Mon­u­men­tal theater of mixed emo­tions

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - OPINION -

There is a mon­strous, ghastly, gap­ing hole in the mid­dle of scenic, his­toric, en­chant­ing down­town Troy. I know the area well. I played on the nearby mon­u­ment af­ter gram­mar school classes at St. An­thony’s. Years later, I was an ex­tra, like many of my friends, in the Scors­ese movie “Age of In­no­cence.”

Now there is a hole there. It has been there for over six years. It is not un­like holes in other cities like Saratoga, Water­vliet and Prague. Cities are rou­tinely chal­lenged with the com­plex task of fill­ing holes with some­thing mean­ing­ful, fi­nan­cially prac­ti­cal and pleas­ing to the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion.

A few years ago when a heard that there might be con­dos or apart­ments built there, I sug­gested to my wife, who is from Michi­gan, the pos­si­bil­ity of mov­ing down­town if that com­plex be­came avail­able for rent or own­er­ship. That res­i­den­tial build­ing/com­mer­cial plan seems to have been for­got­ten or lost. I don’t know where it went be­cause of my own ig­no­rance of how the city gov­ern­ment works and who de­cides about what and how. I am of­ten con­fused by the com­plex dy­nam­ics in my own fam­ily.

Lately I have heard about the plan to build a movie theater there. When I first read this I was taken aback pri­mar­ily be­cause of my own selfish de­sires. I fig­ured that the new com­plex would have pop­u­lar films for nor­mal peo­ple but usu­ally none that I like. If a theater is to be built, I hope the films are the artsy fartsy ones like those at the Spec­trum in Al­bany.

Due to my lack of knowl­edge of the salient is­sues re­gard­ing the project, I de­cided to ask some lo­cal peo­ple for their opin­ions.

Down­town Troy res­i­dent Marie Gavazzi said that it doesn’t make sense to put up a build­ing with no win­dows when there is such a beau­ti­ful view on the wa­ter­front. She added that she had, “No ob­jec­tion to the pro­posed project for a more suit­able lo­ca­tion.”

Robert Do­herty, a Troy City Coun­cil mem­ber, men­tioned that the plan was com­plex and in­volved his­toric preser­va­tion and fi­nan­cial is­sues. “The movie com­plex plan was con­ceived in part by a de­sire to con­tinue a re­newal that has been driven by artis­tic en­deav­ors.” He re­ported that many of his lo­cal con­stituents fa­vored the movie plan.

Dun­can Crary, a writer and well-known Troy booster who has lived one block from the site for 15 years said, “It’s ironic to see such cyn­i­cal de­signs for a movie theater in a neigh­bor­hood where sev­eral Hol­ly­wood pro­duc­tions have been filmed specif­i­cally for the beau­ti­ful and in­spir­ing ar­chi­tec­ture. I think Troy has earned enough cul­tural cap­i­tal over the past 20 years to now ex­pect some­thing bet­ter from de­vel­op­ers.

What’s pro­posed here is the cheap­est pos­si­ble strip mall­style box.

The build­ing doesn’t make an ef­fort to fit in with or com­pli­ment Mon­u­ment Square’s ar­chi­tec­ture and ur­ban fab­ric, which is a big rea­son why peo­ple are fall­ing in love with down­town Troy again.”

Tom Cle­ment, a lo­cal busi­ness owner since the six­ties, said that it would be won­der­ful to have a public park on the site that fam­i­lies could en­joy. He called the sight a “pre­cious jewel that has pre­sented a once in a life­time op­por­tu­nity.”

I read pre­vi­ous press re­leases sent out by the Mayor’s of­fice. Ev­ery­thing seemed in or­der re­gard­ing the process and in­put from res­i­dents and busi­ness own­ers were en­cour­aged. In one re­lease Mayor Pa­trick Mad­den said, “Strength­en­ing our down­town re­quires a thought­ful ap­proach to the One Mon­u­ment Square prop­erty to en­hance the ex­pand­ing hub of eco­nomic growth in down­town Troy.”

The plan­ning meet­ing for Tues­day evening was post­poned due to a new law­suit re­lated to the project. What a morass of pol­i­tics, money, es­thet­ics, his­tory and mixed emo­tions. John Ost­wald is pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus of psy­chol­ogy at Hud­son Val­ley Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Troy. Email him at jrost­wald33@gmail.com.

John Ost­wald Then + Now

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