New bidding procedure for train station

When the new Amtrak train station in Schenectady, NY was last bid, the entire project, which included infrastructure work, a temporary station, demolition and the new station itself, was all bid out as one project. Because of its size and complexity (and some other factors), only one bid was received – and that bid was significantly over the budget.

After much deliberation, the decision was made to divide the project into smaller bid packages that would attract more bidders. As you can see in this article, the state is making various efforts to make the bid process much more successful this time around.

Given the sequence of the bid packages and the construction, this means that the new station itself won’t be bid out until 2017 and completed in 2018, so everyone will still have to wait quite some time to see it and use it. In the meantime, Foresight Architects will be hard at work over the next year or so getting the bid documents ready!

Delmar church breaks ground for elevator addition

GroundbreakingConstruction has started on a new entrance with an elevator that will add full, unrestricted access to all areas of the First United Methodist Church of Delmar. A groundbreaking ceremony was held after worship services on May 22, 2016 for the addition. When completed, the addition will include a new entrance on the South side of the property, with access to the first floor level Fellowship Hall, the second floor church offices, classrooms, chapel and main sanctuary and a previously under-used third floor.

This project has been a 20-year goal of the congregation. Funded by church members, this $850,000 addition is the largest and final project in a series of capital campaigns begun in 2014. When completed in November, the new entrance and addition will update the appearance of the church when seen from Nathaniel Boulevard. Architectural services were provided by Foresight Architects. Construction is being performed by Rosch Brothers, Inc. of Latham.

Rendering of new elevator addition by Foresight Architects

Rendering of new elevator addition by Foresight Architects

Foresight started their relationship with the First United Methodist Church of Delmar back in 1998, when they provided technical design services for a major exterior repair project of the walls and roofs of the facility. In 2002, Foresight Architects was hired to prepare a Master Plan for the church, which led to four separate phases of construction: renovations to the sanctuary, renovations to the office and classroom areas, renovation of the Fellowship Hall and, finally, the entrance/elevator addition. We are always pleased when one of our Master Plans gets implemented over time, which is just the way we design them to work.

If your church is contemplating a variety of improvements and doesn’t know where to start, call us today for a free consultation so we can explain how our Master Plan process works.

Construction progresses at St. Joseph Church

Several of us at Foresight Architects have been very busy traveling back and forth to Demarest, NJ on a regular basis since last year to guide the construction process for the new worship space at St. Joseph Church. Over the past few weeks, most of the clay tile roofing has been installed on the upper roof.

St. Joseph Church addition under construction

St. Joseph Church addition under construction

The decision to use clay tile for the roof of the addition was based on a number of factors. The roof on the original building, built in the 1950’s, was still in excellent condition more than 50 years later. Of course, we wanted the roof of the addition to match the roof of the original building; however, a tile roof would be much more expensive than a typical asphalt shingle roof. We considered removing the existing tile roof and adding insulation and a new asphalt shingle roof. But when we ran the calculations, we found out that insulating the roof of the existing church would have a forty-year payback so it was probably not a wise investment of $60,000 or more.

Because the existing tile roof was only a little more than halfway through its 100-year life expectancy, it did not make sense to remove it if it was still working (which most of it was). Because of the high cost of removing and replacing the existing tile roof, we determined that the cost of providing a similar tile roof on the new church would be the same cost as removing all the existing tile and installing asphalt shingles throughout. Whereas asphalt shingles typically have a lifespan of around thirty years, the roof tiles have a 75-year warranty and often last 100 years or more. By saving the roof tiles from the portion of the building that would be demolished (which were slightly different than the tiles we could buy today), future repairs to the original would be less expensive, as the tiles would not have to be custom made for the repairs.

Fortunately, the same company that made the original roof tiles (and the vast majority of clay roof tiles sold in the last century or so) was still in business and still made a very similar product. It is their tiles that you see being installed in the photo.

Come back soon to see more progress photos!

Back to the “drawing boards” for the Schenectady Train Station!

The state Department of Transportation has appropriated $900,000 for the redesign of the Schenectady Train Station in an attempt to bring the project back into budget. The reassigned funds come as the DOT prepares to seek new bids after the initial round resulted in just one bid that was roughly $10 million more than budgeted to build a new station on Erie Boulevard.

A large number of changes will be made to reduce costs. Fortunately, the design of the passenger waiting room will be remain unchanged from the most recent design and should continue to be a significant public space in downtown Schenectady.

