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Town Center initiative aims to create a downtown

Town Center initiative aims to create a downtown

Planners and town residents came up with the Town Center Plan to combine retail and urban living
Town Center initiative aims to create a downtown
Construction of buildings on Clifton Country Road in Clifton Park is seen in May
Photographer: Erica Miller/Daily Gazette Photographer

With Exit 9 of the Northway becoming a greater focal point between Saratoga Springs and Albany, officials in Clifton Park knew they could either proactively come up with a plan to keep the town in the commerce loop or they could let the town fall by the wayside.

They wanted to try to bolster the area as a major retail hub. But with a broad shift from brick-and-mortar shopping to online sales, they also knew something else was necessary. As a result, planners and town residents came up with the Town Center Plan to combine retail and urban living.

Created in 2012, the Town Center Plan was the result of a monthslong study of how to create an urbanized, walkable downtown area near Exit 9 in just over 1 square mile of land. 

Specifically, the Town Center is bordered by Moe Road to the west, the town of Halfmoon to the east, Plank Road to the north and Clifton Park Center Road to the south.

The town had some previous success in the area, as major retailers took up space in the mall on Clifton Park Center Road, including Boscov’s in 2000. As the years went by, though, it became clear it would take more than brick-and-mortar stores to bolster Exit 9 and the town, Supervisor Phil Barrett said.

“For Exit 9 to be successful, we need to evolve and change, based on the realities,” he said. “Change and transition are not always easy.”

The Town Center Plan focuses on combining living space, stores, parks and other activities to form a smaller community within the larger town.

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But to execute on the downtown vision, Clifton Park was forced to amend its zoning laws. 

In 2015, the town implemented a Town Center Form Based Code, which spells out what type of development would best serve the area and be most consistent with the overall vision, as opposed to standard zoning laws, which only touch on what is allowed in an area and what is not.

Since the zoning amendment, there have been four apartment projects proposed for the Town Center by various developers. If all are built as planned, the west side of the town center will see 159 new apartment units soon. There will also be a 37-acre public park on land the town recently purchased from the Shenendehowa Central School District.

The town is now moving into phase two of the Town Center Plan, which will focus on the area east of I-87, a much smaller area than was addressed in the first phase. 

In May, a few dozen residents turned out to the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library to discuss the second phase of the plan.

Zoning in the east area of the Town Center right now is heavily commercial, with some residential areas and other uses, such as restaurants, mixed in. 
 
There are also vacant areas where sidewalks could be installed to increase mobility and access.
 
Proposed for the eastern area is a shift to zoning that would allow neighborhood-centered construction, as well as neighborhood-retail hybrids.

Since 2006, the town has spent $55,000 on the Town Center planning efforts, including a study focused on Exit 9 and the zoning amendments. A majority of the work was federally and state funded, including grants from the Federal Highway Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Capital District Regional Planning Commission, the Capital District Transportation Authority, and Saratoga County.

The zoning plan for the eastern portion of the Town Center is estimated to cost the town $22,700, according to town officials.

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