Items tagged with 'Rezone Albany'
What can the city of Albany do to encourage more affordable housing?
That's the question at the center of a debate that continues to simmer as the city heads toward the approval of the huge overhaul of its zoning, a process that touches on all sorts of important topics. What sorts of businesses can open where? How late can they be open? How can old buildings be adapted for new uses? How can neighborhoods suffering from disinvestment gain new life?
This current debate is focused on something inclusionary zoning, a proposal in which developers would be required to include affordable housing units in some developments.
Here's a look at what that would involve, along with a bunch of thoughts about housing in the city.
More than two years after it started, the city of Albany is close to finishing the major overhaul of its zoning -- a process city officials say will make the city's development rules easier to understand and consistent, opening the way for millions of dollars in new development.
The city formally released the final Rezone Albany draft Monday. It's the first major update since 1969. And in the time since, city officials say the city's zoning had become a knotted pile of variances, complications, and inconsistencies. The aim of the new rules is straighten out that tangle.
"One of the things that has struck me through this process is that when we look throughout the cities as some of the challenges that we have in our neighborhoods, particularly challenges with vacant and abandoned buildings particularly commercial, sometimes we found the enemy and the enemy was us," said mayor Kathy Sheehan at a city hall event for the draft's release. "In other words, our antiquated zoning was ... driving a lack of ability to more forward with business decisions that would help our neighborhoods."
We've written about Rezone Albany a bunch over the last few years. And while zoning might sound like some sort of sleep aid, the questions it involves are the sorts of things people routinely get fired up about: What sorts of businesses can open where? How late can they be open? How can old buildings be adapted for new uses? How can neighborhoods suffering from disinvestment gain new life?
Here's a quick example of how the new zoning could potentially simplify things.
You've probably heard at least a little bit about the big Rezone Albany project, which is working to completely overhaul and modernize the city's zoning code. The process is nearing its completion, and as that approaches, people are starting to get a sense of what sorts of changes the project might prompt.
One that's getting a lot of attention is the zoning designations for parts of Lark Street between Madison and Washington and adjacent areas of neighborhoods there. Specifically, the new "mixed-use neighborhood center" designation along parts of Madison, Lark, and Washington will eventually require businesses to close by 2 am. And the "mixed-use neighborhood edge" designation for zones around the area will eventually require an 11 pm closing time.
The proposed map incorporates the new types of zoning districts included the comprehensive overhaul of the city's zoning rules -- the first since the 1960s -- that's currently in progress. (Here's the current zoning map.)
We've embedded the proposed map and the current map in large format if you'd like to compare (somewhat) side by side.
Zoning might sound like a really boring topic. And it's certainly complicated. But the issues it deals with cover many things that people regularly get fired up about: How can buildings or properties be used? What sort of new buildings can be built? What should projects look like? And so on.
The draft of the city of Albany's new zoning code is out, and there are two public meetings this week to discuss it:
The Rezone Albany process has been going on for almost two years now, and it's the sort of thing that might be easy to just be like, "Zoning? More like zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzonig, amirite?!"
But the issues up for discussion are all the sorts of things that people regularly get fired up about: What sorts of buildings are built, complications that keep rundown properties from being redeveloped, what projects look like, what people are allowed to do with properties, and everyone's favorite topic, parking. Given that the city's zoning hasn't gotten an overhaul since the 1960s, there's plenty to update in order to make the code more in line with the direction the city wants to go, and along the way make the rules more clear, consistent, and predictable.
Here's a short, quick example of how the Rezone Albany process has already made a difference.
One of the most interesting parts of the ReZone Albany project has been the series of events focused on the futures of specific neighborhoods around the city. The last one, about the neighborhood around UAlbany's downtown campus, was just this past week. Here's a recap of the ideas that came out of that.
These events have been interesting because they've been opportunity to hear what members of the public think about these neighborhoods right now -- what they hope for these neighborhoods in the future.
Another interesting part of the series has been to hear the perspective of the consultants heading up the sessions. The reps from Dover, Kohl -- which is based in Miami -- have had a chance to get to know Albany over the past year. But they also bring a national perspective to what's going on here because they do similar projects all over the country.
So after last week's event at UAlbany, we took a few minutes to talk with Jason King -- the firm's senior project director -- about how he sees things here in Albany. Some of the things he said we suspect will have you nodding your head. And we're guessing some of you will also hear some things with which you disagree.
Here are a handful of quick clips from the interview.