Foresight Architects is delighted to continue to work on this important project.

Schenectady train station still on track for 2018

New bids will be sought to build an Amtrak station in Schenectady, New York, after the sole proposal came in way over budget.

The state Department of Transportation said today it will be seeking another round of construction bids for a new train station on Erie Boulevard.

“Our hope is we can find a more cost effective way [of building the station] and attract a wider array of builders,” said Gary Holmes, spokesman.

The new bids will likely be sought in July and the project awarded later this year. The new station would be built in 2018 to replace the existing aging, cramped station.

“It pushes us back a little,” said Holmes. The original estimated completion date was spring 2018.

The DOT is taking the step after just one company, Jersen Construction in Waterford, submitted a bid earlier this month. The cost, nearly $25 million to build a two-story, 10,630-square-foot building on the site of the existing Amtrak station, far exceeded the budget of $12 million to $15 million.

The DOT will consider ways to reduce the overall cost and reach out to more prospective bidders. Some bidders might have been turned off because of the availability of other, less-complex construction projects, Holmes said.

No additional funds are available to pay for the station.

Meanwhile, an association representing non-union contractors issued a statement today calling on the state to remove a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) requirement from the bid.

Associated Builders & Contractors, Empire State Chapter President Brian Sampson today called on New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matt Driscoll and Governor Cuomo to re-bid the Schenectady Train Station without a costly provision known as a Project Labor Agreement (PLA).

“When will government finally get the point? Time and time again it has been shown that projects with costly PLAs attached receive fewer bids thus driving up the cost.” said Sampson. “With only one bid that was over 55% higher than the original estimate, this is further proof of that. The failure of NYSDOT to open up competition to ALL workers and ALL contractors, regardless of union affiliation, should not be a burden on taxpayers. The only way to remedy this gross negligence is to re-bid the project without a PLA and allow increased competition to drive down the cost and save taxpayers millions.”

“Commissioner Driscoll, and all government officials, have an obligation and a responsibility to the taxpayers of New York to build the highest quality construction at the best price possible. Attaching a costly, exclusionary PLA and picking winners and losers is not the right course of action. Whether it is on this train station, an economic development project, or rebuilding our infrastructure, we call on government to get the most value for our tax dollars. Do not apply PLAs or any other gimmick to projects today or in the future.”

Sampson pointed to numerous independent studies that have shown diminished competition on projects with Project Labor Attachments attached. This includes a study on a proposed PLA in the Kingston City School District, which quantified the excess cost resulting from diminished competition at nearly $3m ($2,975,810).

A new train station for Schenectady is being designed by Foresight ArchitectsBusinessman Peter Guidarelli, who co-owns a two-story office building across from the train tracks, has suggested the state convert the upper floor into a train station. Guidarelli says the plan, which would require a walkway over a parking area and other changes, would be significantly less expensive than building new.

“His meeting is one of several we’ll take as we work towards this rebid process,” Holmes said.

The DOT issued the following statement to the Business Review:

“Every construction project is different and we review them individually. Our analysis determined that a PLA was appropriate for the Schenectady Station project. In preparation for re-bidding the project, we’ll review the project scope and the PLA, if it’s warranted.”

Union Station reborn?

Schen_Station2004According to an article in Sunday’s Schenectady Gazette, the new train station in Schenectady will be called Union Station to honor the previous structure which dominated the downtown landscape from 1908 to 1969 (pictured on the left, trackside view). I am reprinting the full article below as a link will only work for those with a subscription to the Gazette.

 

Schenectady Union Station 2 on track for 2018

New depot an homage to glory days of rail, city

The Amtrak train station in Schenectady is pictured in 2014.PHOTOGRAPHER: MARC SCHULTZ

The Amtrak train station in Schenectady is pictured in 2014.

 — When Train No. 74 bound for New York City pulled out of Schenectady’s Union Station on Saturday, June 28, 1969, it was a sad day in the city’s long and rich railroad history.

At 7 p.m. that day, just 15 minutes after the last train headed south, Union Station was closed and slated for demolition. For the next 10 years Schenectady was without a train depot, and when passenger rail service did finally return to the city in 1979 the new hastily-built terminal had none of its predecessor’s beauty and grandeur.

This time around, however, as construction of a new $15 million train station begins next spring to replace the 1979 Amtrak station, city officials are making sure Schenectady residents will have a facility they’ll be proud of.

