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Capital Region News

Albany Plans And Projects Spark Growth

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says the plans are a demonstration of the growth the Palace is experiencing.
WAMC photo by Zeyna Reifenheiser
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The city of Albany is awash in upgrades and expansion plans. And it's all good.

The fourth quarter of 2016 sees New York's Capital City positioning itself as an attractive business and people-friendly place. To date, progress has been on track for the new Albany Capital Center. Speaking at the new convention center's July "topping off" ceremony, Albany Convention Center Authority chairman Gavin Donohue guaranteed the project will meet deadline.   "While the concept of a convention center has been discussed in this town for over 20 years, the timeline for this specific project has just been over three years. Governor Cuomo endorsed this project in 2013. We started the concept and design in 2014, and now we're going to be ready to open this facility in March of 2017 on time."

One of the roadways leading downtown is on the fast-track for a makeover - the first segment of The Madison Avenue Road Diet has been completed - fresh lines have been painted on the road surface from South Allen Street to Partridge Street, which include bike lanes, one in each direction. Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan says when the project concludes, the corridor will extend all the way downtown to Lark Street.  R "The DOT is going to be funding the full amount of phase two, from Partridge to Lark, $1.4 million, which is great news for this project and for our taxpayers."

Beyond downtown, expansion is the buzzword at the Port of Albany. U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer recently secured a $17 million federal grant for upgrades of port facilities.  Port officials have spent the last few years preparing for an upgrade that will increase the size of the port by 25 percent. Port officials have turned their sights toward purchasing 80 acres in the town of Bethlehem at a cost $9 million. That deal is pending, if engineers find no environmental obstacles that would prevent development of the property.

Albany City Director of Planning Christopher Spencer says zoning changes are on the way and long overdue: the city zoning code was last updated in 1968. "This was really the first major overhaul in over 50 years, so, you got a city as old as Albany, dating back almost 400 years, you have a development pattern that pre-dates our earliest zoning probably by about 200 years at least. So what you end up with is a development pattern where lots were developed of various sizes, different types of uses, and the over the years the city has tried to apply zoning in sort of a homogenous kind of manner. And in the end what you end up creating is a lot of lots that are non-conforming and uses that are non-conforming, and making a difficult way forward for development. So really this is an attempt to create conformity to better-protect city neighborhoods and really to spur re-investment and make investment a little bit more predictable."

Other upgrades and changes in the works include the $65 million expansion plan for the Palace Theater and 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. UAlbany is also involved in a plan to revitalize the Western and Washington Avenue "downtown corridor," 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.

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