Items tagged with 'downtown Albany'
The proposal to convert the Nipper Building in Albany's Warehouse District into residential and retail space was up before the city planning board for the first time Thursday evening.
Here are a few more bits about the project, and others like it...
The most interesting real estate project in Albany -- and maybe the whole Capital Region -- has completed its first phase and is now moving onto phase two.
Habitat for Humanity Capital District and a group of partners recently finished building 14 new homes in the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood, and work has already started on another 10 new homes nearby on Orange and Lark streets. At the same time, an org called Housing Visions is building 57 new residential rental units, along with mixed-use space that will include offices and a cafe.
So, what's next? And how does this fit in with downtown Albany's ongoing residential transformation? We stopped by the project this week for a walk and talk with Habitat for Humanity Capital District executive director Christine Schudde.
While waiting for a donut this past weekend, we took a moment to admire the way the sunlight was striking the buildings on the north side of Maiden Lane in downtown Albany -- and how that sunlight was then being reflected onto the lane by the windows.
Speaking of the windows on those buildings... they are pleasingly arranged and adorned! Bonus pics after the jump if you're so inclined.
Over at Politico New York, Jimmy Vielkind pitches the idea of using a Wegmans to anchor development at the former convention center site in downtown Albany. A clip:
The Rochester-based grocery chain has a nearly religious following in the areas of upstate New York where it operates, but there are no outposts in the Capital Region. In locating a store at the vacant site downtown, it could simultaneously provide a needed amenity for the struggling neighborhoods nearby and create a regional attraction that would draw people from the surrounding office towers and suburban communities.
Imagine a supermarket with a street-level cafe opening onto Hudson Avenue, beckoning to pedestrians along Broadway and Pearl Street or people in town for a show at the arena or a convention up the hill. Several floors of rental housing or condos above the store -- perhaps with requirements that some units be affordable -- that will give a further boost to the burgeoning residential options in the old business district and prevent the area between the Pastures and Sheridan Hollow, two predominately residential areas, from seeming lifeless after dark.
Call it the Wegmans effect, a development strategy for lagging urban areas rooted in designer cheese. Wegmans, or something like it, could do for Albany what Fairway did for Red Hook.
To be clear: There's no indication that Wegmans is actually considering this -- a spokesperson for Wegmans says as much to Vielkind, noting the company has looked at the Capital Region in the past but seen more opportunity in places such as Maryland and Virginia. And he figures it would take a push from Andrew Cuomo to make it happen.
The former convention site has been the subject of some intrigue recently because the Capital Region's Upstate Revitalization Initiative proposal included mention of an almost unbelievably big "catalyst" project there -- 1,200 housing units, more than 400,000 square feet of office space, and 295,000 square feet of retail. As you know, the Capital Region didn't get one of the $500 million grants. Before that, there had been a pitch to build an aquarium, which also fizzled. Now it's unclear what -- if anything -- is going to happen at the site.
One of the interesting angles to this topic is the question of whether downtown Albany should by vying for some sort of high-profile development piece like a Wegmans or (insert some other large, big-name retailer/project) -- or if it's better off cultivating the steady bit-by-bit development it's experienced in recent years.
Earlier on AOA:
+ The plan for the former Jillian's building, and cultivating retail in downtown Albany
+ Scanning the Capital Region's bid for half a billion dollars from the state
+ Wegmans? Really? Please explain.
The former Jillian's building on Pearl Street is one of downtown Albany's biggest and most prominent venues. So as the neighborhood has evolved through a series of residential conversion projects and picked up momentum over the past few years, the site has been conspicuous for its lack of activity.
That's now changing. The building has new owners, and they're working to turn it into a spot for a range of different uses. Here's the plan.
"It is a highway, it is asphalt and concrete, we get a shovel and we hit it enough times it cracks up ... put it in a truck and there is no more highway."
Farther afield, but maybe of note because of the ongoing 787 discussion: The Cuomo admin announced today it's directing $42 million toward ripping out a two-mile section of the Robert Moses Parkway along the Niagara River and gorge in Niagara Falls. The project will include reconstruction of a parallel street, along with new bike trails and green space. Local representatives have been pushing for the highway's removal for years. [Cuomo admin] [Buffalo News]
There are a lot of differences between the Robert Moses Parkway and 787 -- including scale. The parkway carries not quite 3200 vehicles a day, according traffic volume estimates. The segment of 787 just north of the South Mall Expressway carries almost 46,000 vehicles.
But if you're a tear-down-787 person, some of the remarks Andrew Cuomo made today might make your ears perk up.
In our college days, my then-roommate Lyndsay and I had exactly two things in common: Our mutual love of certain bands, and our penchant for margaritas. Jose Cuervo (when you are a poor liberal arts student, it's the "fancy tequila"), a jug of neon-green sour mix, and a $15 Target blender were on standby to whip up a frothy, icy, puckery-sweet libation.
Those margaritas were about as authentic to Mexico as our palates would get, but this year we both turn 30. We're more worldly now, with more sophisticated tastes, and the cash to spend on food that doesn't make our mothers hang their heads in shame.
To celebrate Lyndsay's recent milestone birthday, I suggested trying our hand at Mexican once more, but this time at Ama Cocina, just off North Pearl Street in Albany, a neighborhood that peppered our college years in questionable ways. If all else failed, at least the tequila would be better, right?
Within the past few years, the downtown Albany apartment and condo options have multiplied. And within the past year, more of my friends have moved farther downtown, closer to the Hudson River than to Lark Street.
Katie both lives and works on Broadway in Albany -- her home and her office are just a block apart. We talked about her reasons for moving downtown, what it's been like so far, and what she hopes to see downtown in the future.
The Fork in the Road food truck events are set to return to downtown Albany's Tricentennial Park starting April 8. After that there will be one per month through October (the schedule's after the jump).
The organizer of the event, the Downtown Albany BID, is currently looking for feedback from the public about which food trucks and vendors people might like to see there this year, along with any general ideas for improving the event. The BID says last year's series drew an average of 600 people for each event.
And if you operate a food truck or similar business, we get the sense the BID would be happy to hear from you about potential interest in participating -- here's the application info from last year.
The Cuomo admin announced this week that $22.4 million will be spent rehabbing the South Mall Expressway, which connects I-787 to the Empire State Plaza. Work is scheduled to start later this month.
Press release blurbage:
Work on the South Mall Expressway, which carries approximately 21,000 vehicles each day, will occur from I-787 to inside the tunnels underneath the Empire State Plaza. The project will include replacing the concrete driving surface of the four bridges that carry the expressway over 787 and city streets. Work will also involve structural repairs to the bridges, including joint and bearing replacements. Repairs to the pavement leading into the tunnel, work on the connecting ramps and bridge painting and steel repairs are also included in this project.
The project is scheduled to happen in stages -- the westbound side (toward the ESP) this year, the eastbound side (toward 787) next year, and then work under the bridge in 2018. Also: "Consistent with Governor Cuomo's Driver's First initiative, the project has been designed to minimize impacts to expressway traffic. Work that will most affect travel lanes has been scheduled for summer months, when traffic volumes are lower."
He's never going to leave her
The future of 787 is always a hot topic because a lot of people see the highway's placement and shape as a barrier -- between Albany and the riverfront, between downtown Albany and the South End. And if you compare aerial photos of Albany pre-South Mall Expressway and after, you can see the huge path the road plowed through downtown.
We happened to be near the Albany convention center site Friday so we stopped by to gawk at the progress of the construction. And gawk we did.
The steel structure of the building is starting to go up along Eagle Street. And already you can get some small sense how the building will change that feel of that spot. Sort of like the Park South project, this section of downtown is starting to feel taller and denser because of the convention center project and the new parking garage on Howard Street.
The projected opening date of the Albany Capital Center is early 2017.
The future of I-787 often pops up in conversations about downtown Albany - specifically, the desire that many people apparently have to see the elevated highway torn down.
There's a currently a longterm effort by a group of state and local agencies to study this overall topic. And you're probably already familiar with some of the potential benefits the tear-it-down crowd touts: A boulevard replacement would reconnect the city with the waterfront. It could improve air quality, especially in some underprivileged areas. And it could open up considerable portions of land for development.
Of course, one of the counter arguments is that 787 is necessary to handle the large amounts of traffic that flow into Albany each weekday, and tearing it down would tip downtown into traffic gridlock.
But what if it was just the opposite -- what if tearing down 787 could actually make traffic in Albany flow more smoothly and efficiently?
From the Annals of Projects Proposed But Not Built: While doing research for a different topic, we tripped over this 1963 Knickerbocker News article about a proposal for 15-story mixed-use building that been proposed for downtown Albany on the block of Clinton Ave just east of Pearl.
It caught our eye because, well, look at that rendering. And also because there are echoes today of some of the things people were saying about development in that spot more than a half-century ago.
You know 63 State Street. It's that skinny building at the corner of State and James in downtown Albany. It's both beautiful and kind of odd, standing all dressed up by itself there, like it's waiting to meet a group of other fashionably-adorned architecture.
The building has been for sale for a while now, and as the Biz Review reported Thursday, it's going up for auction as part of a package with 69 State Street (the large building just up State Street on the corner with Pearl) -- starting bid $1.5 million.
We've always been curious about 63 State, so here's a quick backstory.
