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City groceries: drive-ins & cafés, and new housing

April 19, 2012

by Alexander Englander

Sign for Shop Rite on Central Ave. The store opens on Thursday, April 26, 2012

The store is not even open yet, but the new Shop Rite in Albany is already making changes and plans to increase the size of their Shop at Home service.  The store applied for a variance to the Albany Common Council Planning Board at its Thursday  meeting.  Along with the variance at Shop Rite, Honest Weight Food Co-Op and a brand new affordable housing complex in downtown Albany made presentations.

Shop Rite Supermarket is opening its second location in the Capital District on April 26.  Honest Weight Food Co-Op is seeking approval for its new location and the Albany Housing Authority is working on plans to build brand new affordable housing in downtown.  All of this will have a significant impact on the city and its residents.

Shop at Home expansion at Shop Rite

Columbia Development Companies, who are working with Shop Rite to build their new store at 709 and 711 Central Avenue, presented plans to the board for an expansion of the store.  The 800-square-foot expansion would house the successful Shop at Homeservice Shop Rite currently offers at its other location in Niskayuna.  The expansion would allow customers who order groceries on-line to use a separate entrance and exit to avoid the congested lines inside the store.  It would also feature dedicated parking spaces for Shop at Home customers.

Old Enterprise Rent-A-Car building to now be used as a maintenance garage.

The second item discussed in relation to the Shop Rite supermarket was the Off Track Betting Center located adjacent to the store.  Original plans had called for tearing down of the former Enterprise Rent-A-Car building.  However, OTB now wants to use the building as a maintenance garage.

After a brief presentation by Columbia Development, complimented with visual aids showing the freshly painted garage, the board voted unanimously to approve the variances for the 800-square-foot addition and the use of the old garages for maintenance instead of demolishing it.

Next, the Planning Board heard from members of the Albany Housing Authority and 3T Architects who are working together to build brand new affordable apartments in downtown Albany on North Pearl Street.

Their plan, when completed, would see 19 brand new garden apartment buildings built, which would hold a total of 85 individual apartments and a community center.  The Albany Housing Authority was seeking approval from the Board to begin the legal process for state and federal approval to start demolition and site preparation on the first phase of the project.

Their plan is to demolish the current run-down apartments and replace them with the new buildings.  The project is divided into two phases; half the project would be built in the first phase; this would allow time for the Housing Authority to relocate residents still living in the buildings scheduled to be demolished for phase two.

Although funding has not yet been secured for phase two, the members of the Albany Housing Authority who were present were confident they would be able to get funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the state.  For now, they have the funding necessary for phase one and have to apply for phase two funding next year.  If all goes according to plan, they will secure phase two funding just as the first phase is completed.

A third aspect of this project is to build homes which people would be able to purchase instead of renting.  These owner occupied homes would be built in conjunction with state, federal, local and private agencies.  One of the organizations they mentioned who could be a partner was Habitat for Humanity.

The Board approved this project and agreed to meet with the planners at their meeting next month to check on progress.

Sign advertising the new location for Honest Weight Food Co-Op.

The Planning Board also was presented with a plan by Honest Weight Food Co-Op and Hershberg and Hershberg to purchase and renovate a new store located at 100 Watervliet Ave.  This is the third time Honest Weight has proposed opening a new store.  Their previous tries were in 2008 and 2010, but funding fell through.  This time they have the full funding needed to move ahead with the project.

The new store would use as much green materials as possible and have many unique feature; they plan to have an outdoor café, a cooking/learning area, up to 50 spaces for customers to park their bicycles and handicapped parking along the front of the store which would enable customers to enter and exit the building without having to cross a parking lot.  There would also be special bike racks for employees and showers available to employees.

However, the Planning Board saw several problems with the current plans for the store, including; parking, entrance and exits and

Intersection of Watervliet Ave and Watervliet Avenue Extension.

pedestrian safety when crossing Watervliet Avenue and Watervliet Avenue Extension.  The biggest problem was how the building was going to be situated on the land.

Proposed location of the new Honest Weight Food Co-Op store.

Plans call for the building to be situated on the south end of the property to take advantage of the sunlight.  It is their hope to add solar panels in the future, thus necessitating the need for prolonged sun exposure. If the current plan remains in place, the parking lot would be in back of the building causing concern by several of the board members.

Marcus Pryor and Edward Trent were the most vocal about their concerns.  Trent said he was “concerned about the traffic, especially in the winter with significant snow fall.  It could make conditions hazardous” for customers.

The problems with the entrance and egress and pedestrian foot traffic would need to be resolved before the board was able to give their approval for the project.  Alexandra Juhre, member of the communications committee and project manager for Honest Weight, pressed for a resolution; stating she was not sure how long they could ensure funding for the project.  No approval was given at this meeting for the project to begin.-30-


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