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park south parking garage rendering 2013 overview
The latest version of the plan includes moving the parking garage back from Robin and adding residential there.

park south parking garage rendering 2013 Robin

park south parking garage rendering 2013 Morris

A big topic for the Park South redevelopment: parking

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.

Later on AOA: A bit more about the Park South redevelopment and that big parking garage

Comments

Banks won't finance a project without an 850 car garage, really? So you're telling me that every development project in America necessitates that a parking garage is the largest structure? This is a joke, and it sounds like these developers are trying to strong arm the neighborhood. Either give let us put a huge garage in your neighborhood or you get nothing. Their compromise to the concerns was to drop the amount of spots by 25 spots. Once again, we bend to the will of shortsighted goals. This would be the most transformative project since the ESP and we're going to blow it. Why would retail need parking? Ever think that people may want to walk, ride a bike, or take a bus Maybe the people who live in the city.

I don't understand why there aren't smart-meters on NEw Scotland, charge a fair-market rate for metered curb-side parking at such a rate that only 80-85% of spots will always be occupied.

The parking garage should be masked better, like newer, smarter garages that don't look exactly like parking garages and have retail on the first floor

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_ZmW2x5y7LSU/TKFdIpLlyhI/AAAAAAAAA8M/TQL7MFvxdGo/s1600/Chapel+St+Parking+Garage.jpg

The biggest driver (pun intended) of the increased size of the garage is the increase in net new medical office space well above the amount specified in the urban renewal plan. The developers are stating that they need 5 spaces per 1,000 square feet of medical office space, so that's 675 garage parking spots for the medical office space. That's a lot. Decrease the size of the medical office building and the amount of parking they say they need will decrease rapidly. Plus, there's already new medical office space developed across New Scotland Avenue (16 New Scotland) that was originally slated to be apartments in the urban renewal plan. So, we're looking at significantly more medical office space than called for in the renewal plan.

Check out the maps and figures for the Park South Urban Renewal Plan (PSURP): http://www.albanyny.org/_files/URP_Final_FullSet%203%20of%203.pdf

Additionally the PSURP called for underground parking for the residential development. Underground parking below the residential on Morris and Dana would not be an eyesore and would more evenly distribute the parking throughout the neighborhood. The developers say it's cost prohibitive.

My concerns expressed over the summer about the Myrtle Avenue streetscape remain -- actually they've probably grown. Right now, I'm focusing specifically on the relevant major modification to the PSURP before the Common Council. The relevant modification is the increase in the footprint of the garage to include the approximate area of 405 Myrtle Ave. 405 Myrtle Avenue is Bolton Hall. It was slated to be used as a multi-unit apartment building in the urban renewal plan. A city block with an apartment building makes sense to me. This modification, removing residential from the street changes the character of that block. If the new development proposal goes forward as is, there would only be ONE building with a door on the block of Myrtle Avenue between Robin and New Scotland, the medical office building. Doesn't strike me as good urban design. There's a photo of the ground level site plan here: https://www.facebook.com/notes/council-member-leah-golby/albany-10th-ward-neighborhood-update-lots-going-on-re-psurp/654431161275956

Seems to me like it's setting up to be the next disappointing large scale redevelopment in Albany that doesn't quite get it right.

Hideous. Too bad there is no Meteor/Alien-Invasion button on this SimCity video.

Just what we need, more medical office buildings. This project is ridiculous. Here they have the opportunity to create something new and amazing and just like usual, they are going to make an energy wasting nightmare.

All you old fart baby boomers gonna need those parking spots to get your check ups. In 15 years when you cant find parking YOU WILL BE SORRY... by then im sure Washington Park will be paved over so maybe the jokes on me.

I’m still mixed on this proposal and equate it to the under-achieving high schooler who could obviously do better, but is satisfied with doing the bare minimum. I love the mix-use elements of this project. I love that many of the buildings will be more than 2-3 stories in height, encourage density without going overboard (those who argue that a 5 to 6 story building is too tall, don’t appreciate that this is sound long-term thinking for an area of the city that keeps growing in importance, so let’s do it right now). I love the new apartment amenities being offered, which I think will attract a lot of residents who currently work at the hospital, but who have been reluctant to live within walkable distance because the current apartment stock is managed by slumlords or ridiculously overpriced unless you are shacking up with 3 or 4 people.

