New Scotland Ave Helderberg streetscape possible upgrades clip

Here are the upgrades in the mix for the commercial strip along New Scotland Ave in the Helderberg neighborhood

New Scotland Ave Helderberg commercial strip 2018-06-25

New sidewalks. New lamp posts. New trees. Maybe some safer pedestrian crossings.

Those elements are in the mix for the commercial strip along New Scotland Ave between Quail and Ontario, one of Albany's most vibrant neighborhood retail spots. (It's the strip with The Fountain, Restaurant Navona, Albany Ale & Oyster, Sake Cafe, the Capital City Gastropub and many other establishments.)

There was a public meeting about the planned upgrades this past Monday (as mentioned). Here's a quick recap about what's up.

New Scotland Ave Helderberg commercial strip plan crowd 2018-06-25

Monday evening about 50 people gathered in the basement of the First Congregational Church of Albany to hear about what's in store for the strip.

The city has hired the Chazen Companies to lead the design of the project. And Linda Stancliffe, a landscape architect with the firm, presented the outline of the plan.

"When you get done it will be a breath of fresh air," she told the crowd about the project.

Concept diagram

There's a concept diagram for the project at the top in large format -- click or scroll all the way up.

Proposed upgrades

The centerpiece of the project is the redesign and replacement of the sidewalk along the commercial strip. Many of the sidewalk segments are uneven, and Stancliffe said the curb ramps aren't compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new sidewalk will also be about a foot wider, taking space from the street.

Also planned: new benches and bike racks.

New Scotland Ave Helderberg commercial strip plan sidewalk diagram

New sidewalk/curb arrangement
One of the complications in replacing the sidewalk is making sure all the elevations line up in a way that works with the storefronts and the curb so that the slopes are ADA compliant.

One of the main proposed fixes is a two-tiered sidewalk. A new six-inch curb will be installed along the street. From there a strip of sidewalk will extend a few feet toward the storefronts -- it will include space for trees and lamp posts. Then another curb-like rise of about 6 inches. And then the main sidewalk will extend to the buildings. (It's easier to just look at the diagram above here.)

The tiers allows two things:

+ A gradual slope for the main sidewalk.

+ The ability to use the lower level of the sidewalk as a place to store snow during the winter.

Stancliffe said the sidewalk layout would be similar to the layout of the sidewalk along the commercial stretch across from St. Peter's Hospital a mile to the west on New Scotland.

New Scotland Ave Helderberg commercial strip plan existing conditions poster

To go along with that new sidewalk: New lamp posts that include lighting for both the street and the sidewalk. The decorative posts have one lamp toward the top that focuses on the street and another lamp, lower and perched on the opposite side of the pole, that's focused on the sidewalk.

Also: The project calls for new replacement street trees, the leaf canopy of which can be trimmed up to a level of about 6 feet or so and will allow some light through. Stancliffe said the idea is to create a canopy that provides some shade but also visibility for the storefronts from the street. (She said the project would be working the city forester on picking the specific varieties.)

New Scotland Ave Helderberg commercial strip Grove crossing 2018-06-25
The crosswalk at Grove.

Pedestrian safety upgrades
Two main pedestrian safety upgrades that are possibilities:

+ The intersection of New Scotland and Quail is relatively wide because of its alignment and the curve of the east-side curb. So Stancliffe said they're looking at possibly adding curb bump-outs there to reduce the curb-to-curb distance for crossing pedestrians.

+ The sidewalk across New Scotland at Grove is both a popular crossing spot -- and notorious for how often vehicles don't stop for pedestrians. Stancliffe said they're considering the installation of a button-activated flashing beacon for the crossing, similar to the one just down street closer to Albany Med. That crosswalk is also in line for new striping and the addition of those "teeth" markings that encourage drivers to stop short of the crosswalk.

Pedestrian safety was a frequent topic of questions from the public during the meeting. And it points to the need for the city to maybe figure out an overall plan for calming traffic along the whole New Scotland Ave corridor. (Presumably that will be a component of the study that's in the works.)

Cost and timeline
Reps from Chazen said the goal is to have the project ready to go out for bids in the fall with an eye for getting in the queue with contractors for spring 2019 construction. Stancliffe said business owners along the strip will be consulted about staging of the work. Work will probably take 60-90 days.

