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Downtown Schenectady Master Plan — VI: Downtown Development Plan

Go back to: DSMP Home | Downtown Development Plan Part 1 | ahead to: Appendix A

[This information is from pp. 133-183 of the Downtown Schenectady Master Plan prepared by Hunter Interests, Inc. in 1999, and is reproduced with their permission. It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy R 711 DOWf.]

2. Office Development Strategy

Downtown Schenectady has experienced relatively little new office development during the past 30 years. During this time the downtown area also experienced a net out-migration of office workers. This contributed to the decline in the number of retail and service establishments downtown, with the result being fewer people on the streets of downtown Schenectady during daytime hours, and reduced patronage for the restaurants and retail establishments that remain.

To be consistent with the overall strategy of focusing new development on a relatively small impact area in order to produce synergistic and mutually reinforcing effects, the Hunter/Sasaki team recommended that initial new office developments be located in the previously described focus area along the State Street corridor between Erie Boulevard and Veteran's Park. Fortunately, through the leadership of City officials, the SEDC, and the partnership participation of Metroplex, two new large office developments emerged during 1999 while this planning program was under way. We were successful in having both of these projects located in the designated focus area for maximum impact.

Office space is an important land use for central business districts. It attracts a significant number of people to downtown during the daytime and positively impacts demand for urban housing, food and beverage establishments, and to a lesser extent, retail. However, office development alone will not create a vibrant, livable urban center.

It is imperative that new large office development projects be built around, and incorporated into, the civic and urban fabric of downtown. They must be integrated into a pedestrian friendly environment to maximize their impact on other surrounding land uses.

In order maximize the impact of office development, we recommended that the two planned major office buildings be positioned to be anchors on the edges of the focus area. The MVP building, which will be located at the corner of State Street and Nott Terrace, will house at least 500 to 600 employees. This signature office development will help to jumpstart improvements to Nott Terrace, which is an important connector street. Most importantly, it will create additional daytime movement in the core food/beverage and retail area of downtown. It is essential that the streetscape between the MVP Building and State Street retail farther west be improved to induce MVP workers to walk down the hill for lunch and shopping. The MVP building is planned to have service/retail functions on the first floor, which will have a positive impact on the existing urban fabric. Retail and food/beverage uses are more important than commercial services at this location.

The DOT building, which will house an additional 500 employees, will be located at the corner of State Street and Broadway, providing another source of food and beverage demand in the focus area. This location is extremely important as it introduces these permanent employees directly into the heart of downtown Schenectady. It is impossible to overstate the importance of this location to implement this strategy of using office as a daytime people generator in the core of the downtown area. Both of these buildings will have a significant positive impact in the way investors and business operators perceive downtown.

The Hunter/Sasaki team recommends that the next major office development anchor the Western Gateway Transportation Center on Erie Boulevard, adjacent to the focus area. Other recommended sites for additional large-scale office development include lower Broadway, adjacent to the existing parking garage, and the corner of Lafayette and Franklin Streets. A Lafayette and Franklin location creates opportunities to share planned parking facilities. The Broadway site provides the opportunity to share parking with the existing garage, which is scheduled for expansion in the initial stages of the master plan implementation.

As downtown environmental and economic conditions strengthen as a result of Phase I action steps, it is likely that additional office development will occur over the long range. Recommended Phase II large-scale office development sites include areas along Erie Boulevard that could evolve into a mixed use office complex with a research and development focus (as shown in Figure 54). Alternative office development sites also include areas along Broadway. Office development in these two areas would help leverage improvements to Erie and lower Broadway, including the recommended long-range connector under the railroad.

The recommended small office strategy focuses on the reuse of existing buildings for law firms, accountants, architects, engineering consultancies, and other professional and service establishments that are small space users, sometimes seeking lower rents and/or space with unique histories or architectural character. The reuse of these building will face many of the same obstacles as the redevelopment of upper floors for housing. However, if the historical use of a building was as an office, the reuse of existing vacant upper floors for office space should be easier than residential reuse. Restrictions associated with ADA requirements and building code items that are not "health and safety" related may be able to be relaxed in certain instances to facilitate existing space reuse.

The key to increased utilization of existing building space will be to make the surrounding environment as attractive as possible. It will be necessary to attract restaurants and convenience retail, such as office supply stores, as well as provideincentives to rehab space. The data base developed to attract entertainment and retail establishments should also be utilized to attract prospective small office tenants. We recommend that small office users be targeted for upper and ground level floors that are deemed infeasible for food and beverage, retail, and service functions.

a. MVP Headquarters Office Building

Impact: The most important impact is the retention of 500 employees in downtown, which will have a significant psychological impact. The new MVP building may actually include additional space for MVP expansions and other tenants, making the total building employment possibly in excess of 800 workers. The shift in location of MVP headquarters within downtown will create an anchor for the focus area of the revitalization plan. The proximity to the focus area and increase in the number of MVP employees in the heart of downtown should increase the total amount of direct spending by MVP employees once additional food and beverage, entertainment, and retail establishments are attracted to the focus area.

Responsibility — Private developer and MVP leadership; Support from Metroplex, Schenectady County, City of Schenectady, and IDA.

MVP total estimated project costs $35 million for a 200,000 to 225,000 square foot building (office building and parking). Estimated public sector cost is $8 million.

b. Department of Transportation Office Building

Daytime impact should be significant with the introduction of 500 new employees to downtown. The relocation of state workers to downtown has already begun to positively impact food and beverage establishments and retail, as a result of the relocation of the Department of Aging. If 30% of the 500 new employees eat lunch in downtown establishments, at an average cost of $6, an estimated $220,000 to $240,000 will be generated in new food and beverage spending in downtown annually. Although difficult to quantify, additional retail and housing demand will also be realized. There will also be a major positive impact on the perception of downtown

Responsibility — Office of General Services and Schenectady IDA leadership, support from Metroplex, DOT, and private sector developer who will be solicited via a formal RFP to be issued by OGS, City of Schenectady.

Total project cost — $22 million (Office Building and Parking)

Total local public sector cost — $6 million

c. Western Gateway Transportation Center

In a parallel master plan, the City of Schenectady is pursuing the development of the Western Gateway Transportation Center, a transportation center that will link intercity rail and bus service, local bus service, commuter rail, automobile, bicycle, and pedestrian traffic at a single location in downtown Schenectady. A major catalyst for this reinvestment in the region's and city's infrastructure was the introduction of high speed rail service in Schenectady.

The Western Gateway Transportation Center includes a four-story building (80,000 square feet), transportation-related museum, restaurant/retail shop (20,000 square feet), and a public plaza. The public plaza will serve as a front door to the intermodal facility and the museum on Erie Boulevard. The Gateway Center master plan and rendering is presented in Appendix C. (View 1) (View 2)

A key issue raised by the public during the planing process for this project is the need to reestablish a sense of civic pride for the architecture of the City's transportation facilities. Thus, the architecture will be sensitive to the historic character of the city and the stature of civic facilities, much like the prior rail station.