“The design process was well planned,” said Mayor Gary McCarthy, elected to his second term Tuesday. “The proposal calls for some of the characteristics of the old Union Station to be incorporated into the new one. The old building was considered to be a great piece of architecture and obviously what we’ve had for a while now isn’t. It’s great to know that we’re going to have a first-class rail station for those people coming to Schenectady and for Schenectadians looking to travel.”

Department of Transportation officials expect the work, which will include the laying of another track, to be done sometime early in 2018. The new depot will also be called Union Station to honor the structure which dominated the downtown landscape from 1908 to 1969.

“The new design will evoke memories of the old Union Station,” said Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen. “You can’t ever replicate a place like that perfectly. It was a masterpiece. But it’s going to have the clock and the large windows. It will bring back memories to all those older people who remember the old building.”

Foresight Architects of Schenectady, working with the Buffalo-based firm of Wendel WD Architecture, is designing the new station. The entire project is being overseen by the state DOT, which issued the following statement through its director of communications, Gary Holmes.

“The design for the new station takes inspiration from the Schenectady Union Station built in 1908,” wrote Holmes. “We’re anticipating an exterior which resembles the same stacked brick and limestone finish. It’s the same shape, roughly the same size, similar window and door placement and detailing. The new station will also include large arched windows with cornices, and a more substantial canopy.

“Reminiscent of the original station, there will be large and prominent clocks on each side of the building,” continued Holmes. “An interior wall of the new station will feature a large-historic inspired clock over the archway which passengers will see as they head to the platform the catch their train.”

It won’t quite be the same, according to Gillen, but it will still be a very worthwhile addition to downtown.

“Common sense tells you they never should have knocked down that building,” he said. “That’s why we’re making sure we’re getting something nice here. It’s going to be a great new building.”

The station will be the sixth in Schenectady’s history. The first was at the top of Crane Street hill, where the DeWitt Clinton ended its first historic run from Albany to Schenectady in 1831. A second depot was built in 1842 and moved downtown to the east side of the tracks, and in 1882 another station was put up just west of the tracks.

Both were described in various negative terms by various historians, and by the turn of the century the public was clamoring for something new. It didn’t take long.

In 1903, Schenectady and other cities across New York were making plans to eliminate several dangerous grade crossings, and work raising railroads above street level created the need for new and bigger train stations.

“What drove the building of Union Station, and it was true in many places around the state, was to get the tracks off the streets,” said Dave Gould, historian for the ALCO Technology and Historical Society. “Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo and especially in New York City, they all had the same problem. The railroads ran right through the middle of downtown and it was a genuine hazard. People got hit and killed, children got run over. There’d be stories about how the carriage of some prominent person had been hit by a train. They were probably more common than automobile fatalities today, and it seemed as if the newspapers kept a running tally.”

The new depot was called Union Station because it was used by the New York Central and the Delaware and Hudson railroads according to Gould. When it opened on March 1, 1908, passenger and freight train service were at their height of popularity.

‘a real landmark’

“In the 50 years before Union Station was built, the railroads have grown from a curiosity into the major transportation system,” said Gould. “Everybody took the railroad, and the station was an important part of the community. It was the place to meet people and eat at the restaurant, it was the place to see off your relatives, or to welcome soldiers back home.”

Schenectady native Frank Cornicelli says city residents took great pride in the building.

“I thought it was a great place, and I thought it was a darn shame when they knocked it down,” said Cornicelli, who worked at General Electric for 38 years before retiring in 1984. “There were newsstands and stores in there, and I’d go with some friends, get something to eat, sit down on the bench and just spend some time there. It was a real landmark.”

In his book, “Schenectady’s Golden Era: 1180-1930,” author Larry Hart described Union Station this way. “Gleaming marble walls supported by stone columns lent an atmosphere of grandeur,” wrote Hart, a former newspaperman and county historian. “There was every convenience — lounges, newsstands, snack counter, rest rooms and an abundance of windows at the ticket counters. The big clocks at either end of the waiting room gave the time from inside and out.”

When Union Station closed during the summer of 1969, area residents looking for a train ride were forced to travel to a small station in Colonie for most of next decade. When the current downtown station was opened during the second week of August, 1979, finding a train became more convenient for locals, but fewer people were riding the rails.

