Jump to the main section.

Renderings July 26, 2017




Where things are at with the 1 Monument Square movie theater project

One Monument Square Conceptual Renderings Bonacio Bow Tie

Updated with a new set of renderings.

The latest chapter in 1 Monument Square saga arrived at an important plot point Wednesday evening when the proposed movie theater project for the site went before the Troy planning commission.

A lot of people turned out for the presentation, and they had a lot to say. That's not a surprise -- this is one of the most high-profile real estate projects in the whole Capital District, and it's the fourth major attempt to get something built at the site.

Here's a quick scan of what people had to say, and a few thoughts about where things are at...

Quick background

1 Monument Square site 2016-08-25
The site last summer, looking up toward River Street and the square.

The proposed project involves an 11-screen luxury movie theater -- seating a total about 1200 people -- at the 1 Monument Square site in Troy. Bow Tie Cinemas is the theater operator, and Bonacio Construction is serving as the developer.

The movie theater would be at the River Street level, and parking for about 105 cars (and 100 bikes) would be below on the riverside level. A wide stair on the north end of the site would connect River Street to the riverfront.

The project was selected by the city of Troy -- it was one of two bids for the site -- in a process earlier this year.


An updated set of rendering is at the top in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.

Movie theater = yes

Let's start with a point where there seems to be consensus: People are on board with the idea of a movie theater for downtown Troy. And further, there seems to be generally wide support for a movie theater at this site (though there were a few exceptions among the public commenters about using the site that way).

The reason for the support seems pretty straightforward. The theater is seen as a new way to draw people to downtown. That has the support of other business owners, among them Vic Christopher, who called the project "a home run." And it seems to appeal to members of the general public, some of whom are old enough to remember going to see movies downtown in the past.

How much does architecture matter?

monument square troy soldiers and sailors
Monument Square

That consensus only goes so far, though, and split at this question: How much has architecture contributed to the success of downtown Troy?

One group of people pushed the idea in their comments that, essentially, the architecture of the theater would be incidental compared to its function and role in the city. As Tim Taney, the owner of Slidin' Dirty, said: "The taxpaying residents and small businesses of Troy are what defines its character, not its architecture and building materials."

But others commented that the city's architecture has been a core component of what's made Troy distinctive. And in multiple comments, people said it was the look and feel of Troy that had drawn them to live and work there.

As one 2nd Street resident said in his comment, "I came here because it felt good."

The street and the river

Bow Tie Monument Square rendering overhead

So, let's take up some of the issues people have about the design. The complaints generally seem to break out into two categories: aesthetics and how the building interfaces with the street.

The look
One of the sticking points in previous rounds of the 1 Monument Square saga have been opposition to the insertion of a modern building into the Victorian-era streetscape. That doesn't necessarily seem to be the case this time around -- people actually seem OK with the idea that whatever gets built isn't going to look like. the historic buildings around the square.

Rather, what seems to concern the skeptics in this regard is that the proposed building is, stylistically, flat along a large portion of the River Street side and and almost all the river-facing back. New renderings showing huge blank walls along the Hudson side prompted multiple comments from people in this vein.

Tracy Kennedy, a 2nd Street resident, said the design evoked a Clifton Park strip mall, and the large blank walls reminded her of Central Warehouse in Albany. Others mentioned the Atrium, a Troy design epithet if ever there was one.

Said Michael Lopez in his comment: "I see a lot of blankness, that's sad to me."

During the initial presentation, that architect for the project mentioned they were looking at possibilities for adding some sort of visual texture to the river-facing side, and that prompted a few encouraging comments.

The interface with the street
The other major design concern mentioned by commenters was the way the current design interacts with River Street -- or, for most of its length, doesn't interact with River Street.

Barb Nelson -- who was the planning commission chair during the last attempt at this site -- argued this case during her comment. She pointed to Tai Xi's 3D rendering of an elevated theater space that allows for public space along River Street. And then -- in the spirit of offering constructive feedback -- offered up her own roughed-together concept: lifting the theaters up one level to allow some street level retail on the long face of the building, along with more parking behind:

Troy planning commission 1 Monument Square 2017-07-26 Nelson suggestion
Nelson's elevation as suggestion. (Click for a larger version.)

"Our mantra in Troy has become walkability, vibrancy, vitality. And it is the street life of a city that exhibits that and promotes that," she said in introducing her idea.

The concept got support from other people in comments that followed. And, perhaps most notably, two members of the commission -- Deborah Spence and Chuck Thomas -- both said they liked the idea of street level retail in their summary remarks at the end of the discussion.

Will the next version include that element? Sonny Bonacio, the developer behind the project, said afterward that they would take all the input into consideration and see what they can do, though he was noncommittal on the street level retail.

