Saturday, June 25, 2022

Cathy’s take on South Street plan unveiling

By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor

More than 60 people attended the Monday afternoon update by the City of Glens Falls on its $10 million NYS Downtown Revitalization Initiative project, held in the community room at Crandall Public Library.

Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins, Development Director Jeff Flagg and guest speakers, Larry Novik of Bonacio Construction’s Spring City Development of Glens Falls, and Scott Townsend, principal architect at SWBR in Troy, recapped progress in the City of Glens Falls, DRI projects already achieved, and plans for the centerpiece South Street projects.

‘Street of Dreams’

Mr. Collins described the South Street corridor as “the final missing piece” of Glens Falls revitalization efforts.

“South Street is perhaps slipping now,” he said, “a sad shell of its former self.”

He recalled nights at the old Sippy’s bar in South Street’s heyday, and remembered Sandy’s Clam Bar as a home for local bands, “many a fund-raiser,” and “our place, even though it was dark, dank and rundown.”

“Sadly, South Street is no longer ‘the Street of Dreams,’” Mr. Collins said. “Fortunately, that is not where the story ends.”

With a series of slides, the presenters introduced the latest plans for a Market Center slated to house the Glens Falls Farmers Market and community events, mixed use renovations of Hotshots Bar — a historic building that Mr. Novik noted was originally the first private hospital in Glens Falls, the Incubator Building at 36 Elm Street, and Sandy’s, all designated for Phase One of the DRI project.

The second phase includes construction of two joined buildings in the current Farmers Market lot — one mixed use facing South Street, one with 68+ apartments on Elm.

To begin as early as Oct. 1

Mayor Collins said the City plans to go before the Planning Board in July.

Development Director Jeff Flagg told The Chronicle, “The goal is to begin construction on Phase I in early fall, around October 1.”

He said, “I believe the hope would be to open for tenants sometime over the summer of 2023. “Perhaps Phase II would be a year behind.”

Still many public questions

Mayor Collins planned to close the meeting and talk individually with members of the public — but one audience member called out, “Freeze!”

She said, “I wouldn’t mind a few question, to hear what people are thinking.”

Thus followed a public Q&A.

Deborah Liddle asked: “Why jam so much into one small area of South Street, when you could go to Cooper Street, or the Shirt Factory, that part of town where there are undeveloped buildings?”

Told that DRI funds are earmarked by the state for South Street only, Ms. Liddle persisted, “Don’t let them trap you into ruining your city.

“Don’t trap us into putting everything into the same pot, a bouillabaisse instead of a nice, spread-out meal.”

Several people questioned the lack of on-site or nearby parking for the planned Market Center.

Maureen Monahan-Chase noted that she and other caterers and restaurants typically purchase “$3- to $500 worth of produce — which we couldn’t do without close parking.”

Others added that senior citizens, and families with young children, need easy parking access.

More comments:

One said, “I question, were the farmers even consulted on this?”

Dan Hazewski said of the City’s current parking garages, “I can’t even tell which ones are open to the public.”

Diane Collins described these as “exciting plans,” but also was “alarmed,” she said, “at not a word mentioned about the climate crisis” including (paraphrased) expectations of harsher weather, blackouts and even climate-related disaster planning, and, regarding parking, the prohibitive cost of car ownership at all in the future.

Another, self described as a “walker and bicycler” said, “I like the idea of more people living downtown. The two biggest employers here are Finch and the Hospital. Employees may self-select not to have a car and live here. There has to be a campaign for that.”

Parking meeting in Fall

Mr. Collins said he plans to hold another round of public meetings in early fall, reporting results of a parking study and the City’s federal grant application to fund a transportation hub, potentially on Elm Street.

Dr. Flagg noted that the state’s $10 million was specifically to support eight designated projects in the downtown and on South Street. “Other projects are planned in other parts of the City,” he said.

Architect Mr. Townsend said the planned buildings are “state of the art,” environmentally speaking.

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