Aug 13, 2010

Downtown Living? Not (yet) in Albany

Steuben Place Partners LLC thinks that the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) wasted a whole bunch of good money.

How else does one explain their decision to send out a detailed questionnaire to office workers in the neighborhood of their former Steuben Athletic Club on North Pearl Street? After all, the BID already went through that process a couple years back, reporting back that there was a demand for 2,400 residential units in that area.

Obviously, the Steuben folks don't buy into that research and want to find out for themselves whether there is sufficient interest in converting the classy old building into condos and/or apartments. This comes after an initial poll designed to gauge interest in revitalizing the heath club. The findings: a big not really.

We'll save these good folks the effort and advise them to bag the whole idea.

Here's the critical analysis of the situation down there:

Fact: the building is smack dab in the middle of the so-called Entertainment Zone of the city.

Suggested Methodology: divide the world into two categories; those that would be interested in living in such a neighborhood and those who would not.

Next: now make a rough guess as to what the breakdown of each would be. Maybe it's 90/10 or 80/20 or whatever. Just get it close, because the exact figure is not of utmost importance, for the following reason...

Point: even among that constituency that would normally be open to the idea of living in a downtown entertainment zone, the vast majority of them will not be interested in this particular type of an entertainment zone.

Why? Because the North Pearl Street strip is a one-trick pony; a giant, loud, noisy, drunken, violent mess of the hip hop nightlife culture. Missing are other (and more tame) variations of activities and attractions that would make this a New Urbanist type of setting.

There lies Albany's Catch 22: it needs to get people living downtown. But its first three stabs at economic development --- namely urban renewal, government office buildings and the aforementioned Entertainment Zone --- act to prevent that goal from happening.

It's time to start over.



Anonymous said...

Gosh, I hate to sound cynical but I've said it before I will say it again; the only thing that will improve Albany is to simply burn it down and start over.

Anonymous said...

There really isn't a city or town around the Capital Region that's worth living in.

GET said...

Real easy solution:

1. Move all the people out

2. Exectpion to the above: the legislature

3. Nuke it

4. Let people back in; but only those who can pass a basic literacy or IQ test.