Albany seeking input for downtown plan
If you go
What: Albany community visioning session
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Albertson Memorial Library, 200 N. Water St., Albany.
Why: Village leaders are working on a downtown improvement project and seek input from community members. Everyone is encouraged to attend and comment. Comments also can be submitted online at saa-madison.com/community-comment.
ALBANY Community leaders and consultants are hoping to develop a vision for downtown Albany as they plan a downtown improvement project.
Everyone is invited to share input at a session Thursday night at the library.
"We want to try to get the people involved, so it isn't just a village board making a decision," clerk/treasurer Laurie Keepers said. "We want input from everybody because it's everybody's village."
New water and sewer infrastructure are needed under North Water Street, and the state also plans to resurface Highway 59 through the village in 2015, Keepers said. The two projects provide momentum for a new look downtown, the opportunity to coordinate the design and the potential for efficiency in cost and timing, said Ryan Garcia, a planner with SAA Design in Madison. SAA and Batterman of Beloit are assisting the village.
Since new utilities are needed under North Water Street—possibly as soon as next year—village leaders wanted to see what could be done for sidewalks and the overall look to "make it more updated and pleasing," Keepers said.
Whatever happens likely will be based around funding, she said, "but we're trying to get the most we can for what it is going to cost us."
The village could attract people with nearby natural features—the Sugar River, the Sugar River Trail and hundreds of acres of state Department of Natural Resources land, she said.
"It's so close around us. We just don't use it like we should," she said.
Suggestions so far have included a river walk or simply benches. Downtown also includes some empty buildings, which officials would like to see filled, she said.
The rear sides of the buildings on the street also are visible from Highway 59. People have talked about adding parking and having the building rears improved, Keepers said.
Consultants already have heard comments about the condition of buildings and "sort of an apparent lack of pride and investment" in the village's main street, Garcia said.
Pictures from the early 1900s and earlier show a contrast in the sense of pride, he said, but also reveal that about 70 percent of the same buildings still are standing.
Officials have limited authority over private property, Garcia said, but SAA and Batterman could equip the village with a vision and new tools, such as low-interest loan or grant programs or code-enforcement to make buildings meet public health standards, he said.
When a community takes the lead and invests in sidewalks, bike trails and streetscaping, it can feed enthusiasm among property owners to make an investment, Garcia said.
"The ultimate hope is the village's investment shows a return on investment in an increase of the tax base over time," he said. "That's kind of what we're hoping, from a big picture."