Schenectady City officials today joined with Schenectady County, the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority and the Upper Union Street Business Improvement District (BID) to announce plans to move forward this year with the third and final phase of the Upper Union Streetscape Project.
Mayor Brian U. Stratton said, “Upper Union Street is a gem. This key retail and residential corridor is looking great due to a cooperative effort between merchants, the City and Metroplex. We look forward to finishing the beautiful streetscape work in 2011.”
Gary Hughes from the Schenectady County Legislature said, “Upper Union Street is a major neighborhood success story. Finishing this project is a priority for the County and City in 2011.”
The third phase of the project with an estimated cost of $700,000 will be constructed this summer/fall completing a major renovation that has boosted business in an important retail corridor and major gateway to Schenectady County. The City and Metroplex are sharing the cost of the streetscape project.
City Council President Gary McCarthy said, “Upper Union Street has never looked better. We look forward to finishing the streetscape project this year so that the entire business district can benefit from the project once it is completed.”
Ray Gillen, Metroplex Chair and Commissioner of Economic Development and Planning for Schenectady County said, “Upper Union Street shows what is possible when the private sector and government work together to create new jobs, tax base and economic activity.”
The streetscape project includes new curbs, sidewalks, lighting, landscaping and street paving. Phase I was completed in 2009 between the Niskayuna town line at Van Antwerp Road to Dean Street.
Phase II was completed in 2010 between Dean Street and Baker Avenue on the north side of Union and Woodland Avenue on the south. Both projects were completed on time and on budget.
The third and last phase includes Upper Union Street from Woodland and Baker Avenues to the end of the Business Improvement District at Garner Avenue as well as improvements to Lakewood Avenue. This area of the BID includes such well-known business as Northeastern Fine Jewelry, Gershon’s Deli, Michael’s Shoe Repair, Holiday Liquors, Domani Spa, Sow’s Ear Studio, the new “Rubbin Butts” Barbeque and the expanding Head to Tail Pet Wellness Center.
The Upper Union BID Board of Directors strongly supports the completion of Phase III this year.
Chris DiCocco, Chair of the Upper Union Street BID said, “Upper Union Street looks great. When this last block is completed we will have one of the best looking commercial corridors in the Capital Region. We thank the City and Metroplex for working so closely with us to improve our district.”
This year’s project will extend curb, sidewalk, pavement, street tree and lighting changes to the end of the district, creating a unified pedestrian-friendly shopping district. In addition, the Upper Union Street merchants have asked the City to include diagonal parking in front of 1600 to 1610 Union Street rather than a curb. The new parking area includes 11 parking spaces rather than the two to three spaces that would exist if parking in this area was limited to parallel parking along the curb.
This diagonal parking will improve vehicle and pedestrian traffic safety in the area where some cars now jump the curb to park near businesses.
Both Head to Tail and Domani Spa have agreed to sell a small piece of property to the City for the new parking area. A third property owner has not yet agreed to a property sale. If negotiations cannot be completed, the City may pursue acquisition of the property through the eminent domain process which is commonly used to acquire property for road improvement projects. Alternatively this area could be left out of the streetscape project and left in its current condition. This would hurt all of the businesses on the street. Another alternative would be to place a curb across the entire block which would dramatically reduce parking which would also hurt neighboring businesses.
Tony Lauria, owner of Gershon’s Delicatessen said “This has been a long-time coming and is much needed. The current situation is not only ugly, but it is also unsafe. Customers are put off by the confusing and dangerous parking situation and the terrible sidewalks. Improving this area will benefit my business and my neighbors.”
At an Upper Union Street BID Board meeting held on December 1, 2010, the group unanimously approved a resolution “to support any action by the City necessary to assure that Phase III of the Upper Union Streetscape Project proceeds in 2011.”
The City plans to complete property acquisition this Spring so that construction can begin and be completed this year.
For more information about the Upper Union Street BID, see www.upperunionbid.org.