Downtown Albany has been experiencing a small boom in residential development over the last few years. The newest project on the board: a 100-unit residential/retail building planned for 760 Broadway.
The team behind the project made a preliminary presentation to the Albany Planning Board Thursday night. Here are a handful of details...
There's a new grocery store in downtown Albany. The Steuben Street Market opened at 58 North Pearl Street for the first time Wednesday, and will be open seven days a week.
The market's opening is notable because a grocery store has been a missing piece in downtown Albany's ongoing evolution into a residential neighborhood. Roughly 1,000 new residential units have been added downtown during the last few years, and residents, developers, and other business owners have all mentioned that the addition of a grocery could mark an important turning point for the neighborhood.
The short clip embedded above is a new promo video for the Albany Capital Center, which is under construction at Eagle and Howard streets. It includes a handful of interior renderings of the convention center that we hadn't seen, yet. (The renderings start around the :45 mark.)
That LED ceiling in the second floor multipurpose space looks like it could be groovy.
The Albany Capital Center is scheduled for an early 2017 opening.
I love bacon. I'm just not a fan of it on a sandwich. Unless it's a BLT. And in that case, I'm not even really that enthused about the idea of bacon on a sandwich. Next to pancakes, or sliced into lardons in sautéed Brussels sprouts? Heck yes, bacon all day long. Otherwise, meh.
The same holds true for salmon. I like most seafood and fish, but salmon can be a bit boring sometimes. And being the empiricist that I am, past experience sampling salmon burgers or other types of salmon sandwiches have conditioned me to avoid salmon-between-bread at most costs.
But while recently having lunch with my friend Craig (of Albany Ale fame) at Public House 42 in Albany, he insisted I try the salmon BLT -- a sandwich he had enjoyed before and thought I might like -- and try to quell my doubts on the integrity of the menu item.
Some quick follow-up on 733 Broadway, the latest residential project in downtown Albany.
The loft-style conversion, the roots of which stretch back to 2005, is aiming for occupancy on December 1, according to Norstar Development.
Here are a few more bits, along with some pics...
We happened to be at the Capitol today so we hopped across Eagle Street to gawk at the lobby of the recently-opened Renaissance Albany Hotel in the redeveloped DeWitt Clinton building at State and Eagle. The building dates back to 1927 and some of the original details have made it through to this new life.
Level of swank: High.
If you have a chance to stop in, it's worth a look. The hotel staff was very friendly today, welcoming people into the space and showing off the place. While you're there, you can also gawk at the Albany convention center construction site on the next block and the renovated Wellington Row buildings next door. (There's a lot going on in that area right now.)
Here are a few pics...
In a life almost three centuries long, you're going to cycle through a few different careers.
So it is with the Van Ostrande-Radliff House -- AKA, Albany's oldest building -- which has served as a townhouse, a wax factory, and an equipment storage space (among other uses) over its 287-year-old lifetime.
And now there's a plan for the Van Ostrande-Radliff House's next career: as a distillery.
Maybe not the typical sort of yard sale: Albany Center Gallery and Historic Albany Foundation are co-hosting a "yard sale" in downtown Albany's Tricentennial Park September 19. Blurbage:
The Albany Center Gallery will offer an eclectic mix of old and new items, all donated by supporters, ranging from clothing, tools, jewelry, furniture and more; proceeds will help to fund programming efforts. Donated pieces for the event are being accepted through August 26 and can be dropped off at the gallery, 39 Columbia Street, from Noon to 3:00 PM Tuesday through Saturday.
The proceeds collected from these items will go toward the local non-profits and their programming efforts. Any items that are not sold during the yard sale will be donated to Goodwill and Salvation Army.
At their booth, Historic Albany Foundation will sell items from their Lexington Avenue warehouse, including antique furniture, original windows, and light fixtures, at the yard sale. Proceeds from sale of these items will go toward the foundation's preservation programs.
The sale is from 8 am to 3 pm on Saturday, September 19. ACG has been posting photos of sale samples on that event page linked above.
photo via Albany Center Gallery FB
We were thinking about retail in downtown Albany last week when this photo popped up in one of the streams from the Albany Institute of History and Art -- it's a photo of the hat section at the women's clothing store Muhlfelder's around 1905.
There's something about the way the store is staged here, like it's a museum of millinery. It must have been a fun place to browse.
Muhlfelder's was at North Pearl Street and Steuben Street in downtown Albany. The store was founded by Jonas Muhlfelder, who emigrated from Germany to the United States as a young man in the late 1800s and ended up working in a millinery store in Albany. At the age of 21 he opened a women's clothing store in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with locations following in Troy, Albany (in 1900), and New Haven, Connecticut. (The company would later add a store at the then-relatively new Stuyvesant Plaza in 1965.) He was apparently successful enough that he could retire at age 55. [The History of New York State Biographies, Part 20] [Knickerbocker News/Fulton History]
Over at the Albany Muskrat, there's a great post chronicling Muhlfelder's newspaper ads from the 1910s through the 1960s. It doubles as a tour through women's fashion of the first half of the 20th century. (Julie notes that Muhlfelder's closed in the early 1970s.)
Image: "Muhfelder's Hats 41 North Pearl Street and Steuben Street," Albany Institute of History and Art, from the collection of Morris Gerber
The "playbook" for the Impact Downtown Albany project is out. It's aimed to be a set of specific ideas and steps the city can take to continue the redevelopment of downtown Albany -- touching on topics such as residential and retail development, taxes, parking, pop-up events, and branding.
"Impact Downtown Albany was designed as a game changer," said Sarah Reginelli, the president of Capitalize Albany, the city's economic development arm. "It was designed as a tactical approach to downtown revitalization."
The report was produced for Capitalize Albany by a team of consultants over the last two years. Capitalize Albany released it this week so that it might help the Capital Region's bid for one of those $500 million Upstate Revitalization grants from the state.
"Downtown has wonderful assets already, downtown has a strong momentum," Reginelli told us Thursday. "Part of it is changing perceptions of downtown and understanding that this momentum has been occurring and that there is potential here for people to reach out and grab."
We read through the report. And there's approximately three tons of stuff in it. So, if this topic interests you -- go skim through it (pdf). But here are a few chunks of it that caught our eye...
Here's how it works (emphasis added):
Step 1: Download the form
This is your Master Albany I Spy Clue Sheet. Sounds important, right? It is! Be sure to write your name and contact information where indicated because this is how we will contact the winners.
Step 2: Set your course
You'll use the clues on this form to identify the mystery landmarks. Then, set your course each day - or wait for one spectacular day - to head to downtown Albany to spy and write the name of the landmark on your Master Clue Sheet.
Step 3: Get extra clues
Stumped? Don't worry, we're here to help! Each day, we'll be posting a special extra clue on our social media sites: Albany Archives, Discover Albany, Downtown Albany Business Improvement District, and All Over Albany, or search using the hashtag: #albanyispy.
The contest runs through July 18. And there are prizes from Cider Belly, Parish Public House, Wolff's, Bombers, the ValleyCats, The Olde English, and City Beer Hall.
This year's end-of-contest event -- where you can submit your answers -- is at the Parish Public House in downtown Albany on Saturday, July 18 from 1-3 pm with drink specials, and Albany history trivia.
(You can also email your answers -- details at the link above -- but only one entry submitted this way will win a prize in a drawing.)
AOA is a media sponsor of Albany I Spy
We stumbled across this photo today and found it interesting, so maybe you will also: It's an aerial photo of a large section of downtown Albany from 1937. It's via the New York State Archives, and over on its website you can zoom into the photo for much more detail.
There are so many interesting bits about this photo -- the way the neighborhood replaced by the Empire State Plaza once ran flush up against State Street by the Capitol, the state of the waterfront then, all the open space across the river, and more.
As we've mentioned before, the State Archives photo collection has a handful of old aerial photos of Albany that are worth a look. (For that matter, the State Archives has a bunch of interesting photos online -- aerial or otherwise.)
photo: New York State Archives. Education Dept. Division of Visual Instruction.
The most interesting real estate project in Albany -- and maybe the whole Capital Region -- is in Sheridan Hollow. Yep, that Sheridan Hollow, the neighborhood that has so often been bypassed, overlooked, and otherwise left with the short end of the stick throughout the city's history.
So what's happening? Habitat for Humanity Capital District and a group of partners are in the process of building a new core at the heart of the neighborhood.
Here are a few reasons why that's so interesting...
Here are a few quick pics from the Fork in the Road food truck event in downtown Albany's Tricentennial Park Friday evening.
Six trucks assembled along the edge of the park. And around 6 pm and there was a solid crowd, especially considering this was the first event in the series. Tricentennial Park seemed to work well for the event, with its small herd of cafe tables and the its steps for sitting.
If anything, it's just great to see people enjoying a public space downtown in the evening.
Fork in the Road is set to return on the first Friday of each month through October (it skips July). So the next one is scheduled for June 5 from 4-8 pm.
On to the pics...
The first Fork in the Road food truck event in Albany's Tricentennial Park is this Friday from 4-8 pm (as mentioned). Here's the lineup of confirmed trucks for Friday, via the Downtown Albany BID:
And confirmed vendors for the park:
72 Pearls Thrift Store
Irish American Heritage Museum
Denise Poutre (artist)
Mary Elise Rees Event Design
Meghan Ruch (artist)
This photo caught our eye this week as we browsed through the Albany Public Library's growing online collection of historical images. The building -- which housed the Waldorf Cafeteria and Rudolph's jewelry -- was on the southeast corner of State and Pearl in downtown Albany. (Here are two more angles from the Albany Flickr group.) This photo is from 1945.
