We stopped by the Impact Downtown Albany event Wednesday evening to check out the "Glimpse of the Future of Downtown Albany" Pecha Kucha-style presentations. We were kind of curious about both the format -- basically a quick succession of very short talks -- and what some of the speakers -- including Albany mayor-elect Kathy Sheehan and SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher -- would have to say.
It turned out to be pretty much what you might expect if you've been following the discussion about downtown Albany for a while -- talk of residential, retail, the waterfront, leveraging things.
But, in the spirit of the format, we figured it'd be interesting to pluck one quick takeaway from each talk -- whether it was a fact, an idea, an impression, whatever. And here we go...
David Dixon - Goody Clancy
Goody Clancy is the consultancy assisting Capitalize Albany on this project.
Our impression of the presentation theme: Downtowns, hooray!
Quick takeaway: One block of main street-type retail development requires 1,000-2,000 nearby households to support it.
Ben Carlson - Goody Clancy
Our impression of the presentation theme: Other cities have done this!
Quick takeaway: They project that there could be 1,000 residential units in Pearl Street neighborhood downtown, as well as 1,000 residential units in a neighborhood in the warehouse district just to the north.
Nancy Zimpher - SUNY chancellor
Our impression of the presentation theme: SUNY is an engine for economic development!
Quick takeaway: Zimpher said there 210,000 jobs in the state currently unfilled, many of them tech jobs, in part because the skills of people here don't match up with the job. She saw a role for SUNY schools in helping to develop the skills necessary for those jobs.
Michael Holtzman - WhoSay
Holtzman is the chief technology officer for WhoSay, a company that produces social media management and analytics tools for celebrities. They have an office in downtown Albany, across the street from the SUNY admin building.
Our impression of the presentation theme: People who are in tech love cities!
Quick takeaway: Holtzman highlight the booming tech scene in New York City and noted it's concentrated in three neighborhoods: the Flatiron and Soho in Manhattan, and DUMBO in Brooklyn. And even in those neighborhoods the tech companies were clustered in just a few blocks.
Philip Morris - Proctors
As you know, Proctors is also connected with Capital Rep, which is in downtown Albany. In addition to being CEO of Proctors, Morris is also chief administrative officer of Cap Rep.
Our impression of the presentation theme: We need to think regionally!
Quick takeaway: Morris talked about how Buffalo has bunch of cultural institutions because it was once the 17th largest city in the nation -- they're like an after effect of the city's former prosperity. If the Capital Region wants that kind of stuff, it's only going to get there by working together regionally -- no one part is big enough to make it happen alone.
Kathy Sheehan - Albany mayor-elect
Our impression of the presentation theme: Think big!
Quick takeaway: Sheehan focused much of her talk on the idea of developing recreation and entertainment along the riverfront. But she kept coming back to pushing people to "think big" -- maybe that's a giant Ferris Wheel, maybe it's a monorail to get people from the train station to downtown Albany, maybe it's an IKEA at Central Warehouse. These were tossed out as examples of big ideas, not necessarily as projects she'd endorse. That has wondering about what sort of big, potentially transformational project she might end up pushing as mayor.
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