What I don’t like is the parking garage, which will eat into close to a quarter of the developable land that could be used for further mix-used development. This a significant development opportunity to lose out on in order to feed short sighted parking demands. On the plus side, there may be a good faith effort by those involved in this development project to work out a universal access deal with CDTA, which is a step in the right direction. Additionally, as someone who walks along this corridor to get home from work, I find it hilarious that I am always outpacing vehicles I start walking beside for the half mile stretch I walk, and pity the folks who drive through this overly congested piece of the city. I now look upon the parking garage as a possible asset, for it will further feed into this congestion, and may be the final straw that firmly chocks a section of the city dependent on single lane roads (and no way to expand them), finally forcing folks to commute by bus or walk as effective and efficient alternatives.

I like that they're doing the development but I can't believe they need THAT many spaces.

That parking garage is huge. Having it towering over those three-story apartments on Morris and Robin is going to look hideous. If that much parking really is needed, they need to AT LEAST improve the facade of the garage. Just Google parking garage facade for some ideas of what is possible. If the developer intends to cheap out and make it look as it's represented in the video, those are going to be some mighty depressing apartments (and neighborhood in general).

Can the Common Council put the project on hold until the funding is there for either underground parking or a better garage solution? Or is it already past that point?

> Just what we need, more medical office buildings.

The healthcare industry is a major growth sector. If we want more local jobs outside of state government, then we should certainly be accepting of more medical office buildings.

The parking garage is horrible. That is an unimaginative, lazy solution to the parking "problem" that this area has. Why is there no parking underneath the townhome/apartments? Why can't they go a little underground with the monster garage? Why is there no master plan involving public transportation and pedestrians to lighten the parking load? I know for a fact that many employees use public transport, plus those new apartments should make some employees pedestrians. Could there be flex-parking (nighttime residents/daytime office)? I'm imagining looking from Washington Park at the brownstones on Madison and seeing that awful building jutting up over the top and my stomach churns.

The three-story apartments are mighty ugly too. Again, no imagination. They don't look like they belong in Albany, let alone this neighborhood.

I am really disappointed at Albany Med for this hideous replacement for what is there. I would have thought they could do better.

Nothing better than a sweet parking space. I like to sing this song when I'm driving along: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM7SHoWaaFU

I agree with Beck and other comments. Let's make sure that our voices are heard at the Common Council meeting on December 2.

I live in one of those ‘grayed out’ Dana Ave. buildings from the top picture and I continue to have mixed feelings about the redevelopment plan. For the record, my landlord is not a slumlord; he takes pride in his properties. I’ll be honest in that I also may be naïve to some of the safety concerns of the neighborhood; I’m a tall male who frequently walks two (friendly but protective) dogs.

I have to commend Rich’s comments related to ‘outpacing vehicles’ routinely. During the morning and evening commutes, it can get quite chaotic in the Madison/New Scotland area. If this project ultimately spells out a more pedestrian-friendly area, then I support it. If the project also does something to alleviate the snarl of those stoplights, then I also support it. My street is already a semi-ghost town at night because half of the houses are no longer inhabitable. It would also be wonderful if this project encouraged more people to bike, walk, and ride the bus, but I can’t assume that everyone who does not reside in the Albany oval (i.e., the confines of 87, 90, & 787) will pack up and move inward if they have an AMC/VA job.

Alas, I remain conflicted.

So it's a parking project with some ancillary retail and residential uses.

I'm not a fan of the garage. I live in the Helderberg neighborhood & bike through this area for work. There are already so many cars I'm constantly almost hit by hospital EMPLOYEES coming & going in a hurry to & from their parking areas. I wish all 3 hospitals would encourage more public & alternate transit options. I'm pushing for parking people in the warehouse district & riding in on a monorail! MONORAIL MONORAIL!

Wow. The parking garage looming in the background towering over the other buildings is disturbing.

This is a terrible plan.

Please consider some more neighborhood friendly alternatives. This building is too large. Please consider incentives for employees to use public transportation. Also consider several shorter buildings to this one huge one.

Banks won't be able to finance the project?

Shenanigans.

