The city of Troy formally announced today that it's picked a proposal for the redevelopment of the former city hall site on Monument Square downtown. And the proposed $27 million project includes a lot of potentially interesting bits: residential, retail, commercial space -- and maybe most interesting of all, a permanent home for the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market.
Here's an overview of the plan with renderings, details, and whatnot...
The site is a prime spot, located between the Hudson River and Monument Square right in the heart of downtown Troy. It had been the site of the former city hall until the angular, concrete building was demolished in 2011. The site has been vacant ever since.
Here's the concentrated outline of the proposal:
+ Two mixed-use buildings separated by a plaza providing access to the river from River Street.
+ Fifty or more "luxury" apartments.
+ 30,000 square feet of retail space
+ A permanent indoor/outdoor space for the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market (20,000 square feet).
+ The possibility of incorporating a new city hall space into the development.
+ A 175-space parking garage.
The proposal for the project is from a group headed up by the Kirchoff Companies, a development company that works throughout the Northeast and reports $700 million a year in project volume (its construction arm recently built the new UAlbany business school building). As involved: Sequence Development, which includes former city official Jeff Buell, the CSArch architecture firm, the LA Group, Ryan-Biggs, and Gramercy Communications (the firm
owns is an adjacent building).
The project is estimated to cost $27 million. Troy mayor Lou Rosamilia says the city has about $4 million in state and federal grants it will put toward the project. And he said the Kirchoff group's proposal submitted to the city include a bank letter indicating that financing was lined up for the project.
And, of course, there's always the question of some sort of tax break/payment in lieu of taxes arrangement. And Rosamilia said today that a PILOT is a possibility.
There are renderings above in large-format (click or scroll all the way up) -- they're the quickest and best way to get a feel for the design.
But Expanding on the design a bit: the project calls for two buildings -- Monument North and Monument South. The building would be separated by a plaza that lines up with Broadway. The plaza area would expand along the river side of the buildings, with a sort of ramp/terrace leading down to the water.
The farmers' market space would be located on the plaza level of the Monument North, as would the parking garage. City hall, if returned to the site, would be located in Monument South, opposite the market.
Tina Mesiti-Ceas, from CSArch, called the site a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity because of its location between the square and the river. She said designers aimed to preserve the sense of place along River Street along with the views of the river, aiming to be "respectful of both scale and context of surrounding buildings, and fit alongside rather than overpower the historic architecture on River Street."
The farmers' market
The most interesting aspect of this project -- for people both in Troy and elsewhere -- could be the proposed permanent space for the Troy Waterfront Farmers' Market. Jeff Buell, from Sequence Development, said the market provided an "anchor" for the development, and offered the opportunity to differentiate it.
"When we were looking at what should this site be, in my head, we always go back to two things in 2014, and in the coming years, we're going to need to be able provide a couple of things to people and those are products and experiences that you can't have on the internet," said Buell, calling the market both an experience and business rolled into one. "It can be something very, very special. ... We have very high hopes that we we're going to advance that farmers' market into something new and unique."
The 20,000 square feet of space would open onto the plaza area, allowing the market to operate year round from the same space. And the current plan also calls for the market to have at least partial ownership of that space.
"So that's going to give us a lot of possibilities for markets at other times of the week, our vendors can open stores throughout the week," explained Seth Jacobs, president of the farmers' market board (and Slack Hollow Farm). "We could have a cooperatively owned store run by the vendors. This is going to be a very beautiful site, indoor/outdoor, heated when it's cold. So there's possibility for a lot of other sorts of events."
The market currently operates on River Street (usually) during the summer, which is a nice setting -- as long as the weather cooperates. But when it doesn't, the vendors can take a big hit.
"My sales at the Troy market operate under a business model where if it rains, they are cut in half," said Jacobs today. "That's not a very good business model. So as a vendor, I'm really looking forward to having a brick house, if you catch my drift."
For the farmers' market to build out the space, it will need to raise funding. Jacobs said they're "angling for several million dollars of grant money" from the state and federal governments.
While the developers view the farmers' market as an anchor, the siting of a new city hall seems much more up in the air. Rosamilia said the matter required further discussion, and said he'd be forming a committee to examine it.
Troy's city hall is currently operating out of office space in the Hedley Building on River Street, north of the Green Island Bridge. Rosamilia said the city has the option of exiting its lease every two years.
If the city hall doesn't go into the Monument South building, Rosamilia said the space could be use for more retail and/or residential.
Haven't we been through all this before?
Yep. This is the third go around for the city in trying to get the site redeveloped.
The administration of former mayor Harry Tutunjian first selected a plan for the site in 2011 -- a mixed-use plan from the Nigro Companies/Richman Group that on the surface, at least, was somewhat similar to this new plan. That proposal fizzled in 2012 with the change of administrations, concern that bubbled up over the project's inclusion of low- and moderate-income housing, and then one of the backers pulled out of the project. [AOA] [TU]
The second round only included one bidder, Judge Development, but the city and Judge couldn't work out an agreemnt last June. [TU]
This latest go around is attempt #3. The Kirchoff proposal was picked from a pool that also included a proposal from a team composed of Bonacio Construction and RPI.
So why should there be confidence something's actually going to happen this time? This morning Rosamilia cited Kirchoff's size and track record: "They've done major, major projects. We're very confident that this company can pull off everything we've talked about and every design we've spoken about." And Rosamilia said the city had also received assurance, in the form of a bank letter, that Kirchoff has financing lined up.
Downtown Troy has been riding a wave of momentum over the last few years, with new investment -- notably residential projects. And in a way, Troy represents the hope of a lot of cities in this area, that maybe there is a vibrant future for them as the trends swing back toward walkable, urban areas. As state Senator Neil Breslin said today as part of an anecdote about how he explained to his staff why he was always ending up in Troy: "The things that are important to the Capital District are happening in Troy, New York."
So the hope is that this Monument Square redevelopment project will push Troy to a different a level. Or as Breslin said, "This is the linchpin, this will bring it together. This will give Troy almost steroids for success."
The initial timeline for the project includes completion of Monument North by fall 2015, with a groundbreaking sometime this year. Work on Monument South would start after that.
Before ground is broken, the plan will need to be finalized, and get the OK from the city planning board, and the city council will have to approve the sale of the site. Rosamilia cautioned that the city wants to make sure everything is lined up correctly before work starts. "We haven't rushed to this point, and we're not going to rush it now."
renderings: Kirchhoff Properties, Sequence Development, CSArch
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