The ReZone Albany project was focused on the neighborhood surrounding UAlbany's downtown campus last week, a process that culminated in a few "big ideas" for the neighborhood and a bunch of renderings imagining how the future could play out there.
The focus on the neighborhood at the heart of the city was prompted in part by UAlbany's planned $60 million renovation of the former Albany hight school building at Western and Lake into the home of its new engineering college. As Jason King of Dover, Kohl -- the consultancy heading up last week's program -- said in reference to the investment and its potential spillover effects: "That makes this one of the most promising parts of the city."
Let's have a look at those ideas and renderings...
What should the future version of the neighborhood around UAlbany's downtown campus look like? What sorts of services, establishments, and amenities should it have? And what the heck do you call that area?
Those were some of the questions that came up Monday evening during the first Rezone Albany public event focused on imagining and shaping the future of the neighborhood at the heart of the city of Albany. It is, as Albany planning director Christopher Spencer explained to the crowd, an attempt to see how connections can be made among the university, the neighborhood, residents, and businesses.
Monday's event was about gathering ideas from the public. Here's a distillation of what people had to say, along with a few thoughts.
+ Wednesday, May 11, First Presbyterian Church of Albany (326 State Street) 6-8 pm
+ Thursday, May 12, Albany Public Library Delaware Ave Branch (331 Delaware) 6-8 pm
A meeting about zoning might sound like a ticket for the train to Snoresville, but zoning touches on a lot of topics that people regularly get fired up about, including what sort of development should go where and what it should look like. Rezone blurbage:
ReZone Albany is a major initiative to update and streamline the City's antiquated zoning code. This two year effort - funded largely by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) - is designed to reduce make the City a better place to live, work, invest, and play. The project will create a new Unified Sustainable Development Ordinance (USDO) that:
+ Is simpler, more user-friendly, and highly illustrated
+ Is better aligned with the City's Albany 2030 planning priorities,
+ Promotes energy conservation and sustainable development,
+ Reduces burdens on small business owners,
+ Streamlines the City's procedures for reviewing and approving new development, and
+ Protects established neighborhoods.
This is the first major revision of the city's zoning almost half a century. An example of how this process is already affecting things: The new mixed-use overlay district that's been applied to the Warehouse District has smoothed the way for residential conversion projects there.
West Hill/West End
Another planning event: The city of Albany is starting work on a West Hill/West End neighborhood plan this weekend with a party at Swinburne Park Friday from 5-7:30 pm. And then on Saturday, April 14 there will be a neighborhood planning summit at Philip Schuyler Achievement Academy (676 Clinton Ave) from 9 am-4 pm. "This event will include a review of neighborhood assets, walking tours, as well as resident input, ideas & vision for the West Hill/West End Neighborhood Plan."
* It's possible it's just called "Module 3" and we got this mixed up with the sequel of a different franchise.
The draft of the latest module for the Rezone Albany project is out, and there are two public meetings coming up next week to go over them.
A meeting about making over the city's zoning code? That might sound like a business-class trip to Snoresville. But all sorts of issues that often interest or fire up people are wrapped up in this project -- including which sorts of businesses go where, what neighborhoods look like, and everyone's most favorite of all topics... parking.
So we flipped through this latest of chunk of documents this week, and here are two things that caught our eye...
Some quick follow-up to that series of Rezone Albany events focused on the future of the South End last month: The work-in-progress presentation from that week is online, and we've pulled out some of the renderings for easy gawking (they're after the jump).
Here's a clip from one of the presentation slides, summing up what the Rezone Albany consultants -- the firm Dover Kohl has been handling these neighborhood-focused, "form-based code" reviews -- gathered while working with the public that week from working with the public:
big ideas for the south end
• strategic infill & redevelopment street-oriented buildings; reconnect historic grid; mix of uses; mix of housing types; focus on blighted properties; vibrant activity
• improve access & enhance the waterfront connect the neighborhood to the waterfront; develop the waterfront with market-rate housing, hotels, parks, amenities to create an environment not available elsewhere
• lasting economic development diversify local economy; add quality jobs; education & training; redevelop aging affordable housing; mix in market rate housing; add missing housing types
• balanced transportation & better connectivity more transit; bike facilities; connect under highways both physically connections and mental connections; utilize underside of 787 to support connections to the waterfront
• strengthen neighborhoods & create "gateways" unique sense of place; mix of housing types; community amenities, historic preservation, repurpose the Bath House & St. John's Church
The whole deck of slides is worth a look. And even without narration they provide a glimpse at potential possibilities for the neighborhood and some of the ideas discussed.