Each and every part of this project is under consideration by the Albany IDA and sister CRC boards because the developer is requesting a cocktail of tax benefits including tax exempt bonds, mortgage recording taxes, sales tax exemptions, and a PILOTs.

Consider the garage in which the applicants propose taxpayers of the city dump $50,000 in taxable land ($17k is the cities share) and replace the land with a tax exempt building. Yup. You read that right. A public garage, that charges whoever comes and goes, but we don't get one cent back.

Insult to injury? They want $357,000 in a mortgage recording tax break. Albany's share of that break? 20%.

kegs and eggs has a silver lining, it happened and it ended. Pine hills will have to suffer the effects of This garage forever.

The Park South NA voted to oppose the park south plan amendments, but after the there was significant threat by the developer that if the garage isn't built to that size (solely predicated on the medical office building) the entire project would fail. So Park south voted AGAIN and the support came. For years the NA stewed as AMC got what THEY wanted, more towers for office space. But then, when threatened by "all or nothing" the NA caved and AMC is going to get what they want, even at the expense of the neighborhood, again. What should happen if the residential component of this project doesn't come to fruition?

At the end of the day it comes down to this: we spent years crafting an expensive plan and many people accepted compromise to arrive on a roadmap for the future of the area. This detour completely undermines the faith many of Albany's residents have in these neighborhood planning processes. A stewardship that was entrusted to the planningboard to uphold, and they failed spectacularly without a single dissenting vote.

Daleyplanit- what's wrong with Albany's IDA and all these tax giveaways? Don't they understand the City needs a tax base to survive?

I'm very disappointed that some fairly bright leadership in the community have opted to squander such a prime development opportunity for a parking garage. Nearly a quarter of the proposed land being developed on will be dedicated to the parking garage and mark my words, I won't be surprised if this is the first piece of the project that gets executed.

It frustrates me given the vast number of paved parking lots that already exist in the area (see link below to a visual of what I mean), I don't understand why these current land devoted to parking can't be developed into a parking garage. There appears to be more land devoted to parking than the buildings themselves, so there is plenty to work with!!

While I don't think we should fuel the congestion of the area with more parking and should rather support the use of mass transit, I'm probably on the loosing side of this argument and feel strongly that we should build up from the current mess of parking lots in existence, rather than tear down more taxable land for more parking. I appreciate that there is tangled web of ownership among these lots, but given everyone here seems to have parking concerns, I cooperative situation could be worked out.

https://maps.google.com/?ll=42.650753,-73.775253&spn=0.010621,0.026071&t=h&z=16

Noting is "wrong" with the IDA and CRC. Like many boards of individuals, the entire body doesn't always agree. Generally the "but for" tests are simple: would the development happen if not for the break? Would the development happen elsewhere? is the development good for the city economically? These are all tough questions and not always seen in the same light.

Full disclosure: I was on the IDA. I didn't always vote in lock step. I like to think we did not rubber stamp, and there was a healthy back and forth with developers. The garage portion project, however, is particularly offensive, and if the CRC moves if forward and OKs these breaks, then I'd be inclined to agree that there's something wrong. The garage is bad for Albany environmentally, socially, aesthetically, and most importantly economically.

Public hearing is 7pm tonight, Dec.2, at City Hall. Any one who has concerns and/or is opposed to the plans should definitely speak out at the hearing or email a statement.. There have been some excellent comments on AOA but the common council needs to hear it from you.

Anyone know what the outcome at City Council was last night?

Also, kudos to AOA for covering Park South as it is an important project for the city. For whatever reason it seems that the TU feels otherwise, given their lack of coverage.

@chauncy: The December 2 Common Council hearing was a short a public comment period, with no questions from council members. A handful of people spoke. The most common topics of concern were how the development would affect the streetscape of the Myrtle Ave corridor, and the size of the parking garage.

There's an article in today's Times Union about the Park South Neighborhood Association's vote on the garage amendment to the Park South Urban Renewal Plan today -- the vote took place after AOA had left the meeting.

Here's the TU article: http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Bigger-garage-bitter-debate-5032699.php

Seems to me this is not about "process" but rather "push" to get it done. period: https://www.facebook.com/notes/council-member-leah-golby/is-it-process-or-push-for-albanys-psurp-amendments/662869297098809

It's all solved by a better design on the garage that masks the fact that its a parking garage.

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