705 Broadway - Quackenbush Center - renderings

705 Broadway Albany Quackenbush Center rendering2 2018-January

705 Broadway Albany Quackenbush Center rendering1 2018-January

A big step forward for the Quackenbush Center mixed-use project, and other exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board

705 Broadway Albany Quackenbush Center rendering

The latest rendering for the Quackenbush Center project.

That big mixed-use project proposed for just north of Quackenbush Square in downtown Albany took an important step forward this week when the city planning board approved its site plan.

The project includes residential, commercial space, and a hotel. And it holds the potential to dramatically change the feel of that section of town.

Here are a few more bits about what's up with the project -- and a handful of other mildly exciting tales of the Albany Planning Board...

705 Broadway: Quackenbush Center

The project -- Quackenbush Center as its been tagged -- has been in the works for the 1.7-acre site just north of Quackenbush Square bounded by Broadway, Spencer, and Montgomery. The developers backing this proposal are the Pioneer Companies, from the Syracuse area, and First Columbia, which is based here in the Capital Region. It was first publicly presented to the planning board last January.

705 Broadway Albany Quackenbush Center rendering2 2018-January cropped

The plan now includes:

+ Three large buildings, one each that would sit along Broadway, Spencer, and Montgomery.

+ The Broadway and Spencer buildings would be 10-stories tall and collectively include approximately 180 residential units along with retail space on the street level.

+ The third building, along Montgomery, will be a hotel with 136 rooms. Hyatt has signed on to operate it under its extended-stay brand.

+ The middle of the development would be a large plaza that would connect with Quackenbush Square.

+ There'd be a level of parking of underneath the development with roughly 180 spaces, slated to be set aside for the residences.

+ The developers are also hoping to get Montgomery Street extended past the Albany Pump Station to the Quackenbush Parking Garage. They've been in talks with the Albany Parking Authority about adding a new entrance to the garage there.

You might have noticed a lot of work going at the site over the last few months. It was part of a large effort to remediate petroleum-contaminated soil from the site. John O'Brien, chief development officer of the Pioneer Companies, told the planning board this week they finished up the work just before the end of 2017 and test results indicate the contamination has been removed. (Among the things turned up during the process: 12 underground storage tanks that weren't marked on maps or plans.)

At the planning board meeting, O'Brien and engineer Dan Hershberg of Hershberg & Hershberg walked through the plan one last time. The biggest change of late has been the certainty that a hotel will occupy the third building, and there will be 167 parking spaces below the hotel building. Hershberg showed the updated renderings (see above in large format -- click or scroll all the way up) and results of a shadow study.

"We wanted to include and embrace the Quackenbush Square area, the historic area, and the kind of live/work/play that's really caught on in a lot of upstate cities. And we think this is the right spot for in downtown Albany."

In addition to the site plan approval -- which was a unanimous vote* -- the planning board also voted on tall building review for the hotel building, which will stand at 108 feet. (For comparison, Hershberg said the federal building across Broadway is 167 feet tall.) That was also approved unanimously.

Pioneer's John O'Brien said the next step for the project will be going before the city's Industrial Development Agency in an effort to work out a payment in lieu of taxes arrangement. He said an application is already in process with the IDA. And if/when they work an arrangement, they plan to start construction right away.

"We've always looked at it as a real gateway project into the Warehouse [District]," O'Brien said after Thursday's planning board vote. "We wanted to include and embrace the Quackenbush Square area, the historic area, and the kind of live/work/play that's really caught on in a lot of upstate cities. And we think this is the right spot for in downtown Albany."

* The approval included three conditions: a fully detailed plan for a new traffic light at Broadway and Spencer, consent from Capitalize Albany for using the Montgomery Street right-of-way, and review from the city planning director of any large mechanicals on the roof.

760 Broadway

760 Broadway Albany site plan v2
The new site plan. Click the image for a larger view.

Thursday's meeting included something a little bit unusual in that a project that previously got approval -- and on which work had already started -- was back before the board.

Fairbank Properties has been planning to build a new-construction residential building with 100 units at 760 Broadway on a parking lot that spanned the block to Pearl Street. But during initial excavation, crews turned up a series of sewer laterals that didn't appear on maps. And that prompted a significant change in design to work around the sewer lines.

