Bonacio South St. apts. seeks variance to park at Travelers garage; Board receptive

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

The Bonacio project seeks a variance to put parking more than 300 feet away from the 69 apartments he plans to build on South Street (green shape).

Sonny Bonacio’s two-phase South and Elm Street project — including 69 apartments in the planned Farmers Market Pavilion building — came before the Glens Falls Planning Board on July 5 for a preliminary “sketch plan review.”

The plan is for 87 total apartments.

Phase one has 18 in three buildings he’ll renovate — the former Sandy’s Clam Bar at 41 South Street, the old Hotshots Bar at 45 South, and the so-called Incubator building at 36 Elm Street.

Phase two has the 69 apartments in the two buildings that will go up where the Farmers Market operates now.

On site, Bonacio/SpringCity plans to have 44 parking spaces behind the Phase Two apartment building facing Elm Street. Two of those are for accessible parking, 11 will be for commercial customers, and 21 will be for residents.

75 spaces in Travelers garage

To meet parking-per-unit regulations, the developers said they have an arrangement for 75 spaces in the 333 Monument parking garage, familarly known as the Travelers building, on Glen Street.

They seek a variance because off-site “adjacent parking” typically must be within 300 feet of the building.

The Travelers garage is 900 feet by sidewalk — “a four-minute walk,” said Libby Coreno, general counsel for Bonacio Construction/Spring City — or 700 feet, via the alley between the McPhillips Building and the Church of the Messiah Parish house and McPhillips’ parking lot.

The Planning Board, who can issue the variance, independent of zoning or other board, seemed amenable.

“You are not looking for a variance on the number of spaces,” Ethan Hall said, reiterating a point made by Ms. Coreno, “but only on the distance, from 300 to 700 feet.”

She said on-site parking would have drop-off zones to unload groceries or receive Uber /Door Dash-style deliveries.

“The focus is on urban living, single car ownership in favor of delivery services,” Ms. Coreno said. “Our goal and hope is the people who reside in these units will work downtown and be able to walk to work most of the time.”

Mr. Hall said, “It’s not that far away…The younger people we envision living there could be more of a walking type of crowd.”

Dan Bruno, who chaired the meeting, spoke with The Chronicle a few days later. As of June 30, he retired after 20 years chairing the Planning Board, but he said he agreed to step in at this meeting in order to meet quorum. Mr. Hall is expected to succeed him as chair.

Didn’t they say no to Chris Patten?

A year ago, parking was an issue that thwarted developer Chris Patten’s plan to erect a five-story apartment building in the green wedge at Bay and Glen Streets facing the Civil War monument.

“Yeah,” Mr. Bruno acknowledged. “It does look similar.” Mr. Patten proposed leasing spaces in the Travelers garage.

“It’s a different situation,” Mr. Bruno said. “Normally we require parking associated with any apartment building to be of a permanent nature.”

“This was still just a sketch plan review,” Mr. Bruno said. “No actions were taken…There is always a possibility of requiring more parking.”

Noting that the Planning Board seems more amenable in this case, Mr. Bruno pointed to the Downtown Revitalization Initiative aspect.

“They are getting $1.5 [million] from the DRI but the idea is that they leverage that to another $5- or $6 million or more. A big part of the DRI is to encourage and entice people to develop.”

“In general terms we are okay with it,” said Mr. Bruno. “Parking, we’d have to look more into it. If I was buying or renting a condo or apartment I’d want more like they have at the Mill, with a parking garage and covered walkway.”

He said, “It is up to the developer to make provisions. If you’re not able to entice people to rent or purchase, you need to know that up front for a project to be successful.

“If parking is remote, it’s incumbent on the developer to assure that it’s going to work. We try to dictate having parking close by on the same parcel. If I’m the developer I need to be sure renters will want to walk 4-, 5-, 6- or 700 feet from where they park.”

The 333 Glen property, including the parking garage, is for sale for $15 million. The Bay-Glen “wedge,” which prior mayor Dan Hall had hoped to purchase as a permanent park, was approved to subdivide from the 333 property, but that’s been held up because of an issue with back taxes.

Building as soon as fall

Bonacio/SpringCity aims to submit completed application materials to the Planning Board this month, in order to be back on the agenda in August, with hopes also to set a public hearing.

They are pressing to move quickly, citing several grants and funding they are seeking for the project.

The overall time frame is to start the Phase One renovations this fall, the Phase Two Farmers Market site about a year later.

“We are expecting a two year duration, and there will probably be a little overlap,” said Larry Novik, Bonacio’s Director of Operations.

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