Bow Tie Cinemas chief operating officer Joe Masher was skeptical of the idea, noting Bow Tie required the building space for the movie theaters themselves. He said the planned luxury format of the theaters meant there were fewer overall seats per theater, so the company needed all the planned theater space. And he also questioned whether more retail space was needed in downtown Troy and pointed to the fact that there's already empty space there.

Troy turns out

Troy planning commission 1 Monument Square 2017-07-26 crowd

It was a packed room for Wednesday evening's meeting. And, by our count, 21 people stood up to make public comments. And without exception, each of those comments was respectful and constructive, even if they were critical.

Sure, this is a high-profile project. But to get that many people to turn out on a lovely summer evening to contribute feedback -- or just witness what's going on -- is admirable.

Is this going to happen?

Making any sort of prediction about what's ultimately going to happen at 1 Monument Square is probably a foolish. The storyline here is full of false starts and weird ends.

But, hey, this time around no one threatened during a public meeting to bring legal action (previously). There don't seem to be many complaints about the planned use for the site. And the potential tenant seems committed.

We were also struck Wednesday evening by what's almost like a fatigue among people over this site. Multiple commenters -- both public and official -- mentioned a desire to get something done. As Joe Fama -- appearing in a personal capacity, not as director of operations for the Troy Community Land Bank -- said in his comment, he's tired of seeing the "grand hole at the end of the Broadway." He urged the planning commission to take a hard look at the project, "but let's get this thing built."


The issue is a dead horse at this point. Troy has a viable use, but it would be nice to see the facade of the building be constructed to include outside use area, even if it just affords covered eating areas that overlook the Hudson. As Joe Fama said, people are tired fighting this battle and just want fairness in the site's redevelopment. Bonacio and BowTie are not altruists, nor are they required to be, but they are committed to bring positive change to the city. Hopefully the building's exterior can be easily and cost-effectively tweaked to remove the graffiti canvas element and blandness of view from the river and construction starts soon.

Putting aside all of the discussion about this bringing people to Troy, parking, etc - my main concern is that this project has a very narrow, short term vision.

Movie theater structures are very specific to their use. If the theater isn't successful and winds up closing, now or any time in the future you wind up with a hulking building that cannot really be repurposed. Look at the American and Proctors which have been sitting empty and decaying for I don't even know how long.

If the proposed hotel would were to go out of business, at least there are many other uses for such a building.

Thank you for this coverage of the meeting! I'm sure there are many of us who wanted to be there but had other commitments.

I wonder if the Arts Center's public art initiative could be combined with this project in some way. Maybe some nice murals or other art (similar to what's now on the Albany parking garage) could be on the Riverfront and River Street sides of the building - also similar to the large Toast of the Hudson mural on the Browns building. Might help the building to "interact" more with the streetscape and river.

This seems like the worst proposal yet. Anything that doesn't use the waterfront is a complete waste of the space. Also, does Bonaccio do any work that's not luxury apartments where they don't require the government to pay for a large chunk of it?

So Troy, like many cities, will become home for another generic BIG BOX that blocks off any view of the River. How about a distinctive BIG BOX? How about a BIG BOX with a view? One with a green roof where people might congregate and enjoy views up and down the Hudson? A small park in the middle of the city. Sure it will cost a bit more but it is doable and if this BIG BOX is to dominate downtown Troy for the next half century, "generic" just won't cut it.

Let's get this straight, the folks heading up and supporting this project only want to be front and center at a ribbon cutting of their own creation.

Let's stop with the bull and get some real progressive people in this town instead of those regurgitating hasbeen ideas and crooked politics.

Yes let's build a giant wall against the Hudson so we can blight the riverfront. This we we can complain so more like we do with 787. This is hardly a home run.

I don't live in Troy but I went to school there and now spend time there for many reasons, e.g. the farmers market, the restaurants, the retail shops and last but not least because I meet interesting people from all over the planet. My feeling is that the design of the theater should honor the past architecture that is surrounding it. It should be imaginative, visually appealing and visionary. The building's facade, from both River St.- Monument Square and the river, should be something to wonder at and admire. Not a boxy blank wall or some uninspired post-modern rotunda. There are a wealth of creative people and businesses in Troy. The architecture should reflect that. As Corey Aldrich (and Jim from Brunswick) suggested to me "what about a roof top garden? A minor expense in a multi million dollar project." Do it right and with sensitivity and care, but do it.

