Schenectady seeking to extend downtown area through zoning change


SCHENECTADY — The city’s Development Department is seeking to change the zoning of three dozen parcels between Barrett Street and Seward Place in the hopes of developing a number of properties in the area that have sat vacant for years.   

Plans call for extending the downtown area by changing the zoning of 36 parcels along Park Place, Seward Place, South Avenue and Barrett Street from two-family residential to downtown mixed-use. Officials believe the change will make the area more appealing to developers who may have otherwise passed on the properties due to current zoning restrictions.

“Because there are a lot of vacant parcels, we determined that it makes the most sense to expand the downtown area to try to encourage some economic development that has been going on in the area,” said Christine Primiano, principal planner for the city.

Primiano, during a meeting of the city’s Planning Commission this past week, said the Development Department has been examining the city’s zoning code and developing a list of recommended changes in preparation for the development of a new comprehensive plan, which is currently in the planning stages.

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She added that there are no plans to develop any of the 36 properties and that the taxes for single- and two-family residences in the area of the proposed change would not be impacted should the proposal be approved by the City Council.

The proposed changes would also support the Jay Street connector trail, which would link downtown with Mohawk Harbor. The project is set to receive funding as part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization, a $10 million state grant awarded in 2019 that aims to attract private investment through the use of public funds.

The Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority backs the plans.

“The goal is to convert some of the vacant, barren lots and empty buildings into something nice,” said Ray Gillen, Metroplex chairman.

The council has already held a public hearing required to amend the zoning law, and the Planning Commission recommended the zoning change be approved last week. A final vote on the matter can happen as soon as the next City Council meeting.

While no one raised any concerns during the public hearing, a handful of residents peppered planning commissioners with questions about the proposal and the future development plans in the neighborhood.

The neighbors said rumors have been circulating that a large-scale affordable apartment complex has been proposed for the area, which they say would not fit the neighborhood.

The city is not aware of any such development, according to Primiano.

Commissioners also ensured the residents that any plans must first be vetted by the Planning Commission and meet all zoning criteria – including a provision that requires projects to fit in with the neighborhood. Members also explained that any proposal would likely be small in scale due to the size of the roadways in the neighborhood.

The area has seen little interest compared to the adjacent Union Street corridor in recent years.

Live In Schenectady, a coalition made up of local developers, banks and businesses, including The Daily Gazette Co., has recently constructed a number of townhouses along Barrett Street, which was made a two-way street in 2016 in the hopes of attracting new development.

The homes were built on city-owned land, which the organization purchased at market value. A second phase of construction is expected to begin in the coming months.

Impacted properties

Here is a list of properties that would be impacted by the proposed zoning change:

  • 5, 7, 9-15, 17-22 and 24-26 Park Place.
  • 103, 105 and 107 Seward Place.
  • 709 Union St.
  • 608, 610, 614, 616, 700, 702, 704, 706 and 708 South Ave.
  • 1038, 1044, 1048, 1052 and 1062 Barrett St.

Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: 518-410-5117 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.

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