The targeted start date for the $110 million redevelopment of two whole blocks in Albany's Park South neighborhood is fast approaching, so we stopped into a couple of public meetings Wednesday night to get a feel for how things are coming along. And -- surprise -- a lot of the discussion centered on parking. More on that in a second.
But first, check out the 3-D "fly around" of the latest proposed design of the development. It's embedded above, and there are a few screengrabs after the jump. The fly around really gives a better sense of the scale of this project than the flat renderings.
So, the thing that immediately jumped out for us: the parking garage. It's... big. The latest proposal is for a garage with 855 spaces. It would be the tallest structure in the development.
The screengrabs of the fly around are in larger format above -- click or scroll up.
As you might imagine, the idea of dropping an enormous parking garage in the neighborhood -- almost double the size of the one in the original neighborhood renewal plan -- has caught some attention. It was a topic of discussion at both the Common Council committee meeting and the Park South Neighborhood Association meeting. [YNN]
Based on comments from officials for Columbia Development and Tri-City Rentals (which will be handling the residential portion of the project), it's hard to overstate how much they consider parking central to this development. In their view, without adequate parking, there is no development -- at either end of the development process. As they explained, without being able to show there will a large amount of parking, banks won't finance the project. And even if it could be financed, the project wouldn't work when completed because there needs to parking for both the proposed medical office building and the retail along New Scotland. (Not to mention the need for parking for the 268 residential units now proposed -- the current plan includes one garage parking spot for each unit.)
This development falls under a Park South Urban Renewal Plan that approved in 2006. The most current plan requires three amendments to that plan: increasing the height of the buildings along New Scotland, a larger number of residential units, and the parking garage. We get the impression that those first two amendments won't be that controversial. But the parking garage might be an issue. And that's understandable: the idea of having a neighborhood potentially dominated visually by a giant parking structure would give a lot of people pause.
The changes to the plan still need to go through the Albany planning board and the Common Council. There's a public hearing before the Common Council scheduled for December 2 at 7 pm.
What can be done to soften the appearance of giant parking garage? Something that big kind of is what it is. It will be interesting to see if alternative ideas bubble to the surface.
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