Sunday, October 17, 2021

Bronzino & Barkenhagen plan ‘vertical farm’ in former blacksmith shop

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

Well, something will be growing in the ancient blacksmith building at the foot of Glen Street hill that most recently housed the Bride and Gown consignment shop. But, no, it won’t be marijuana.

Building owner Brian Bronzino and partner Robin Barkenhagen still aim to open a cannabis dispensary on the building’s first floor, but that project awaits state and city action.

The Glens Falls Planning Board tabled it as the state develops its rules for now legalized marijuana and the Common Council considers how it will respond.

In the meantime, City Economic Development Director Jeff Flagg procured a $96,000 state grant for an “urban farm” project that will use the building’s upstairs. “This has nothing to do with their dispensary idea,” Mr. Flagg notes. “Some people thought, but no, we won’t be growing pot.”

Mr. Barkenhagen says, “Jeff came to us about a year ago with this great idea. We’re happy to be helping the city with the space, to be a part of the future of how we grow vegetables up here.”

Mr. Flagg said it will be a vertical growing room, a 300 square-foot “box inside a box,” with PVC walls, stacked sliding racks and a controlled environment with light and water sources for growing vegetables.

Mr. Flagg said, “We would start with something easy, like leafy greens, something to prove the concept.” They hope to be up and running in four months.

The grant came through the State’s Empire State Development Corporation’s Smart Cities Innovation Partnership.

The project’s full budget is $193,000, including the City’s match and in-kind donations by National Grid, Mr. Bronzino, some manufacturers and other partnerships.

Marijuana dispensary plan on hold

Mr. Barkenhagen, owner of 42°, the downtown Glens Falls business featuring blown glass pipes, CBD products and other products one might associate with an old-school “head shop,” and Mr. Bronzino still have marijuana plans for the blacksmith shop building.

“What we want is to be the first marijuana dispensary in Warren County, located in the oldest building in the City of Glens Falls,” says Mr. Barkenhagen, speaking for himself and for the famously press-shy Mr. Bronzino, 27, the Glens Falls real estate investor who came here from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Mr. Barkenhagen says, “We are waiting for the state to form a commission to write the rules. The legislators left for the session without appointing a director or even one person to the commission to write the cannabis rules.”

In the meantime, Mr. Barkenhagen says, “We have hired a company to help us write a business plan, and we are looking to hire a manager who has experience running a dispensary,” in order to be ready to apply for a license as soon as it’s allowed.

They’ve come before the Planning Board several times. “No one’s applied for a dispensary license yet,” Mr. Barkenhagen said. “We are trying to stay ahead of the game. We wanted to put the City on alert that this is what we are planning to do, and we have done that.”

He says the City told them it intends to decide by the end of the year whether to opt in to allowing marijuana sales.

Mr. Barkenhagen said that, rather than a so-called “cannabis cafe” for on-site consumption, “a dispensary is our number-one focus. That is the big money maker and bringer of tax dollars to Glens Falls.”

Mr. Barkenhagen said, “You can’t do both” — a dispensary and on-site consumption — “as far as we know, until the rules are written.”

He said they envision it as a delivery rather than a walk-in business, minimizing parking concerns some have expressed about the bottom of Glen Street hill site.

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