Over at Politico New York, Jimmy Vielkind pitches the idea of using a Wegmans to anchor development at the former convention center site in downtown Albany. A clip:
The Rochester-based grocery chain has a nearly religious following in the areas of upstate New York where it operates, but there are no outposts in the Capital Region. In locating a store at the vacant site downtown, it could simultaneously provide a needed amenity for the struggling neighborhoods nearby and create a regional attraction that would draw people from the surrounding office towers and suburban communities.
Imagine a supermarket with a street-level cafe opening onto Hudson Avenue, beckoning to pedestrians along Broadway and Pearl Street or people in town for a show at the arena or a convention up the hill. Several floors of rental housing or condos above the store -- perhaps with requirements that some units be affordable -- that will give a further boost to the burgeoning residential options in the old business district and prevent the area between the Pastures and Sheridan Hollow, two predominately residential areas, from seeming lifeless after dark.
Call it the Wegmans effect, a development strategy for lagging urban areas rooted in designer cheese. Wegmans, or something like it, could do for Albany what Fairway did for Red Hook.
To be clear: There's no indication that Wegmans is actually considering this -- a spokesperson for Wegmans says as much to Vielkind, noting the company has looked at the Capital Region in the past but seen more opportunity in places such as Maryland and Virginia. And he figures it would take a push from Andrew Cuomo to make it happen.
The former convention site has been the subject of some intrigue recently because the Capital Region's Upstate Revitalization Initiative proposal included mention of an almost unbelievably big "catalyst" project there -- 1,200 housing units, more than 400,000 square feet of office space, and 295,000 square feet of retail. As you know, the Capital Region didn't get one of the $500 million grants. Before that, there had been a pitch to build an aquarium, which also fizzled. Now it's unclear what -- if anything -- is going to happen at the site.
One of the interesting angles to this topic is the question of whether downtown Albany should by vying for some sort of high-profile development piece like a Wegmans or (insert some other large, big-name retailer/project) -- or if it's better off cultivating the steady bit-by-bit development it's experienced in recent years.
Earlier on AOA:
+ The plan for the former Jillian's building, and cultivating retail in downtown Albany
+ Scanning the Capital Region's bid for half a billion dollars from the state
+ Wegmans? Really? Please explain.
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