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UAlbany, City of Albany Announce Joint Study On Improving Campus Corridor

Earlier this year, Capital Region community, business, education and government leaders announced the University at Albany’s $60 million plan to transform the century-old former Albany High School building into a home for its new College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.  On Monday, many of those leaders gathered once again at the old school to share with the public their plans to conduct a joint study to look at "improving connections to downtown campus."

"What this is gonna mean to this neighborhood is, you're going to see the change that comes through and this study is gonna make that all really important and help us focus on what needs to get done and what priority."  Anthony Capece, Executive Director for Central Ave BID, says businesses and property owners stand to gain from a revitalization of the Western and Washington Avenue "downtown corridor."

The university is funding a little more than half the overall cost of the corridor study with the rest coming from the city through its Rezone Albany effort. The full cost of a related parking study is being funded through UAlbany using private money.

Mayor Kathy Sheehan took her Albany "liveability and walkability" stance as she lauded the plan. "This is an opportunity for us to step back, take a look at what the needs are, the needs of the university, the needs of the residents, the needs of our businesses, so that we can make the right infrastructure improvements to truly help this neighborhood reach its full potential. To reach its potential as a place where, as this engineering school comes into fruition and becomes a reality, where the students who are here as well as the faculty that are working here and the staff that are working here that we recognize that that's a tremendous business opportunity. And that the linkages that can exist within this neighborhood are as profound and as deep as we can possibly make them. And that's why it's important to recognize that everything matters. Streetlighting matters. The quality of your sidewalks matter. Trees matter. So it's taking that holistic approach and recognizing that we need to knock this out of the park because we have such a great opportunity here."

Sheehan and UAlbany President Robert Jones say the goal is to give the area a stronger identity. The main UAlbany campus is uptown; there is also a satellite campus in Rensselaer.

Jones, who announced Tuesday he is leaving this fall to assume the dual positions of Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vice President of the University of Illinois System, says the study is about staying closely aligned with the city’s plans and the community’s needs.   "We're talkin' about a corridor study that will extend from here all the way up to the Alumni Quad just across the street from St. Rose University. And we know that that's going to be critically important and it is going to be the playbook and guide to the University at Albany and the city. And revitalizing this corridor and enhancing the quality of life for everyone who lives works studies and plays in this neighborhood."

Jones added that UAlbany is also considering improving Alumni Quad, which houses more than 800 UAlbany students and several hundred St. Rose students. He says $3 million in storm water and sewer upgrades around Alumni Quad will also benefit the city and surrounding property owners.

The area under review falls between Partridge Street to the West, Central Avenue to the North, Hudson Avenue to the South, and Englewood Place and Lexington Avenue to the East. The study will include four days of public design workshops at the Downtown Campus August 1st through August 4th and is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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