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CDTA explores eminent domain for Uncle Sam Transit Center

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CDTA explores eminent domain for Uncle Sam Transit Center

The Capital District Transit Authority may acquire land adjacent to the Uncle Sam Parking Garage through eminent domain for a long-awaited, $4 million transit hub in downtown Troy, as multi-year negotiations with property owner David Bryce appear to have stalled.

“We’ll see where this goes,” CDTA executive director Carm Basile said at the October board meeting where the process was initiated. “We have funding partners who are now asking us, ‘Where are you on this project?’”

Over the summer, the board approved plans to enter into a 40-year, $3,000-per-month ground lease for the transit hub, which centers around “an indoor climate controlled facility” with seating and public restrooms at the corner of Fourth and Fulton streets but will also use the alleyway between the garage’s north side and the Best Western Plus hotel as a “layover location.” The hub, funded in part by a $650,000 grant from Empire State Development, will also entail the creation of bus lanes on streets around the parking garage.

A July CDTA memo says that negotiations “resulted in dozens of revisions” to the proposed ground lease, with the authority making “several concessions in the interest of moving [it] forward.” These talks “have slowed significantly,” the memo says, “but commencing eminent domain proceedings may warrant consideration.”

At the October meeting, where such proceedings were initiated, CDTA board members tendered hope that the prospect of expropriation would revive negotiations, eliminating the need to actually pursue the drastic remedy. David Stackrow, a Rensselaer County representative appointed to the board in 1995, could recall the authority deploying it only twice during his tenure.

“We really are trying to progress a project that everybody, including David [Bryce], has been behind” since the plans were first proposed, CDTA communications manager Jaime Watson told The Alt on Wednesday. “For us, it’s kind of the next step in negotiating to get folks back to the table.”

An appraisal has already been conducted, though it will need to be updated. CDTA expects to publish its determination and findings following the public hearing—already held Nov. 16 at Troy City Hall—sometime in December and commence a judicial proceeding needed to complete the transaction early next year.

Construction, plans for which the city has already approved, will begin in March and end in November, according to CDTA board meeting materials.

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Bryce plans new parking, office space at Uncle Sam

Meanwhile, real-estate developer David Bryce is seeking planning commission approval to embark on three major projects at the Uncle Sam Parking Garage: (1) constructing 7,500 square feet of new office space on the second floor along Fulton St., (2) converting a former McDonald’s on Fourth St. into retail space, and (3) building second- and third-level parking decks, each with space for three-dozen vehicles, at the garage’s north end, which would overhang the planned bus layover station.

The added parking structure will “reduce [objectionable] noise, odors and visuals for [visitors] and the hotel guests,” according to site plan documents. (The Best Western hotel’s general manager did not immediately return a request for comment.)

The space on Fulton St. will host an “intercollegiate accelerator program,” Bryce said at a planning commission meeting Wednesday night. The proposal was tabled pending the submission of additional materials to the commission.

After his presentation, Bryce told The Alt that the new plans will not interfere with the transit hub, adding that he only wants “to supplement [CDTA’s] good work with more good work.” But things may not be as copacetic between the two parties as his comments suggest.

“Our transit center was not designed to have something built above it,” Jaime Watson, the CDTA spokesperson, told The Alt, adding that Bryce’s plans “definitely would garner a few more conversations.”

Parking in Troy

The fate of Bryce’s garage also fits into a broader, ongoing discussion about parking in downtown Troy. Two successive, prospective projects at One Monument Square have foundered at least in part due to the perception that they did not adequately accommodate parking needs.  

In a recent open letter to Mayor Patrick Madden, Tom Nardacci, owner of Troy Innovation Garage, a coworking space across the street from Uncle Sam Parking Garage, said that the city should purchase the facility from Bryce, who bought it from the city in 2010 for $2.4 million, “and make much needed improvements to expand public access.”

“This facility is one of the major pieces of the city’s image, a main gateway to downtown and lifeblood of many downtown businesses and organizations,” Nardacci wrote. “It needs to be publicly managed for the benefit of all.”

Nardacci appeared in a recent video produced by the Albany Business Review (headlined “Troy’s parking problem is holding business back”) that local restaurateur Vic Christopher panned on Twitter.

“We don’t have a parking problem,” Christopher said. “We have maybe a laziness problem for people [who] have to walk a block or two.”

The city is preparing a requests for proposals to privatize its parking management. While this might improve the allocation of existing parking spaces, it appears the city is unlikely to construct any new parking structures in the near future.

“We don’t know what role mass transit is going to play in the next 20 years,” city economic development coordinator Cheryl Kennedy says in the ABR video. “We don’t know that parking of that nature is going to be necessary.”

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