...and plant some bonsai trees around the building

Remember the atrociousness of the City Hall architecture? Did not fit in the City's facade at all. I would hope changing the facade wouldn't be a deal breaker for the developer. I am a born and raised Trojan. It is nice to hear people from other parts of the Capital District say how much they enjoy Troy, especially the architecture and the historic feel.
If the theaters will hold a total of 1,200 patrons, I don't think the 100 underground spaces is going to cover it. It's hard to find parking in downtown Troy, especially on the weekends. The only reliable parking is the Atrium parking garage, but add in a couple hundred more vehicles ... it will end up being discouraging for patrons of other businesses.

Overheard on the street in Troy:

"It's been tabled." (i.e. Is this the kiss of death?)

"A small group of wealthy property owners in Troy are the ones holding this whole project from being implemented."

Well, whatever. People of Troy, you have a unique opportunity here. You can work with the developer and architect(s). Don't let the gaping hole in Monument Square remain like that for another 10 years. You have cleared your throat long enough. Time to act NOW!

Three months later, basically the same evening renderings. Why is Bow Tie keeping us in the dark? Show us the river-facing signage of 36" per letter when Troy code normally allows 9" max.

Here's an example for Bow Tie; a proposed 1MS development shown from more and daytime views of a good looking modern design promoting river access and public space:


Residents and businesses contribute to Troy's character, but I don't think they outright define Troy's character. Most people were attracted to Troy largely due to Troy's quaint charm and historic architecture. Those two qualities are infused in the majority of people contributing to Troy's character / culture.

Troy's prosperity downtown has, in recent years, attracted a growing number of residents and business owners whose interests in economic opportunity hold less care for Troy's heritage and historic architecture. That represents a changing shift in Troy's culture and a rift or divide toward what is considered important and significant.

One newer business owner in Troy has publicly stated a business plan of hopes for Troy to be a hip place more like Brooklyn and Saratoga. That would be a dramatic change from Troy's quaint charm if transformation was extensive.

Some infusion of new culture is good and healthy, but if Troy became that hip - many people would leave by choice and visit elsewhere. That change won't make the news, and most business owners nor city officials would care, if notice, because profits might still be good or better.

I don't enjoy Saratoga as much as I did a decade or two ago. A few years ago, Jeff Pfeil gave a talk about development in Troy and Saratoga, stating he no longer enjoys what Saratoga has become. For a successful local developer to make that statement, especially one who contributed to the development of Saratoga, I think is revealing.

Bow Tie's building being hugely disproportionate in scale and design at One Monument Square would push that culture shift more, perhaps significantly more in a short time, into the hip crowd whom cares less about charm and architecture, more about pop culture or however you define what is new and hip of successful status. Significantly more if Bow Tie is at 1MS because that would be a statement to everyone that the City of Troy, and thereby all its residents, value the money drawn from commerce driven culture more than the character which enabled and created almost all of Troy's renaissance.

If Bow Tie's proposed design is built outside the historic district, that says - we welcome and embrace the inclusion of new hip culture, but not to the extreme where it's more important than all other qualities defining Troy's long established culture and economic values. By locating Bow Tie outside of historic Monument Square, Troy doesn't trade one economic value for another - Troy adds another - mutually creating more long term prosperity.

If Bow Tie can design a more suitable style to Monument Square, that is an improvement, but maybe not enough. It's still mammoth. It's still far removed from quaint and the established / widely praised / locally cherished culture. It's still a poor use of prime riverfront. It's still poor use of property that could have windows with breathtaking views of downtown and the river.

I'm surprised All Over Albany hasn't mentioned the real possibility of the movie theater business dwindling in the wake of digital media makeovers. Newspapers, music, books, taxi cabs. Bandwidth is nearly sufficient and widespread enough. All that's needed is a software platform for production studios to profitably bypass cinemas.

Movie theater executives claim it won't happen; as did all previous media executives. Movie attendance has continuously declined since 2002; now averaging 200k less tickets sold despite 40 million more people being alive. Most people care more about on-demand + portability than quality. Home theater systems are becoming more inexpensive. Movie theaters might soon be niche like vinyl records.


Chances are likely for Bow Tie in Troy to need remodeling or redevelopment in 30 years. Would Troy be wise to avoid the risk of dealing with this 1MS quandary again? I think repurposing would happen smoother outside of the historic district, and with little to no controversy since future residents would say, in that event: Well, they planned for it.. thankfully.

In case anyone isn't aware, Troy only opened the latest RFP from December 19, 2016 through January 20, 2017; about half the timeframe of previous RFPs. The busiest time of year doesn't seem ideal for motivating proposals. Steven Strichman, Troy Planning Commissioner, when asked about that decision essentially said he doesn't think Troy can do any better than whatever it gets in that allotted time during that time of year.

Thanks. Way to aim high. Where were you aiming?

I love how Xi and Barb Nelson are contributing their architectural talents. I'm more in favor of Barb's - having commercial space below.

