Whether the multimillion-dollar Albany Waterfront Project gets off the ground, and to what extent, will be up to the city council in office next year. At this point the project has the support of both candidates for mayor but only three of the seven running for the council.
I asked the candidates whether they supported the riverfront redevelopment being pursued by CARA, the downtown urban renewal district, and how much they would be willing to spend on it.
Each had a different answer, of course. But basically, the project has the support of Councilman Alex Johnson II and Mayor Sharon Konopa, both running for mayor, and from council candidates Sean Knowles in Ward 1, Ray Kopczynski in Ward 2, and Marilyn Smith in Ward 3.
Johnson supports it “wholeheartedly” and Knowles “definitely.” Kopczynski sees it as the “capstone to sunsetting” CARA.
Konopa says the top priority should be the reconstruction of Water Avenue, but she also hopes for a water “splash pad” and children’s playground as added amenities to the Albany Carousel.
The other candidates expressed varying degrees of reservations.
In Ward 1, Keith Kolkow would like to see CARA focus on “revitalizing buildings and infrastructure (especially Water Street)” in order to get the greatest return on money invested. Matilda Novak says CARA’s main focus should be to help small business, and she doesn’t see how the riverfront does that.
In Ward 2, Amanda Dant says the project is a good idea but goes beyond what CARA funds are intended for. In her view the city can’t afford it when other city services are at risk of losing funding.
In Ward 3, Jessi Brenneman said it would be “irresponsible to give an answer on the riverfront project when the final drawings have not been submitted….I have no idea what it will look like.”
The council and other members of the CARA advisory board got a briefing this month on a shortened list of possible changes to be made in Monteith Riverpark and on Water Avenue and the Dave Clark Trail. They asked for more information and cost estimates to be presented in October.
CARA has about $20 million in spending authority left and has tentatively budgeted $15 million of that for upgrading the riverfront. All the money would be for changes on public property.
Riverfront improvement was one of the goals of the 2001 urban renewal plan that started CARA, and the plan lists eight specific projects toward that end. (hh)