GLENVILLE -- If you're going from downtown Schenectady to Glenville, Freemans Bridge Road will be your first impression of Glenville.
The route -- with its traffic lights, crude shoulders, a rail crossing and eclectic assortment of businesses -- is also nearly essential for people traveling between Saratoga County and Schenectady. For better or worse, more than 12,000 vehicles use it every day.
The town has been working toward a "renaissance" in the Freemans Bridge Road corridor for years, and it's getting closer to happening.
A new pedestrian-friendly "complete streets" plan for the mile-long corridor was adopted by the Town Board last summer, and the board is now weighing making the zoning changes needed to follow through on that plan.
The board this week received a committee report recommending a new zoning district for the corridor, which offers the first impression of Glenville to people coming in from Schenectady's Erie Boulevard.
The proposed district would promote the bike/pedestrian amenities which are at the heart of the complete streets concept, and a transition for the corridor into a commercial/entertainment zone, with uses like microbreweries and lodging.
Today, the corridor has a blend of uses, with big-box retail, industrial supply businesses and single-family residences sitting virtually side-by-side.
“It’s been a hodge-podge of zoning over the years," Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said. "We have land uses right next to each other that are incompatible. We are trying to have a single vision for the entire corridor.”
A town committee that's working to revise the town's entire zoning code to bring it into compliance with the 2017 town comprehensive plan has taken on Freemans Bridge Road as its first focus, and delivered its recommendations on Wednesday.
The town sees the corridor's future as a further conversion to commercial uses, with mixed-use, office and professional buildings, restaurants, lodging, and businesses like micro-breweries taking precedence over traditional retail.
"These are wide-open dynamic kinds of uses, entertainment-based uses, things that will bring vitality and vibrancy, uses that will bring a robust entertainment base to the district," said former Town Board member Jim Martin, who is chairman of the Zoning Revision Committee.
There's also a desire to have people living in or near the corridor, though town officials are down on the concept of large-scale apartment complexes. They've been encouraging, however, projects like the proposed 208-unit Dutch Meadows apartment complex on Dutch Meadows Lane, which would be linked to Freemans Bridge Road by a bike-pedestrian path.
One point of apparent consensus is that the town play up the access to the Mohawk River at the southern end of the corridor, encouraging bike and pedestrian access. There's a boat launch there, and a deteriorated bike trail along the river that town officials would like to redevelop.
The town is currently conducting a grant-funded riverfront revitalization study for the area, and last year approved a grant-funded "complete streets" study of how to install sidewalks, bike lanes and other amenities in the corridor. The town is pursuing around $4 million in federal funding to make those improvements, but they remain years away.
"There's been a lot of public investment in the corridor in terms of state grants," Martin said.
The zoning change could help, they believe. “It would strongly support the complete streets concept within the zoning," Koetzle said.
The zoning committee's recommendations were referred to the town's Planning and Zoning Commission for a recommendation. They will then come back to the Town Board for a public hearing and then action. Koetzle said zoning changes could be adopted as soon as August.
Things won't change right away, town officials acknowledge, but if the zoning laws were crafted to encourage the development the town wants, they say the town could go out and try to recruit the kinds of businesses it wants to see.
“We’re not going to see a massive change tomorrow, but this is setting things up for the long term," Koetzle said.