It is noteworthy that the intermodal facility component of the Western Gateway Transportation Center is a key component of the Capital District's "REVEST" program. The program links a number of inter-related rail initiatives to improve rail service and to improve the synergy between various projects. Other linked projects include renovation of the Saratoga Springs train station, construction of a second track between Rensselaer and Schenectady, construction of the new Rensselaer train station and the Commuter Rail Demonstration Project (which is likely to use the Western Gateway Transportation Center).

d. Attraction of Additional Large Scale Development

Responsibility — SEDC leadership; Support from Metroplex, City of Schenectady, Schenectady IDA

Anticipated Total Project Cost — $38-$45 million (office building and parking)

Anticipated Public Sector Cost — $547 million (parking)

e. Small Office User Attraction

Responsibility — Initial Leadership from SEDC followed by Downtown Management Organization; Support from the City of Schenectady

Anticipated Total Public Sector Cost — $700,000 to $900,000 initial loan and grant program to facilitate rehab of upper floor space for office use (see Effectuation Techniques section for details).

The following diagrams in Figures 54 through 59 graphically show the overlapping impacts of the office development strategy. The first diagram in Figure 54 shows existing and planned new large office buildings in the focus area and the relationship of these daytime employment centers to State Street retailing. The following diagrams show the zones of influence of existing and planned new large office buildings-office employees can be expected to walk one to three blocks depending upon conditions (e.g., grade, weather, amenities, how pleasant the walk is, etc.). The combined impact of the large office development strategy will be to energize State Street during the day, particularly during mid-day lunch breaks with white-collar workers on the street. This, in turn, will generate business for existing and new retail and restaurant establishments along State Street and its adjacent feeder streets. These changes will assist changing perceptions regarding the safety and comfort of being in downtown Schenectady.

Figure 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60

3. Small Business Retention and Attraction Strategy

In each of the land use development strategies, the attraction of small business and existing space users is a critical element. In order to successfully attract a mix of unique small business establishments and upper floor users, outdated buildings need to be made economically feasible for renovations whenever possible. Where this is not feasible, consideration should be given to demolition and replacement as markets strengthen. Part of the strategy to make existing downtown buildings economically feasible is the attraction of additional demand, which, in turn, increases rent levels. The other part of the equation is filling the "gap" between what is supportable by the market and what is not, in terms of the investment cost to renovate outdated space. If public policy is to save the downtown urban fabric through renovation, there will be a need for public funds to close the economic gap in initial renovations to jump start revitalization market forces.

An appropriate mix of the techniques recommended below needs to be determined at each stage of the renovation process. The existing loan programs need to be enhanced to close economic gaps for building renovation, fagade improvements, and the attraction of business establishments that contribute to the desired downtown mix. These programs have been effectively used when candidate users have come forward. To make these programs even more effective with a large combined impact, three changes are necessary:

A portion of the marketing budget should be allocated to a real estate broker incentive program that rewards brokers when they bring new business to downtown. Similar successful programs in other cities give brokers $5,000 for each new business, once the business has been in operation for three to five years.

An easily understood promotional package illustrating the planned downtown improvements, available financial incentive programs, and a database of available space and preferred land use designation should be prepared. This can also be accomplished by the expanded downtown management organization.

We also recommend that a modified matching grant program be created for facade and building improvements. The grant program would provide a 2-for-1 matching grant for facade improvements and a 1-for-1 grant for building improvements. For example, if a property owner could invest $5,000 in facade improvements, the grant would be $10,000, provided that the property owners and tenants maintain the improvements in good, clean, and graffiti-free condition for 10 years. The agreements should stipulate that if these conditions are not met, the City will have the option to place a lien on the property and in some large loan cases take the property and use it to facilitate small business growth.

A first-time business move-in grant for small businesses should also be established. In order to receive a business grant, the entrepreneur would have to agree to stay in the community for 10 years, or the full amount of the grant would have to be repaid. It is anticipated that move-in grants will be established for 10 to 20 food and beverage establishments and 10 to 20 arts/entertainment-related retail establishments. A review committee comprised of representatives of local government funding agencies could oversee the selection of applicants for movein grants to ensure that the appropriate mix is realized. Screening and recommendations would be made by the downtown management organization. Entrepreneurs should be solicited via a formal RFP process that is widely publicized throughout the region and in artist enclaves throughout the nation.

Initially, the small business strategy should be focused on the entire downtown State Street corridor and a few adjacent streets such as Jay Street, as shown in Figure 61. Other existing buildings that can be improved and adapted for small office, commercial, service, and retail functions, whether or not in the focus zone, should be pursued. The small business strategy need not be confined to the focus zone since individual impacts may be less than larger projects such as large new office buildings, yet, small business improvement actions are extremely important throughout downtown Schenectady. A large number of small and marginally successful businesses have remained in downtown Schenectady during the hard times-now is the time to assist them wherever they exist in the downtown area in order to help them grow and prosper.

4. Retail Development Strategy

a. Overview of Trends Affecting Urban Retailing

Retail is a critical element of a successful urban center. A successful cluster of stores encourages personal interaction and gathering, both planned and spontaneous. It is critical that storefronts visually and functionally open to the street to enliven street life, fostering browsing and window shopping.

Nationwide, retailers are experiencing a decline in earnings growth, causing many to conclude that the markets are rapidly becoming saturated. The United States currently has approximately 19 square feet of retail space per capita, compared to 7 square feet per capita in Europe. The larger percentage of household income allocated to retail purchases in the United States partially explains this difference, yet the absolute statistics on national retail square footage are troublesome to some analysts.

Traditional retailers are losing market share to travel-related expenditures, restaurants, spas, and other entertainment outlets as the urge to "get away from it all" has increased. This increase is partly attributed to the shifting needs of the American family, as dual income families look for better and different ways to relax. There has also been a shift in focus from just buying things for kids to getting them involved in activities and preparing them for the future. People are increasingly searching for enriching experiences, and many have begun to realize that suburban malls are very limited in what they have to offer, not only in terms of experience, but products as well.

This gradual shift in big-picture trends fits well with the Schenectady Downtown 'Master Plan orientation toward the arts, entertainment, dining, and sporting events. One of the dominant national trends in retailing during the past five years has been the convergence of retail sales with food/beverage establishments and entertainment venue. Retail stores like Niketown are themed entertainment attractions, which were originally conceived to sell the company brand name rather than for the purpose of individual store sales. Contemporary food/beverage establishments like the Hard Rock Cafe book as much as 30% of gross revenues from retail sales. Leading edge stores like ESPN Zone defy description — is it a restaurant, an entertainment center, a sports bar, a retail store, or what?

Even in malls, convergence of retail/entertaimuent/food is apparent as center managers create different daytime and evening environments for different sets of customers. The mall itself, as well as individual stores, will change the lighting, music, events, and window displays from a look appealing to the daytime shopper to a more hip and exciting evening environment to cater to a younger and more "with it" evening customer group.

