August 31, 2022
Re: Appeal of decision allowing progress of health professionals Living and Learning Center
Chairman Bryant Harden and members of the Albany-Dougherty Historic Preservation Commission —
Albany is often presented with opportunities and sets of circumstances that make it possible to do something impactful that benefit its citizens and its economy. In more recent years, there have been limited home-grown opportunities of the transformative magnitude represented by the Living and Learning Center proposed by Phoebe Putney Hospital System in partnership with Albany Technical College.
As were many throughout the community, we were disappointed by the Albany-Dougherty Historic Preservation Commission’s July 12 opposition to the proposed center, a $40 million project that would create an innovative health professions education and training facility and resurrect life, interest and purpose to the long-since closed former Albany Middle School.
We applaud the Albany City Commission’s unanimous overruling on August 16 of the HPC’s 4-3 opposition to the project and concur with Albany Mayor Bo Dorough that the HPC has not demonstrated “that the proposed material changes in appearance would have substantial adverse impacts on the aesthetic, historic or architectural significance and value of the historic property or the historic district.”
That the HPC would then immediately file an intent to pursue legal action in Dougherty County Superior Court to appeal the city’s decision raises question as to the appointed group’s discernment.
It may not be within the HPC’s limited purview to weigh the benefits of the center, which is expected to allow Albany Tech to increase its number of nursing graduates from a projected 233 this year to 350 in 2023 and 470 in 2024, and raise the educational attainment of the community while acting as a local slow-release valve for the nursing shortage crisis that is impacting care and costs. Nursing graduates would then begin filling the more than 500 locally available, high-wage nursing jobs.
It is, however, per the commission’s page at albanyga.gov, the “overall goal of the local district and the design guidelines to retain the distinctive and historic character of Albany without placing undue financial burdens or time delays on building owners.” It is here where the Historic Preservation Commission has failed. And now, as it prepares to square off in court with its parent commission, the HPC places undue financial burdens on the citizens and community itself.
Albany cannot move forward with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. The Albany Area Chamber, representing nearly 800-member businesses and community organizations, respectfully requests that the HPC withdraw its appeal. Further, we encourage the commission to re-examine its perspective and to wield its authority in such a way that utilizes historic preservation as a pragmatic tool that helps Albany build a bright future.
cc: Board of Directors of the Albany Area Chamber
cc: Albany City Commission
cc: Dougherty County Commission