Jay Street becomes a fun place to be

Neighborhood becomes a Schenectady destination for shopping and entertainment

AZRA HAQQIE Staff Writer
Section: Capital Region,  Page: B3

Date: Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Correction: Correction published November 29, 2006 Proctor's Theatre is across from Jay Street in Schenectady. An article in some editions of Tuesday's Capital Region section misstated the distance.

SCHENECTADY - As neighborhoods go, the pedestrian area of Jay Street is made up of storefronts and offices and the businesses there are just fine with that.

Jay Street - the main pedestrian thoroughfare between City Hall and State Street - has been positioning itself as a retail and entertainment destination, hosting such events as Jazz on Jay, Rock It At The Circle and a Halloween party. Home to restaurants, boutiques, bookstores and offices and about 2 miles from the renovated Proctor's Theatre, the Jay Street neighborhood is on the upswing.

"In the past year, five new stores have opened on Jay Street," said Greg Salomon, president of the Jay Street Business Association. About 18 stores are members of the merchants association, which is almost 90 percent of the businesses there, he said. The Jay Street pedestrian area runs from State Street at Proctor's to North Jay Street at Union Street.

The neighborhood gets a lift from the Downtown Schenectady Improvement Corporation, which is a nonprofit organization representing more than 600 property owners dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Schenectady, and the Metroplex Development Authority, which was established in 1998 and currently serves about 84 square miles of communities to enhance economic vitality in Schenectady county with an emphasis on the downtown area.

"I believe we are gaining some momentum," said Salomon, who owns Ambition Coffee Shop and Eatery, a mainstay in the neighborhood.

Bob Buccieri, executive director of the downtown improvement group, hailed the pedestrian shopping environment.

"There is a diverse group of merchants, which gives a wonderful flavor to our downtown, not only in business but also the community," said Buccieri, adding, "Sure feels different than working in a mall."

His group also works to support the events in the Jay Street neighborhood. He noted the upcoming Melodies of Christmas on Dec. 14 to 17. The annual holiday extravaganza featuring the Empire State Youth Orches tra and Youth Chorale is held at Proctor's and benefits the Child Cancer Program at Albany Medical Center.

The neighborhood doesn't yet have any signs designating its boundaries, but members say the future is bright.

"Business and city administration now have a good level of cooperation and, as a result, it is paying off with more business," said Lori Sendra, vice president of the business association. She pointed to improvements made to the sidewalks and street, making the area more inviting.

That said, Sendra acknowledged work remains. She said Metroplex members, businesses owners and the city's administration should meet more often. If nothing else, the group could come up with ways to challenge negative perceptions of the neighborhood, like the idea that it's not safe enough.

"We have bike patrols and safety patrols so that it is not perceived as a less-than-desirable area," said Sendra, owner of Earthly Delights Natural Foods, which sells natural products, herbal items, organic coffee beans and organic bulk nuts, grains and cereal.

Meanwhile, the business association will continue to promote the street and downtown and support fellow members.

"We aim to make sure it is safe and conducive to business and to hold events," said Nancy Niefield, owner of Two Spruce Pottery. Pitchers, mugs and bowls in teal, indigo and earthy tones adorn her pottery shop.

"Everyone in the community works together," said Niefield. "I make coffee mugs for Ambition."

"I love it here. I feel I am a part of the community," said Niefield.

Azra Haqqie can be reached at 454-5651 or by e-mail at ahaqqie@timesunion.com.