An emerging role of urban environments is to provide a place for social interaction outside the workplace and the home. It is extremely important that downtown's retail be positioned to provide shoppers an entertaining and social experience. This will help overcome perceived barriers such as parking and safety. Street-front retail has the opportunity through window displays to amuse, entertain, create pedestrian traffic, and draw customers into establishments.

As the already fast pace of life is continually accelerated by technological advances, the American consumer also seeks what is thought to have been comfortable in the past. Downtowns and urban shopping destinations can fulfil a need for consumers who seek experiences that connect them to their past. Younger generations appear to be backlashing against the "mall culture" and are reaching back to the pedestrian-oriented "Main Street" experience that their grandparents and parents enjoyed. The 18-35 age group has been increasingly avoiding suburban malls and department stores. Retail and entertainment in downtown should be positioned to appeal to this demand segment to capture discretionary spending and, more importantly, to help create an image of downtown as "the hip place to be" in the Capital Region. Interviews with young residents of Schenectady in the 18-35 age group indicate there are few entertainment options in the City and County and there is no well defined place to be and to be seen in Schenectady.

Food and beverage, entertainment, and retail benefit significantly from clustering and the realization of critical mass. Greenville, South Carolina, a city with a population of approximately 60,000, has seen its downtown evolve into a regional leisure destination. Part of downtown Greenville's appeal is an array of entertainment venue and more than 30 restaurants clustered in downtown. Many patrons of the downtown area do not make their restaurant and entertainment selections until after arriving downtown. Some travel significant distances to get to downtown Greenville because they want to be there-to walk the streets, see the sights, smell the restaurant smells, check the lines, window shop, stop in stores and galleries, and eventually dine and be entertained. No place currently exists in Schenectady that provides a comparable experience.

In order to determine the true potential of retail in downtown Schenectady it is necessary to understand the market factors that impact the viability of urban retail. We have summarized below some of the positive and negative factors that affect retail development and performance, as well as some specific impacts associated with national trends.

  1. Negative Factors
    • Regional malls and some specialty centers can afford to absorb lower than market rents to attract certain national chains, which, in turn, allow higher rents to be charged to other tenants. Urban retail developments typically cannot do this because of multiple ownership.
    • Malls are managed environments where every detail, including security, level of cleanliness, hours of operation, appearance of stores, mix of retail offering, parking, and advertising, are all controlled by one entity. Urban retail districts typically rely on market forces and less tightly controlled organizational structures to advertise and market independently owned properties.
    • Accessibility and parking are areas in which urban retail establishments must compete with suburban shopping centers for shopping demand. Similar to the experiences of many downtowns throughout the country, downtown Schenectady is at a competitive disadvantage because of the perceived and real cost and difficulty of parking relative to the accessibility and parking alternatives provided at suburban shopping centers. Throughout the country this advantage has been one of the primary reasons for the success of malls and the demise of Main Street shopping districts.
    • Downtown currently lacks primary uses that will attract significant levels of pedestrian traffic, which, in turn, generates visits to surrounding retail. Mail environments typically use entertainment attractions such as movie theaters, ice rinks, and amusement park rides which are heavily subsidized because they attract additional retail demand which in turns allows mall operators to increase rent levels.
  2. Positive Factors
    • Neighborhoods surrounding and within downtown are home to a significant amount of retail spending power. A substantial amount of the retail demand generated by City residents is leaking out of the City.
    • Downtown hotel demand represents an opportunity for retailers that offers unique products germane to Schenectady and the region.
    • Daytime employment represents a market opportunity for properly positioned retail.
    • Downtown has the opportunity to emerge as the region's entertainment hub, which creates the opportunity for retail that is entertainment oriented, such as bookstores and music stores.
    • Most importantly, downtown has the potential to be a one-of-a-kind entertainment district that is uniquely different from any shopping mall, and which capitalizes on its urban character and its cosmopolitan environment.

Market forces will prevent downtown from replicating retail characteristics of malls. Given the competitive advantage provided by the malls for traditional shopping trips, the challenge to downtown retailing is to find a market niche that capitalizes on downtown's urban environment and its central city opportunities. That niche should be as a contemporary entertainment-retail center that is quite different from the malls.

The following list of goals for downtown retail and entertainment emerged from Hunter/Sasaki team discussions and citizen forums during the downtown planning process.

b. Retail Enhancement Strategy

As cited previously, the overall strategy to revitalize downtown Schenectady is to introduce a few key economic generators in a relatively small focus area that blend into the existing urban fabric, coupled with the expansion and attraction of smaller establishments that fill existing space and contribute to the creation of a safe and vibrant urban district.

Since the interaction of large-scale retail such as an anchor department store is infeasible, the retail enhancement strategy focuses on smaller establishments that feed off of existing and proposed office and entertaiment anchors. The primary retail action steps involve the creation of a retail recruitment and incentive program for street-level retail. Many American cities have used downtown development organizations and Business Improvement Districts to plan and sponsor the implementation of successful downtown retail expansion programs. With a well funded and staffed downtown management organization, Schenectady can do the same.

The individual hired to manage the recruitment effort ideally will have had experience in turning around strip centers, leasing downtown retail space, and/or negotiating innovative retail leasing arrangements with absentee owners, trust officers, second/third generation family property owners, and large chain stores located in other cities. In the business, this type of person is affectionately referred to as "a trash man" — one who has experienced the nitty-gritty of leasing less desirable space "in the trenches." Some of the most difficult retail leasing challenges are in a declining downtown market environment and in today's obsolete strip centers, which may be poorly located and may have numerous functional and aesthetic problems.

A complementary program to consider is a broker incentive program that provides a monetary reward to brokers who bring street-front retailers into a designated zone. The monetary reward is typically given after the retail establishment has been in business for a stipulated time. The establishment also must meet the store type criteria established at the outset. A leasing agent who has succeeded in this environment is the proper professional to head the retail recruitment program.

A concentration of art galleries and studios for working artists and eclectic retail establishments would be an excellent use of street-front retail along State and Jay Streets. We recommend that upper State Street be initially targeted for food and beverage development with art-related retail the second preferred use. Lower State Street should be targeted for additional art galleries and art-related retail.

Artists who share equipment could be grouped together to reduce the cost of space and encourage startups in an "artists' incubator and co-op." A formal co-op should also be explored for larger available space along lower State Street. The Hunter/Sasaki team anticipates that the downtown management organization charged with the overall implementation of the master plan will work in tandem with Proctor's officials to recruit additional arts-related establishments to downtown. The artists' incubator could become a showcase for local artists and could include opportunities for consumers to interact with the artists. The Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, Virginia, is a successful example.

A clustering of art establishments creates a special place, atmosphere, and energy that makes people want to be there and be seen. It also creates housing demand for that area.