We kind of love the signage.
Curious about the Waldorf Cafeteria, we did a little bit of research. The "Waldorf Lunch System" was one of the first restaurant chains -- it started in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1904 and eventually expanded to seven states. Here's a clip from some advertising copy for the chain, as highlighted by the trade publication Cafeteria Management in 1922:
HOW A SMALL BANK ACCOUNT -- PLUS A BIG IDEA -- BECAME A $10,000,000 BUSINESS.
More than 17 years ago the first Waldorf Lunch opened its doors to the people of Springfield, Mass. That Waldorf represented an idea, backed by all its founders savings -- the most sum of $1,800. But it was a good idea -- and it prospered because it performed a service the public wanted, and did it well.
Today that idea is represented by the familiar Waldorf Lunch establishments in this city, and in twenty-seven other cities in seven States.
The foundation idea of the Waldorf system is this: the undeviating purpose to maintain worthy dining-laces where they will perform real public service, the purpose to serve tasteful food of unquestionable quality to men and women at such small profit per person that we shall have many patrons to make those small profits profitable to our employees and shareholders.
During the past year the lunch rooms of the Waldorf system have served more than 37,000,000 meals at an average of less than twenty-eight cents each, and at an average profit of a fraction over two cents per meal.
Over $10,000,000 of annual business built up by efficient management, uncompromising standards of quality, cleanliness, courtesy and quick service!
There'll be good, fresh coffee at the Waldorf Lunch today. It's always the same.
The writer of the trade mag article described that last paragraph of the ad copy as "the touch of the word artist."
photo via Albany Public Library History Collection
Coming up this summer: A monthly food truck event in Tricentennial Park in downtown Albany called "Fork in the Road." It's set to coincide with 1st Friday, so the dates are: May 1, June 5, August 7, September 4, and October 2.
The Downtown Albany BID currently has an open call for vendors for the event.
Event blurbage from the info sheet:
As an enhancement to the popular 1st Friday Albany event, organized by the Upstate Artists Guild since 2006 showcasing art throughout different venues in Capital City, Fork in the Road will transform TriCentennial Park into a temporary oasis of food options (specifically with food trucks) to tempt hungry office workers at the end of the day as well as the residents and visitors coming out for the Art event.
Tables and chairs will be placed in the park for the public to relax. The park also has a few benches and steps were individuals can sit. Trash containers and lighting are in ample supply for the public at that location.
The info for potential vendors notes vendors will be required to be open from 4-8 pm. The streets by the park won't be closed, but space along Broadway will be set aside for the trucks.
It looks like the city of Albany is aiming to ride the food truck trend. In addition to this monthly event, the Sheehan admin is scheduled to release rules this week for a second pilot program this summer for food trucks to vend in multiple zones around the city.
Earlier on AOA: Albany to start second food truck pilot program in May
As it turns out, there are already similar signs here in Albany. Nicole spotted a few of them in downtown Albany this week (that's her pic above).
The signs went up last fall as part of the "tactical urbanism" plan that Capitalize Albany is pursuing, the org's president, Sarah Reginelli, told us this week. The signs in Albany were inspired by Walk [Your City].
"The intent was to show the wealth of approachable opportunities within walking distance of the employment and retail center at Tricentennial Park," Reginelli said to us in an email. "It's all about embracing walkability. This method helps get the public, who may be used to walking directly to one destination, to alter their choice of transportation methods when going between others, or to explore their environment beyond what they are used to."
Reginelli said the current signs are a small test program -- there are seven of them around the Tricentennial Park area -- before possibly making a bigger investment in the idea. She said Capitalize Albany welcomes feedback about them as it thinks about the signage's future.
Speaking just from our own experience, the more you walk or take the bus, the more your mental map of a place -- and that sense of "how far" things are from each other -- changes. You can actually get pretty far in 15 minutes while walking. But that's sometimes hard to internalize until you make the trip a time or two.
One of the things that caught our eye is an ongoing time lapse video of the site from above. (We're always a sucker for stuff like that.) The current version is embedded above. The site says the time lapse will be updated monthly.
(By the way: To us, the video looked best when set to 720p on half speed -- click the little gear icon in the Youtube control bar to change the settings.)
Welcome to the jungle... the electric jungle. The Albany Trust Co. Building on Broadway and State, circa 1910. pic.twitter.com/c76WNdpCrE— Albany Archives (@AlbanyArchives) March 19, 2015
By the way: The First Trust Company Building at State and Broadway in downtown now serves as offices for the SUNY Research Foundation.
Back in October we got a few questions from people who spotted a film shoot in downtown Albany and we're curious about what it was for. Well... (after long delay)... the answer is embedded above.
The shoot was for a series of TV spots from a American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons campaign aimed at getting people to be more careful about using a mobile while walking. The org says the injuries from "distracted walking" are on the rise.
The spots were filmed on James Street near State Street, which was made up to look like a big(ger) city. If you look closely, you'll recognize some of the signs and buildings. The production company was FilmHouse, the company based at the Central New York Hub for Emerging Nano Industries near Syracuse that was announced last summer by the Cuomo admin.
We noticed recently signs of progress on the residential conversion at 733 Broadway in Albany. This progress is notable for a few reasons:
+ 733 Broadway has been in the works for a long time, going back a decade in some form or other.
+ It's another bit in the ongoing residential transformation of downtown Albany.
So we were curious to find out what's up with it.
What is the next life of the southern edge of Albany's downtown?
That's the question at the heart of the request for proposals (RFP) issued today by Empire State Development for the collection of land that had originally been gathered for a convention center. From the RFP:
With its large size and premier location in the heart of downtown Albany, this Project offers a unique opportunity for a major development in the City's urban core. The Site features convenient proximity to the area's transportation access points and is less than a quarter mile or closer to the City's commercial, cultural and governmental destinations. The Project will serve as a key component of the City's initiatives to attract urban re-investment downtown to meet market demand while simultaneously revitalizing the area with a vibrant mix of uses.
So, yeah, this project -- whatever it ends up becoming, if it ends up becoming -- could be an important part of the ongoing redevelopment of downtown Albany.
Here are a few bits from the RFP that caught our eye, along with a few thoughts...
Check out these before-and-after aerial photos of Northeast cities posted by an academic institute at the University of Oklahoma. Albany is among the cities featured -- that's a screengrab above -- in the series of before/after sliding photos.
From the Institute for for Quality Communities post:
60 years has made a big difference in the urban form of American cities. The most rapid change occurred during the mid-century urban renewal period that cleared large tracts of urban land for new highways, parking, and public facilities or housing projects. Fine-grained networks of streets and buildings on small lots were replaced with superblocks and megastructures. While the period did make way for impressive new projects in many cities, many of the scars are still unhealed.
We put together these sliders to show how cities have changed over half a century.
One of the things that struck us as we moved the slider back and forth on the Albany photos was that, sure, the Empire State Plaza took up a lot of space -- but it's remarkable how the wide path was plowed for the South Mall Arterial connecting I-787 and the ESP.
photo compilation: Institute for for Quality Communities at the University of Oklahoma
We've enlisted Daniel B. to survey Capital Region donut shops -- and pick his favorite donuts -- for a short series called The Best Dozen.
For denizens of the Capital Region apple cider donuts are a seasonal rite of passage. Can fall even happen without a trip to go apple picking at your favorite orchard, fortified with a sack of freshly made apple cider donuts?
The best apple cider donuts are those made just moments before consumption. They don't travel well, and that has led some to suggest that these donuts are tied to a sense of place. And up until now, that place has always been the apple orchard.
Cider Belly has decided to turn that idea on its head by offering a fabulous array of apple cider donuts in downtown Albany. With so many to choose from, it's tempting to order one of everything.
But trust me, after eating through a box of my own, there's a better way.
Odd wildlife of the day, an apparently ongoing series:
Maybe downtown Albany should have its own enclosed nature preserve.
Earlier on AOA: Behold, the white squirrels at play
Local officials are always trying to better sell this area to people from outside the region in an attempt to attract new business and residents. Consultants are hired, reports written, marketing campaigns planned.
But maybe they should try extolling the area's virtues in verse.
A 1916 pamphlet touting Albany -- "At State and Pearl" -- did just, proclaiming Albany "The Wide Awake City." (A tip of the hat to Albany Archives for pointing it out.) The pamphlet is a glimpse at how the city was marketed a century ago. It goes on:
INVITATION TO ALL
Come and Live with us in Beautiful, Historic Albany (Capital City of the Empire State)
For delightful location, satisfactory climate, business facilities and social environment, unexcelled in the United States.
It then launches into multiple pages singing the city's praises. In verse.
This week Impact Downtown Albany -- the ongoing project to develop a "tactical" plan for downtown development -- released its vision of what downtown Albany could become over the next 5-10 years.
"This is the shared definition of success based on the hundreds of stakeholders that have been part of this process," Sarah Reginelli -- the new president of Capitalize Albany -- explained to us Tuesday afternoon. "This is really what's been identified as the opportunities that we need to take advantage of to make downtown the best downtown that it can be at this point."
