a proposed walking/bike path that would stretch from Albany Manor in South Albany to North Albany’s Mountain View Recreation park and Clinton County Middle School area.

The proposal also included the idea of creating a separate walking/bike “loop” that would branch off into the West Albany area that would cut behind Westview Shopping Center, through current pastures and fields, and eventually re-join the primary trail at the Clinton County Learning Center.

One of the most praised aspects of last week’s presentation was the conceptual views of a new Farmers Market facility that was given as an open-air, modern facility that could offer the community a multi-use building and surrounding park-like setting.

That portion of the presentation depicted a proposal for a pavilion style structure that might not only serve the Farmers Market needs of the community, but could also be used for other small gatherings, concerts and events as well.

“The resources they have provided are far beyond what we could have developed on our own. It should help us take the next steps in pursuing other grants to help implement some of the project ideas,” Guffey told the NEWS. “We won’t be able to do them all at once, but in time, these collective recommendations could really change the face of our community.”

With the organizational efforts in this week’s meeting just days ahead, Guffey said that she hoped there will be enough interest in the idea of a revitalization push to keep the work that has already been completed, alive and continuing to push forward.

She also said she had heard comments from local residents who hope to eventually see the push bring back a feel of making the downtown area a “hub” of activity for our community again as was the case several years ago, but getting there wouldn’t be an overnight process and couldn’t be accomplished without a broad and very involved effort from the local citizenry.

“We need more “workers” to join the team and process what that means. There are resources available to our community if we just engage more partners in the process and clarify what we really want to see downtown Albany look like in a few years,” Guffey said. “We will determine regular meeting times/locations after we meet Friday since daytime meetings may not be conducive to work schedules.”

An artist rendering prepared by Virginia Tech’s Community Design Assistance Center, shows how a new Albany Farmers Market could be constructed and positioned on the Washington Street lot where the new facility is being planned. Local citizens interested in becoming involved in a Downtown Revitalization effort are urged to attend an organizational meeting this Friday, September 29, at the Clinton County Extension Office.