Troy's request for another attempt at 1 Monument Square

1 Monument Square site 2016-08-25

The site this past August, looking up toward River Street.

"Now is the time to develop this key parcel in downtown Troy."

That's the last line of the opening page of the new request for proposals that the city of Troy posted Monday for the 1 Monument Square site, one of the most prominent pieces of undeveloped real estate in the Capital Region core. The request is looking to spur the fourth major attempt since 2011 to redevelop the old city hall spot.

Here's a quick scan of what the city is looking for this time around...

Background

old troy city hall
The old city hall.

Well, there's a lot. But we'll compress it:

+ Troy's former, 1970s brutalist city hall was knocked down in 2011.

+ Since then there have been three major attempts to redevelop the site with some sort of mixed-use project. All of them fizzled with a bit of drama. The most recent attempt made it as far as the city's planning board before facing organized opposition threatening legal action that argued the proposal changed too much since it had been originally proposed. The developer dropped out this past spring, saying the city hadn't done a good enough job identifying infrastructure that complicated the site, and pointing a finger at the project's opposition.

+ This past August the city of Troy held a public meeting to gather input about what people want to see at the site. There's was a big turnout, and it prompted the administration of mayor Patrick Madden to push back the issuing of this RFP so it could incorporate ideas from the meeting.

Development goals

The development goals and preferred uses from this most recent RFP:

+ Connect River Street and Downtown to the 4-acre Riverfront Park, Riverfront Trail, and Marina
+ Contribute to the creation of an 18-hour downtown
+ Maximize pedestrian activity, contributing to downtown's vitality
+ Create a building that respects the character of Troy's industrial era development and responds to the existing building stock
+ Utilize high quality design and building materials
+ Retain connectivity of Front Street through or behind any structure from Northeast to Southwest (either with an easement, or deeding of right of way to City of Troy)
+ Encourage innovative rooftop uses
+ Leverage MWBE subcontracting agreements (will be required to utilize select grant monies)

You can hear the echoes of some of the criticisms of past projects proposed for the site in those goals, especially in the desire for architecture that works with the existing building stock and the use of "high quality" building materials. (The last proposal had caught criticism for using a cementitious panel on the upper stories of the building instead of brick.)

The RFP also mentions the presence of a large water main at the site that the last development team said would complicate work there. The developers later complained, when pulling out of the project, that the last RFP included "inadequate and misleading" info about utilities at the site.

Something that came up during the public input session this past August, but is not listed as a goal in the RFP: some share of affordable housing if there's residential.

1MSq_public_meeting_2.jpg
At the public meeting to gather input about the site this past August.

Preferred style

And from the preferred development and style:

+ Preferred uses include office, residential, restaurant and retail uses, entertainment venues, public spaces and linkages to Riverfront Park, or a mix of these
+ Height compatible with adjacent context and existing architecture
+ Building should have active first floor use on River Street and interaction of Front Street
+ Parking structure should be designed to be shielded or non-impactful on Riverfront Park and Trail
+ Classic Urban Design is preferred, and in compliance with the City's Complete Streets ordinance and Sasaki Design guidelines ...
+ Anticipate detailed review by Historic District Commission and Planning Commission
Plaza/Connection
+ Design of the Plaza should engage the street/sidewalk and Riverfront Park and enhance Troy's signature public events including: Troy Farmer's Market, Victorian Stroll, Enchanted City, Riverfest, Rockin' on the River and Troy Night Out
+ There should be sufficient bike parking for the development and surrounding area
+ Design should consider four season activation of the plaza and surrounding streetscape
+ Design must be fully-accessible or on site accommodations made elsewhere on site

Parking

Because it always comes back to parking. And it was a topic mentioned multiple times during the August meeting, especially by business owners.

From the RFP: "Site configuration provides opportunity to create approximately 140 parking spaces on two levels ... City[is] willing to discuss condominium or full ownership of parking/plaza."

The last proposal, which eventually included through traffic Front Street (an issue during the planning review), included 84 spots.

What's next

The deadline for proposals is January 20. According to the RFP, the proposals will then be reviewed by a committee consisting of the mayor, the deputy mayor, the commissioner of planning and economic development, residents, and property owners.

RFP

Here's a pdf of the RFP:

Troy RFP-2016 Monument Square Redevelopment by alloveralbany on Scribd


Comments

"Something that came up during the public input session this past August, but is not listed as a goal in the RFP: some share of affordable housing if there's residential."
But only if "affordable" doesn't mean "subsidized". (see first shot-down proposal for this site)

Any and all housing that's incorporated into this project should be market rate and include a mix of condominiums and rental apartments.

The space should be left with expansive views of the Hudson, viewable from Monument Square.

Given the financial state of Troy, no indulgent tax incentives should be given to the developer(s).

On separate note, Just down the street there are two empty buildings on Congress Street next to the Sage campus. The Troy Housing Authority indicates that their physical improvement plan consists entirely of replacement of these units with senior housing. They indicate that they have the funds for demolition and that they anticipate that these funds will be augmented with funds from other sources for new units (e.g. Low Income Housing Tax Credits, Historic Tax Credits, etc.)."

Here's the rest of the THA projects:
http://www.troyhousing.org/?page_id=40

You failed to mention the unicorns and rainbows requirement.

If the THA has money to demolish the Taylor apartments, then why aren't they doing it? Those buildings are a major eyesore and problem environmentally and socially. But replace them with senior housing? Why there? Why not swap the land for something closer to city services and have a developer utilize that land for the value it has being so close to the river?

@ace I agree. Why do these vacant buildings sit on prime real estate, totally unused? Is that really the best location for senior housing? Central downtown? Seems like we piss away all of our best real estate and then grovel for rich developers to bring in affordable housing. How much riverfront in Troy is actually well-utilized? Nearly none.

@Ace & Sean, I couldn't agree more.

By the way, I noticed the THA website is dated 2011 so who knows what's going on.

I've just accepted that nothing will be done to the Taylor apts until a chunk falls off and kills a Sage girl. First they were deemed uninhabitable and needed to be razed, then they were going to be veterans housing bc someone was going to give them money (circa 2012), that never materialized and it's been quiet for 4+ years.

I would say that central/downtown is actually great spot for low income/subsidized/senior housing because of access to services but the problem with the Taylor apartments is that, eventhough they're right on the river and along major bus routes, the actual stops are pretty far away (at 3rd/Congress, 3rd/Ferry, or over the bridge in Watervliet). I'm less concerned about that issue with the 1 MSQ location.

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The City should take a more proactive approach based on neighborhood consensus. A prescriptive design guideline with great clarity could save lots of graves for aspiring developers and other stakeholders. The City has to be clear upfront on conditions to be met such as overall allowed building volume, easy river connection, parking, pedestrian oriented ground floor usage and etc. It not seems reasonable to expect commercial developers to build something on their own initiative to both maximize ROI and please all city residents.

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