Among the identified possibilities: continued growth of new housing units, unique retail, a "high line"-type park connecting downtown with the riverfront, and transformation of part of the warehouse district.
Here are a few things that caught our attention.
We took a few minutes Wednesday afternoon to stop by the pop-up shops that are at Tricentennial Park in downtown Albany this week.
Pop-Place includes six shops set up in/around the park. It's been arranged by Capitalize Albany's Impact Downtown Albany project as way of experimenting with retail in the neighborhood. (Spurring new retail development is one of the aims of the "tactical plan" the org is developing.)
The pop-up shops will be in place through September 23 (here's the schedule). This Thursday, September 18 there's an "Experience: Pop-Place" event with food tasting and music from 5-8 pm.
A few more pics are after the jump.
The Impact Downtown Albany project is organizing a week of pop-up shops at Albany's Tricentennial Park September 13-23. There's also an "Experience: Pop-Place" event planned for the evening of September 18, with food tastings and music.
Six shops are lined up for the run (and a seventh for the September 18 event). A list is after the jump -- it includes South End Pallet Works and the Rise and Shine Company (finalist in this year's Startup Grant competition).
The project introduces new business concepts and engages pedestrians. This effort allows people to visualize unique types of retail spaces and offers the kind of stores that serve the retail strategy recommendations emerging from the Impact Downtown initiative.
Impact Downtown is an initiative from Capitalize Albany, the development arm of the city of Albany. The initiative has hired consultants to study downtown Albany and pull together a development plan on multiple fronts, including retail. The shops will be open from 11 am-7 pm.
Now that the old Wellington Hotel annex is gone (and how), here's the latest rendering of the Albany Capital Center. The Albany Convention Center Authority released this image on Friday. Here's a larger version.
An architect for the firm designing the center told the Times Union the project's brick facade is intended to fit with the former DeWitt Clinton Hotel across Howard Street. The DeWitt Clinton is itself going through a major renovation to become the "Renaissance Hotel."
That whole 2-3 block area of downtown Albany is set for a major transformation. In addition to the Albany Capital Center and DeWitt Clinton projects, there's also a plan for mixed-use buildings behind the currently empty Wellington facade along State Street. Also proposed for that block: a new 337-space parking garage off Howard Street, for which Columbia Development is seeking $1.2 million via the state Regional Economic Development Council (the rendering above appears to include a glimpse of the garage).
Updated Monday morning.
The old Wellington Hotel annex in downtown Albany was imploded Saturday morning to make way for the new convention center. A video clip is embedded above.
There were probably a few thousand people gathered on the Empire State Plaza, along with others in a few other spots around downtown. The were some on-building fireworks. A few loud booms. A slight pause. The building collapsed. Cheering. And then lots of dust.
After the jump, a collection of tweets, instagrams, and pics...
Update: The implosion has been moved to Saturday, August 23. The information below has been updated.
The city of Albany has given to the OK to the implosion of the Wellington annex building in downtown Albany for this
Thursday, August 21 Saturday, August 23. The big boom is apparently going to happen sometime in the morning.
The implosion has prompted of a bunch of road closures (for cars and pedestrians) and parking restrictions for that day. There's a list and a map after the jump.
The new Cider Belly Doughnuts opened this week on Pearl Street in downtown Albany. We've been curious about the shop after first hearing about plans for it more than a year ago. That curiosity was further stoked this week after seeing a bunch of people tweeting about trying the cider doughnuts/donuts.* And it's hard to not get behind the idea of being able to easily stop in for a still-warm cider donut right in Albany.
So we stopped in today to try a bunch of the donuts. You know, for work.
Here are six quick takes after eating (parts of) six donuts...
Updated with scheduled set times.
This year's Pearl Palooza -- the WEQX-organized free music festival on Pearl Street in downtown Albany -- is set for Saturday, September 13.
The lineup of national and local acts -- with video clips -- is after the jump.
The state Office of General Services has announced the rollout of a new system for allocating parking spaces to state employees who work in downtown Albany.
The new system starts today with open enrollment via a website: parking.ogs.ny.gov.
OGS is touting the new system as "clear and understandable," something that couldn't be said for the previous system. From the press release:
Historically there has been a confluence of parking systems meshed together. In the past, each agency controlled the majority of its employees' spaces through "agency allocations" using a variety of methods for granting parking, while the remaining spaces were allocated by OGS through a complex waiting list system. Conversely, the new OGS Parking System puts the vast majority of parking spaces into a single, transparent, and equitable general pool, with a small number of spaces being provided to agencies for distribution to executive staffs and for unique operational needs.
Under the new system, State employees who currently have parking will be "grandfathered", meaning they will be able to keep their current space (except for those who obtained their spaces through the TPAI program) or they can choose to compete for a new space based on their State service. Those who do not currently have parking, or who hold a TPAI permit, will also be able to compete for parking based on the length of their State service.
About 1,800 spots in various garages and lots will be up grabs (based on seniority) under the new system.
And a heads up: The system will be using a "parking service date" to determine a state employees seniority. The date will be available by logging into the parking portal -- and if you'd like to contest that date, you must do so by July 25. (OGS says the system includes a field for service date discrepancies.)
We noticed two large rose bushes blooming in the pedestrian-only section of Steuben Street between Pearl and James in downtown Albany Thursday afternoon.
It's the segment running along the building that formerly housed Jilian's, and there doesn't seem to be much going on there now. But these bushes were overflowing with blooms, their scent gently filling the air, as people walked by on Pearl a short half-block away.
This year's Sculpture in the Streets in downtown Albany officially opens Friday -- there's a garden party then to celebrate the opening -- but the pieces were in place Thursday, so we took a few minutes to check them out.
This year's installation is "Play Me I'm Yours," a series of actual, playable pianos that have been decorated by local artists. The pieces are part of a series created by artist Luke Jerram that's appeared in 45 cities around the world.
There are 13 pianos in the Albany installation. That link includes a map and artist information.
The series is a fun idea. Even in just the few minutes today while we snapped a few photos people were stopping to check out the pianos and play a few notes.
A handful of pics are after the jump.
Urban planning and development often prompt a lot of discussion here at AOA, so we thought it'd be interesting to have an actual urban planner look more closely at some of the topics that bubble up. Meet Alison Bates, who takes up the issue of a downtown Albany supermarket today.
As the discussion of downtown Albany's redevelopment progresses, the call for a neighborhood supermarket has become central to the conversation. A place close at hand to get good food if you live or work downtown, a way to avoid driving to a strip mall each week to do your grocery shopping -- many of us would like this.
Not only would it be a convenience, but it would speak loudly about downtown Albany. Downtown grocery stores are an important piece of a city's redevelopment. They're a classic urban amenity that sends a message that your downtown is doing well, and that breathing new life into your city is not only possible, it's already happening.
So what would it take to make this a reality? There are some sizable economic, political, and logistical challenges. But there is hope.
Let's look at some of the economics -- because urban planning usually comes back to the numbers (and because everyone secretly enjoys econometrics) -- and some different ways of thinking about the situation.
A frequent topic in conversations about the Capital Region's downtowns is retail -- or, more specifically, the lack of the sort of retail many people, including many residents and potential residents, seem to be seeking.
Downtown Albany is no exception, and retail is one of the focus areas for the downtown "tactical plan" that Capitalize Albany and a team of consultants are currently working up for the zone. That focus was the subject of another community meeting about the process, like the one about downtown residential a while back. And again, it was interesting to hear about how the people involved -- both consultants and a few downtown business owners -- framed the issues and described the challenges.
Mike Berne -- a New York City and San Francisco-based retail consultant -- was the main speaker Thursday night. He says he's spent about a month's-worth of time in the area, and he had a lot to stay about downtowns and shopping around the Capital Region.
We talked with him for a few minutes afterward -- about the state of retail in downtown Albany, how to spur retail, what downtown Troy has that downtown Albany doesn't, Lark Street, and... hipsters.
Speaking of not-boring parking garages: We were thinking today that this parking garage in downtown Albany has to be one of the best-looking parking structures in the area. (Tip of the hat to Carl for pointing this out a while back.)
Yeah, that's not exactly a high bar. But if we're going to have parking garages, why not have structures that are a bit interesting and/or beautiful. (Of course, the more intricate the design, the more expensive it is usually.)
Sure, the building reads as a parking garage, but it's not just one boring layer stacked upon another. And we like the detail on the metal screens that cover the openings.
Anyway, a few more photos for architecture gawking are after the jump.
Touring internationally since 2008, Play Me, I'm Yours is an artwork by British artist Luke Jerram. More than 1200 pianos have now been installed in 45 cities across the globe, from Paris to Santiago, bearing the simple invitation Play Me, I'm Yours. The project has already reached more than four million people worldwide.
The Downtown Albany Business District is presenting Play Me, I'm Yours from June 13 until July 27 2014. Ten pianos, decorated by local artists and community groups, will be located in parks, squares and other public spaces in Downtown Albany for anyone to play and enjoy.
The Downtown Albany BID is accepting applications from artists who are interested in decorating one of the pianos. Here's the application. The deadline is this Friday, April 25. (Yep, we should have mentioned this sooner.)
The Downtown Albany BID has advertised on AOA.