Other non-art-oriented retailing will follow into downtown as the artist mix matures, much like recent maturation trends in art-centered areas like Soho, South Beach, and the French Quarter. In essence, lower State Street can become the eclectic, artsy core of downtown — a unique niche offering which complements the more upscale entertainment offering on upper State Street.

c. Retail Action Steps

  1. Attract Cinema developer/operator, attract food and beverage establishments, expand Proctor's to create/attract additional retail demand to downtown. See arts and entertainment section for details.
  2. Attraction of 10-20 Arts-Related Retail Establishments
    • Finalize recruitment and incentive programs — December-March 2000
    • Create database of available suitable space — December-March 2000
    • Promotional/advertising campaign — January-June 2000
    • Manage arts and entertaimnent offering — Ongoing

    Responsibility — SEDC and Downtown Management Organization leadership; Support from Proctor's/Arts District, Metroplex, City of Schenectady.

    Anticipated initial public sector and quasi public sector cost — $700,000-$900,000

  3. Create Management Organization to Nurture and Grow Downtown Retail Offering

    See discussion of the downtown management organization.

5. Residential Development Strategy

Increasing the number of people living in a downtown area is a high goal in virtually all downtown revitalization programs. Simply stated, the impact of each additional downtown resident in terms of expenditures in downtown businesses, effectively using marginal space, upgrading older buildings, and simply putting more people on the streets is much greater than, for example, adding another downtown employee. However, market demand for residential units in downtown Schenectady is low, and current conditions require significant improvement before market rate housing in downtown Schenectady will be feasible, particularly on the upper floors of commercial buildings in the business district. The perception of safety by seeing more people on the street and more daytime and evening activity in storefront space will be necessary before attempting significant new residential development. Consequently, the Hunter/Sasaki team recommends preparing a broad-based and diversified residential improvement program for the later stages of downtown Schenectady revitalization, and concentrating on shortterm improvements in other sectors which will enhance the overall environment for the residential revitalization which comes later.

a. Residential Linkage to Revitalization

An increased residential base in and near downtown Schenectady will provide additional market support for retail, entertainment, and restaurant business. It will also serve an important purpose in increasing pedestrian activity in the core, which, in turn, enhances the perception of a safe environment. Great cities are dense, compact, and multi-dimensional. Urban residential development/ redevelopment is a key component in the creation of safe, dense, 24-hour, multiuse urban environments.

One of the great opportunities to increase density and maximize the utilization of existing vacant downtown structures is to make downtown Schenectady an attractive alternative for young professionals, singles, students, "empty nesters," and others who seek the advantages of in-town living. They may be attracted to urban living situations for a variety of reasons including its uniqueness relative to suburban apartments, its proximity to work, and/or their interest in living where dependence on the car can be minimized. A sense of adventure, cost competitiveness, and attraction to downtown amenities may overcome any negatives associated with the urban environment.

One of the key methods of enhancing a downtown's appeal to the aforementioned market segments is to strengthen and expand its entertainment, restaurant and bar offerings, convenience retail, and other services. In essence, the type of person to whom downtown housing will appeal is the type of person who likes to go out at night. Schenectady's growing arts community represents one key source of demand for loft development in the downtown core. Other sources could include downtown office workers, as well as local college and graduate students. These tenants would not only fill vacant space, increase the resident population, and contribute to the economic support of downtown business, but they would also infuse additional energy, diversity, and creativity into the local population, which will further enhance the downtown experience for everyone.

In order to maximize the appeal of the unique urban residential environment and the impact on the re-use of currently underutilized upper floors of buildings, the economic feasibility of converting upper floors to luxury loft-style living must be addressed, along with the regulatory environment and approval process.

The underutilized and often empty upper floors of buildings in United States urban centers have often been viewed as potential residential developments by city planners and property owners. The prospect of filling these spaces with people, thereby generating revenue for the building owner and injecting a new source of consumer demand into the downtown market is undoubtedly attractive. However, the realities associated with achieving this type of reuse on a large scale are difficult at best. Issues of code restrictions, private access, parking, zoning, and other hurdles stand in the way of a successful upper floor residential program Nonetheless, the benefits to the city and to potential users who want to live in the heart of town warrant a concerted effort to solve these problems and increase the utilization of existing structures and the number of upper floor residential units, as well as upgrade the overall quality of existing underutilized residential units. It should be noted that the other primary alternative usage of existing upper floor space is small offices.

One of the main difficulties associated with residential development in downtown areas, especially upper floor usage, is building codes, which can make conversion economically infeasible. This catch-22 of urban residential development is being solved in different cities through a variety of programs designed to accept the realities of the situation and provide solutions. For example, in New Jersey a program called Upstairs Downtown has been created to encourage residential use of upper floor areas in older urban buildings. In essence, the program consists of code revisions for qualifying properties and a "set-aside" for low interest loans for required renovations. A formula of minimum square footage to the number of allowable units is coupled with a point system to enable qualification in the program. A less structured program with the same purpose has also been implemented with success in Memphis, Tennessee. While there are other examples that should ultimately be studied in the quest to craft a viable program for Schenectady, there is no cookie-cutter formula that can be applied.

Generally, the goal of increased residential development will require a heightened level of interaction between the city, building owners, and developers. Public sector involvement may also be required to solve some problems. Public assistance can come in different forms including cash and non-cash programs, review of parking requirements, establishment of resident parking zones, or other facilitating measures.

b. Existing Market Conditions and Downtown Housing

The median selling price of homes in Schenectady County decreased by 6.3% from 1997 to 1998. Over the past seven years the median selling price in Schenectady County has been the lowest among Albany, Rensselaer, and Saratoga County. The 1998 median sale price of $85,600 is $10,590 below the recent high of $96,190 experienced in 1993. The recent gradual downward trend in selling price, coupled with a dramatic increase in the number of homes sold in 1998, may indicate the beginning of a buying market in the City of Schenectady and Schenectady County. Savvy buyers have begun to respond to the cost-to-value relationship that Schenectady County offers. It is interesting to note that Saratoga, which was viewed as "the place to be" by many in the Capital Region, and Schenectady County, which until recently has been viewed as the place not to buy, both experienced substantially greater increase in the number of homes sold in 1998 than did the overall Capital Region area.

Table 22: Median Selling Price of Homes
County19921993199419951996199719981997-1998
% Change
Albany$118,400$115,180$115,120$107,480$113,500$110,500$113,5002.7%
Rensselaer$98,710$97,710$98,710$95,920$91,000$95,400$90,000-5.7%
Saratoga$116,160$119,400$123,300$119,400$117,780$115,100$128,76011.9%
Schenectady$96,040$96,190$93,420$85,200$87,880$91,380$85,600-6.3%

Source: New York State Association of Realtors; Hunter Interests Inc.

Table 23: Number of Homes Sold
County19921993199419951996199719981997-1998
% Change
Albany2,0632,1672,0641,6341,9001,8712,21818.5%
Rensselaer75988389574779378992317.0%
Saratoga1,6101,7531,6891,5581,7306902,046196.5%
Schenectady1,0991,0008708638926121,17992.6%

Source: New York State Association of Realtors; Hunter Interests Inc.

