The prospect of an aquarium in downtown Albany has had many buzzing and now a feasibility study cites there is "latent" or actual demand for that attraction in the Capital Region. However, at this point, no one's fully on board to build it. Innae Park reports.
ALBANY, N.Y. – “If it is built,” said Omni Development Company CEO Richard Zipes. “They will come.”
Zipes is referring to the proposal for an aquarium in downtown Albany. Omni Development hired consultant ConsultEcon, Inc. to decide if an aquarium would be the right fit for the capital city.
“We determine that the optimal visitor attraction for Albany is an aquarium that includes science center-type exhibits,” said project principal Elena Kazlas.
To support the proposal, an outside voice belonging to someone who has seen an aquarium transform his own city. Ron Littlefield is the former mayor of Chattanooga, Tenn.
“We have life and vitality down there that didn’t exist before,” he said of the area surrounding the attraction.
Reflecting on his own experience, Littlefield said, “We know what works and doesn’t work and we think this is a winner. I came here just to say, to reassure, this is a project going in the right direction.”
He added that he had no personal gain in the outcome of this decision.
“I have no dog in this fight, as they say in the south,” Littlefield said.
However, this is just phase one of researching this project. Omni Development has not yet committed to any investment in the attraction, saying others need to be on board.
President and COO I. David Swawite said, “[We need] to get the community together , to get our public officials together, to find another transformative project that's going to turn around this city.”
“The city is languishing in decay,” said Zipes. “The journey is to try to turn Albany into a destination city.”
Prior to the unveiling of the findings to the media, Omni Development and ConsultEcon met privately with local leaders and politicians to chat about the “latent demand” of the project. Swawite called it “positive.”
Phases II and III are expected to last another four to six weeks.