The number of residential options in downtown Albany has been steadily growing over the last few years. And as mayor Kathy Sheehan at an Impact Downtown Albany event Tuesday at 60 State: "We really are gifted with a lot of the great bones that we need to fulfill the promise of downtown living."
So, how does the city move from promise to actual development? What are the challenges? What's the potential?
The Tuesday event focused on some of those questions. Here are a few bits from the discussion...
Few foods are as satisfying as a classic hamburger. Lately, though, I've been making an effort to eat less red meat.
So even though I'd heard that The Hollow Bar + Kitchen in downtown Albany has a very good beef burger, one featuring a fried egg and habanero ketchup, I was more interested in their tempeh burger, curious to see if I could leave satisfied even after opting for the vegetarian option.
One more pic from Wednesday's Albany inaugural ceremony at KiernanPlazaNanoCollegeSmartCityThingStation, though it's really more of the building than the ceremony.
As you know, Kiernan Plaza is the former Albany train station, and it's now part of the NanoCollege -- slated to become the "Smart Cities Technology Innovation Center." The announced tenants so far are: SEFCU, the engineering firm CHA, and Windstream (a telecom company).
Anyway, it's a beautiful building. And every time we get a chance to gawk at the inside, we wish there could be a way to open it up to the public more often -- either for events or some sort of other use. Maybe someone can leverage some synergies to make that happen.
Here's what the interior of the station looked like in the 1930s, via the Albany Group Archive on Flickr.
After the jump: The photo above, in large format. And a circa 1904 exterior photo of the station.
Earlier on AOA: Gawking at Kiernan Plaza
So, this is news: "A government official involved in the project's negotiations" tells the Biz Review's Adam Sichko that the Cuomo administration has approved the scaled-down version of the Albany convention center. That's a big deal because buy-in from the Cuomo admin would open the way for the release of about $70 million in money that's already allocated/promised/set aside for a convention center project.
The new scaled-down plan was introduced in November. It would site a 82,000-square-foot facility at Howard and Eagle in downtown Albany. The Albany Convention Center Authority has touted the new plan -- about a third the size of the of the originally proposed project -- as a "hub" between the Empire State Plaza and the Times Union Center, with all three connected by a covered walkway.
The ACCA said the $66.5 million project could be paid for with the already-allocated money. It estimated that it could be completed by July 2016.
The Cuomo administration confirmed the approval in a press release later on Tuesday. The release included a name for the facility -- "Albany Capital Center" -- and a start date for construction -- June 2014.
Oh, and there's important bit tucked into the administration's announcement:
Furthermore, the land accumulated by the Authority for the first proposed location would be conveyed to the Office of General Services (OGS) and would be made available for appropriate development through a Request for Proposal managed by OGS and Empire State Development (ESD), with the goals of expanding the local commercial tax base and the creation of jobs and opportunities
That land is the chunk on the south side of downtown Albany near the bus station. Earlier this year an idea was floated for the land to be used for an aquarium/science center/something or other. The fact that the state will directly controlling the land prompts a lot of questions -- including what state officials consider "appropriate development" for the site.
The Albany Convention Center Authority revealed a bit more about the revised plan to build a scaled-down, $66.5 million convention center at Eagle and Howard streets in downtown Albany. An ACCA slide deck about the project is embedded after the jump -- it includes some renderings and details. Also there: an clickable map with estimated building print.
This new plan replaces the original proposal for much larger facility on the southern end of downtown Albany. That plan fizzled over the last few years under concerns about cost and whether the project could float financially over the long term.
The authority is touting the new project -- about a third the size of the of the other project -- as a "hub" between the Empire State Plaza and the Times Union Center, with all three connected by a covered walkway and 2) feasible under the approximately $70 million already allocated/promised/set aside for the original convention center. It projects a timeline that includes a possible completion date of July 2016.
There are still a handful of questions and uncertainties about the project. This article from the Biz Review's Mike DeMasi covers a lot of them, along with other details about the project.
And what of the south side downtown land gathered for the original project? JCE reported in the TU today that the authority is planing to issue a request for proposals for a mixed-use project on the site.
We stopped by the Impact Downtown Albany event Wednesday evening to check out the "Glimpse of the Future of Downtown Albany" Pecha Kucha-style presentations. We were kind of curious about both the format -- basically a quick succession of very short talks -- and what some of the speakers -- including Albany mayor-elect Kathy Sheehan and SUNY chancellor Nancy Zimpher -- would have to say.
It turned out to be pretty much what you might expect if you've been following the discussion about downtown Albany for a while -- talk of residential, retail, the waterfront, leveraging things.
But, in the spirit of the format, we figured it'd be interesting to pluck one quick takeaway from each talk -- whether it was a fact, an idea, an impression, whatever. And here we go...
On Tuesday Capitalize Albany be down at Ten Eyck Plaza interviewing people and collecting stories and ideas for improving downtown Albany. It's the launch of a twelve month public/private collaboration called Impact Downtown Albany.
The company that's been pushing the idea of an aquarium for downtown Albany -- Omni Development -- released the first phase of a feasibility study for the idea yesterday. And the very short story: the report concluded there appears to be demand for something like an aquarium here.
After hearing hearing a presentation about the study, and going over the materials distributed from the first phase, here are a few bits, observations, and thoughts...
When Katrin Haldeman conceived the name "Dali Mamma" she wasn't exactly sure what it would be. She just knew that she liked the name. Over time, Haldeman decided that her love for, and the healing power of, food would be best channeled into a cafe --and the Dali Mamma was born.
Upon entering the Dali Mamma, a small cafe on Maiden Lane in downtown Albany, you're almost immediately greeted by owner Katrin Haldeman and her crew. "I strive to create a personal connection to my customers and I try to learn everyone's name," said Haldeman.
Earlier this summer the Historic Albany Foundation got ownership of the (probably) oldest surviving building in Albany -- Van Ostrande-Radliff House, at 48 Hudson Ave downtown. Now HAF has a campaign to raise money for the building's preservation. The goal: $10,000.
From the Indiegogo page* for the campaign:
Historic Albany Foundation needs to raise $10,000 for immediate repairs to the roof of the Van Ostrande-Radliff House at 48 Hudson Avenue. Historic Albany recently acquired the Van Ostrande-Radliff House at 48 Hudson Avenue in Albany, New York. Built in 1728, it is documented to be the oldest surviving building in the city. It has been vacant since the 1990's and is in immediate need of roof repairs. Water is cascading through the east wall through a leak in the roof and is causing substantial damage to this precious resource. Historic Albany must repair the roof so that the building will continue to stand while a plan to restore the building is developed.
There's a short HAF video about the building embedded after the jump.
The campaign deadline is September 27. As of Thursday afternoon (August 29), it had more than $3,300 in pledges. Donation perks include sketches of the building, books, and tickets to events.
When HAF acquired the building back in June, it said its goal is to eventually make the building "habitable and possibly used as offices for likeminded agencies and organizations in the future."
* Indiegogo looks like Kickstarter, and sometimes it works like that. But this campaign is set up as "flexible funding" -- which means the money donated will go to HAF even if it doesn't meet its goal. (If they do meet their goal, the pay a lower fee to Indiegogo.)
image via Historic Albany Foundation
Omni Development announced today that it's hired a consultancy to "study the potentials and challenges for an economically rejuvenating project to be located in downtown Albany." In other words: Omni wants to see how feasible it would be to build the proposed aquarium/science museum/IMAX theater/thing at the site of the land gathered for the Albany convention center project.
From the press release:
Omni decided to take the lead with this investment in the future of the Capital Region after receiving weeks of enthusiastic public support to their proposal for a destination-caliber project to transform downtown Albany economically and culturally. In June, Omni provided numerous examples of how such a venue -- featuring an aquarium as the hub of an educational, scientific and entertainment attraction -- would be a regional stand-out and generate extensive visitation and revenue for the area. The study now initiated by Omni will be specific to Albany, with expert analyses and projections of current and future demographics, revenue potentials, competition, trends and "right-sizing" of facilities.
Earlier this summer Omni pitched the idea of a large development at the convention center site that could include an aquarium, museums, entertainment venues, and parks. And, of course, the Albany Aquarium group has also been rallying attention and support along its own track.
So, this could be a good thing for the conversation. It's one thing to toss an idea like this out there for discussion, it's another to put a team of people to work on figuring what might it actually end up involving. (And yet another to find the money to pay for the project if it moves ahead.)
The consultancy that Omni's hired -- ConsultEcon in Cambridge, Massachusetts -- worked with a bunch of aquarium and museum clients around the world, and helps clients with "determining concept definition and refinement, establishing market proof of plans and concepts, determining financial viability, supporting project funding or creating sustainable operating strategies," according to its website.
Omni says it expects something back by the end of September, and that it will share the results with the public.
Update: Here's some good follow up by the Biz Review's Mike DeMasi about whether the consultancy would actually return a study reporting an aquarium is a bad idea, and skepticism from Albany mayoral candidate Kathy Sheehan.