Currently, there are approximately 28,600 housing units within a 2-mile radius of State Street and Broadway, which is down 3% from 1990 figures. The majority (79.3% or 23,475) of the downtown housing units were built prior to 1949, and 20,041 of these units were built prior to 1939. The historical residential development pattern in downtown Schenectady provides the benefit of a significant supply of unique and/or historic housing that cannot be duplicated in a suburban environment. The residential development pattern also may indicate a void in the market for more contemporary urban housing. It is likely that this void cannot be capitalized upon to realize new residential development until other environmental factors in downtown are addressed.

A review of the type of building structures in downtown indicates that 34%, or 10,061 units, within the 2-mile ring of downtown are single-family detached units; 10,392 units are structures with 2 units; 7,194 are in structures with 3 to 49 units; and 693 are in structures with over 50 units.

Current five-year estimates based on the market projections and existing market and environmental conditions indicate that downtown Schenectady's 2-mile core area may lose approximately 608 or 4.1% of the total housing units, and 746 households by the year 2004. Conversely, the suburbs surrounding downtown Schenectady are projected to lose a much smaller percentage of the existing housing stock (1.2% in the 5-mile ring surrounding downtown).

Based on an analysis of existing conditions in downtown and the available housing stock within and surrounding the core area, improvements to downtown Schenectady's environment, as recommended in the downtown plan, should have a significant positive impact on the perception of urban living in Schenectady as they are implemented. This should, in turn, serve as a catalyst to increase the total number of occupied housing units in the core area. The factors that first must be addressed include real and perceived safety issues, providing convenient parking for downtown residents, and expanding the existing entertainment offering and other services and convenience retail. Another important consideration should be to improve the overall appearance of the area (e.g., addition of greenspace, lighting, and streetscape). All of these issues are being addressed in the downtown plan.

The current median value of housing units within a 2-mile radius of downtown is estimated to be $98,700, based on 1990 U.S. Census figures which have been adjusted for inflation and current market conditions. A void in the market appears to exist in the $120,000 to $150,000 range for single family or townhome-type residences in the core. This is based on interviews with local realtors and a review of U.S Census data that indicates that only 22.3% of total available housing units in the 2-mile ring are valued over $120,000. Some of the higher valued units in the downtown area are in the Stockade neighborhood, which is considered safe and stable, and which can experience an increase in value over the short run and realize some expansion in adjacent areas.

It is estimated that currently 41.0% of the total occupied downtown housing units are owner occupied and 59% are renter-occupied units, compared to over 62% owner-occupied units in the 5-mile ring surrounding downtown. As the appeal of urban living in Schenectady is enhanced by other revitalization plan components, the percentage of owner-occupied units should increase, which will, in turn, create a more stable, cleaner, and safer community. The logical target market for purchasing downtown housing is empty nesters and young professionals, as indicated by current downtown owner/tenant patterns, which reveal that an estimated 43.0% of the residents within the 2-mile ring are non-families.

Based on 1990 census data adjusted for inflation and recent market conditions, it is estimated that 23% or 3,420 of the available rental units in the 2-mile core area are in the $350 to $449 rent range, and only 11.6%, or 1,725 units, command a rent level over $650. This indicates a lack of high quality rental units and/or a current lack of demand for more upscale urban living in Schenectady. A major apartment operator in downtown Schenectady has stated that the majority of their vacancies are attributed to the quality of the product offered. Based on their experience and feedback from potential demand generators, it is believed that with an upgraded downtown environment and improved rental product offering, the downtown rental market will strengthen considerably. In addition, downtown apartment complex operators believe that there is demand for extended-stay, furnished apartments and additional loft-style market rate and luxury permanent residences.

Currently, upper floor housing in the downtown Schenectady core is largely focused in the Jay Street area. According to area realtors, a substantial number of the apartments for rent in this area are Section 8, or low-income housing. Many units remain vacant for an extended period of time causing the owner to turn to Section 8 options. When this occurs, the buildings often become neglected and, in turn, deter would-be market rate renters from considering the area.

c. Recommendations to Expand and Strengthen the Downtown Housing Market

While residential conversions, upgrades, and new residential development will not be the primary driver in downtown Schenectady revitalization, the enhancement of housing stock is a key component to the realization of a vibrant, safe, 24-hour urban center. There are a number of market factors and proposed master plan components that can be capitalized upon and promoted to improve the housing stock in the core area.

The Hunter/Sasaki team is aware of the impact of New York State codes on the conversion of existing space to upper floor residences (e.g., the need for elevators for many existing downtown buildings if the use is changed) and the economic limitations created. Without the introduction of legislation to relax the building codes in New York's downtowns to better utilize existing building stock, upper floor residential conversion will need to be done on a case-by-case basis. We recommend that the downtown management organization continue the work previously done by Schenectady 2000, which surveyed potential conversion opportunities. It should identify a list of properties that are easily converted/upgraded, followed by a secondary list that would require code allowances or variances. A number of cities have been successful in implementing this strategy by relaxing codes without compromising health and safety requirements for working artists' residences that technically maintain the first use of the structure as a work/office space. With the advent of home offices and telecommuting in other professions, the "artist" definition may need to be broadened.

Proctor's has begun to explore the feasibility of developing working/living space for the Parker building. This development would be extremely complementary and generative for the emerging arts district in downtown Schenectady. We envision that Proctor's, in tandem with the downtown management organization, will spearhead a recruitment effort to attract artists and galleries to downtown Schenectady as part of the first phase of implementation of the master plan. It should also be noted that the development of Charter School, with a focus on the arts, is being considered as part of the master plan in the downtown core area. This educational development would help create additional residential demand from families of students that will want to be close to school, as well as demand from teachers and other employees at the school.

An interesting program created by developers in Atlanta may have an application to the core area of Schenectady. Some loft developers have proposed setting aside 20% of their apartments for low-income residents in exchange for tax credits. The developers are filling their subsidized units with the most unlikely of low-income tenants — college-educated, poorly paid artists. Recommendations from Atlanta's Nexus Contemporary Arts Center have created a flood of demand from photographers, sculptors, painters, and performing artists. The subsidized lofts rent for an average $475 per month and have created a vibrant community where only vacant buildings once stood. They have also increased demand for unsubsidized loft apartments and luxury units that are being developed as a result of the new atmosphere. The combination of the tax credits coupled with the premium paid for the market rate apartments as a result of the cachet created by the opportunity to live among artists has turned previously infeasible conversions into occupied buildings.

The current downtown Schenectady housing market does not warrant large-scale development of new housing, particularly given the considerable amount of underutilized, undervalued, and under-maintained existing housing stock. Before any major new infill housing development will occur the environmental factors in downtown will have to be improved. The office population must be expanded and the existing housing stock that is considered of poor quality must be upgraded.