“Gas was cheap, cars had become much more convenient, and for truly long-distance travel people would fly,” said Gould. “Everybody preferred to drive themselves, and trains were seen as something for commuters or poor people. Amtrak had to compete with all that change in our culture, so it wasn’t a very good time for railroads.”

Rail service, however, is making a comeback according to Gould, especially in upstate New York.

“A second track and this new station should really help increase traffic south to New York and north to Montreal,” said Gould. “With one track there was always a bottleneck between Albany and Schenectady, and some people going south would just drive to Rensselaer to avoid it. Now, things are different. There seems to be, more and more, a continuing drumbeat for more rail service, so things are changing.”

New Schenectady Train Station out to bid

Exterior rendering of Schenectady Train StationForesight Architects, working as the local architect for the Buffalo-based E/A firm of Wendel WD Architecture, Engineering, Surveying & Landscape Architecture, PC, recently completed the bid documents for the new Amtrak Station in downtown Schenectady. The New York State Department of Transportation has just put the project out to bid, as reported in this article in the Albany Business Review.

The project has received local press coverage as well. The Schenectady Gazette article titled Schenectady train station construction to start in spring contains additional details about the project. The most comprehensive write-up can be found in the news section of the DSIC’s new website. Although none of the articles make any mention of the various design firms involved in the project which, in addition to our firm, include several other Capital District or upstate New York firms, we were pleased to read in the DSIC article that Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chair Ray Gillen said that the new station “features a great design.”

005As noted in some of the articles, the design is inspired by the 1910 station that once occupied a large portion of the current parking lot. We were fortunate enough to have copies of the original drawings, dated MCMV (1905) by Reed and Stem Architects of New York and St. Paul. I’m not sure how long it took them to complete the drawings for the Schenectady station but just 2 years earlier, Reed and Stem had been one of four architectural firms invited to submit a design for the new Grand Central Station in New York City. At the time, their offices were only in St. Paul but they still managed to win the competition. According to a New York Times article, the firm began with two big advantages. It had designed other stations for the New York Central Railroad. Moreover, like the Central itself, Reed & Stem could count on connections: Allen H. Stem was the brother-in-law of the chief engineer for the New York Central Railroad – the man with the vision for the new Grand Central Terminal. Yet in the highly charged world of real estate development in New York, another firm’s connections trumped Reed & Stem’s. After the selection was announced, Warren & Wetmore, who were architects of the New York Yacht Club and who boasted society connections, submitted an alternative design. It didn’t hurt that one of the firm’s principals, Whitney Warren, was William Vanderbilt’s cousin. The two firms were then forced to work together on the project. (I can assure you that the awarding of this project to the design team of Wendel & Foresight was not the result of such nepotism.)

Looking at the existing station, it is hard to imagine how huge the original station was. The original station consisted of a 5,500 square foot, 50-foot tall main waiting room, located in front of what is the existing station, with all other functions (baggage rooms, concourse to the tracks and toilet rooms) being placed under the tracks (which were wider at the time), running all the way from Liberty Street to State Street. As with the original design, the portion of the new structure that is not under the tracks will be entirely dedicated to waiting and tickets, with all other functions beyond that area – under the tracks. While larger than the current waiting room, at approximately 2,500 square feet and 37 feet tall, it will still be less than half the size of the original waiting room. Nonetheless, the feel of the space should be very similar, with tall round-top windows and a barrel vault ceiling, which were important features of the original station.

While the exterior harkens back to the past, the interior design reflects a new, modern, station that will greatly enhance the travel experience for the tens of thousands of Amtrak riders who travel from across the state and nation to Schenectady each year. We can’t wait for construction to start!

Demolition, replacement readied for Schenectady train station

A rendering of the new train station planned for Schenectady.

A rendering of the new train station planned for Schenectady.

 — It was built in the late ’70s. The squat, one-story beige concrete building replaced the old Union Station, a grand-looking train station that had been torn down years earlier.

Its flat metal roof has faded with time. Its walls are spattered with graffiti. Its floors and walls are marked with the stains of many travelers, weather and age.

This winter, the eyesore is finally coming down.

“That’ll be a great day,” said Schenectady County Metroplex Development Authority Chair Ray Gillen. “Everyone in Schenectady just rues the day that they ever knocked down the old train station and put this up in its place, so we’re happy that we’re finally getting a new station.”

