The VisionThing

I was struck by this section in the recent Recorder editorial (here):

Consider how much the Route 30 corridor in the town of Amsterdam has grown since Via Ponte was started in 2006 or how downtown Schenectady has been transformed during that time frame. Numerous buildings have been erected, renovated and filled with new tenants and businesses while not so much as a shovel has broken ground on Bridge Street.

Within a more than a week, the Recorder editors go from proponents of large scale demolition of the city to wondering why nothing is being built. Meanwhile the very mention of demolition draws huge swaths of public support with Chalmers as the rallying point. Then we wonder why everywhere else but here.
It’s actually quite simple. Most communities embrace a vision and then commit to making the vision happen knowing it’s tough and in the end may not work. I heard the director of Proctor’s speak several years ago and his vision of Schenectady and Proctor’s at the time seemed almost unbelievable and unattainable. Yet somehow he made it work when we look at where Proctor’s is today. Here on the other hand, any vision other than one embracing a decline of the city is hardly embraced at all. It’s treated as an abomination of thinking or perhaps a delusion.
Imagine if we had Proctor’s here and Philip Morris, the executive director,  laid out his plan and vision. I would wager that he would be readily dismissed by the very people crying the loudest about why nothing is built here. In fact, we’d hear a good case to knock Proctor’s down so we could bring industry and business here.
I’ts just a vision thing.
PS Here’s a challenge if you want to prove me wrong: get Philip Morris here to give a one hour talk on vision and community. See what he has to say and then see the response.

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9 Responses

  1. Karin says:

    I know Philip, he is a visionary! He has the motivation and insight to accomplish anything he sets his mind to. Another thing he has, is a large group of supporters behind him with the same visions. You have to start somewhere. Begin the project and the people will come. Schenectady has done a tremendous thing for the downtown and they can draw people in from everywhere! Grant it, they have Proctors. But that theatre was almost torn down many years ago. Thank God they thought twice before doing that. They have built new hotels, restaurants, movie theatres, brought in a division of DOT and so much more. They are thriving in downtown Schenectady. It took aprox. 10 years to do this – but look at it now! Fabulous! If we took down the Riverfront Center, we would open up this space for redevelopment in our downtown, be able to move the train station, bring in new buildings and store fronts. God, we are right off the Thruway and the brigde! We could develop the waterfront as Schenectady is planning to do. FOLLOW THE LEAD! If they can do it – we can do it. PS – Philip also built the “Lucille Ball Museum” in Jamestown, NY. One of yet another BIG accomplishments of his time. He is a very BRILLIANT man with quite a vision. Bring him here, PLEASE! I guarantee people will listen.

  2. madmirth says:

    Ithaca went through a revitalization years ago, and one thing they did was close off several blocks of downtown to traffic, made sidewalks from storefront to storefront and installed gazebos and pavilions. This downtown area, the Ithaca Commons, is now an area filled with nice restaurants, shops and music venues, and always heavy in foot traffic. They hold different activities on the commons, including live music and festivals.
    Now, as far as Amsterdam, if we utilized the mall instead of removing it, and the Route 5 east is removed, route 5 west is 2 way traffic, and 30 is 2 way traffic, and the bridge dropping downtown from over the river is raised to extend to the mall entrance or route 5, then what about making Main Street a commons, with direct foot traffic into the mall. Utilizing the parking around the mall and the parking garage for the downtown area. Not to mention if the 5 east is removed, the downtown commons will be more directly connected to the Riverlink Park.
    I’m just spitballing here, but is there any value in this kind of idea?

  3. w murphy says:

    Much of the success of downtown Schenectady is due to Metroplex- not sure if AIDA is our answer to Metroplex, but I know the 2 animals are quite different. That, in addition to some wealthy benefactors (ie- the Wright family of Schenectady International) have contributed to the success in downtown Schen.
    http://www.schenectadymetroplex.org/ContentManager/index.cfm?Step=Display&ContentID=4

  4. Karin says:

    I believe we still have a few “wealthy” people in Amsterdam, who, if they thought about it, would also contribute to our revitalization. Why can’t we start our own Metroplex? Why can’t we bring in big money people with a vision for the future of our city. Mix it up a bit and listen to other success stories. I do not believe Amsterdam is “doomed”. I believe we have a better chance of revitalization than many other cities around the upstate area. We need fresh minds and people who are capable of seeing the “future” of Amsterdam, not just Amsterdam is it was or as it is now. LET US START SOMEWHERE, PLEASE?

  5. Tim B says:

    What if there was an organization of citizens whose purpose was to construct a long term vision for Amsterdam, promote the vision to the general population (ie work to get widespread buy-in), then help to elect public servants (ie politicians) who are willing to work toward the vision, and then keep them accountable by informing the public as to how well they did when re-election time comes around.
    Basically pick up where the Comprehensive plan work left off, but put in the hands of citizens rather than the politicians, to preserve the continuity of the vision and accountability to it.
    Anyone know if this has happenned in other cities? Any else think this would be a good idea?

  6. The Comprehensive Plan used a professional city planner, population statistics, input from residents organized by neighborhoods to make recommendations for improving both commerce and standard of living in Amsterdam. It was designed to be an ongoing, living document that is updated every few years. A permanent Comprehensive Plan Committee was recommended to partner with Community and Economic Development staff be a liaison between the Mayor and Common Council and the projects necessary for implementation.
    The standing Comprehensive Plan Committee was never implemented but is exactly what Tim B is describing.
    There is no need to reinvent the wheel, the framework and plan is in place. We need to go back to the Comprehensive Plan and insist on implementation, including the establishment of a standing committee as recommended.

  7. Tim B says:

    I agree with you 100% Jerry. When you say a “standing” committee is what is needed, I agree fully, and that’s why I wonder if the committee should be grassroots rather than dependent on the city government. As we have seen, you cannot rely on mayors to continue the work of their predecesors. A long range vision for the city will literally require decades to implement a committee must be able to remain influential regardless of the political winds that blow through city hall.
    One area where I believe the Comprehensive Plan project fell a little short in was in communicating the plan to the general public. There needs to be a clearer picture painted for people so that they can get behind the ideas, get excited about them, and expect their government to follow through with them. I really doubt the average citizen knows what the Comprehensive Plan is all about in any detail. It basically needs to be packaged and “marketed” to the public.
    Anyone else interested in this idea?

  8. Diane says:

    As a member of the master plan committee, I can tell you we were begging people to come to meetings. There were newspaper articles etc, but 8 years ago, the interest was not there. So much so, that a couple of the committee members did not attend all meetings, one moved out of town, and I found a couple to be very negative. I was the new kid on the block, and the only female. Overall we did a good job and I think the plan still has merit today. And a standing committee is something that I supported many times bringing it up at the city council meetings and it just fell on deaf ears at the time. The biggest obstacle was the money needed to do some many of the things that needed to be done. For example the rezoning. Community policing and the neighborhood get together and neighbor watch are now all moving forward. This is good and these are positive moves in the right direction to make quality of life improvements in our neighborhoods.

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