Once these changes have taken effect, a number of infill housing opportunities can be realized. The first is an 18-25-unit townhome development that would serve as a transition into the Stockade area, with an entrance from Erie Boulevard directly across from the intermodal station. The envisioned townhomes would range from $125,000 to $160,000 in 1999 dollars and include a courtyard and garage parking. A more distant infill housing opportunity may exist in 5 to 10 years along Broadway as part of a mixed use development project.

Privately developed housing for college students in the vicinity of Schenectady Community College is another housing opportunity that should be considered as part of the College's overall expansion plan, and may be able to be implemented over the next three to six years. This program can be modeled after the successful residential program operated by Union College in the northern section of downtown Schenectady.

d. Downtown Housing Action Steps

  1. Upper Floor Residential Conversion Program
    • Create data base of available suitable space for residential conversion — December 1999-May 2000
    • Finalize incentive/loan program — Early 2000 (see Effectuation Techniques section)
    • Promotional/advertising campaign that illustrates the benefits of urban living in Schenectady, with an emphasis on the opportunity for young entrepreneurs and risk takers to create value for themselves by moving into Schenectady and rehabbing existing structures. Artists and young professionals can increase the value of their investments, or their landlords', by helping improve the perception of downtown Schenectady. Landlords with substantial residential holdings in downtown which are underutilized should be encouraged to participate in rent subsidy programs in a way that enables artists to live and work in the downtown area. This, in turn, will serve to shift the perception of downtown to one of a desirable place to live, which will strengthen the downtown residential market and enhance the value of all properties. — Spring 2000

      Responsibility — Downtown Management Organization leadership; support from the City of Schenectady, Metroplex

      Anticipated initial public sector and quasi-public sector cost for loan/rent subsidy program — $550,000 to $800,000

  2. Implement entertainment, restaurant, and office recommendations to attract dwellers. Implement the aesthetic improvement plan and enhance the downtown management organization's impact to improve environmental factors

    Responsibility — Downtown Management Organization, City of Schenectady, Metroplex, SEDC, Schenectady County, Chamber of Commerce, Proctor's

    Anticipated public sector and quasi-public sector cost — see individual land use action step recommendations

  3. Convert Parker Building to Working Artists' Space
    • Develop Business plan — Early 2000
    • Recruit working artists — Spring 2000
    • Begin construction — Summer 2000

      Responsibility — Proctor's leadership; Support from the City of Schenectady, Metroplex

      Anticipated renovation cost floors 3-8 — $700,000 to $800,000

  4. Develop Infill Housing
    • Secure transferable option on Erie Boulevard infill housing site 2003-2004
    • Issue RFP for high quality urban housing — 2004

      Responsibility — Downtown Management Organization leadership; Support from SEDC, Metroplex, the City of Schenectady

  5. Develop Student Housing Near Schenectady Community College
    • Secure transferable option on student housing site — 2003-2006
    • Issue RFP for student housing 2004-2006

      Responsibility — Private Developer and SCC Foundation leadership; Support from Schenectady County, Downtown Management Organization, Metroplex, SEDC, City of Schenectady

6. Civic Events and Festival Strategy

Figure 63

Many cities have successfully used civic events and festivals in their downtown areas to bring people back downtown, put more people on the streets, and create additional reasons for suburbanites to visit the downtown area. Positive experiences when visiting downtown are particularly important for those who do not frequent the downtown area regularly. In Denver, for example, Buskerfest is a week-long celebration of European-style street performers which has become extremely popular-suburban families bring young children downtown to see different performers in a festival environment, with everyone having fan. Other cities use back-to-back festivals every week during good weather to create multiple reasons for new people to come downtown. Even the set-up and cleanup activities bring more life and energy to the downtown area.

Schenectady has had a number of successful festivals and civic events in recent years, many of which still continue. Jazz on Jay is a lunchtime jazz concert on the Jay Street Pedestrian Mall, frequented by downtown employees and visitors. "Fridays After Five" could become a new after work party during good weather months. Other festivals and events require street closures and special assistance to create a hospitable and functional environment.

An expanded farmer's market is also recommended as a Saturday event that can generate significant downtown visitation. Possible sites are the renovated Trading Port Store, which is on the downtown fringe and might have less direct impact, or the Greek Orthodox Church parking lot along Franklin Street. The latter site could accommodate a larger farmer's market, which if successful in initial experiments, could result in publicly provided paving and landscaping improvement to the church property. This beautification effort would make the church parking lot more attractive when not in use, and would benefit the congregation during services and events at the church.

Beautification improvements to City Hall Plaza should also be undertaken with a view toward hosting small festivals and events. The City of Schenectady can justify these expenditures on the basis of the events program as well as the need to properly maintain and beautify the City Hall property.

The following diagram shows areas where street closures can be facilitated and events of virtually any size can be accommodated. The downtown management organization would ideally have an employee whose sole responsibility is the coordination and spawning of a regular schedule of festivals and events in downtown Schenectady. The focus of these events would be the initial impact area where Veteran's Park, State Street, adjacent feeder streets, and surface parking lots can be pressed into service for short periods to accommodate specific events. Actual sponsorship and event management would be the responsibility of a wide variety of sponsoring organizations, with coordinative assistance from the management organization in the form of arranging permits, street closures, police support, cleanup, etc.

Once organized and staffed, this management organization should contact the International Downtown Association (IDA) for examples of successful festivals and events held by IDA members in downtown areas throughout North America. Many excellent examples with specific objectives such as stimulating retail sales can be found, along with assessment of their impacts, costs, and sponsoring organizations. A full time staff member in the management organization with volunteer support from organizations sponsoring specific events will be necessary to properly implement this important strategy.

Figure 64 | 65 | 66

7. Cultural/Educational Strategy

Downtown Schenectady is considered by many to be the hub of cultural and educational activities in the City. Many valuable comments and ideas were forwarded by Schenectady citizens in group meetings and public forums held during the planning process. Enhancing cultural and educational activities downtown was a theme through many of these discussions. Consequently, the Hunter/Sasaki team inventoried downtown cultural and educational facilities during the planning process and recommended a series of actions and activities to accomplish the goal of improving, supporting, and expanding the array of cultural and educational activities in downtown Schenectady.

The adjacent diagrams show existing cultural facilities such as the Schenectady Museum, library, civic building, etc., as well as downtown churches and educational facilities. Consistent with the overall downtown revitalization strategy, a Phase I zone for focusing cultural/educational activities in the immediate future was defined. Appropriate locations for new cultural attractions and museums were defined, and linkages to employment centers and people generators were explored.

Union College and Schenectady County Community College, both on the fringe of downtown Schenectady, are important cultural and educational resources for the downtown area and the City as a whole. Expansion plans of both institutions were explored with institutional leadership, and the facilitation of institutional expansion in the direction of downtown Schenectady should be assisted. Specifically, reinforcing the link between Union College and State Street along Nott Terrace should be a high priority and should be linked with the Schenectady Museum's expansion, currently in planning, which could cross Nott Terrace and ,include property on the west side. Future expansion of Schenectady County Community College should be directly to the east in the blocks between State Street and Erie Boulevard. Several property acquisition and institutional expansion opportunities exist in this area.