The new station will be a nod to the old, beloved Union Station, built in 1908 in the Beaux Arts style and torn down in 1971 to make way for a parking lot. The two-story station will feature floor-to-ceiling arched windows and a large clock, just like the old one. But first, Schenectady will have to put up with a modular-style temporary station on the other side of Liberty Street for at least a year before it can get its old (new) station back.

On Wednesday, the Metroplex board approved a number of small resolutions to help pave the way for construction to finally begin on a project that’s been in the works for years. The project will go out to bid this fall, and work can begin over the winter on a temporary station. Once that’s ready, the current station will be demolished to make way for the new one, which could take until 2017 to complete, Gillen said.

“It will probably go a little bit into 2017, but we don’t have a defined schedule yet,” he said.

The $14 million project will be paid for with state and federal funds, and will be built concurrent with a new platform to allow a second track to be installed between Albany and Schenectady to eliminate a major Amtrak bottleneck. Work on this new platform began last fall. The state Department of Transportation is the lead on the project, but is working together with Amtrak, Metroplex and the Capital District Transportation Authority.

Since the new station is slightly larger than the current one, Metroplex has agreed to sell 2,400 square feet of the parking lot it owns in front of and next to the station to Amtrak for $1. It also has agreed to give up part of the parking lot for the construction of a walkway from the new station to the CDTA terminal on State Street that spans the length of the Wall Street building housing Katie O’Byrnes and other businesses.

Metroplex also entered into a betterment agreement with the state, which has agreed to rebuild the parking lot surrounding the station for $300,000 as part of the project. The area in front of the Wall Street building next to Erie Boulevard isn’t covered by the agreement though, so Metroplex has agreed to spend $48,000 to refurbish this section of the lot itself.

“New York state DOT and the governor’s office have been terrific in moving forward the new Schenectady station project,” Gillen said.

Schenectady’s train station is the only Capital Region station in the heart of a downtown. Metroplex officials said they’d eventually like to see a car rental service there, and confirmed plans are in the works with CDTA to launch a shuttle service from the train and nearby bus station to the Mohawk Harbor and casino site.

“People are going to come into the city by train and want to go to the harbor,” said Neil Golub, a member of the Metroplex board and local philanthropist. “The question then becomes, how do they get to the harbor?”

Lunch Hour in Schenectady

In the Spring of 2009, we moved our offices from Clifton Park to their current location on the 400 block of State St., right above Aperitivo. We were excited to be moving “downtown” and are just as excited to be here today. Over the past 6 years that we have been here, we have had the opportunity to work on various projects in the City and County, ranging from small projects, such as facade renovations at the Open Door Bookstore on Jay Street and Jade Bistro in Scotia, to much larger projects, such as the new Schenectady Intermodal Station that will soon replace the old Amtrak station. But what really makes working in Schenectady a pleasure are days like today. Let me tell you about my lunch hour today.

Jazz on Jay, free concerts every Thursday throughout the Summer

Jazz on Jay, free concerts every Thursday throughout the Summer

I left the office and walked less than a block away to make a deposit at a local bank where the tellers are the same tellers that were there when we moved here. Every one of them knows my name and greets me by name every time I walk in. From there, I strolled down to Little Italy to one of my favorite new lunch spots – Civitello’s. They have a beautiful outdoor dining space with comfortable seating and a babbling fountain. I picked up what they call a half-sandwich (which looks more like a ¾-sandwich to me), a bag of chips and a Snapple for $6.75 and enjoyed them “al fresco” in their courtyard.

After my leisurely lunch, I walked back to the office via Jay Street, through the outdoor Farmer’s Market and onto the pedestrian mall where Wee-B3 was providing free jazz. Grabbing a seat just outside Ambitions Cafe, I sat and listened and people watched for a while before heading back to the office, having been fed and entertained while getting a little exercise and sun in the process. Kudos to all the people who have worked so hard over the years to make downtown Schenectady what it is today – a great place to be!

Jade Bistro now open in Scotia

Originally opened by Joe Chan in 1977 as the Dragon Garden, Joe’s niece Xiao Wu purchased it from Joe upon his retirement. A complete renovation was recently completed to match the new name and identity. Foresight Architects was responsible for the exterior renovations and obtaining final approvals from the Planning Board. Jade Bistro is an Asian Fusion Restaurant serving Cantonese, Mandarin and Sichuan dishes as well as Japanese and Thai food. There is also a private party room large enough to host gatherings of up to 40 people. www.jadebistroscotia.com.