MORE PARK SOUTH PLANS?

Developer says a proposal for 50 new apartments will soon be submitted to city

CHRIS CHURCHILL BUSINESS WRITER
Section: Business,  Page: C1

Date: Friday, June 25, 2010

ALBANY -- The developer that's rapidly changing Park South is ready to propose building 50 new apartments in the neighborhood.


Columbia Development, an Albany company, is responsible for a series of new office buildings along New Scotland Avenue. Those brick buildings, in varying states of construction, line the east side of the neighborhood's commercial spine.


Residents have long wanted the area's transformation to include new housing -- in accordance with the city's Park South Urban Renewal Plan, adopted in 2006.


"So far, they haven't developed any," said Andrew Harvey, a leader in the Park South Neighborhood Association.


But at a meeting with residents Wednesday night, the head of Columbia Development said the company would submit a 50-unit housing plan to the city within weeks. Joe Nicolla also said the Morris Avenue apartments would include off-street parking.


Nicolla, who couldn't be reached Thursday for additional comment, was vague about the precise location of the units. But they likely would be built on vacant land Columbia owns along Morris Street, between Robin Street and South Lake Avenue.


So-called in-fill housing -- built in already dense neighborhoods -- is rare in central parts of the Capital Region's cities, with developers usually preferring suburban areas where large parcels allow for money-saving economies of scale.


Yet Albany officials are eager for such housing, believing it can help lure suburbanites back to the city.


"We need in-fill," said Michael Yevoli, the city's commissioner of planning and economic development. "We need new residential housing so we can be more competitive."


A separate in-fill project is proposed for the Center Square neighborhood, a short distance from Park South. There, Crisafulli Associates is planning five townhouses on a vacant Jay Street parcel adjacent to Knickerbocker Apartments.


The homes attempt to mimic the flat facades and stoops of the row houses on the opposite side of Jay Street, with one significant exception: They would have ground-level garages.


Michael Crisafulli, vice president of the Latham company, said there is already a buyer for one of the $349,000 town homes. The company aims to begin construction this fall, he said, but wants to have a second home under contract before doing so.


Back in the Park South neighborhood, Harvey said he's pleased by the Columbia residential proposal. But he said his opinion of the project -- and whether it garners resident support -- will depend largely on details yet unknown.


"What market is this going to be pitched toward?" he asked.


Reach Chris Churchill at 454-5442 or cchurchill@timesunion.com. Jordan Carleo-Evangelist contributed to this article.