These changes over the short run will enhance market support for downtown activities over the long run, and facilitate revitalization on the northern and western flanks of downtown Schenectady. The Community College expansion will assist in strengthening markets for revitalization along Erie Boulevard, which are not expected to be substantial over the short run, but which may be very significant over the long run when core area revitalization has progressed and new lower cost downtown properties are being sought for additional office, retail, and residential development.

Figure 67 | 68 | 69

8. Parking Development and Transportation Infrastructure Strategy

a. Introduction and Background

The master planning process considered a number of land use and economic development strategies for the Downtown Schenectady area. All of these involved consideration of the existing transportation and parking situation which was addressed earlier in this report. In general, the assessment was that the existing transportation infrastructure is currently adequate, and there are no significant capacity and operational constraints to future development. However, there are existing public parking location deficiencies which result in the eastern and western portions of the downtown area being underserved. At the same time, it was noted that the master planning process must take due cognizance of the City's generalized planning standards, particularly as they relate to Levels of Service, congestion management, and parking availability; all of which impact access and ease of circulation.

This section assesses the transportation and parking needs and potential impacts of the master plan land use concept. It also identifies issues that will need to be considered as the plan is implemented over the short-term (1-5 years) and longterm (5-15 years).

b. Proposed Master Plan Land Use Strategy Transportation Perspective

The land uses proposed for Downtown Schenectady have been discussed in earlier sections of this report. The key elements are highlighted here to provide background and perspective to the evaluation which follows.

The proposed land uses will be developed in two phases, based generally on timeframe and geographic distribution. These can be described as follows:

The core development will generally occur during the first 5 years of plan implementation, with additional development and infill occurring generally during the 5- to 15-year time frame.

c. Transportation Impacts and Needs — A Generalized Assessment

Detailed transportation analyses are outside the scope of this master plan study and are not considered to be necessary after evaluations of the current downtown transportation situation. However, data collection, analyses, and study reviews undertaken by the consultant team, in conjunction with input from City officials, have led to the conclusion that existing transportation infrastructure does not constitute a significant constraint to the revitalization of the study area. Simply stated, the present downtown transportation network was designed for significantly higher levels of usage than presently occur, and in fact, it successfully handled much larger volumes of daily and peak hour traffic in the past.

It is particularly noted that some of the land use proposals (such as the MVP office building) involve relocation and consolidation of employees currently based within the study area. In addition, the site development process for major land uses would require detailed site access and impact evaluation, including the need for off-site transportation improvements. This is currently underway for the State DOT and MVP buildings, and the development concepts for all major sites include provision for off-street parking, consistent with the City's zoning regulations. Since the sites within the core development area are within proximity to the parking lots administered by the Downtown Special Assessment District (DSAD), and the City's Broadway Parking Garage, the parking needs of this subarea were considered in greater detail. This assessment is presented in the section following.

d. Core Development Area-Parking Evaluation

The future parking needs of the core development area were determined based on the following considerations:

Based on these considerations, the parking needs assessment has been developed including information provided by the City from the development concepts and programming for the major development sites. Relatively detailed space utilization has been developed for only some of the projects noted in Table 24. These include the State DOT Building, the Western Gateway Transportation Center and Proctor's Theatre. However, the land use and economic development strategy has established priority for other land uses. These include the Multiscreen Theater, the Omni Development project, the Gordon Brother's development as well as infill development along State Street. Based on these considerations, the parking demand indicated in Table 24 can be considered a reasonable basis for long-term planning purposes.

Table 24: Schenectady Downtown Master Plan — Phase I Core Area Parking Needs Assessment
 Parking Demand
DevelopmentLocation/DescriptionYr. 1-3Yr. 3-5Total
Multi-Screen TheaterState & Broadway (16-screen movie complex)200-200
State DOT BuildingState & Broadway (150,000 gsf Bldg, 500+ employees)425-425
Proctor's TheatreState & Broadway (expansion to 2,700-seat capacity)160-160
Omni DevelopmentTwo Sites, locations to be decided5005001,000
Infill DevelopmentState Street (retail and entertainment)-500500
Gordon Brothers DevelopmentAlong Broadway (mixed use development)200-200
Intermodal Transportation Ctr.State & Erie (office/mixed)-500500
Center City InfillState Street (mixed uses)200-200
Misc. Downtown DevelopmentsCore Area Locations (mixed uses)125125250
 1,8101,6253,435

Source: City of Schenectady; Schenectady Economic Dev. Corp.; Hunter Interests, Inc.; O. R. George & Associates.

Considering the specificity of plans for the State DOT Building, Proctor's Theatre, and infill development within the core area, expansion of the Broadway Parking Garage warrants priority consideration. Structural feasibility assessments have indicated a potential yield of approximately 500 additional parking spaces for this facility. Early implementation of this proposal should contribute in a measurable way to meeting the revitalization needs of the core area.

It is to be noted that the MVP Health Services Building is not included in the assessment for the core area. Programming for this major development site as well as for other scattered office building sites outside the core area will include provision for off-street parking in accordance with the City's zoning requirements. Since the development strategy calls for these peripheral sites to be developed over the long-term (5-15 years), opportunities would be available for further evaluation and assessment, as the master plan implementation moves forward.

9. Management Strategy

The time has come to begin a transition in responsibility and accountability for downtown Schenectady revitalization from just the public sector to a joint public/private sector effort to manage the continued revitalization and growth in downtown Schenectady. The transition envisioned is quite similar to the public-to-private transition that is occurring in the downtown management functions in hundreds of other successful American cities.

Throughout this report reference has been made to a "downtown management organization." The Hunter/Sasaki team feels strongly that successful implementation of the program recommended herein will require a group of fulltime, experienced downtown revitalization managers whose only job is the implementation of the Downtown Schenectady Master Plan. In concert with City and County governments, Metroplex and Schenectady economic development agencies, the downtown management organization would be the "hub of the wheel" which coordinates, facilitates, organizes, and oversees implementation of the various development strategies involved in the ambitious revitalization effort. The organization should be a public/private partnership similar to the business improvement districts (BID) which city after city has organized for this purpose. It is apparent that the existing Downtown Special Assessment District (DSAD) should evolve into such a management structure.

Approximately 1,200 BID organizations have been created in large and small American cities during the past two decades. BIDs are responsible for cleaning up dirty and dilapidated areas like Times Square in New York and the retail district in Center City Philadelphia. In smaller cities like Schenectady, BID organizations are successfully managing downtown revitalization programs like the one recommended in this report. Examples are Kalamazoo, Michigan; Shreveport, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Mesa, Arizona; and West Palm Beach, Florida. Within the Capital Region the Albany downtown BID is successfully implementing an entertainment strategy. The move to create BIDs is sweeping the nation, as private sector leaders realize they can achieve more direct control over the improvement of their environment and can establish maintenance and marketing programs tailored to their specific needs. These programs can go beyond normal municipal services and escalate property values and retail business success.

