Representatives from the local architecture and design firm Synthesis began a series of public outreach programs last week, including speaking with members of the Hamburg Street Merchants Association and other residents during a public visioning seminar.
Synthesis is in charge of studying the area around Exit 25 and creating a land use proposal. Rotterdam received a $35,000 grant from the Capital District Transportation Committee’s Linkage Program to fund the study.
Ian Law, the study’s project manager, spoke to members of the Hamburg Street Merchant’s Association Monday, April 16, and presented some ideas for ways to develop the area. He pointed specifically to the land where the old Grand Union now sits, which he said could be turned into a mixed-use commercial center with retail businesses, office space, landscaped areas and sidewalks.
The lack of sewers on Hamburg Street has stifled any development. Town officials and planners have said they believe once a sewer line is built in the area, development will spring up.
Law said having a plan for the area will make it easier to go after grant money and additional funding to make some of the dreaming a reality.
We are generating a blueprint for change, Law said. `When you have a plan you can go after grants and funding. Until you do that it’s just talk.`
Law also pointed out that with a plan, people like Metroplex Development Authority Director Ray Gillen can go out and market the area to people.
`You have great highway access and tons of residents to support any development,` Law said.
Future and existing development was certainly a key factor with residents at the public visioning seminar held Thursday, April 19, at the Rotterdam Senior Center.
Michael Hale from Synthesis and Mark Sargent from Creighton Manning Engineering, who are in charge of the area’s transportation study, met with residents to discuss what they would most like to see in the area.
Residents were given a large-scale aerial map of the study area and asked to place orange dots on places where they would like to see change.
Every map had orange dots along the Hamburg Street corridor and every one of the nearly 40 residents said they would like to see change to the Grand Union property.
Joe Malatesta lives in a development off Hamburg Street. He said he is tired of seeing an ugly vacant lot every time he leaves his house. He likes to think eventually something better will be developed on the site where a bowling alley used to stand.
`If you don’t dream about it, you’ll have nothing,` he said.
Joanne Schrom said she has lived in the western part of town her entire life. She attended the public visioning seminar because she wants to see some change in her hometown.
`I’ve lived in Rotterdam forever, and I’d like to see a change,` she said.
In addition to the sewer issue, many people have said the main problem with the area seems to be in its current design.
`The community needs an identity, a core,` Law said at the merchants meeting.
According to Hale, good design has smooth transitions from residential to commercial. He pointed to Union Street as a good example, where homes have been converted to offices before entering a commercial area.
Sidewalks are almost non-existent in the Exit 25 corridor, so walking and bike riding are difficult.
`You have an area where parents are always driving their children everywhere,` Law said. `We could create a place were that is unnecessary.`
Hale said landscaping could do wonders for the area.
`You have a lot of area where paving is unnecessary. By tearing out the pavement and creating green spaces, you can do a lot with little effort.` Hale said.
Transportation is also a key feature in the study. The area is mostly made up of two-lane roads. Sargent said traffic is moderate and could be doubled before having to widen the roads. The only problematic intersection is at Hamburg Street and Curry Road, where the state Department of Transportation is currently designing a roundabout.
Sargent said the many driveways emptying onto the main road cause confusion and conflict, and the accident rate in the area is twice the state’s average for similar roadways. He said 300 accidents were reported in the past three years.
Hale said he wasn’t surprised by any of the comments from residents. He said a public visioning seminar is always required with any kind of land-use study.
`No matter how many trips you take, or times you visit, the people who live here will know something you don’t,` he said.
Supervisor Steven Tommasone, who attended both meetings, said town officials are working on creating more collaboration between the town’s Industrial Development Agency and Metroplex.
`I think Ray Gillen recognizes that this area is not only a gateway into Rotterdam, but a gateway into Schenectady County,` Tommasone said.“