There's a new, bigger proposal for residential + retail development on New Scotland Ave across from St. Peter's Hospital

563 New Scotland Ave Jankow rendering 2018-November

A rendering of the building that would stand at New Scotland and South Allen in the new proposal.

There's proposal for a new residential/retail development across from St. Peter's Hospital on New Scotland Ave is back -- bigger, this time, and will a new developer.

In planning docs filed with the city of Albany, the Jankow Companies is proposing to demolish seven structures on the site to make way for four new buildings that would include 188 apartments along with more than 13,000 square feet of retail.

You might remember a somewhat similar proposal -- "New Scotland Village" -- came up late last year under a different developer. It prompted a strong negative response from neighbors, and the planning board was less than impressed with that design.

This new proposal is one of 14 projects on the tentative agenda for the November 15 Albany planning board meeting -- there's a workshop meeting about the agenda, open to the public, tonight (Monday, November 5) at 5:45 pm at the 200 Henry Johnson building.

That tentative agenda includes a bunch of high-profile and/or controversial projects. So here's a quick overview of the new New Scotland Ave proposal, and a few bits about the rest of the projects.

563 New Scotland Ave

The "New Scotland Village" proposed last year for this site at New Scotland Ave and South Allen Street called for knocking a portion of the existing retail strip there -- the one that includes the post office -- to build new retails spaces (including one for the USPS) and parking. It would have also constructed a 93-unit apartment building on a piece of open land behind there. The 33 units in the existing apartment building along South Allen would have been refurbished. And an existing home at 313 South Allen would be demolished to make room for a driveway.

That proposal didn't go over well with nearby residents, first at a tense community meeting, and then before the planning board. They criticized the density of the project and the placement of a multi-story building close to adjacent property lines.

The planning board didn't seem to be a fan either, criticizing the plan for not including residential above the New Scotland Ave retail strip and for floating the new apartment building in the back of the site. This sentence has been corrected.

563 New Scotland Ave Jankow site plan 2018-November

This new plan -- from the Jankow Companies, the same developer behind the Playdium residential redevelopment -- is of an even bigger scale. It calls for knocking the down the existing retail buildings on New Scotland, the existing apartments at the site on South Allen, and the home at 313 South Allen. It would then construct four new buildings that would include 188 apartment units and 13,575 square feet of retail space. (The floor plan indicates possible spaces for a restaurant, retail, post office, and coffee shop.) The site would also include 265 parking spaces.

But it appears the plan also incorporates some of the feedback from last year's proposal. The New Scotland Ave building in the new plan would be five stories -- retail on the first floor, with residential upstairs. And it looks there would be more space between one of the new buildings in the rear and the already-existing buildings along South Allen. (The relatively short distance between the new apartment building and the already-existing buildings along South Allen was one of the specific complaints residents had about last year's proposal.)

So it will be interesting to see what sort of response this new proposal receives. Albany is very much in the middle of an ongoing conversation about what sort of taller, denser development is appropriate in its lower-density neighborhoods. The Playdium redev and the 1211 Western Ave apartment building proposal are two recent examples. And this project will no doubt be part of that discussion.

Community meeting
There's a community meeting about the new proposal Monday, November 12 at 7 pm at the First Congregational Church on Quail Street.

OK, on to a quick preview of other projects on the huge tentative agenda...

185-189 Elm Street

albany planning board 2018-September 185 Elm elevation

The proposal from from 100 N 5, LLC and Paul Bonacquisti to build three 3-story townhouse-style buildings with three 1BR apartments on a string of four empty lots on Elm Street in the Hudson/Park neighborhood. A non-profit called CARES is attached to the project, and the units would serve as housing for formerly homeless people. At the September planning board meeting there was a big turnout from nearby residents, some of whom criticized the project as being out of character for the neighborhood and others said it could prompt families to leave the neighborhood. (There were also residents who spoke in favor of the project.) The project also got pushback from members of the Common Council and county legislature.

43 Columbia Street

Redburn Development is back with another a plan for another piece of the big "Kenmore Portfolio" in downtown Albany. It will be showing off a plan to convert a portion of the Kennedy Garage on Columbia Street near Tricentennial Park into 27 apartments.

Redburn also its plans for the conversions of the old Steuben Club and Kenmore Hotel buildings on Pearl Street back on the schedule, presumably for a vote.

Earlier
+ September planning board presentation
+ A walkthrough of the old Kenmore Hotel and Steuben Club buildings in downtown Albany

Kenwood Commons

Kenwood Commons rendering 2018-November
From the Anderson Anderson Architecture rendering: "Aerial view of Luxury hotel and "Horseshoe" Condominiums/Apartments, Viewed from southeast"

Kenwood Commons LLC will be presenting a district plan for an enormous redevelopment of the Kenwood Campus just off Route 9W near the southern edge of the city. The plan includes 35 structures -- some as tall as 8 stories -- with almost 4 million square feet. That square footage would include approximately 2,224 residential units, 575 hotel rooms, and more than 400k square feet of commercial or community space.

The master plan presentation includes a few more details.

See also: Mike DeMasi's recent reporting about the some of the drama involving this project. [Biz Review]

The Lionheart

The owner of the Lionheart is seeking the expansion of an existing conditional use permit to allow for the expansion of the bar to include a second floor dining area and space for a nano brewery.

Albany Academies

The proposal from the Albany Academies to build a new practice gym behind its field house is back on the schedule, presumably for a vote this time. (The board didn't vote last month because it was waiting on stormwater review.)

