BIG DREAMS ON LARK STREET LANDSCAPE

BOB GARDINIER Staff writer
Section: CAPITAL REGION,  Page: B1

Date: Friday, April 12, 1996

ALBANY -- One of the city's most colorful and well-known streets could be taking on a new look someday.


Wrought-iron fences, flower gardens, more trees and brick sidewalks are just a few of the ideas proposed for Lark Street, beginning at its intersection with Madison Avenue. The plans were unveiled to a group of officials, business owners and residents Thursday evening at the Rockefeller Institute. The Lark Street Revitalization Project, the neighborhood's business improvement district and the Historic Albany Foundation made the presentation.


The plans, which were termed ``very tentative'' and lacked any estimate of their cost, focus on restructuring and dressing up the busy intersection dominated by a Dunkin Donuts, a Mobil gas station and a lot of pedestrian and vehicle traffic.


``There are no trees in the intersection and it is wide open and undefined,'' said Kathryn Wolf, principal with Trowbridge and Wolf Landscape Architects and Planners, the firm hired to make the area more appealing.


``For instance, we asked the area businesses what should be done about Dana Park and they looked at us and said, `What park?' '' Wolf said. The intersection does not look like it's part of Lark Street, she added.


Wrought-iron fencing is proposed for the area between the streets and businesses in front of the donut shop and the gas station. Behind the fencing, flower gardens would be planted and the fencing in front of Dunkin Donuts would be made to look like a gateway to Lark Street, Wolf said. Designers would line Madison Avenue with trees on both sides of the intersection and plant many trees along the short stretch of Lark Street adjacent to Dana Park.


The Dana Park monument would be moved closer to the intersection and that corner would be altered to make the crossroads squarer.


Sidewalks would be redone with brick borders on the street edge and overhead power lines would be buried. More ornate and shorter street lighting would be installed.


``We looked at old historic pictures of the area and came up with an acorn-shaped lamp formerly used there,'' Wolf said.


In an effort to slow traffic through the intersection, part would be restored to its rougher Belgian-block surface now buried under a few layers of asphalt. The crosswalks would be accented in red brick.


``There is a real hunger here to do something,'' said 6th Ward Alderwoman Sharon Ward. ``We need some feedback on this, but it's easier to raise money when you have a plan in hand.''


``The city and local businesses have been very supportive of our ideas so far,'' said Bill Allen, co-chairman of the Street Scape Committee of the Lark Street Business Improvement District.


No funding has been secured for the project. Some Urban Development Corp. money is available, said planners, as well as low-interest loans. Businesses may be asked to chip in. No completion date has been set, either, although the city plans to incorporate some of the ideas into a refurbishing project this summer for the north side of Madison Avenue between Willet and Lark streets.