Transforming the heart of Glenville into a pedestrian-friendly town center has been a lesson in perseverance for Chris Koetzle.
The town supervisor picked up where his predecessors left off in dreaming up new sidewalks and better lighting for the area of town that branches out from the Glenridge Road-Route 50 intersection. He called it a top priority for his administration and has sought out funding from private donors, state agencies and the Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority. With little to no success, he’s come close to throwing in the towel more than once.
“There have been many times when I wanted to throw my hands up and say, ‘This is not going to happen,’ ” he said Wednesday. “But I can’t stop. As long as I’m here, I will keep searching for new funding sources. I believe passionately that this town deserves a beautified commercial corridor.”
Now, Koetzle and the rest of the Town Board have found new hope in $30 million available through the state Department of Transportation’s Transportation Enhancements Program. TEP is a federal reimbursement program that requires an applicant to pay 20 percent of the total project cost and reimburses them for the rest. The types of project eligible range from preserving abandoned railway corridors to landscaping and scenic beautification to environmental mitigation efforts.
In Glenville’s case, the town is seeking to improve a major corridor’s landscaping and scenery so that residents can eventually have their own walkable downtown.
The town must submit the TEP grant application to the state DOT before the Aug. 16 deadline.
Koetzle estimates the entire project will cost about $750,000, with about half of that going toward lighting costs.
The goal is to install sidewalks along both sides of Route 50 as far south as Bank of America and as far north as Glenville Community Church. Sidewalks would also go in along Glenridge Road up to Town Hall. In addition, the town wants to install energy-efficient Sternberg lighting, which resembles Victorian-era lampposts, throughout these corridors.
Some businesses in these corridors have already gotten a head start, bearing the cost of the improvements despite the town’s lack of funding. Target, Key Bank, McDonald’s and CVS put in their own sidewalks and lighting when they first moved in or renovated at their current locations.
Last summer, the town decided to shift from its piecemeal approach to the project to a more organized effort. It would create a special district, it said, designed to handle any concerns about liability and maintenance of the new sidewalks and lighting. In order to do so, though, the town would need more than half of the would-be district’s businesses to sign on.
The district would pay for any operational costs of the improvements, like sidewalk maintenance and a minimal lighting operations charge.
As of Wednesday, Koetzle said a few businesses had shown early interest in joining the district. But he hasn’t pursued others too hard yet, he said, because he’s trying to secure the funding first.
“We’ve been spending most of our time right now on finding financial support of any kind,” he said. “This TEP grant through DOT is a perfect project. Once we get that in, we’re going to spend time talking to businesses and getting them on board.”
Metroplex Chairman Ray Gillen said he’s heard from town officials about the project and encouraged them to seek out federal and state funding before looking locally for any help. He added that right now, he doesn’t have enough information about the town’s beautification project to know whether it’s something Metroplex would be able to help fund.
Meanwhile, Koetzle remains undaunted by the town’s inability to secure funding for the project. Town officials have already tried private companies. They’ve applied for a National Grid grant. They applied for funding twice — and were denied twice — through the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils consolidated funding application. Nothing has panned out yet.
The town should learn whether it won the TEP grant by the year’s end.
“I’m very hopeful,” said Koetzle. “This has been a priority of mine since I got here, and I remain passionate about it.”