As with the two other neighborhoods that got an intense focus and visioning during the Rezone Albany process -- the Warehouse District and Central Ave -- we wonder where the people and investment would come from to fuel some of these proposed futures. But if anything, the ideas and renderings are a way of having a discussion about what people do and don't want for the neighborhood. (The whole Rezone Albany project has been interesting in that sense so far.)
OK, on to the renderings...
The Rezone Albany project is focused on the South End this week. And as with the other two neighborhoods that have gotten an intensive focus during this process -- the Warehouse District and Central Ave -- there was a an event Tuesday night at which members of the public got together in small groups to brainstorm ideas for the future.
As Christopher Spencer, Albany's planning director, said to us of the overall Rezone Albany project: "We want to have the right rules in place to get what the community is looking for."
Here are a few ideas and topics that bubbled up from the working groups Tuesday night...
The South End Design Workshop is a three-day visioning, zoning and form-based coding discussion that will inform the City's ReZone Albany initiative. This workshop will focus on the area around Albany's South End, gathering input from members of the public in order to arrive at a collaborative solution. The Warehouse District Workshop began the process in May, followed by the Central and Manning Design Workshop in August. ...
This is your community. You are the expert. Who knows the community better than someone who lives and/or works here? ReZone Albany is a rare chance for you to be a part of creating positive change, impacting the growth of your City for years to come. We need your ideas, input and feedback to ensure that the vision reflects community values and aspirations.
The South End presentations are at the Capital South Campus Center:
+ Tuesday, December 8 from 6-8 pm for the hands-on design workshop
+ Thursday, December 19 from 6-8 pm for the work-in-progress presentation
We've stopped into the two previous workshops -- for the Warehouse District and Central Ave -- and they've been interesting, both as a way to learn more about the Rezone Albany project and just to hear the thoughts of the national consultants about various parts of the city. The South End workshop is the last of the currently planned events of its type.
The products of these workshops are being rolled into proposed mixed-use zoning district that will help direct what sorts of development goes on there in the future.
The first "module" of the Rezone Albany project, and there are two public meetings coming up to review it.
Zoning might not sound like the most exciting thing, but it plays a in role all sorts topics. Examples? Well, this first chunk of the project (technical term) describes new zoning districts and potential uses -- so there are proposed rules for marijuana dispensaries, urban agriculture, food trucks, electric vehicle charging stations, and live-work spaces.
But the stuff that will probably first catch your eye are proposed special mixed-use districts for the Warehouse District and Central Ave.
So, let's have a quick look at those...
What direction should Central Ave take? What are the possible destinations?
Those questions about direction -- metaphorical rather than geographic -- were the theme of a discussion this week about the corridor's future as part of the ongoing ReZone Albany effort.
"There seems to me, from the perspective of traveling around a lot, that there is a lot of untapped economic potential in this area," Jason King, from the architecture and planning firm Dover Kohl, said about Central Ave after Wednesday's public presentation at The Linda, the culmination of a three-day intensive look at the corridor. "And I do actually think it's inevitable that it will come. And the question is when it does, what form will it take. Will it be respectful of what's here or will it be intrusive. Will it be fought or will it be integrated and appreciated."
Here's a look at some of the potential visions presented for one of Albany's main arteries, along with a few thoughts.
The Central Avenue / Manning Square District Design Workshop is a three-day visioning, zoning, and form-based coding discussion that will inform the City's ReZone Albany initiative. This workshop will focus on the Central Avenue corridor, gathering input from members of the public in order to arrive at a collaborative solution.
The events will be at the The Linda (Central and Quail). Schedule:
+ Monday, August 10: hands-on design workshop for the public (6-8 pm)
+ Tuesday, August 11: open design studios for members of the public to drop in (11 am-noon, 11:30 pm-3 pm, 4-5 pm)
+ Wednesday, August 12: work in-progress presentation for the public (6-8 pm)
This focus on Central Ave follows a similar intensive look at the Warehouse District earlier this summer. Those events were interesting -- the consultants working the citywide rezoning effort explained some of the considerations that go into zoning, and looked at how rezoning could affect possibilities for the neighborhood.
What's become known as the Warehouse District in Albany has a long history as an industrial area -- populated by foundries, factories, and breweries -- dating back more than a century.
But its future could look much different, in large part because people have started to view it as a scene for entertainment and residential, both now and in the near future.
So, what's possible in the Warehouse District? Or, to put the question a bit differently, what should be possible in the Warehouse District?
That's one of the questions people will be answering next week at an event focused on the future of the neighborhood.