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."
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.
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
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