However, Barb's comments "Our mantra in Troy has become walkability, vibrancy, vitality. And it is the street life of a city that exhibits that and promotes that," is weak. Joe Masher can legitimately claim Bow Tie adds to each. He already used the word vibrant. 11,000 weekly influx of people is proposed vitality.

I'm not saying that to be mean; I admire and love what Barb does for Troy and I enjoyed working with her on Transport Troy's Complete Streets report.

What I'm saying is - I hope anyone with a known, respected voice in Troy, and Troy's Historic Review Committee, clearly express the economic value of preserving Troy's charm and architecture and culture in a way that is unique, significant, proven if possible, and how that specific vitality will be reduced by Bow Tie's influence if jammed onto River Street at One Monument Square.

During a planning meeting in 2014 held by Troy City Hall and Urban Strategies for Realize Troy - a new Comprehensive Plan - non-profit and volunteer community organizers of Troy were brought together for brainstorming. I asked how many people in the room grew up in Troy. Out of twenty something, two raised their hand.

I asked the City of Troy and Urban Strategies to realize, understand, preserve the qualities of Troy that attracted so many beautiful people to live here. Qualities that somehow shined through the defining Troylet era and brought together kind, open hearted, thoughtful people whom selflessly give so much of their energy to help improve Troy. Don't change Troy in a way that chases away or no longer attracts this magnitude of diversely, passionately, invested community of citizens.

Whatever that attraction is, it has enormous value. That is a strong character of spirit found throughout Troy's history and deeply rooted in its core.

Maybe few people recognize that quality. Maybe their accomplished noise is quieter than popular commerce or culture. But it's a backbone thread in Troy's fabric that I would be heartbroken to see come undone.

I am shocked and saddened for Joe Fama to say "Let's get this thing built."

That is an extreme realization of how completely fatigued and tired people are from dealing with this headache.

If I recall correctly, 1MS was a hole for many (seven?) years before the former city hall was built. Look how that turned out.

People of Troy are so sick and exhausted, they are again wiling to allow a design they don't really like; that obviously looks and feels bad; yet reality and facts get severely obscured from low morale in people, understandably, running out of patience.

Today, people are saying just get it done; it's a home run! (comical) What will they say in 30 years; the same remarks former city hall received? Will Bow Tie last as long before being vacant?

Or, Troy could move the Children's Museum of Science and Technology to One Monument Square. Troy could also bring City Hall back and both can be there.

How to pay for that shared building? $3.8 million in grants currently available is a start. Would CMOST be bringing money to the table? However much City Hall is paying Hedley for rent.

How many entities are on Troy's tax roll? Commercial plus residential? An estimate:

16,000 x $50 x 25 years = $20 million

Is 50 a year for 25 years a worthwhile investment?

Can someone provide more accurate tax math?

I understand Troy was recently hit with higher taxes. I won't debate that now, but sometimes taxes can be a wise investment; not a burden.

Bow Tie could be outside of the historic district, located at Uncle Sam Lanes, 1801 6th Ave?, the former EOC on the corner of Congress and 6th, or at the commercially zoned corner of Prospect Park across from College Suites at City Station. That would invigorate nearby investments. Creating a new hotspot on that side of Troy will also raise market values along every path between there and other hotspots throughout downtown.

Like the idea of CMOST + City Hall? Hate it? Here's my proposal at Troy Neighborhoods Action Council:


Troy is becoming a joke.

Shut. This. Sh*%. Down.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.


Recently on All Over Albany

Thank you!

When we started AOA a decade ago we had no idea what was going to happen. And it turned out better than we could have... (more)

Let's stay in touch

This all feels like the last day of camp or something. And we're going to miss you all so much. But we'd like to stay... (more)

A few things I think about this place

Working on AOA over the past decade has been a life-changing experience for me and it's shaped the way I think about so many things.... (more)

Albany tightened its rules for shoveling snowy sidewalks last winter -- so how'd that work out?

If winter ever gets its act together and drops more snow on us, there will be sidewalks to shovel. And shortly after that, Albany will... (more)

Tea with Jack McEneny

Last week we were fortunate enough to spend a few minutes with Jack McEneny -- former state Assemblyman, unofficial Albany historian, and genuinely nice guy.... (more)

Recent Comments

My three year old son absolutely loving riding the train around Huck Finn's (Hoffman's) Playland this summer.

Thank you!

...has 27 comments, most recently from Ashley

Let's stay in touch

...has 4 comments, most recently from mg

A look inside 2 Judson Street

...has 3 comments, most recently from Diane (Agans) Boyle

Everything changes: Alicia Lea

...has 2 comments, most recently from Chaz Boyark

A few things I think about this place

...has 13 comments, most recently from Katherine