By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
Tuesday was the date for the Glens Falls DRI Advisory Committee to submit its final plan to the state for how to allocate its $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant awarded last August.
About 60 people attended the meeting in Heritage Hall at the Glens Falls Civic Center Thursday, Feb. 23, when the committee laid out its proposal.
Members stressed it’s very much a proposal, subject to state approval.
The list of requests totaled $12.1 million, more than the $9.7 million available (after state-mandated consultant fees).
The committee said the Governor’s office urged them to overshoot, given that some projects may not be approved.
Committee members said projects selected leverage private investment, potential public or government funds; do not have other sources of funding — the “but for” factor, they said; and can be implemented in one year to 18 months.
The biggest request is for a $6,250,000 one-story “dynamic, mixed-use facility” on South Street that will be an “anchor” providing year-round indoor/outdoor space for the Farmers’ Market, space for community and private events, cold storage distribution for area food-related businesses, an incubator/test kitchen, retail space and a parking deck building.
It would be on the site of the current parking lot and farmers’ market pavilion.
Other projects in the final proposal:
- $1,450,000 project to develop the Hotshots corner of South and Elm Streets, renovating the former Hotshots building and the white 36 Elm Street building behind it that is currently owned by the City of Glens Falls. It would demolish the former Juicin’ Jar and OTB buildings to create a parking lot and small “pocket” park.
- $1,500,000 to improve infrastructure and streetscapes on Park, School, Elm and Exchange Streets. It would move utilities underground, improve sidewalks, plant trees, install WiFi kiosks and add bike lanes.
- $500,000 to assist relocation of SUNY Adirondack’s culinary school from Bay Road in Queensbury to an unspecified location downtown. Money would fund improvements to a building for classrooms, a working kitchen and restaurant.
- $500,000 for expansion of the Queensbury Hotel, specifically conference space for groups of up to 400 people.
- $800,000 to create a new park at the corner of School and South Streets (next to Dizzy Chicken restaurant). The funds are toward buying properties and creating a public green space that meets needs for stormwater management, including rain gardens, surface parking on porous paving, public art and walkways.
- $600,000 to create a Downtown Revitalization Fund including a “Retail Race for Space” grant program, plus fund facade improvements and help not-for-profit capital projects.
- $175,000 to partner with a provider to install high speed broadband throughout the downtown, including free WiFi for businesses, visitors and residents.
- $125,000 for film projects, including $75,000 in capital expenses to expand the Adirondack Theatre Festival’s new Adirondack Film Festival and $50,000 toward creating a Glens Falls Film Commission to promote the city for shooting movies. That proposal also suggests $60,000 in outside funding for the Film Fest and $25,000 outside funding for film commission staff.
- $125,000 for the Glens Falls Art District, which last month was absorbed into the Glens Falls Collaborative, to implement a public arts trail involving banners, sidewalk stamps, printed maps and online materials to promote Glens Falls as an arts destination locally and to tourists.
- $125,000 to assist Argyle Cheese Factory in expanding and moving to Pruyn’s Island from its Washington County farm. DRI would help fund retail, product/equipment and materials storage, and office space. The business had been eyeing the Industrial Park in Kingsbury.
- $125,000 for capital improvements to the Charles R. Wood Theater, specifically to install a permanent catwalk inside.
- $200,000 to create a downtown marketing and branding strategy and “wayfinding” signs to destinations and parking.
Numerous other projects were included as worthy, a roadmap for the future.
See www.gfdri.org for the full report.
Among questions raised at this late time in the DRI process: Asked who would run the South Street Farmer’s Market building, the committee said the city of Glens Falls would own and operate it.
Architect George Green questioned the long-range wisdom of a one-story building in an urban setting when multi-story buildings are considered more appropriate. Committee co-chair Omar Usmani said, “This is what we can afford to do.”
Asked what matrix will measure success, Mr. Usmani said there will be one-year, three-year and five-year benchmarks for employment, among other measures.
Community members expressed concern that public space on South Street tends to draw drug and criminal behavior. They also noted that there is already green space on South Street near the Rite Aid that could be upgraded for a park — thus also avoiding taking a potential site for development off the market.
Peter Shabat, who owns buildings not included in the proposal, questioned why some but not all South Street buildings were targeted for renewal funds, when others need improvements as well.
DRI administrator Ed Bartholomew of Warren County Economic Development pointed to the City of Ogdensburg, which is now submitting applications for a second round of DRI funds.
“Despite some pitfalls, we’re a heck of a lot farther ahead than Ogdensburg,” he said. “This is a push forward that will lead to other transformational projects,” Mr. Bartholomew said.
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