NEW ALBANY, Ind.(WDRB) -- Thousands of people are spending the weekend at New Albany's Harvest Homecoming, the final weekend of the annual celebration of fall. But downtown New Albany is attracting lots of visitors -- more than just during the festival.
Historic New Albany continues to grow as a restaurant and entertainment district. "You know this weekend is always kind of a come alive for downtown New Albany, but it is no longer just one week a year," says Ian Hall.
He is the owner of the Exchange Pub and Kitchen, a restaurant and bar now located in an historic building on West Main Street. He moved there from a more suburban location about a year ago.
He says business at his restaurant has exceeded expectations. "You come down here on Friday or Saturday night," he says, "and you will see packed restaurants and people in the streets walking, it is pretty awesome."
Hall has joined a number of other restaurants, some that branched out from Louisville to open additional locations in downtown New Albany.
Louisville's Toast on Market, a breakfast and lunch restaurant, opened its second location four years ago on Market Street in New Albany. Its manger says business has grown each year. "We've seen a lot of change here in New Albany," says Donnie Parrott. "Lots of businesses have been opening up in downtown New Albany, it has really expanded, there is a lot going on here right now."
And there is more to come. Hall is partnering with the owners of the Louisville Comfy Cow Ice Cream stores to become the first franchise owner of the popular brand.
Adds Hall, "That was one of the reasons we moved downtown, not only to do the exchange, but the ability to do multiple restaurants down here, and ice cream was part of our plans at some point, but it just came a little quicker than we thought."
Hall on Friday was selling Comfy Cow out of a booth for Harvest Homecoming until the actual store opens in early 2014 in another historic building along Market Street.
What is happening in New Albany is just part of a bigger urban renaissance underway throughout the Louisville Metro area.
Hall says, "You have the Highlands, you have NuLu now in Louisville, I think we have started to create that atmosphere in our own downtown."
He believes it was the opening of the YMCA downtown several years ago that was the catalyst for the redevelopment of historic New Albany.
Hall believes the area is now ready for the development of more housing downtown.
Several projects have been on the drawing board for years but were slowed by the Great Recession.
It will take time for those projects to become a reality but its been a long time since downtown New Albany looked so good.
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