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The first stage was to understand the market for residential units downtown. In 2002, the City of Albany, Capitalize Albany Corporation and the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District retained Blount Hunter Associates to complete a Downtown Marketing and Leasing Strategy to drive additional commercial retail in downtown Albany. As a part of that effort, Zimmerman Volk Associates completed a feasibility analysis of downtown housing and determined that added residents would drive additional commercial uses in downtown (An updated Executive Summary of the 2011 Residential Market Analysis from Zimmerman Volk Associates is available here). The report concluded that the area and demographics would support significant additional residential units in downtown Albany. The study explained that the downtown Albany environment and amenities would be especially attractive to market segments including “twenty-something, young professionals” as well as “empty nesters” both segments looking for urban lifestyles.

It was also apparent that there is an opportunity to leverage the State’s investment in technology that has occurred at Albany Nanotech. In discussions with Albany Nanotech staff, many of the new technology employees relocating to work at the Albany Nanotech campus and now at Global Foundries, are interested in an urban living environment where they can walk to amenities such as restaurants, bars, and cultural venues. It was determined that the presence of additional downtown residents would enable the City to attract the next level of commercial and retail investment and activity.

The study also identified specific buildings in downtown Albany that were strong candidates for mixed-use redevelopment including upper floor residential conversions. Up to thirty-six buildings were identified as potential candidates for renovation or conversion projects based on availability of vacant or underutilized space and location of the property. Some of the buildings have first floor commercial tenants, however in some cases entire buildings are underutilized. The study also reported that while there is a demand for downtown residential units, there exist barriers to development.