The scope of Albany Medical Center’s redevelopment of a large swath of the Park South neighborhood became a reality this week with the leveling of almost a dozen 19th-century houses. The reconstruction of the two blocks bordered by Myrtle and Dana Avenues and New Scotland Avenue and Robin Street is the second phase of AMC’s nine-block reconstruction that has drastically transformed the New Scotland corridor. The demolitions are to make way for a six-story and a five-story medical building, mixed-use residential-retail buildings (in partnership with Tri-City Rentals), and a large parking garage that is expected to significantly change pedestrian usage patterns and add to traffic congestion.
AMC’s original redevelopment plan, begun 10 years ago and approved by the Albany Common Council, was amended most recently in November, including an increase in apartment units from 268 to more than 300, and with the most controversial change concerning the siting and size of the parking garage, which was enlarged to 820 (down from a potential 900) spaces, and moved to the corner of Robin Street and Myrtle Avenue, necessitating the demolition of historic Bolton Hall, a 1902 residential building that was to be preserved in the original plan. The garage will be connected to the medical offices and the residential units.
A statement from AMC at the project’s announcement claiming that it would “reinforce the historical fabric of the neighborhood” seems to have fallen by the wayside, including the area’s walkable street patterns. The enlargement of the garage seems to be based on a build-it-and-they-will-drive projection, as a recent study contracted by the city found that the garage exceeds national parking-industry standards by 200 spaces—a conservative estimate, considering that the standard does not take into account shared-parking effects, staggered usage, and other factors.
The study also found that the area’s numerous surface lots contain 6,000 spaces within a five-minute walk, and that valet lots are underutilized. The planned Myrtle Avenue garage follows AMC’s 1,500-space garage on New Scotland and Holland Avenues, though it’s possible that future demand for parking will be less, not more, as numerous studies indicate that new urban residents are often attracted by the more pedestrian-oriented lifestyle of downtown areas.
Construction on the $110-million project is expected to be complete by the end of 2015.