Waterfront design takes shape

Waterfront design takes shape

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The city hopes to use CARA money to redevelop the riverfront, which currently has just one building and several parking lots between the Ellsworth Street Bridge and the senior center at the entrance of Monteith Riverpark.

Design firm Walker Macy returned to the Central Albany Revitalization Area board Wednesday night to take it to the river. 

The firm was hired by the board in October to research possibilities for the downtown waterfront area along Water Avenue and deliver buildable plans for its vision. 

On Wednesday, Walker Macy's Chelsea McCann presented the results of the firm's work, influenced by a community meeting held in March. 

"It's interesting for the community to think long-term here," Economic Development Manager Seth Sherry said in introducing the project's progress. "The world has been consumed by COVID and caused us to have a short term outlook but this is an opportunity to continue planning and to have plans on hand to improve the community."

The urban renewal district has approximately $20 million left in its spending authority and, according to Sherry, completed plans for the waterfront could run up to $20 million when completed. Walker Macy is contracted for up to $2.36 million for designs and plans. 

"There were a number of themes that rose to the surface," McCann said of the community meeting. 

The approximately 100 people who attended as well as the 300 who filled out an online survey were focused on safety, accessibility and a reason to come down to the waterfront. 

"We also heard a lot about sustainability," McCann said. "Your community really acknowledged there's an opportunity here to enhance and improve upon the bank condition."

Themes aside, CARA was not asked to weigh-in on the plans presented Wednesday, only review them as progress. 

McCann presented three options including plans for Water Avenue, Monteith Park and the Dave Clark Trail. 

Monteith Park, she said, could see a new water feature, playsets and café. McCann also said community feedback suggested that people enjoyed the city's summer concert series and another concert stage could be included in the plans. 

The park's plan, dubbed Community Loops, would incorporate aspects of the existing downtown.

"Your downtown has gone through a lot of transformation," McCann said noting the retail and restaurant options. "One of your main focal draws is the carousel...that was really the start of where we came from, building on that — the whimsy of the carousel building."

McCann also noted that people were concerned about safety on the Dave Clark Trail and that surveillance and lighting would be important. A beer garden was also an option for the path.

"You have a really rich history in Albany," McCann said. "And one thing we heard was people asking that the park feel like it was of Albany."

Plans for Water Avenue could include a one-way street that could house events like farmer's markets.

Walker Macy will return to the board in July with a more complete plan for the design concept. 

The city is currently sharing the progress of the project on its website at cityofalbany.net

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