When Metroplex bought the city’s parking lots in 2004, it knew it would have to ignore at least one for a while. As it funded downtown renovations, installed new curbs and sidewalks, put in more lighting and plantings, and made it a goal to beautify entire blocks, it left the city’s largest surface lot untouched.
That’s because the lot at 312 Broadway, near Clinton Street, was more than 21⁄2 acres of contaminants paved over with asphalt. Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen saw little sense in investing in upgrades when the state might come in and have them tear it up.
But now that a more than $2 million National Grid-funded cleanup of the site has been completed, county officials can finally invest in the long-deteriorating lot, bringing it into line with a downtown that has seen significant renovation over the last decade.
“We purposely didn’t fix that one,” said Gillen. “We didn’t make any improvements to it. We were basically just biding our time until the cleanup. And now it’s time.”
Metroplex approved up to $800,000 in improvements for the parking lot and nearby Metroplex parking garage at its monthly board meeting Wednesday. A portion of the spending will be used to install new curbs, fences and plantings and to repair the access road into the parking garage. Preliminary work has already been done to install lights and surveillance cameras in the lot, with a few more cameras planned for the garage.
The other portion of spending will be used to repair the lower decks of the nearby five-story garage, which have fallen into disrepair since it was built in 1990.
The upper decks were added in 2000, said Gillen, and therefore won’t need any renovations. The lower decks will get a slew of fix-ups — patched surfaces, replaced joints and grouting, and fresh paint.
“Floor drains have corroded in certain areas and need repair or replacement,” said Gillen. “Many interior doors are corroded, which requires replacement or repainting. Stair towers will be inspected, repainted and repaired. Signage in and around the garage will also be updated and replaced,” he said.
In addition, the entry gate is “past its useful life,” according to Gillen. The county plans to install a solid concrete pad with vehicle detection technology to allow a more automated entry and exit system.
Metroplex will hold a public hearing and put the project out to bid in the next month, said Gillen, who doesn’t anticipate the improvements to cost the full $800,000.
Work will begin in June and wrap up by October, just in time for a busy Proctors season. The 300-space parking lot and 1,100-space garage will remain open during the work.
The Broadway lot, which today is used mainly for Proctors events and by monthly permit users, was once home to a manufacturing plant that converted coal into gas to light homes during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
National Grid has been identifying and cleaning up hundreds of these sites since the 1990s. Last year, it completed a more than $2 million remediation of the Broadway lot, which mostly contained coal tar, but also had traces of volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyl, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and cyanide.
“To think how far we’ve come as a community,” said Gillen. “Those surface lots were really in rough shape when I got here. We maintain nine of them now. The city used to lose a lot of revenue with parking. Every year, we’re increasing our customers and revenue.”
Gillen said when he took over Metroplex in 2004, the city had 400 monthly parking permit users. Now, it has nearly 2,000 monthly parking permit users who use the garage and the city’s nine lots.
This revenue will fund future improvements.
“Parking is an important part of our successful downtown redevelopment strategy,” said Gillen. “The lots are clean, the lots are nicely kept, and they’re landscaped. We believe we have the best parking assets of any downtown in the Capital Region.”