Monumental theater of mixed emotions
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 email@example.com.
John Ostwald Then + Now