SCHENECTADY — Two of the city's largest downtown developments dominated discussion at Wednesday night’s Planning Commission meeting, with representatives from Mohawk Harbor and the Mill Artisan District making presentations.
Additional information came to light Wednesday night on a number of proposed developments in the city, though none received definitive approval to move forward. Now, one will go before the Board of Zoning Appeals, while the others will return to the Planning Commission.
Here’s a look at Wednesday's meeting topics:
MOHAWK HARBOR SIGNAGE
A proposal to erect a pair of signs near the corner of Erie Boulevard and Mohawk Harbor Way cleared an initial hurdle Wednesday night, but the plan requires further examination from another city board.
Mohawk Harbor developers are hoping to install the signs: a 10-foot-tall monument sign to identify the property as Mohawk Harbor and a 30-foot-tall pylon sign that would identify the harbor's tenants. The latter was downsized from an initial proposed height of 32 feet.
The proposal was tabled last month, after commissioners asked for more detailed renderings. On Wednesday, the Planning Commission passed the proposal after recommending a few more modifications to the design.
The application will now go before the Board of Zoning Appeals, which must decide whether to grant variances for the project. The current proposal exceeds city zoning regulations for height, square footage and setbacks, so the board would need to make an exception to those regulations for the project, City Planner Christine Primiano said.
The next meeting of the Board of Zoning Appeals is Oct. 4.
So far, Rivers Casino & Resort, the River House Apartments, the Courtyard by Marriott and The Landing Hotel have opened at Mohawk Harbor, with other tenants expected to open in coming months.
MILL ARTISAN DISTRICT
Plans for the city’s latest multi-use development are rounding into form, with officials expressing optimism that lower State Street will boast Schenectady’s next hot spot once the Mill Artisan District is completed.
The $14.1 million project aims to convert a number of storefronts and otherwise empty buildings into dining, retail and residential space. Among the properties involved are 102, 104, 110, 116 and 122 State St., as well as 2 Mill Lane.
“The goal of the project is to reactivate this part of downtown and bring life back to Mill Lane,” said J.T. Pollard, the project architect with Re4orm Architecture.
He hopes to get demolitions of some of the buildings underway in coming weeks, to beat the winter, he said.
The anchor of the new development is The Blockhouse, which over the years has housed an auto service station, a laundry center and a succession of restaurants.
One building will house a distillery, and another will be turned into a restaurant, possibly a wood-fired pizza joint, Pollard said. Specifics have not been finalized with potential tenants, he cautioned.
Four other buildings along State Street near the corner of Mill Lane will be knocked down and rebuilt as retail space, with 33 apartments upstairs, he said. Two more properties on Church Street are also incorporated in the Mill Artisan District, but they were only recently acquired, Pollard said, so specifics have not yet been worked out.
Scott Cietek, vice president of the Schenectady Metroplex Development Authority, spoke in favor of the project Wednesday. Metroplex is a collaborator on the district.
“In a couple years, this whole area is going to be phenomenal,” he said. The district will have a different feel than most multi-use districts in upstate New York, he said, with the potential to draw younger residents to Schenectady.
Wednesday's presentation was a preliminary one for the project. Pollard said he expects to return next month with more details and renderings to show the Planning Commission, at which point the board could give site plan approval to the effort.
UNION COLLEGE ADMISSIONS EXPANSION
A proposal to expand Union College’s admissions center is on hold until the city appoints another person to the Planning Commission.
Union College has proposed adding 3,700 square feet over two floors in Grant Hall. The $3.8 million project would include technology upgrades and large meeting rooms to enable videoconferencing with prospective students around the world, as well as accommodating larger groups on campus.
However, the Planning Commission could not take action on the proposal Wednesday because three commissioners have conflicts of interest. They are either employed by the college or have spouses who work there.
With two vacancies, only four members were left to vote; five are needed for a quorum.
“We’re looking forward to the mayor filling the vacancy so the commission has a quorum to vote,” said college spokesman Phillip Wajda, in a prepared statement.
It was unclear if the delay in Planning Commission approval will impact the project's timeline.
The expansion is being fully funded by anonymous donors.
Primeria Iglesia De Dios, a Hispanic church at 920 State St., presented a plan to expand its footprint in order to provide additional services.
Church leaders and project architects presented initial details of the proposal Wednesday during a preliminary presentation. They will need to come back to the Planning Commission in the future to get site plan approval and move forward with the project, though commissioners seemed initially supportive.
“We’re not able to do what we want to do for our community,” one church member said. “We believe we can make a difference; we just need more space.”
The addition would provide a gymnasium and classroom space, something the building doesn’t now have, project leaders said. This would accommodate a growing need for after-school activities for area children, they said.