By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
Wielding gold-painted shovels, Glens Falls Mayor Bill Collins, State Senator Dan Stec, State Assemblymember Carrie Woerner and other officials broke ground Friday afternoon, Oct. 20, on the $5 million Market Center on South Street.
“South Street is the last undeveloped part of the downtown,” the mayor said.
“Long referred to sarcastically as ‘the Street of Dreams,’ now South Street will be the Street of Dreams, Realized.”
Located in the vacant lot where OTB once stood, it is the long-awaited centerpiece to the City’s $10 million DRI — Downtown Revitaliation Initiative.
Glens Falls won the competitive grant in 2016 in the Governor Andrew Cuomo administration. It was announced at the then-Glens Falls Civic Center by then-Lieutenant Governor now Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Mayor Collins at Friday’s ceremony recited the history so far of DRI projects in the City, and pointed to the growing number of restaurants and other businesses downtown.
The Event and Market Center is tied into a multi-building project leveraging $6.2 million of the City’s DRI funds.
The rest of the project is in the hands of Sonny Bonacio’s Spring City Development arm. Phase One is to renovate the former Hotshots Bar and Sandy’s Clam Bar for mixed use and use the so-called “Incubator” building to tie in to the Market Center with vendor space and a commercial kitchen on the first floor.
Phase Two, on the site of the current Farmers’ Market, includes two large buildings with 70 apartment units, retail and commercial space.
Mr. Bonacio’s projects are on pause while the developer awaits word regarding state tax incentives they’ll apply for next month, the City has said.
Not all is dreamy in the mayor’s depiction of the Street of Dreams.
Shirt Factory: We’ll take Farmers Mkt., Bring the Pavilion
Responding to word of the Farmers’ Market dissatisfaction over the Glens Falls Market Center plan, Shirt Factory owner Eric Unkauf posted on Facebook, “The Shirt Factory is willing to assist however it can. If Glens Falls Farmers’ Market can figure out how to move the pavilion, they are welcome to place and use it here for free.”
Farmers Market expresses outrage
Mayor Bill Collins spoke repeatedly about the new project as “the Farmers Market Center,” in a press release issued earlier that day, but representatives of the Farmers Market begged to differ.
They threatened potentially to forego the Market Center altogether and seek a different location, perhaps even outside of downtown Glens Falls.
“It is disheartening to note that despite multiple interactions with Mayor Collins and the planning teams over the years, the concerns and aspirations of the Farmers Market community appear to have have been ignored and/or dismissed, all while the city is using the market itself as the sales pitch for the project,” said a Farmer’s Market press release.
It said the ground breaking “came as a surprise for the market members and the board. (We) did not receive information regarding the event, and were not extended an invitation from the City of Glens Falls, the DRI, or Mayor Bill Collins.”
The Farmers Market wrote, “(we) view many aspects of this project as setbacks” and said “the DRI project has direct implications on the market itself as well as the livelihoods of 60+ local small businesses and farms.”
Its objections previously stated include:
“The proposed space is notably smaller, reducing the market’s current size and offering little to no room for future growth.
“…logistical hurdles with loading and unloading, traffic & parking
“…absence of heating within the facility while being advertised as year-round
“…scheduled blackout dates that prevent vendors from operating due to concurrent city events.
“In light of these developments, the Glens Falls Farmers Market Board is convening a meeting with its members to democratically decide the market’s future course of action and the possibility of relocating our market to a new venue, in, or outside of Glens Falls.”
The meeting was planned for Wednesday, Oct. 25, after Chronicle press time.
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