Freeman's Bridge Road is Glenville's gateway to Schenectady and the Rivers Casino, used by more than 12,000 vehicles per day. But town leaders would love to see it become, instead, Schenectady's gateway to Glenville.
The problem, they acknowledge, is that the two-lane road between Route 50 and the Mohawk River has no clear identity, other than a negative one. Recreation retailers, convenience stores, auto supply companies and big-box retailers sit side-by-side with vacant properties; a railroad crossing runs through the middle of the corridor. Hundreds of acres of wooded or open land lie behind the frontage and have proven difficult to market.
One potential business customer said the problem isn't the amount of traffic, it's that Freeman's Bridge Road is unsightly, Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said during a meeting of the Glenville Business and Professional Association Thursday morning at the Waters Edge Lighthouse restaurant.
The town is about to embark on two separate studies using $100,000 in grant money. They will look at making the road more pedestrian-friendly and exploring ways to make better economic use of the Mohawk River waterfront.
At the same time, the Town Board is reviewing a new town-wide comprehensive land use plan, with a major focus of establishing a new vision for the Freeman's Bridge corridor.
"Freeman's has been one of the bigger topics in that study," Koetzle said. "If you look at it now, everything is allowed."
One study, paid for with a $50,000 federal grant from the Capital District Transportation Committee, will examine sidewalks and other pedestrian- and bike-friendly "complete streets" projects for the corridor. The CDTC is in the process of selecting a consultant for the first study.
The town will seek a consultant for the $50,000 Local Waterfront Revitalization Program grant study within the next few weeks.
"The hope is that one consultant will get both so that it's an efficient use of study money," Koetzle said.
The highway is Glenville's closest point to the full-gaming casino that opened earlier this month in Schenectady. For the most part, however, businesses owners said they aren't yet seeing any positive impact.
"It didn't move the needle 1 percent, to be honest with you," said Carlos Teixiera, who owns Dunkin Donuts franchises in Glenville, including the one on Freeman's Bridge Road.
Koetzle noted that a new shuttle service is planned between the casino and downtown Schenectady, but no such service is planned between the casino and Glenville-Scotia destinations like the Glass Tavern on Route 50 and the Turf Tavern in Scotia. Downtown businesses are helping pay for the Schenectady shuttle, but there's no similar arrangement in Glenville.
"How do we market ourselves to people coming to the casino?" Koetzle asked. "We have assets in town that ought to be celebrated and marketed, too."
Patrick Popolizio, who owns the Water's Edge Lighthouse restaurant and is leasing land for a large new hotel being built next to the restaurant, is expecting his business to increase because of the casino and the hotel. But he acknowledged changes are needed along the corridor.
"One of the feedbacks I get from customers, including my wife, is that there's no place to have a good shopping experience," Popolizio said.
Koetzle said the town doesn't know whether retail is the best use for the corridor, though he noted it's an area in which the town is considering allowing more apartments because it is some distance from most residential areas.
"We need bodies -- people -- around Freeman's Bridge Road to attract the chains," Koetzle said.
He also encouraged business owners to plant trees and take other measures to beautify their properties.
Other business leaders said future customers for Freeman's Bridge Road businesses are less likely to be casino-goers than residents who will live in the hundreds of apartments and condominium units being built at Mohawk Harbor, the development surrounding the casino.
The Town Board hopes to approve the new comprehensive plan in the spring, but the consultant studies are likely to take up to a year to complete.
Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.