Impact Downtown Albany

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What would you like to see in Downtown Albany?

Capitalize Albany, one of the forces behind the increase in residential living in downtown Albany, is about to launch a new project, and it's looking for input from you.

On Tuesday Capitalize Albany be down at Ten Eyck Plaza interviewing people and collecting stories and ideas for improving downtown Albany. It's the launch of a twelve month public/private collaboration called Impact Downtown Albany.

Sarah Reginelli, director of economic development at Capitalize Albany, says Impact Downtown Albany is planned to be a short turnaround, action-oriented exercise in "tactical urbanism."

"Tactical urbanism," says Reginelli, "is a movement where you take big ideas and implement them in small ways. So anything from programming a public park in an unexpected way -- like parking day where you take a parking space and create something interesting that people can use -- to pop-up retail to show that there is retail potential in Albany. It helps get people out of their centered mode of thinking. The goal of this is really to be a short to mid-term plan."

The plan, says Reginelli, is to spend the next year gathering information about what people want to see in the city, but also, to start putting some of those ideas into practice in small ways by early 2014.

The guiding force behind this plan is Goody Clancy, an interdisciplinary architecture, planning, and preservation firm from Boston. They've also put together a handful of local experts in the arts, real estate, business, as well as political leaders.

Why now? Reginelli says Impact Downtown Albany is the next step in a plan that's been underway for a while in the city.

"In the early 90s, downtown was a ghost town. It started with an aggressive investment in arts and entertainment venues like Capital Rep and the Times Union Center. With that we had a lot of restaurants and taverns opening and people coming downtown for something other than work. Then we had an aggressive push to connect to the waterfront and you saw the footbridge and events like Alive at Five. Then there was a challenge to New York State to bring more workers back into downtown. And then increasing residential. More than $35 million in private investment has gone into residential downtown. And there are waiting lists for those apartments. Another 200 units are before our review boards for project approval and a handful of other projects are getting started."

"More than $35 million in private investment has gone into residential downtown. And there are waiting lists for those apartments. Another 200 units are before our review boards for project approval and a handful of other projects are getting started."

She also points to a national trend toward an interest in urban living.

"What you see now in terms of urban opportunity is an national urban swing. People want to be downtown again. You used to have to convince the market that downtown was a place to live. In the past two decades we haven't' seen this kind of interest in downtowns, so we are at a point now in the country where there is an aggressive push in the downtown core."

Reginelli says that interest is also evident in other cities in the Capital Region. "We love what is happening in Troy and Schenectady and Cohoes. This has been happening in downtown Albany for the last 15 or 20 years. We've worked though entertainment investments and residential. And now we say, "Where does downtown go from here? What is downtown's future? What is our definition of success?"

If you'd like to contribute ideas to that definition of success, Tuesday's event starts at 3:30 pm and includes free food and music. There will be video booths where people can tell their Albany stories and share their ideas for the city's future, and roving photographers taking pictures and gathering suggestions.

The event be followed by a Pecha Kucha session with a handful of experts in real estate, arts and other fields, focused on improving a city.

If you can't make it to the event, Capitalize Albany is taking suggestions via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Update: Here's the schedule for the discussion sessions:

12:00 - 2:00 Interactive engagement at the Ten Eyck Plaza
3:30 - 5:15 Interactive engagement at the Ten Eyck Plaza
5:15 - 6:00 Glimpse of the Future of Downtown Albany Pecha Kucha presentation


This event should be 6-8 so people who work can attend.

How long does the event go? We need some basic things as downtown residents- like a grocery or market that is walkable, and restaurants that stay open on weekends near pearl. I'd love to give input but this is during the workday.

You need downtown to have easy access to free parking, and safe streets . Everyone knows how terriffic downtown was before the mid 1960's, and the spread of uptown shopping malls.From the smell of Mr. peanut when mom, and me stepped of the bus, the whirl of shopping, and ending up at The Plaza Book store for dad to pick us up it was a magical experience! We need to get ideas from downtown Saratoga, sprinkle some of that fun pixie dust on Albany!

More downtown apartments and retail are both necessary obviously.

Capitalize Albany has been making good strides in both areas but more needs to be done.

The bridal store, shoe store and Zachary's bakery are good first steps for retail but downtown needs thrift stores, grocery stores, and specialty shops like book stores or art stores.

What's going to support those stores are more downtown housing. There's already a lot of choices there, but if there are waiting lists for places that means there's still a lot of demand.

Why exert all that energy - just live in Troy!

ace took the words right out of my mouth.

ace and colleen, don't get me wrong, I adore Troy. But that made literally no sense whatsoever.

Smart parking meters that charge fair-market rates.

Psychologists know that people get stressed when they see other people. That's why many prefer single-family houses with a yard and buy this kind of dwelling whenever possible. So why go back to communal living?
The era of dense housing is over, why galvanize the corpse?
I see no point in investing in downtowns for the sake of "investing in downtowns". There is gotta be some other goal of this investment.


Suburbs and the like are arguably worse for humanity. They create untold stress on electrical grids, water systems and sewer systems. They contribute to global warming (because people have to drive more and further). Construction and expansion of suburbs harms ecosystems.

It's much smarter to live in cities civilization-wise. It's always been this way, why would we change it now?

Also the growth of suburbs in America is actually slowing and its becoming more popular to live in downtowns

Albany's downtown is still a mess, and the city is at least a decade behind the trend towards urban living.

I love the idea of this event...but come on, it should not be before 5pm on week day. That's awful planning!!!

P.S. "easy access to free parking" destroys cities. Fact.

Be sure to check into bringing the highway, down & around...

How about more food trucks?
They bring foot traffic to areas with retail.
Generally people walk around eating their lunch and browse the boutique windows. Most likely a certain percentage will stop in in purchase something.
Bring new people to a community and get them to spend money....sounds like a good plan but then again I'm not a City Planner :)

How about a bike rental shed on both sides of the Corning Preserve Bike Path? Maybe local area bike shops would be willing to donate a few bikes for free promotions on or near the shed. This could be a good summer job for High School kids who need summer employment. Sell gatorade and other health snacks.

Lu: what you state makes no sense whatsoever, and it's not supported by any social scientific evidence. People lived in cities for 6,000 years. People love "people watching" and being with other people: it's called being human and having social interaction. Human beings are social animals that crave social interaction.

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