Earlier on AOA:
+ Soapbox: Thinking differently about what a destination museum in Albany could be
+ Push continues for Albany aquarium
image: Omni Development / MLG Architects
The Cuomo admin and Columbia Development announced today plans to renovate the vacant DeWitt Clinton Hotel building at State and Eagle in downtown Albany (streetview). (You know the building -- it's the one that looks buttoned up, but in a "I forgot what I was supposed to be doing" kind of way.) In its new life, the DeWitt Clinton will be a 204-room "Renaissance by Marriott Hotel." Press release:
The Renaissance Albany will have the feel of a boutique hotel and will include the building's original breathtaking lobby. Located at the corner of State and Eagle Streets, the Renaissance will offer intimate meeting space for private events, 204 rooms, a full-service restaurant open to the public, a lounge and coffee shop. It will be the first time the region has had a full service Renaissance by Marriott Hotel.
The $48 million project's not all that surprising. Columbia is already re-building next door at Wellington Row, the hotel is literally right across the street from the Capitol, and the proposed downsized Albany convention center thing would be just behind it.
Anyway, part of the press materials today included a photo of the DeWitt Clinton site from before the DeWitt Clinton was there (above, large format). We were struck by the circa 1926 photo, which shows a drug store on the corner and an excellent old-school traffic signal. Attached to the building and its adjacent (now-gone) neighbor, a big sign that read:
Upon this site and adjoining Corner through to Howard Street
A 15 STORY MODERN HOTEL
WILL BE ERECTED
That modern hotel lasted about 50 years, until the building stopped operating as a hotel in 1975 (it's had various other uses since then). And now it will be modernized. Again.
Cat guest: Albany Archives dug up a great story about the opening of the DeWitt Clinton in 1927 -- the first guest to stay there was a cat. Really.
Today's moment of LOOK OUT!: The Albany County Sheriff's Office says a taxi driver reported falling asleep at the wheel Tuesday afternoon before crashing into the Albany County Justice Center on Chapel Street in downtown Albany, almost hitting a pedestrian. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The incident was captured on a security camera (above).
From the ACSO press release:
The operator reports that he had little sleep the night before and was exhausted and was going to contact his employer, Black and White Taxi, to see if he could leave work early. He further reported that he had just dropped a passenger off. The Albany County Sheriff's Office investigated the crash and fortunately nobody was injured during the incident. The operator was ticketed for Failing to Keep Right and is scheduled to appear in Albany City Traffic Court to answer the charge.
Drowsy driving causes more than 100,000 crashes a year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which notes the problem is probably underreported. There was a case just this summer in Halfmoon in which a man walking along a road was killed when a driver fell asleep and veered off the road. The driver didn't face any charges beyond failure to stay right because of a precedent set by a 1985 Saratoga County case. [NHTSA] [TU] [Saratogian]
Most states -- including New York -- don't have a "driving while drowsy" law. But there's been a bill circulating in the New York legislature for the last few years that would make it a misdemeanor, and a felony if the crash results in a person's death.
Updated: Dirty Heads and Palma Violets were switched out by EQX for Portugal The Man and Crystal Fighters.
WEQX announced today that Pearl Palooza will return September 28 in downtown Albany.
The headliners for the free day of music on Pearl Street this year
are The Dirty Heads is Portugal. The Man. The full lineup includes nine bands -- five out-of-town acts, and four locals. Here's the lineup along with song videos...
A few more bits about the push for an aquarium in downtown Albany:
Omni and the convention center site
Omni Development continues to advocate for an aquarium/science museum/IMAX theater on the site of the land collected for the stalled Albany convention center project -- despite a cold shoulder from the convention center authority. ( The authority's executive director says it's staying the course of trying to build a convention center until directed otherwise by the state.) [Biz Review] [TU]
Omni has been using the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga as a model for what an Albany aquarium could be -- and today in a press release it urged Jerry Jennings to talk with the mayor of Chattanooga and schedule a trip to see the aquarium there (it even said it would pay for the trip). Jennings told JCE he'd call, but he's not making the trip. [@JCEvangelist_TU]
More details about Omni's preliminary proposal -- along with concept renderings -- are after the jump.
The Albany Aquarium group -- which has been rallying support for the idea on Facebook -- announced that it's organizing a public meeting July 15 at the Albany Public Library main branch. The goal: to "outline their vision and solicit public feedback."
This year the Downtown Albany BID's Sculpture in the Streets project is titled "All Signs Point to Downtown" -- the BID is aiming to restore a handful of "ghost signs" around downtown. The announcement of the project and its call for artists prompted some interesting discussion about the idea this week, both critical and supportive. And the interest is understandable: this work will be on display for thousands of people all around downtown.
Among the people with a reaction: Samson Contompasis, a mural artist and the organizer of the Living Walls mural project. He reached out to AOA with some strong objections -- both artistic and practical -- and we thought it'd be interesting to share them here. We also talked with the Downtown Albany BID to get its perspective.
First up: Samson...
This year's exhibit titled: All Signs Point to Downtown will restore old retail signs, also referred to as ghost signs, on the sides of our historic buildings retelling the story of downtown Albany as the commercial hub for the Capital Region prior to the creation of suburban malls.
Now through April 12, 2013, the BID is accepting submissions from artists interested in participating. Painting will take place between mid-April to mid-June and an honorarium will be paid based on the size and complication of the retail sign.
We've converted the doc to a pdf for easy scanning -- it's post jump. It includes info on requirements, guidelines, and other details.
There are at least a handful of preservation efforts around the country aimed at keeping ghost signs from totally fading away -- especially out west, where the signs are apparently still numerous (see Butte, Montana and Fort Collins, Colorado). Interestingly, there are some people who think the signs should be allowed to fade out.
photo: Chuck Miller
In the latest episode of Duncan Crary's A Small American City podcast, William Kennedy talks about growing up in North Albany, how the city changed, how his family ended up in the suburbs -- and about his grandkids living in... a city.
I never wanted to do that, you know. I always resisted the idea of moving any part of my life to the suburbs, and especially because of how strongly I loved the city, the center of the city. Albany was a vital, vital city. I mean, it was just full of people all the time, everyday, lunch hour you couldn't walk on the sidewalks. And Thursday nights everybody's shopping, and the weekends everybody's at the movies. There were seven movies downtown: it was the Palace, the Strand, and the Grand, and the Ritz, and the Leland, and the Royal ... the Paramount ...
And all that vital life, there was departments stores, and bowling alleys, and social clubs. And everything started in the late 40s/early 50s to close down. The federal tax on nightclubs, and they went bust. And then television came in, and everybody stayed home, they didn't go to the movies. And the movies went crazy trying to figure out how to ... get people to come back to the movies. But the movies were everything for us -- 3,000 people at 11 o'clock at night outside the Palace, coming out of these various theaters ... And they'd go all over the place ... The place was full of night clubs, great restaurants -- all night restaurants -- and pool rooms. (laughs) I was especially fond of the pool rooms because my uncle and my father, he was a good pool player...
Anyway, but that whole urban environment was in decline in the years when I was just coming into manhood and starting to work at the Times Union at my first reporting job on the city side of the news ... and then suddenly the city just sort of imploded, you know. And the '60s came...
I went away in the middle '50s... I went to Puerto Rico to work on a newspaper. I was bored with the town. It was boring. There wasn't enough action.
While in Puerto Rico, Kennedy met his wife and got married, moved to Miami, moved back to San Juan. And they came back to Albany in 1963.
Sean emails with a question that's not really an Ask AOA question -- it's more of "What the heck is that?" question:
I have lived in Center Square for about three years and I work downtown (right off N. Pearl St). About 2-3 times a week I hear a random sound that sounds a bit like a high pitched fog horn. It's usually 3-5, short (2 or 3 seconds) blasts which distinguish it from the the longer, deeper pitched fog horn you would associate with an active harbor. It almost has an alarm like quality to it.
The strange thing is, I can hear it at home and at work. While it is hard to miss, it is not particularly jarring either. What's even more curious is that I have heard it all times of day, each season and in variable weather conditions.
Is it associated with the Port of Albany? The Hudson River? The rail line running under and between 787? Something different all together?
Please tell me I am not alone!
Anyone have the scoop -- or just a good guess?
When looking for events and things to do in downtown Albany, its been hard to if there are any nightclubs that are 18+ instead of 21+. being a college student and new to the region, I was wondering if you guys knew of any 18+ clubs in downtown albany?
We suspect there might not be a lot of options. But maybe you have a good suggestion for Chris -- even if it's not downtown Albany. If so, please share!
Earlier on AOA: Ask AOA: Where to shake it?
At first glance, the old diner car still looks like the Miss Albany -- well, a scrubbed and polished version of the Miss Albany. The booths are the same - the classic diner floors, counters and tile. But the walls are the first give-away that you're not in the Miss Albany anymore.
The famous signs warning patrons about unruly children have been replaced by classic old photos. They're from the families of Matt Baumgartner and his business partners, Jimmy and Demetra Vann. Sciortino's is named for Baumgartner's mother's family -- specifically for his grandparents, Frank and Rachel Sciortino, whose pictures occupy a prominent space behind the front counter.
The latest in Baumgartner's string of Capital Region business ventures -- and his continuing effort to bring life into to Albany's warehouse district -- opens on Wednesday.
Here's a look inside...
Just a quick pic from Pearl Palooza this past Saturday. There was a big crowd for Phantogram. (Then it rained. A lot.)
Here's a video clip via the Albany County Sheriff's Office of the underground explosion in downtown Albany Wednesday afternoon. The explosion knocked the cover off a manhole and shot flames into the air.