And the cost? Chris Spencer, the city's commissioner of planning and development, told the crowd that a final cost hasn't been determined yet because the design isn't finalized. But money for the project will come from a pool of roughly $1 million the city has bonded for these sorts of projects.


I’m all in for upgrades for ADA compliance, but $1M, and the fact that every project always runs over budget doesn’t seem worth it to me. Why not save the money so we can beg the state for one less million in 2019, or use it to fix several of the true maintenance issues the city has, such as:
1. Repave Hackett from Manning to Academy
2. Start replacing the multitude of broken sewer lines in the city
3. Put the money towards improving the neighborhoods most in need.

I live in this neighborhood, and frequent the shops listed, but I feel like the city is spending money on “sexy & new” projects, instead of maintaining the city in a sustainable way.

And the argument that spending $1M plus on this project will increase the tax base to make it a wise investment, doesn’t seem like a valid argument, but happy to hear something counter to this.

I think this sounds good. The area does get a lot of foot traffic. Curious to see what people with like and dislike about here in comments...

@John B: Just to be clear, officials didn't say the project cost would be $1 million -- they just said money would be coming from a pool of $1 million that's been set aside for projects of this type. (That said, they also did not have a specific cost estimate.)

I will be closing on a house in a month or so in that neighborhood and I am THRILLED about these improvements. I can’t speak for the business owners, but it seems like they would love the idea, seeing as there will be more room for patio seating. And more bike racks! Love it.

The uneven sidewalks and the lack of safety at the corners must be addressed and made safe. We need to think of the elderly and make safer sidewalks to support their presence in the neighborhood.

THRILLED to see this

+ The intersection of New Scotland and Quail is relatively wide because of its alignment and the curve of the east-side curb. So Stancliffe said they're looking at possibly adding curb bump-outs there to reduce the curb-to-curb distance for crossing pedestrians.

That's music to my ears because vehicles habitually do not yield EVEN when I've been midway in the crosswalk! As a driver, I also have had trouble seeing people in the crosswalk, but at the curb, because of parked cars. The bulb-outs would reduce the crossing distance, improve visibility, and reinforce that yielding to pedestrians is the law.

how about having trees be memorial donations for friends and relatives! after all back in the day I would often give $ to an organization that replanted in Israel? not just this neighborhood but others in the city? just an idea!

Number one thing needed in that area: A STOPLIGHT at Quail and New Scotland. Lots of accidents and impossible to turn left at times. Also, it would be amazing if a project like this could be done on the other side of the city - Arbor Hill has no trees!

Seems easier to repair the sidewalk where it needs it and then get the crosswalks ADA compliant.

Then just put a light at Quail that's on a sensor and a walk signal. You already hit every single light from one end of New Scotland to the other so it wouldn't be a big deal.

Making the street more narrow doesn't seem like a great idea there at all. And it seems easy to put in a bike rack.

Present sidewalk might need a patch or two but overall looks fine to me. Plenty wide for tables and walking traffic.. I use a walker and have no problems getting from curb to store entrances.
TheTwo Tier system you mentioned opposite St Peters hosp:
>> is a disaster to maneuver from the curb to stores.
>>Also the first Tier always seems cluttered with dead leaves, paper, rubbish.----street sweeper cannot clean area
>> snow storage area????
I urge Mayor Sheehan and Ms. Linda Stancliffe, the landscape architect (and others) to-----
PLEASE-check out the sidewalk design on Madison Ave., between W. Lawrence St, and S.Allen St.--IT IS BEAUTIFUL--,+Albany,+NY+12208/@42.6660706,-73.791553,3a,75y,214.35h,90t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sFBzCKJPDDg-fslqDQv3jfg!2e0!!7i13312!8i6656!4m5!3m4!1s0x89de0a544a7fa25d:0xea70c03a809ee325!8m2!3d42.6658832!4d-73.7917035


Beth, welcome to the neighborhood! However, I have to agree with John. Unless the funding is something that can't be used for standard maintenance, there are plenty of other places this it would do good. The businesses on that strip are not suffering by any means.

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