So Fairbanks's David Sarraf was back before the board with Dan Hershberg to present a new version of the project. It now includes:

+ A building that runs along Broadway, but no longer reaches over toward Pearl Street.
+ 88 apartments (72 studio and 1BR / 16 2BR)
+ Parking for approximately 110 cars. There will be heated parking underneath the building, along with some outdoor parking.

The major thread of conversation with the board was about the styling of the windows on the parking level that will face Broadway. The current plan includes translucent glass. Board chair Al DeSalvo asked about the possibility of some sort of decorative iron work. Sarraf said the goal is to have the parking area heated, so iron grates alone wouldn't be enough. But he said he was willing to be flexible about the design.

This project will probably be back up again at one of the meetings in February, where Hershberg said they hope to get approval for the reformulated plan.

More project bits

292 Second Street
Rehabilitation Support Services, Inc. was back before the board plan to demolish an old school building and replace it with three new-construction residences for people with substance abuse and addiction issues (earlier. RSS and its attorney were hoping to get demolition approval.

But the city planning staff said the state environment quality review process wasn't completed yet, and the project also had gotten some comment letters from city technical staff. (Also: the board tends not to issue demolition approval without a site plan approval.)

It sounds like the project will be back in February, when it will be in line for demolition and site plan approval.

61 Colvin Avenue
The planning board approved a conditional use permit for Atlas Jiu Jitsu to use a 6,000 square foot space on Colvin Ave for its training facility, where it will have jiu jitsu, judo, and cardio kickboxing.

45 Parkwood Street
The planning board approved a conditional use permit for Adam Clark to convert his basement into an apartment. (One neighborhood resident again spoke against the project, arguing the neighborhood already faced parking issues and adding to the density threatened its character.)

Albany County Land Bank demolitions
The board gave the OK for the Albany County Land Bank to purse demolitions of formerly residential buildings at 136 Livingston Ave, 186 Second Street, and 612 Third Street. The land bank's Amanda Wyckoff showed photos of the buildings and all three were in rough shape.

New planning board member

Thursday's meeting was the first for Glinessa Gaillard, who was appointed by mayor Kathy Sheehan to fill the board spot left vacant when Alison Bates finished her term. The Common Council confirmed her appointment in December.

Comments

There are no "large format" renderings on this page, were they overlooked?

"Hershberg showed the updated renderings (see above in large format -- click or scroll all the way up)"

@Anthony: I forgot to paste them in. They're up there now. Sorry about that.

I often wonder if in 50 years, people will look back at these types of buildings and appreciate their aesthetics and design, because I find it exceedingly difficult to appreciate them now.

theshakes: Oh come now, you know no one is going to appreciate this kind of instant design (and I use the word design generously). Such boring generic boxes, with a bit of color variation seemingly applied randomly to their surfaces, do make one appreciate good architecture. I may not be able to define good architecture, but I know it when I see it. And this is certainly not it! The three volumes make little sense as a grouping. Moreover, none of these buildings fits into Albany's existing urban architectural context at all. They could be plunked down anywhere. (Not that the federal building to the left is so great either . . . )

Peter, your referencing of the SS building sort of hints at my question. It’s modernist in design, and pretty ugly, but I can at least appreciate it in the context of the modernist movement and its blunt functionality. Will there be anything to appreciate about the current post-modern, vanilla box, McMansion era? My sense is “no”.

I wonder if in 50 years people will look back and say wow I can’t believe these areas were old industrial wastelands empty vacant and devoid of life and rotting away in obscurity while people drove in cars to far away suburbs and huge cinder block buildings by highway intersections to buy their daily goods!!! Come Albany this is a great great great development.....if you want Taj Mahal architecture build it yourself.....I understand the under current but my God build this stuff now!!! You should be thrilled someone wants to build this in a high tax low growth low population poverty stricken area stuck in 1968!!!!!

Quackenbush Square is an Industrial Wasteland now? Get out of here. I see an area with historic buildings filled with character and successful businesses. If you're going to give these developers tax breaks don't subsidize more big ugly boxes.

Steve ever been anywhere else.....the site of the building took ages to clean up because......it was an abandoned empty vacant industrial wasteland! Old English my favorite bar and building in Albany but if you believe that area is a booming cohesive neighborhood right now then I give up....Albany will never improve if that is the mentality around here....so sad.

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