The camera that captured the explosion is pointed down Steuben Street toward the intersection of Steuben and Chapel. You can see dark gray smoke first billow from the street, then BOOM! (Actually, you have to supply your own soundtrack -- there's no audio.)
There are a few stills from the video after the jump.
National Grid says the explosion was caused by an underground fire on an electrical wire. It says no one was hurt. The company is investigating what caused the fire.
Update: Here's video of the explosion.
Around 3:30 pm Wednesday afternoon, mentions of an underground fire in downtown Albany -- with exploding manhole covers -- started popping up on Twitter. Albany County exec Dan McCoy posted on Twitter at 3:53 pm: "Fire in electrical network underground. Manhole covers blew. Work underway." [@DanielleSanzone] [@MCCoyCountyExec]
The Albany County Justice Center was evacuated because smoke was drawn into the ventilation system. Albany City Hall was closed. And there were reports of other buildings being closed. [Albany County] [@LeifEngstrom1 (city auditor)] [@jessicabakeman]
Streets near the county justice center were closed for crews to work on the problem. [@MCCoyCountyExec]
The photo above -- at North Pearl and Pine -- is from Andrew Gregory (@lunchboxbrain).
Update: 8:44 pm: From National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella:
At 3 p.m. today we detected a power interruption on an underground line at North Pearl Street in Albany. We immediately dispatched crews who have been working through the evening to assess and repair damage caused by an underground fire on our electrical wire.
One manhole cover was dislodged due to the fire and no injuries were reported.
There were no outages associated with the fire since the downtown area has multiple electric feeds to each customer.
We expect to make those repairs tonight and have the street open for traffic.
We will investigate the incident in an attempt to determine an extact cause.
This sounds familiar...: Something like this happened in downtown Albany in 2009.
A crowd of about 1,000 people showed up in downtown Albany Monday to rally against hydrofracking. The crowd gathered in the Corning Preserve, then filled the block on Broadway in front of the the DEC building, moved up the middle of State Street, and finally to Capitol Park for a lineup speakers. [LoHud Albany Watch] [@JonCampbellGAN] [@JonCampbellGAN] [@_1134] [@AmandaSavarese]
The anti-fracking movement is fired up right now because the Cuomo administration's decision on whether to allow the natural gas extraction method is reportedly near -- and the word circulating is that the admin will allow some fracking in the state. (Cuomo played down those rumors recently.) Not surprisingly, much of the anti-fracking message today was directed at Andrew Cuomo. [CBS News] [TU] [Reuters]
The decision -- whenever it comes out -- will be a big deal.
Yesterday Jerry Jennings and a group of downtown Albany business people stood in Albany City Hall to reassure everyone that the Pearl Street area is on the edge of a major change that will turn the city's downtown into a 24/7 community.
You probably know the reason for this affirmation session: the comment from Ralph Spillenger -- the owner of the Bayou Cafe and the soon-to-be-closed Jillian's -- that his business had failed, in part, because people are afraid to go downtown because of crime.
So, who's right? This situation is complicated because so much of it depends on perception.
But there are ways to make it clearer.
Updated with scheduled times
Update: Phantogram has been added to the lineup on the main stage, and Conehead Buddha on the second stage.
This year's Pearl Palooza -- the music festival in downtown Albany hosted by WEQX -- is September 22. EQX announced today that the headliner is the indie pop duo Matt and Kim (that's them on the right).
The full lineup -- which covers two stages -- is post jump (with clips).
Pearl Palooza runs from noon to 9 pm that day (a Saturday). The festival is on Pearl Street between Sheridan and Pine. It's free.
It's Real Estate Week on AOA.
In a lot of cities -- New York, San Francisco, Chicago -- apartments and condos in the heart of "downtown" are totally normal. But in Albany that hasn't been case. For a long time its downtown has emptied out after the work day. Sure, there are crowds along the entertainment strips like Pearl Street. But the city's downtown has had very little residential stock -- and, as a result, very few of the open-after-work services and amenities that go along with residential: coffee shops, retail, a grocery store.
Over the last couple of years, though, a handful of developers have gutted and rebuilt the interiors of historic buildings, turning them into luxury apartments and condos.
And here's the thing that surprised us: there appears to be strong demand for those units. Every one of the existing apartment buildings we checked out was full, and many of those still under renovation have a waiting list.
So, what's changed? And what does all this downtown living look like?
It's hard to miss the giant Dutch clogs that now populate downtown Albany as part of this year's Sculpture in the Streets installation. They're fun and kind of whimsical. (We've seen people attempting to "try on" the shoes, which has been funny.)
Curious about how one goes about decorating an enormous replica of a Dutch wooden shoe, we asked talented local illustrator Elizabeth Zunon to share how she created her clog, which sits outside the Olde English on Broadway.
It's interesting to hear about her inspiration for the piece, and some of the other projects she's working on...
The Albany Common Council approved the final slate of streets for the new residential parking permit system Monday night. A map of the three zones is above. After the jump: a list of the designated streets with individual zone maps -- along with a copy of the resolution designating them.
Not every parking space in the designated areas will be subject to the permit system. But there many be some whole blocks designated within the zones, according to councilman Richard Conti, who headed up the design of the system. The state law allowing the system limits it to no more than 2,750 spots.
The target start date for the permit system is October 1. The spaces will be subject to permit parking from 8 am-6 pm on weekdays -- though two-hour parking will be allowed for people without permits. The permits will cost $25, and permit holders will get guest passes.
The new series of Sculpture in the Streets pieces have been popping up in downtown Albany this week. This year's theme: "Stand in the Sole of Albany." The pieces are all giant Dutch clogs. You know, wooden shoes.
Thirteen artists have decorated the oversized clogs -- some big, some really big -- for this year's series. Photos of a handful of them are after the jump, as is a list of this year's artists.
The clogs are fun. And this afternoon they definitely had people stopping to take a look. A brief "What the heck..." moment was usually followed by a smile. Some people even tried them on (so to speak).
This year's Sculpture in the Streets series will be officially unveiled at a garden party hosted by the Albany Downtown BID Friday evening. Tickets are $50.
Maps of all the sculptures will be available from the BID and downtown merchants starting Monday (June 18). The clogs will be on display until May 2013.
The crew for the HBO film Muhammad Ali's Greatest Fight will be shooting in downtown Albany Thursday and into Friday morning. There will be significant parking and traffic restrictions on Thursday -- for example, sections of Washington Ave will be shut down for chunks of time. The list is after the jump.
Incidentally, you can also use the restrictions a guide for when/where to gawk at the filming.
A description of the film via the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau (link added):
The film centers on the cultural icon's battle with the United States government over his refusal to serve in the military due to his religious beliefs and opposition to the Vietnam War. Ali was arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges, and later stripped of his boxing title and had his boxing license suspended. While not imprisoned, he did not fight again for nearly four years while his appeal reached the U.S. Supreme Court.
The film is directed by Stephen Frears (The Queen, Dirty Pretty Things, High Fidelity). It includes stars such as Christopher Plummer, Danny Glover, Frank Langella, and Benjamin Walker (OK, not really a star yet, but he's Abe Lincoln in the upcoming Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Yes, that's a real movie.) It looks like Ali will be appearing in the film as himself through archival film clips (which sounds a little odd).
Here's more about the story covered in the film from screenwriter Shawn Slovo. [Spectator (UK)]
photo: Ira Rosenberg via Wikipedia
Interesting: a coalition of groups, orgs, and firms is holding a charrette -- "a multi-day collaborative planning event" -- this week to create a plan for transforming the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood in Albany. From the blurbage:
The goal of a charrette is to identify the priorities for a community redevelopment project, create practical designs that address these priorities, incorporate feedback from local residents, and serve as a kick-off for the project. This planning session will help create strategies for eliminating blight and promoting re-investment in an important and historically significant Albany neighborhood.
In order to encourage as much community participation and input as possible, the charrette will be open to the public each day, with several specific public meetings focusing on transportation, housing, sustainability/environment, urban design/historic preservation, economic development, and parks and recreation.
Here's the schedule of events -- many are open to the public. The charrette is organized by Capital District Habitat for Humanity, the Touhey Home Ownership Foundation, the City of Albany, 3tarchitects, and Housing Visions, Inc. (Press release is embedded after the jump.)
Sheridan Hollow is the neighborhood in the ravine between the Capitol and Arbor Hill. It has a long history -- much of it downtrodden. There was an infamous garbage incinerator there during the 80s and early 90s.
More recently, though, there's been a lot of development at the eastern end of the neighborhood, including residential. There are the 24 condos at 17 Chapel, the 43 apartments planned as part of the Boyd Printing Co. building conversion ("The Monroe") at 47 Sheridan, and 13 units at 4-6 Sheridan.
Perhaps feeling left out during last week's discussion about good lunch spots in Troy, Rebecca asked in the comments:
[B]eing that this isn't "All Over Troy" I think it's only fair and right that AOA rebuts with "good places for lunch in downtown ALBANY"!!
Our lunch time experiences in downtown Albany have included an unfortunate number of misses. But we're guessing people who work there all the time have the scoop.
So, what are the good lunch spots in downtown Albany? Please share!
We stopped by Carmine Sprio's soon-to-be-open restaurant in downtown Albany late Friday afternoon to peek in the widows. Ethan had mentioned he saw furniture being moved in, and we were curious to see how things were shaping up.