Regional malls and multiple-venue entertainment destinations like Disney World are true managed environments — central management determines policy and programs to accomplish specific business objectives. The most successful neighborhoods and downtowns throughout the country have transformed themselves into self-managed environments to provide an additional level of security and cleanliness and present unified marketing efforts to customers and businesses. This transformation has been accomplished by the private sector's efforts to form organizations that fund themselves and manage their own environment in partnership with government.

In order to effectively compete for quality retail and business, neighborhood retail districts must become more of a managed environment with an organization that is directly responsive to the needs of businesses and property owners, and is, in fact, controlled by them. BIDs are the most popular type of organization that has evolved to flexibly manage neighborhood retail functions. In order to understand how the "BID revolution" has taken place in American cities, it is useful to understand a hierarchy of community business organizations. The organizational types described below have been tried in various forms in different cities as the trend toward BIDs has evolved.

In most cities the downtown BID provides maintenance and security services, goodwill ambassadors who give directions and escort shoppers to their cars, and retail recruitment functions that ensure the fragile balance in downtown's mix, mass, and mesh of entertainment necessary to preserve and expand market share. They also undertake promotions, events, and festivals, which support retailing rather than hamper it, attracting a new generation of patrons to downtown. They oversee and coordinate the implementation of downtown revitalization strategies, and hold accountable the public and private sector parties whose efforts are key to project development and program implementation.

The Hunter/Sasaki team recommends the following action to create a downtown management organization capable of implementing recommendations included in the Downtown Schenectady Master Plan:

Evolve DSAD into a Larger Downtown Management Organization
Schenectady is fortunate to have already begun the process of establishing a BID-type downtown management organization. While the operating role and budget of DSAD is presently quite limited, the initial organizational hurdles have been cleared and a management organization is up and running. Now, the challenge is to expand DSAD, in stages, to take on additional downtown management responsibilities as described herein. A proposal is currently pending before the DSAD board which has merit but may need to be adjusted and expanded to produce the type of downtown management organization envisioned herein. For example, the operating budget should immediately be expanded to $500,000 to $700,000 per year, with an eventual budget in the $800,000 to $1 million range being necessary when retail recruitment, housing, festival and events programs are in high gear. Consideration should be given to expanding the geographic area and increasing the assessment, in stages, with initial budget subsidies coming from funding sources such as Metroplex and the City of Schenectady. The expansion strategy should be to immediately expand the budget with these subsidies and create the core fulltime staff with an experienced executive director who has successfully run other downtown management districts. As services expand and downtown property owners see the benefits, as the downtown improvement program matures on all fronts, it will be progressively easier to expand the district and its tax increment, eventually significantly reducing or eliminating operating subsidy needs.

Some guidelines to assist the planning for this transition are as follows:

The benefits associated with BID organizations are numerous and diverse. The organizational structure is flexible enough to be oriented toward priorities which are agreed upon locally. Some of the often stated benefits are that BIDs can:

The DSAD/BID should also play an active and immediate role in ensuring that the existing urban fabric is preserved and that only appropriate uses are introduced to the unique character of downtown Schenectady. Another primary role of the BID should be the recruitment of an eclectic mix of entertainment and retail establishments and the development of promotional events such as free concerts and gallery crawls, which can include temporary sidewalk galleries displaying local and regional artists' work.

The normal cost of establishing a DSAD/BID from scratch is approximately $115,000 to $150,000. This amount is primarily associated with the stakeholder educational process and the start-up costs such as establishing an office and conducting a search for an executive director. If the transformation and expansion of DSAD is to be accomplished, as recommended, an expenditure of approximately $ 100,000 over a period of four to six months should be anticipated. However, because this organization is already in place, and since the DSAD board is already in the process or reorganizing, this cost, as well as the time to achieve this reorganization, will be dramatically reduced. In addition, over a five-year phase-in period the DSAD should increase its services and budget up to approximately $700,000 per year. Funds from the City and other available sources should be sought for the initial years while taxation is phased in.

Some of the DSAD/BID organization's early operational tasks, as described in detail in this report, are summarized in Table 25.

Table 25: Action Steps for Downtown Schenectady Revitalization
Action StepsOrganizations InvolvedTotal Cost/Public CostImplementation Timing
Entertainment District Action Steps 
Attract Cinema Developer/OperatorSEDC, M'plex, City, IDA$16-20 M/$12-$16 M12/99-8/00
Proctor's Theatre ImprovementsProctor's, M'plex, County$10-16 M2000
Attract 10-20 F&B EstablishmentsDSAD/BID, M'plex, City, SEDC$2-3.5 M12/99-Ongoing
Attract 10-20 Arts-Related and Live Entertainment EstablishmentsDSAD/BID, Proctor's, M'plex, SEDC, City$2.5-$3 M12/99-Ongoing
Schenectady Museum ExpansionMuseum, DSAD/BID, M'plex, CityTo be determined2000-2002
Develop Farmers Mkt., Festivals, Entertainment SeriesDSAD/BID, M'plex, City$150,000-$300,000/year2000
Office Development Action Steps 
MVP Headquarters BuildingM'plex, MVP, Private Developer, City, County$35 M/$8 M2000
DOT Office BuildingIDA, M'plex, Off. of Gen. Svs., IDA, City, DOT, Private Developer$22 M/$6 M2000
Attract Large Scale Office DevelopmentSEDC, M'plex, City, IDA3-$38 M/$5-$7 M2000-2002
Attract Small Office UsersDSAD/BID, M'plex, City, SEDC$700,000 — $900,000Early 2000-Ongoing
Parking Development Action Steps 
Parking infrastructure will be developed in tandem with projects such as MVP Bldg., Cineplex, DOT Bldg. and other large scale office development projects 
Streetscape and Public Space Action Steps 
State St. Streetscape ImprovementCity 2000
Jay St./City Hall PlazaCity 2000
Farmers Market/Festival spaceCity 2000-2001
Retail Action Steps
Follow Entertainment Action Steps 
Create Management OrganizationDSAD/BID, Private Sector, M'plex, City$750,000-$1M/Undetermined2000
Downtown Housing Steps
Upper Floor Residential Conversion ProgramDSAD/BID, City, M'plex$550,000-$800,00012/99-Spring 2000
Parker Bldg. Conversion to Artists' SpaceProctor's, BID, City, M'plex$700,000-$800,0002000
Develop Infill HousingSEDC, M'plex, DSAD/BIDUndetermined2003-2004
Develop Student Housing Near SCCCCounty, DSAD/BID, Private Developer, M'plex, SEDCUndetermined2003-2006

Source: Hunter Interests Inc.; City of Schenectady; Metroplex.

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