If an ambitious project in the works to transform a section of Albany's New Scotland Avenue across the street from St. Peter's Hospital comes to fruition, it would rival development that has sprung up farther down the avenue around Albany Medical Center.
Imagine living in a bustling neighborhood in step with Mayor Kathy Sheehan's "walkable city" concept: Dan Hershberg is an engineer and consultant for "New Scotland Village." "If you look around the area, there are very few upscale apartments that are modern, have all the things people want in apartments, are within walking distance of a whole bunch of things like St. Peter's hospital. There's a number of Jewish congregations which are in walking distance of this facility. There are some retail places, a number of retail places that haven't really been developed to their full extent. So we're giving them some choice of some retail space and some living space. The apartments are intended for two target markets: one is the young married empty-nesters that don't have any children, and the other end of the market is the senior citizen empty-nesters."
There was a community meeting to discuss plans for the three-story mixed-use complex Thursday night at First Congregational Church on Quail Street. Julie Elson is a member of the New Scotland/Woodlawn Neighborhood association. "We're concerned that the proposed apartment complex, which will be 93 apartments of $1,400 to $1,900 a month in rent. We're concerned about their impact on our neighborhood. The site is the interior of a block. It's mostly paved now. An acre of trees removed about 12 years ago, rendering the area really ugly. There's proposals to tear down a string of garages.. Everyone is concerned about the density of this apartment complex, it's impact of traffic, it's impact on the traffic on New Scotland."
Although traffic along upper New Scotland Avenue has become increasingly congested over the past few years, Hershberg told the gathering developers hope to learn a great deal from the city's $100,000 study of the New Scotland/Buckingham/Krumkill Corridor being funded by St. Peter’s Health Partners, which has a substantial neighborhood presence. They may also conduct a private study. Hershberg noted "People are coming to Albany that don't need a car. They come from major metropolitan areas where they never had a car. And with Uber and other facilities, other ways of getting around. First of all, they're on two bus routes, one going crosstown on Allen Street and one going on New Scotland Avenue, so that they can be served well by buses. There's a lot of places that CDTA doesn't serve very well but this is one area that they do."
Residents had many questions about increasing population density, parking, greenspace and storm water management. Hershberg assured them that great pains are being taken to meet and even exceed city requirements, including placing dumpsters inside sheltered areas of the building and exploring the possibility of installing a "green roof" where residents could relax in a park-like setting.
Elson's group is developing a neighborhood response to the plan, which they intend to present to the city planning board at its December 14th meeting. Overall, the audience seemed satisfied with Hershberg's presentation.
City resident Aaron Corman would like the project to include affordable housing options. "This is a pretty diverse neighborhood. We've got all sorts of folks from all sorts of economic backgrounds, and I think a development like that should not be monolithic in nature and it should be able to include people of all economic statuses so there can be a variety of folks living in that building."
Hershberg isn't ruling anything out, noting the plan is in the early stages.
Developers hope to have construction underway once concerns are assessed and addressed, with the intent of welcoming the first tenants in late 2019 or early 2020.