Troy becoming the white collar city

Tyler McNeil

Creative Editor

Three miles away from campus, a new city with an emerging market develops with a familiar name: Troy.

“If you take a look at what Troy has been doing in the past five years, the momentum has been building,” said Hudson Valley President. Andrew Matonak.

In recent years, Downtown Troy has been resuscitated by infrastructure, business, education, and a growing upper class, surrounded by historically blue collar neighborhoods.

Partnerships lift the city

“It hasn’t been one single shoulder that’s lifted the city, it’s been a component of all of them,” said Monica Kurzejeski, economic development coordinator for the city of Troy. “It’s been the business improvement district, the Farmer’s Market, the investors, the business development and the city of Troy. Now you’re starting to see it go north of the marina district. Now all of those mill buildings are starting to move north. There are a lot of artists that are starting to invest north.”

Large projects and programs are the economic focus of the city. $25 million is currently being poured into mixed-use development lead by Kirchhoff-Consigli Construction Management for the former monument square city hall site, taken down in 2011. The site looks to create 88 spaces for apartment tenants as well as become the permanent site for the Troy Waterfront Farmers Market.

Three years ago the downtown business improvement district (BID) was established, and since then, Troy has seen a significant increase in businesses starting downtown. Between 2011 and 2012, there was a 75 percent increase in new businesses opening in Downtown Troy.

The district has sponsored student discounts popular in businesses including the Daily Grind, Bombers and the Uncle Sam Project. Events such as Rockin’ on the River and Chowderfest pulled in over $400,000 in 2012.

“These are box stores. These are people who have desire. [These are] people that want to step up and say ‘I want opportunity’,” said Troy mayor and former Hudson Valley professor, Lou Rosamilia. According to Rosamilia, about 40 new businesses have started in downtown Troy within the past year.

The BID plans to move the city from a 12-hour-city to an 18-hour-city, an economic development concept that stresses making businesses able to attract dense customer until midnight.

“People who live here [will] have things to go do and occupy themselves at night. It gets them out on the street. It gets them active,” said Kurzejeski.

Revitalization

Troy benefits from its historic feel. “We’re probably one of the most intact historic cities with what our architecture is north to south and east to west. Troy’s one of the largest collections of those in the nation,” Kurzejeski said.

“Everybody is trying to figure out what their role is so that we all work together collaboratively to lift up the entire region. Because of our scale and because of our architecture, we’re probably the urban choice,” said Kurzejeski.

In 1986, Central Troy was added to the National Register of Historic Places, recognized for its infrastructure built from 1787 to 1940, a response to urban renewal in the ‘70s.

However, the historic aspect of the city also presents the challenge of renewing old neighborhoods. Reviving infrastructure has trended in Troy since the early ‘90s. The “waterfront renaissance” began in the early ‘90s with Hedley Park Place, which later became the base for Troy Center Hall. Businesses like Franklin Plaza and Browns Brewing Company also opened their doors in the early 90’s.

Later on, the restaurant district filled with businesses such as with Ryan’s Wake Public House, Jose Malone’s Irish-Mexican Restaurant, the River Street Cafe and Dinosaur BBQ. “You can see, this has all shifted south and it’s going into Downtown [Troy],” said Kurzejeski.

After state agencies moved out, First Columbia LLC invested $10 million in Flanigan Square and Hedley Park Place buildings to lure future tenants including Stockton Barker Mead Law Firm, Troy City Hall, Mac Source Communications, Capital District Educational Opportunity Center; Workforce Development Institute and KW Mission Critical Engineering.

Investment has grown through the Troy renaissance. Investors such as David Bryce, owner of Bryce Properties  have displayed their dominance in the area. In a four-block radius, his company owns the Troy Atrium, Frear Building, 297 River St., Uncle Sam Parking Garage, Quackenbush Building, Tech Valley Innovation Center, 500 Federal St., Market Block and is now building the Center of Gravity.

“He’s been really instrumental in a lot of the downtown development,” said Kurzejeski.

Creating wealth with “creative economy”

Wealth creation is no stranger to the city of Troy. According to the 1840 Census, Troy was the fourth richest city in the country on a per capita basis.

Michael Yevoli, current director of development and planning at Columbia Development Companies and former Albany commissioner,  emphasized the importance of regional investment. “[As] soon [as] you start inserting local people, you start having things happen because of relationships and local concern.”

Columbia Development has been in partnership with the city of Troy since 1997.

Future job growth in Troy is expected to be 32.70 percent in the next ten years and Kurzejeski believes much of that  is going to be within the “creative economies.”

“The future of this city is going to be in the business sector of creative technologies,” she said.

She believes that Troy, will become a leader in the “creative economies,” such as architectural, engineering and technology-based firms within the next decade.

Higher education institutions like Hudson Valley will play a big role in the emerging economies, according to Kurzejeski. RPI also has become a leader in reviving Troy, reopening the vacant Emerging Ventures Ecosystem downtown and refurbishing old architecture.

Almost 20,000 college students attend school in Troy and over half of them enroll at Hudson Valley, an institution Kurzejeski believes is important in the evolution of Troy, “As Hudson Valley adapts… to the near future, [by] having programs like nanotechnology, biomedical programs, they’re training the city for the workforce,” she said.

“Hudson Valley not only contributes academically to the community but contribute financially as well,” said Rosamilia. Hudson Valley has recently proposed four locations for the Start-Up New York program, all within Troy.

“We have an important role and we should be a leader in terms of what should be happening from an economic development standpoint within the whole region and how we can back projects and efforts to improve the economic vitality of our area,” Matonak said.

“We already have businesses that are interested in talking with us and well get into specifically what they’re looking for and does it really fit with the mission of Hudson Valley,” stated the college president about Start-Up New York. Matonak was appointed last year by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the Capital Region Economic Development Council.

Rosamilia urged students, “As you get your education, don’t leave Troy, stay in Troy, invest in Troy.”

 

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