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City, Land Bank Plan To Upgrade Key Stretch Of Downtown Albany

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The Albany County Land Bank and city of Albany are seeking to redevelop a key intersection in a downtown neighborhood.

Through the Albany Community Development Agency, the partners have released a Request for Proposals from qualified and experienced developers or other entities that will result in the creation of a high-quality, mixed-use development that includes affordable housing for the underserved neighborhood whose center is the intersection of Henry Johnson Boulevard and Clinton Avenue.

Adam Zaranko is Executive Director of the Albany County Land Bank Corporation, which was established to help return vacant properties to productive use.

"We're trying to seek to get proposals from developers or partners, or partnerships, or really, the window’s open for creativity here, to acquire and redevelop 22 vacant properties that the land bank and the Albany Community Development Agency have assembled at the intersection of Clinton Avenue and Henry Johnson Boulevard, which is at the confluence of Sheridan Hollow neighborhood, Arbor Hill neighborhood and West Hill neighborhood, which are all historically redlined and economically distressed and disinvested neighborhoods. But also Henry Johnson Boulevard is a major civic corridor for the city of Albany. It has many civic uses, but it's essentially a gateway entry point into the state capitol. And so right now, when you enter in that way, you're greeted at the end, at that intersection by a number of vacant and abandoned buildings and vacant lots."

Democratic Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan would like to see a development plan that would take the site to a new level.

"Well, you know, that's one of the gateways to the city that's been challenging. It's really not ideal, right there on Henry Johnson Boulevard, given the amount of traffic, for necessarily housing that's right up against the street. And so we're really looking for an development plan that can take the entire site and reimagine it."

Sheehan envisions a welcoming entry point to the city.

Zaranko says all types of proposals that meet the stated goals in the RFP will be considered.

"We really want to see the creation and preservation of affordable housing and that can come in all different shapes and sizes, affordable homeownership, condo ownership, rentals, mixed income. Those are all the things that that we've heard from the community, we know there's a large unmet demand for affordable housing in Albany and across the state of New York."

Albany County Legislature Chairman Andrew Joyce, also a Democrat, says he expects "equitable outcomes that support community priorities."

"It's a great thing when we talk about development, but development needs to be inclusive, there needs to be equity. And there needs to be a plan from the beginning of the process, to include the community and the development of their own community. So we've talked about the actual building, here the bidding that's going to occur. Now those jobs should go towards MWVE entities, veterans, women, minorities, right from the get go, right from the conception, you know, of the process, the community needs to be involved. That's how you get true buy in. That's how it's a true genuine redevelopment.”

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The agencies say the RFP has been structured to incentivize respondents to develop proposals that preserve or expand options that promote healthy, safe, and affordable housing for all family sizes and incomes, that prevent displacement and advance at least one additional community priority. Proposals will be evaluated on the quality and viability of their development plan as well as the ability of the respondents to successfully implement the plan, rather than solely based on purchase price.

RFP responses are due November 19th.

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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