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Troy Gathers Ideas For Downtown Revitalization Pitch

Lucas Willard

The City of Troy is seeking input from residents as it puts together an application for New York’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative. The effort by the Cuomo administration awards a total of $100 million, split between 10 communities.

Three collaborative meetings were held at Troy City Hall Wednesday as the city gets ideas from residents about how they would use a $10 million award.

In one meeting, speaking to about a dozen people, consultant Margaret Irwin said the Collar City, which has seen significant downtown development in recent years, has three things going for it to create an “innovation district.”

“The research anchor, the network that supports business development and growth and commercial development of their products, and the place. And certainly the place issues are strongly within the city’s wheelhouse, as well as support for small businesses and economic development,“ said Irwin.

Troy, once known for its manufacturing, is now home to a growing tech hub.

With the theme of the two-hour meeting being “Live, Work and Play,” it did not take long for those gathered around the conference table to mention the city’s famed Waterfront Farmers Market.

Farmer’s market operations manager Liz Comitale said the market is still looking for a permanent home – one that would also involve other local businesses.

“I would love to see a really creative partnership, a flex space, something that the market can operate out of. Something that we can expand from but as well as provide some other amenities with existing Troy groups and organizations to fill those other needs, as well,” said Comitale.

Though the farmers market brings fresh produce and products into the city’s downtown every weekend, several around the table agreed with the notion that the city is a “food desert.” There are no supermarkets in the downtown.

City resident Steve Mueller said he’d like to see a store similar to the smaller-scale Price Chopper market in downtown Saratoga Springs. But he warned of past failed attempts.

“You can’t force a grocery store to open in downtown Troy. The Troy Food Co-op tried that, was in business for a year,” said Mueller.

Other needs identified: more childcare for downtown workers, housing for seniors, single-family residences, family-friendly activities, access to the river, and improving the city’s reputation. 

Annee Borthwick, who has lived downtown since 1969, wants to see improvements that would benefit the neighborhoods outside of the downtown.

“I know we get lots of people for the farmers market, we get people who go to the restaurants, and we get people for the music hall, and that’s wonderful because that wasn’t how it was for the first 15 years I was living here. But I’m really concerned for the rest of Troy and their sense of indignation,” said Borthwick.

The city is welcoming ideas as the DRI application deadline of June 1st approaches.

Troy Mayor Patrick Madden, a first-term Democrat, said such brainstorming meetings are helpful as the city plans for the future.

“It’s always instructive for us to know what is motivating people to come here, what is motivating people to be engaged here so we can do more of that. So we can seed more of that opportunity,” said Madden.

Troy will host a series of meetings the week of Monday, June 18th  as the city goes back to the drawing board once again for the long-stalled development One Monument Square.

Lucas Willard is a reporter and host at WAMC Northeast Public Radio, which he joined in 2011.
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