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Time is now to influence casino design

Time is now to influence casino design

Developers are willing to tweak design to address public's concerns
Rivers Casino site

Time is quickly running short for Schenectady area residents to influence the design of the new casino into something they might actually like.

And if they have any hopes of changing the owners' minds, their best opportunity might be to attend tonight's meeting of the city Planning Commission, which will review the new facility design and signage in anticipation of making a decision in mid-July.

That leaves less than a month for citizens to have their say.

And what they've said about the revised design, released earlier this month, wasn't very nice. In a well-intentioned gesture to make the new casino more in keeping with the city's industrial past and to have it conform to the design of the Mohawk Harbor residential/commercial project being built a bit to the north on the same site, the designers came up with a plan that many people just didn't seem to like very much.

The original design, which was put forth during previous public hearings and before the state Gaming Commission, was a sleek, modern-looking collection of structures that few criticized. The revised design was a giant step backward, a cheap-looking incarnation of a ‘70s shopping mall and an early 20th century factory.

Casino operators were personally taken aback by the near-universal local condemnation of the new design. But to their credit, they said earlier this week that they were willing to "tweak" it to accommodate the public's concerns.

Some of the changes they made to the original were actually positive, such as realigning the parking garage away from the harbor, expanding the banquet hall, and removing an inconvenient and unattractive foot bridge. But accommodating as they are willing to be, they said they won't alter the new footprint, which is fine.

The public's major concerns seemed to focus on the the giant signs, which they call 'pylons,’ and the exterior look of the buildings.

The architects said they can do something about that, including reducing the influence of brown bricks in favor of a more contemporary or classic facade made of concrete or stone. Residents might ask them to make it look more like a building in the Stockade rather than the old Alco factory.

Or maybe the consensus will be to get it closer to the original design that many people seemed to like and had come to expect.

We all have to live with this thing for the next 30-plus years. It should look good. And if the public wants to have some kind of say in what we'll all be looking at, they need to speak out.

Tonight's Planning Commission meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. in Room 110 of City Hall. The space is relatively tiny, so if the public shows up in big numbers to speak, we hope the commission has a backup plan to move the meeting to a larger space within City Hall to accommodate a crowd.

The commission will contemplate the site plan design until its next meeting on July 15, when it is expected to take a vote. Then, the window for public input on the design will pretty much be shut.

Casino designers need a final version done soon because the gaming license will be here in a few months and construction will begin immediately after.

So if you want to give the city Planning Commission input on what you would like to see in your new casino, don't waste your chance to say something.

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