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Downtown Schenectady business district expansion eyed

Downtown Schenectady business district expansion eyed

If approved, expansion would be first since 1978
Downtown Schenectady business district expansion eyed
Jim Salengo of the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation in Little Italy on Jay Street Tuesday, July 16, 2019.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber

SCHENECTADY — Booming. Thriving. A renaissance.

There’s been no shortage of words to describe recent activity in downtown Schenectady, which local officials often point out seemed moribund just a short decade ago.

Now for the first time since 1978, the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation (DSIC) wants to expand its service area.

DSIC Executive Director Jim Salengo said economic activity is radiating out from the downtown core, including Mohawk Harbor and developments along Erie Boulevard. 

“We have an opportunity to connect the link,” Salengo said. “It’s really been pretty remarkable."

Salengo briefed city lawmakers on Monday, and expansion would require City Council approval. 

DSIC has scheduled three public information sessions for July 25, Aug. 6 and Aug. 7. 

Salengo aims to present early feedback to the City Council on Aug. 5.  He suggested Aug. 12 as a date for the mandatory public hearing, with a vote by City Council on Aug. 26.

Outreach to businesses will begin immediately via mailers, he said.

Three areas

The current district occupies a one-square-mile footprint running roughly from Union Street to the north, Hamilton and Clinton streets in the south, Washington Avenue to the west and Nott Terrace and Veeder Avenue in the eastern portion.

DSIC is seeking to expand in three areas: 

A proposed new strip in the north would stretch along Erie Boulevard from Union Street to the Nott Street traffic circle and cover 21 parcels. 

Another chunk would bring in Little Italy, encompassing N. Center Street, Warren Street and N. Jay Street, and include 27 parcels. 

The third would expand southwards, covering 26 parcels in Broadway from Clinton Street to the I-890 overpass.

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The non-profit provides provides supplemental services to district members, including marketing support and visual improvements like flower baskets and banners.

DSIC also facilities cleaning and maintenance, clearing snow at approximately 50 intersections and plowing 16 miles of sidewalks annually.

Events and promotions like Schenectady Restaurant Week, Schenectady Soup Stroll and Wing Walk and City Hall-iday Weekend all help to draw in crowds, Salengo said.

District expansion would ensure continuity of services between current district and nearby developments, he said, and would allow new locations to be marketed as part of an “expanded, vibrant and unified” downtown.

"By providing continuity of programs and services, we will connect our current district with these adjacent development areas to position them as important components of a single, larger and more diverse Downtown Schenectady,” Salengo said.

Businesses would also gain a voice in helping DSIC tailor operations to fit their needs, including those serving incoming residents moving into new downtown apartment complexes. 

One example, Salengo said, could be sponsoring more dog stations for pet-friendly buildings, he said, including Electric City Apartments, which opened in April.

Calculating costs

Operations for the service area, which is formally known as the Downtown Special Assessment District, are funded in part by property owners, which currently contains 550 parcels.

The expansion would carry a cost to incoming businesses. An annual assessment is determined using a customized benefits-based formula that considers square footage, street footage and location.

The majority of current members pay $295 annually, Salengo said.

He estimated the expansion would cost DSIC an additional $65,000 annually, with costs primarily going towards outdoor programming.

For more information, visit downtownschenectady.org.

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