Monday, August 4, 2008

Downtown Cobleskill Can Be More than a Parking Lot

Once again Cobleskill Partnership, Inc., an organization composed of downtown Cobleskill business owners, has proposed that downtown Cobleskill switch to diagonal parking in order to increase the number of available spaces. However, downtown Cobleskill faces much bigger challenges than inadequate parking, and I fear that CPI is doing itself a disservice by not thinking bigger. Especially today, with the ever-pressing need for pedestrian-friendly environments and alternative modes of transportation, I sincerely hope this isn’t all CPI has in its bag of tricks.

First of all, everyone is quick to focus on the businesses downtown, but downtown’s real value lies in the fact that it is a ‘mixed use’ district. Why isn’t CPI more concerned about increasing the amount of available residential space? How many apartments are vacant or uninhabitable? How much potential is there for infill development in and around the business district? I have to think downtown’s businesses would benefit by having more potential customers within walking distance from their businesses.

What about making downtown less auto-centric? Rather than figuring out how to squeeze more cars into Downtown, why not figure out how to better accommodate cyclists and pedestrians? Why not look into adding bike lanes, repairing the sidewalks and adding traffic-calming devices to protect pedestrians.

Inevitably, as the price of gasoline renders suburban sprawl overpriced and obsolete, compact communities like Downtown Cobleskill will once again flourish. Cobleskill will be attractive because residents will be able to walk or bike to destinations. This is something that CPI should encourage.

Cobleskill’s village officials need to take some proactive steps as well. I know they are still scratching their heads over the loss of Lowe’s (when they should be breathing a sigh of relief), but there should be a collective effort to move away from small-scale changes like “diagonal parking” in favor of a more comprehensive vision of a future downtown Cobleskill.

I know it’s easy to be an armchair critic, and that’s why I’m not trying to attack CPI or Cobleskill officials. I’m just trying to expand the discussion a little.

Right now, downtown Cobleskill has a lot going for it: crafts fairs, farmers markets, Arts in the Park, SUNY Cobleskill’s plans to open a book store extension, and best of all, Lowe’s isn’t coming! What I would like to see the Village and CPI work on is attracting residential development, applying for some grants to improve facades and sidewalks, maybe putting in some bike lanes and more public art along the lines of the infamous horse painting on that hollowed out storefront (I love it!). :-)

Oh and hopefully there will still BE a Village to say no to the next big box store that comes to town demanding Village water and sewer.


Anonymous said...

Institute valet parking for the entire town.

Sean said...

"Institute valet parking for the entire town."

No offense, but this is a very impractical suggestion. As far as I know, there is no history of New York State municipalities providing regular valet parking services to residents.

At the very least, maybe the county could arrange to provide these services to the numerous natural gas speculators, water park developers, Korean investors and mystery company officials who come to the area.

Gotta show 'em that we're..."serious", right?

Anonymous said...

Hey, someone has to be first! It may be a stupid idea, but the town has never let stupidity stand in the way of "progress" before!!