Talking about a new look for one of Albany's oldest streets

Maiden Lane Albany 2018-August north side

Is there a new look for one of Albany's oldest streets?

That's one of the questions what will be at the center of a public meeting this Thursday, September 6 about the future of Maiden Lane in downtown Albany. The city's planning department is bringing in a consultant to gather input toward using "urban design, lighting, and landscape architecture to create a visible gateway to Albany's waterfront from the City's downtown core." The city says it would like to hear from "residents, visitors, and businesses."

Specifically, the project will be looking at the area that includes Maiden Lane from Pearl to the pedestrian bridge over 787 to the waterfront, along with pieces of nearby Pine Street, the small wedge of a park between the two streets, and the chunk of Broadway there. Here's the request for proposals the city issued earlier this year. (There's also a clip from that below.)

The meeting is Thursday from 5:30-7:30 pm in the arcade of the Arcade Building at Broadway and Maiden Lane (488 Broadway).

Maiden Lane is one of Albany's very oldest streets, dating back to the mid 1600s when it was called Rom Street. (Why? Good question!) And it very often served as a way for people to get down the hill and over to the river.

Between the cobblestones, narrow width of the street, and all the (once more active) storefronts, Maiden Lane already has a real sense of place. And the corridor has take on a new feel lately with the renovation of a building that stretches from Pearl to James ("Maiden House") into apartments and storefronts.

Maiden Lane Albany 2018-August south side

Clip from city's RFP for Maiden Lane

Here's the RFP from early 2018.

The City of Albany is seeking to hire a landscape architecture / urban design / engineering team (hereafter referred to as the Consultant) to engage in a visioning and design process -- creating a visible gateway to Albany's riverfront from the City's core downtown area. This initiative is being made possible through grants from the NYS Department of State (DOS C1000205), Empire State Development Corporation (ESD Y437), and NYS Municipal Facilities Program Grants through Assemblyman John McDonald's office (SAM 6830).
Currently, the primary connection between the downtown and the riverfront is by way of a pedestrian bridge, located at the end of a service alley between the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York (DASNY) and the James T. Foley United States Courthouse (Courthouse), located respectively at 515 and 445 Broadway, in the City of Albany.
The area between these two buildings occupies a section of Maiden Lane, which is one of Albany's oldest streets--dating back to the Colonial era. Historically, Maiden Lane extended to the Hudson River where a rail bridge crossed the river. The rail bridge was removed for the construction of I-787 in the 1960s and in 2002 the Hudson Riverway Pedestrian Bridge was constructed to reconnect Albany's downtown to the Hudson River. Today, Maiden Lane runs from North Pearl Street and effectively ends, at Broadway. On a map, Maiden Lane continues between 515 and 445 Broadway, past the the stairs leading to the Hudson Riverway Pedestrian Bridge, and ending at the frontage road for Route I-787.
The entrance to this pedestrian bridge is set back from Broadway approximately 200 feet, making it difficult for many to see the bridge or discover this waterfront connection. In fact, the waterfront is largely obscured from many of the downtown streets, including Broadway and North Pearl Streets, two of the primary north-west downtown streets.
The focus area of this vision and design study will be from the intersection of Maiden Lane and North Pearl Street to the the top of the steps of the pedestrian bridge. This area includes the area between 515 and 445 Broadway, the intersection and crosswalks at Broadway and Maiden Lane, and the park bounded by Broadway, Pine Street, James Street, and Maiden Lane--often referred to as Maiden Lane Park or Jim DiNapoli Park.
The Consultant is expected to explore creative ways of utilizing signage, sculpture, materials, lighting, amenities, and other innovative ideas in a common or unifying motif that reinforces the waterfront in a way that helps to direct and naturally lead people to this great asset. The Consultant is expected to provide a final design and bid documents that are consistent with the City's overall budget for the project.

The Bottom Line

Is there a new look for one of Albany's oldest streets? That's one of the questions what will be at the center of a public meeting this Thursday, September 6 about the future of Maiden Lane in downtown Albany. The...


The entrance to the 2002 pedestrian bridge is sadly in need of repair- the ornamental concrete pylons on Broadway might be intended to invite a visitor in, but they are more likely to repel - and the bridge itself doesn't look much better.

Eric is right, it is not showing its age is only step one, maintenance budgets are, perhaps, more important.

And talking about old streets, I remember, but can't find the video clip of a historian finding, tracing and traversing "road street". here's an article about it: Quirky things like this add character to Albany

@jsc: On a whim I looked up the official description of the bridge- I'd completely forgotten it featured murals, done in supposedly everlasting Silicate Paint. So THAT is what those blurrs are!

I have always loved this little lane and dreamed of it someday being an active focal point of life in Albany. It is beyond my comprehension that when I lived in Europe there were little beautiful lanes like this every, oh I don't know, maybe every 100 feet! they were full of shops and cafes and PEOPLE. Why is it that in Europe they have beautiful lanes like this full of life and all we seem to do is hire consultants to design things that in the vast majority of the world are just there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!Kudos to the developer that built the new apartments and kudos for AOA for talking about this potentially pivotal place in Albany! PS BEST Thai food in Capital District can be had there as we speak....Emmanuel is phenomenal ! It should be joined by other neat independently owned businesses. Why is there no overall master plan in Albany...we just seem to do things haphazardly...let's put a minor league baseball in thein the middle of nowhere, let's plop a kids playland near industrial waste and train cars full of flammable liquids, let's dig a big hole next to the best pub in the city, hey let's level half a city and put up a futuristic non functioning plaza and surround it with concrete abstract statist blocks where we can have has been musicians from the early 70's play on Thursday nights for 8 weeks in the summer! WHO IS IN CHARGE HERE????

I miss you Albany. About a year ago I flew from Texas to see a concert at the Palace theater. I lived with my children near the Governor's Mansion, and have regretted moving to Texas ever since. Now over 20 years later, I look for any excuse to visit Albany. I only wish I were an architect and could participate in the restoration of any old street of yours. The Hudson River is to me, the grandest of rivers.

I'd love to see some more shops occupying the store fronts on Maiden Lane (and other neat little streets around the city). I walk around downtown during lunchtime and many seem to be vacant - maybe businesses don't think there is enough foot traffic? Which seems crazy. Also in agreement that the pedestrian bridge could use some rehab and a better approach from Broadway, but the bridge does look nice from 787.

@BS You make some valid points (Emmanuel Thai is great!) but in the case of HuckFinns Playland, the reason for its current location is simply because that's who bought the rides, and putting them next to their store made good business sense (plus they had the room). It was either that or the Playland wouldn't exist anywhere, as all other interested parties had fallen through.

if the goal is "creating a visible gateway to Albany's riverfront from the City's core downtown area", perhaps some signage would be useful at a fraction of the cost.

One day I sent some friends from out of town down to check out the area by the River. (i had appointment and couldn't accompany them.) They came back in an hour, frustrated because they could not find their way.

Subsequently, we took the same route.. and sure enough.. pretty much no signage and a maze of streets and superhighways if you don't know your way around.

FWIW, I found the Road Street video and a 2013 blog entry (Don Rittner)

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