As it turned out, Sprio was there and he was nice enough to give us a quick tour and tell us a little more about the restaurant's concept, which sounds like something a bit different for the Capital Region.
Here's a quick look, along with a few details.
The downtown Albany location for Beahive, a string of coworking spaces in the Hudson Valley, recently opened. We were in the neighborhood this week, so we dropped in to check it out.
The ice skating rink at the ESP re-opened this past Saturday for the first time since 2008. So, of course, we had to take a few turns.
Here are a few details if you decide to go. (And you totally should.)
Update March 12, 2012: A peek inside Carmine's Brazilian Grill
Chef Carmine Sprio is resurfacing in downtown Albany with a Brazillian-style steakhouse, the city of Albany says. The aptly named "Carmine's Brazilian Grill" is scheduled for a February 2012 opening at 4-6 Sheridan, a mixed use building that's being developed with apartments on the upper floors. (It's the former Big House/Skyline building.)
The restaurant will apparently be modeled on churrascaria -- in which people pay a fixed price and servers walk around with platters of various grilled meats. From the press release:
Carmine's Brazilian Grill will offer fixed price menus for lunch and dinner. The grill menu will include many different cuts of meat, the typical dinner selections will be beef (3-5 different cuts), lamb (chops or leg), pork (loin, ribs, homemade sausage) and chicken. The dinner menu will also include a full starter bar, offering a wide variety of appetizers.
The full press release is after the jump.
Sprio had run an Italian restaurant called "Carmine's" on Central Ave near Everett Road for 13 years -- it closed in 2009. He's also been involved in various TV projects (here's an audition video for a show on OWN). [Biz Review]
Tangent: That spot in downtown Albany is forming a cluster of residences. There are the 24 condos at 17 Chapel, the 43 apartments planned as part of the Boyd Printing Co. building conversion ("The Monroe") at 47 Sheridan, and now the 13 units at 4-6 Sheridan. [Places and Spaces]
Yep, 17 Chapel advertises on AOA.
photo via Carmine's TV Facebook
Update Jan 3, 2012: Here are details about skating at the ESP rink.
Update Dec 14, 2011: OGS says it's aiming to open the rink the first week of January -- and skates will be available for renting (it will be free to skate).
The state Office of General Services announced over the weekend that the ice skating rink will be returning to the Empire State Plaza this winter. The ESP has been rinkless since the winter of 2007-08 because of budget cuts. (Full press release pasted after jump.)
OGS says it's aiming for an early January opening. The rink will be open afternoon and evenings, 7 days a week. Skating will be free. The exact date and operation times are still being worked out. (Also: some colder weather might speed things along.)
The rink's comeback is being funded in part by a $100,000 contribution Lake Placid Regional Winter Sports Committee, which is a "non-profit focused on supporting and developing Upstate New York as a sport destination for international and national winter sport events."
In the grand scheme of things, the skating rink isn't a big thing. But the news a few years back that it wasn't coming back because of budget cuts was a bit of a "gulp" moment about the economy and state budget. And there's just something beautiful about the scene created by people skating on the ESP. It's great the rink will be back.
If you've never seen the ESP rink -- or just want to remember what it looks like -- a few more photos from early 2008 are after the jump.
I first met Jeffrey a while ago.
He stopped me on the street and asked for some money, told me his story, and kept me much longer than I wanted. I know some of you think it's a bad idea to give money to panhandlers. You may be right, but I'm sorry, if somebody asks for a couple of bucks they're going to get it. Maybe that makes me a sucker.
So, the next time we met it was much the same. "How's things Jeffrey," I asked. He was completely blown away that I remembered his name and gave me a hug. I could have done without the hug. After that, I think he was keeping an eye out for me, knowing I was good for a donation. One time I was in a hurry to my car and dodged him.
Then one day, Jeffrey intercepted me outside my building.
WEQX released the music lineup for this year's PearlPalooza (you know, sort of like LarkFest, but... more east? more downtown?). There are two stages -- one for national acts, the other for locals.
PearlPalooza is September 24 from noon - 9 pm. It's free.
Lineups after the jump.
If you work in downtown Albany, this could be the perfect way to break up your work week. The city of Albany has released the details of this year's September in the City Art Fair, an annual street fair that falls on the Wednesday of each week in September.
Each week, art will be displayed in Tricentennial Park at Broadway and Columbia, while local musicians will play two one-hour sets between 11:30 am and 2 pm. This event has been happening in Albany for the past several years, and we're glad to see it continue, because there's nothing like live, outdoor music in the middle of a weekday.
The music schedule is after the jump.
Update: The winner has been notified. Thanks for entering!
Taste, in downtown Albany, will be offering a four-course dinner on its penthouse terrace with a view of the ESP fireworks on July 4. And we have a table for two to give away.
To enter the drawing, answer this question in the comments:
What is your favorite summer memory?
We'll draw one winner at random.
Highlights from the Fourth of July menu at Taste by chef executive chef Paul Ozimek:
A duet of crab stuff Maine half lobster, stone fruit salsa, char seared 8 oz. filet mignon, with summer berry demi
Your choice of one dozen shrimp cocktail or heirloom tomato salad, buffalo mozzarella, fried basil, arugula
Gourmet salad and artisan bread station
Grilled asparagus and long-stemmed artichokes
Roasted purple potatoes
Red, white and blue dessert montage and deluxe coffee station
The price per person is $99 and a reservation is required (694-3322).
Important: All comments must be submitted by 11:59 pm on Friday (June 24, 2011) to be entered in the drawing. One entry per person, please. You must enter a valid email address (that you check regularly) with your comment. The winner will be notified via email by 10 am on Monday and must respond by 9 am on Tuesday (June 28, 2011).
Yep, Taste does advertise on AOA.
Looking for the George Rickey sculptures on the streets of Albany is a little like playing a giant game of Where's Waldo, or trying to find the toaster in the tree. Once you see them, you don't understand how you could have missed them, but at first they're oddly hard to spot.
The five moving metal sculptures are this year's edition of Albany's Sculpture in the Streets project. If something about them seems familiar, think about the Empire State Plaza -- there's been a Rickey sculpture on the ESP for years. There's also one on the RPI campus (where Rickey spent three years teaching in the architecture program), at the Albany Institute of History and Art and on the second floor at Albany International Airport.
Maybe it's the size or steel gray color that makes them blend into the background a bit -- another large metal object in the middle of a city. They kind of disappear into the landscape. But then the wind catches one and you find yourself standing in the street trying to figure out how it does that.
We're pulling out the AOA soap box each Sunday for people to praise, complain, suggest, joke, or make an observation about things they see going on in the Capital Region.
It's been a long, hard winter, but now that spring is getting a grip on the ice and snow, things are finally looking up. Some people are waiting for the crocuses to peep their heads out, others for the red winged blackbirds to hit town.
Me? I'm looking for a squirrel, known downtown as the Earl of Pearl.
Looking for an interesting wedding spot in Albany, Annie emails:
We aren't getting married until December of 2012, but we wanted to start browsing around for a ceremony site. We aren't religious, but if we could get married in a beautiful, old church by a Justice or something like that, that would also be ok. We are shooting for the reception to be at Jack's, so I'd ideally like to be in down town Albany.
Any suggestions for Annie? Please share! As we understand it, she's looking for something a little different, so she'd probably love creative or unusual ideas.
photo: Flickr user _FXR
We're pretty much a sucker for any time-lapse video. The one embedded above is of the construction at 17 Chapel, the new condo development in downtown Albany -- you can see the new structure go up, the snow come down, and the DEC building light up. The video was shot from the roof of Zone 5, the marketing firm across Orange Street.
Earlier on AOA: A tranquil time lapse of Albany
[via Places and Spaces]
Yep, 17 Chapel advertises on AOA. Did we mention the thing about time-lapses?
We spotted this today the garage for one of the office buildings along Broadway in downtown Albany.
There's something about seeing the enormous wreath hung up like this that made us smile -- like we all have to find a place to stuff holiday decorations the other 10 months of the year.
AOA Greg was in a long-term haircutting relationship for the better part of the last decade. And then he wasn't. Suddenly unattached, Greg was at a loss for where to get his hair cut. So he asked the AOA crowd -- and it had a bunch of good suggestions. Now he's playing the field, in search of a new shop.
I had heard some good things about Mensroom -- and it describes itself as "a contemporary barbershop with an 'old school' feel." So, it sounded like a good candidate and I was looking forward to checking it out.
The before/after pics and more after the jump...
This body of work by Seward Johnson, an American artist known for his hyper-realistic imagery, is part of a collection of 250 cast bronze figures depicting people of all ages engaged in day-to-day activities. I invite you to take a nice, long walk downtown Albany and take a closer look at these intriguing sculptures. Bring metaphorical hiking shoes because you are about to embark on a trip down the Uncanny Valley.
The series of sculptures will be in place until October.
It's Lunch Week on AOA! All this week we'll be featuring items the midday meal. Be sure to snap a photo of your lunch on Wednesday and send it to us -- you could win $25 for lunch at your favorite local spot.
It does not come with cheese.
Without a doubt, it is a decadent treat. And you will probably need a glass of red wine to keep you heart pumping while you are eating the thing.
The trick to enjoying it is not letting expectations get the best of you.