100 Philip Street

Michael Gilhooly and Chris Hacker are seeking a conditional use permit to renovate and expand a vacant one-story building in the Mansion neighborhood into a two-story, single-family townhouse.

See also: The reporting by Amanda Fries about the path of this project. [TU]

Albany County Land Bank demolitions

The Albany County Land Bank is seeking demolition approval for 57 Liebel Street, 174 Livingston Avenue, 281 Sheridan Avenue, 296 Sheridan Avenue, and 446 Elk Street.

Meetings

As mentioned, there's a planning board workshop meeting about this agenda Monday, November 5 at 5:45 pm at 200 Henry Johnson building. It's open to the public, but there is no public comment and the board does not take action at these workshops.

The next planning board meeting -- at which there is public comment, and the board can vote on projects -- is Thursday, November 15 at 5:45 at 200 Henry Johnson. It is possible that not all of these items will end up on the agenda for that meeting. Example: The 1211 Western Ave apartment building was on the agenda released Friday, and no longer present on the revised agenda distributed Monday afternoon.

Comments

Why don’t more of these meetings accept public comments through some other method besides in-person? As an immediate neighbor, I’d love to voice support for the New Scotland Village plan, but I can’t make the Monday meeting or the planning board meeting.

For 563 (and 583) New Scotland Ave, am I reading this right?

"The planning board didn't seem to be a fan either, criticizing the plan for including residential above the New Scotland Ave retail strip and for floating the new apartment building in the back of the site."

A major recurring theme in the Albany 2030 plan was mixed-use.

"LU-2 Strategy: Land-use transportation connection
Connect land use patterns and the transportation network to maximize transportation efficiency and reduce automobile dependency... a. Use zoning to promote mixed use development in neighborhood commercial centers, the downtown, and along transit corridors. " pg.14

Page 37 highlights this exact area as a hub for Mixed-use development.

On page 236's "immediate term projects: "Promote mixed use development in neighborhood commercial centers, the downtown,
and along transit corridors"

The USDO ("Zoning Code") for the city is teeming with mixed use language (it's used 162 times in 327 page document.

563 (and 583) New Scotland Ave are both zoned "Mixed Use Neighborhood Center" This means "The purpose of the MU-NC district is to provide for a mixture of residential options, local
retail, and small-scale commercial uses providing support services to the surrounding residential neighborhoods. Primary land uses include a variety of predominantly nondestination and non-auto-oriented retail and commercial establishments, as well as complementary residential uses." pg 28 of the USDO.

Density and mixed use is exactly what's needed here and what's been planned for these sites. Now, the design and scale may be out of character with the *existing* street scape (the height limit is 3.5 stories and the rendering, above appears to be full 5), but was the board really taken aback by the developer proposing to construct a building that met the goals of the Comp plan and by use meets the letter of the zoning code?

Paul,

The planning board and zoning board do consider public comment via email and letter. https://www.albanyny.gov/Government/Departments/PlanningandDevelopment/PlanningBoard.aspx has all the contact info you need. You can also access case files and site plans via this website.

Paul, I believe the board accepts letters as long as they are submitted before the meeting date.

@daleyplanit: You're reading it correctly, but I typed it incorrectly. It should have been "criticizing the plan for not including residential above the New Scotland Ave retail strip." (You can see the former project's renderings here.) It's been corrected. Thank for you flagging it.

@Paul: As other people have mentioned, the planning board does accept written comments via email (planningboard@albanyny.gov) and postal mail. And I get the impression the board does read the comments because they make reference to them during meetings.

Zooming out a bit, I do think the city -- and probably all local municipalities -- could do a better job of handling public comment in terms of how it's gathered, organized, and displayed.

Thanks for all the info :). I will be submitting a comment of support before the planning board meeting!

Another building that looks like Park South and the Playdium apartment project - are there no other imaginative architects out there? Albany architecture used to be interesting; now it seems like it is becoming homogenous. The lunch counter at the drugstore that used to sit on this site - now that was unique and interesting! The Post Office is also a distinct looking building, so of course let's take that down too! What will happen when we overbuild and under rent? Maybe the biggest problem is that most workers at the hospitals that sit across from these "developments" do not earn enough to live in them.

@ Lauren: The Post Office is a distinct looking building? Really?To each his own, but I find that to a textbook example an indistinct building.

The residential projects listed here are exciting for Albany. More people in downtown spaces would only serve to improve the city. If the New Scotland Ave. apartment building proposal goes through, it'd be common sense for St. Peter's to incentivize its employees to look into living there. Not only would that help address the ongoing traffic issues in that area of town -as per the traffic study that St. Peter's has conducted with the City of Albany- it would also help in getting more people in the Capital Region to live closer to work which would incentivize people to just walk or bike to where they have to go to. If a neighborhood market, fitness center or other essential businesses are added to the street-level space of the building, again, hopefully, you'd have fewer people driving out to the suburban, car-designed parts of town for such services.

@Lauren: While I don't think that the New Scotlave Ave. Post Office is state-of-the-art, I completely agree with the sentiment in regards to the architectural design of the building proposals we're seeing in Albany for these living spaces (Park South, Playdium, etc.). Yes, where have the good architects disappeared off to? These buildings are becoming the new cookie-cutter living spaces of Albany. Of course, there's a budget limit on this but is this the best you can do? No creativity, no originality, and, sadly, little forward-thinking. This location is situated in a very important part of town. If this project goes through, it would change the landscape of the area for many years to come! Albany's architects can and must do better than this...

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