SARATOGA SPRINGS — A special meeting of the City Council was staged at the Saratoga Springs City Center Nov. 13 to present to the public conceptual plans for the development of city-owned land, located just east of Broadway.
The presentation introduced a proposed six-story parking garage, up to 18,000 square feet of commercial space and small park. The project would extend across a current paved lot, one block east of City Hall and the Saratoga Springs City Center.
“This is the initial stage of a concept plan, meant to begin the discussion,” city Mayor Meg Kelly specified, undoubtedly cognizant of the contentious history that previous parking garage proposals at the same location had returned.
“They’re just ideas,” seconded Mike Ingersol, of the LA Group, who showcased the Flat Rock Park presentation. “It’s not meant to be built as you see it here.”
The concept was developed by the Flat Rock Working Group – which was created by Mayor Kelly earlier this year. The group – comprised of area residents, City Center Authority representatives, county leaders, city officials and other community members – have met a handful of times since the spring to come up with solutions to the City Center’s insistence that more parking spots are needed for the Center to remain competitive with other municipalities and continue to function as an “economic engine” for the city’s downtown district.
As depicted, the parking structure would house 754 spaces in all: 161 on the ground level, 165 Level One, 117 Level Two, 124 Level Three, 124 Level Four and 63 space on Level Five.
The development of the project to create 754 spaces in the parking structure, would eliminate about 277 free parking spaces on the current paved lot, resulting in a net gain of about 477 spaces.
During the public comment segment of Tuesday’s meeting, a good number of residents took their respective turn at the mic to express concern over the sheer number of spaces proposed for the new lot, suggesting that number could be decreased and the space it would free up instead targeted for other uses.
“I’m not sure (754) is the right number of spaces and maybe we need to have discussions about what the right number of spots would be,” Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin said, following the public comment period.
The proposal calls for a small park to be developed at the Lake Avenue end of the project, a series of solar panels that extend along High Rock Avenue, a commercial building and the parking structure with a pedestrian bridge connector above Maple Avenue that connects to the City Center. The Greenbelt Trail, when extended, would run adjacent to the project along High Rock Avenue and into the Lake Avenue park.
Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan suggested the space potentially incorporate aspects of New York City’s High Line – a former elevated freight line that has been transformed into a public space that features gardens, unique city views, art exhibits, live music, food and outdoor seating. Madigan also suggested using at least one of the three floors of the 18,000 square foot commercial building as a makerspace.
The city currently owns and manages eight lots with approximately 1,288 “off-street” parking spaces, according to the Parking Task Force parking space inventory. There are an additional 1,302 public “on-street” parking spaces.
According to documents obtained earlier this year,
the parking availability in Saratoga Springs is as follows:
- Public on-street parking (City owned and managed): 1,302.
- Public off-street parking: 1,288 as follows: Woodlawn 3-level deck parking – 384; Putnam St 2-level deck parking – 185; Walton (Church St.) 2-level deck parking- 222; High Rock upper & lower surface & Lake Ave. lot parking: 278; Spring St surface lot parking – 98; Henry St surface lot parking – 19; Woodlawn surface lot parking – 60; Collamer surface lot – 30.
Additionally, non-city-owned and managed spots include: 83 spaces at the Saratoga Springs Public Library, and 2,552 spaces defined as “private off-street parking.”
In The Past
A multitude of proposals featuring a parking garage on the lot – some of which have been met with public contention as well as with legal action - have been discussed during the past several years. Among them have been The City Center Authority parking garage proposal that recommended the leasing of the city-owned lot to put up a garage with space for nearly 500 vehicles.
Paramount Realty Group previously proposed a 607-space parking garage, 166 housing units and nearly 50,000 square feet of commercial space, and the Sequence Development group said it would like to buy the property and site a mixed-use project with more than 220,000 square feet of retail, office and residential development overall — as well as a parking facility with 592 spaces. None of the plans previously discussed or presented have been implemented for the city-owned site.
“I think these are all good ideas talked about tonight,” the mayor said in concluding Tuesday’s meeting, adding that public comments will be taken into consideration as discussions continue into the future. The next steps will include the City Center Authority’s conducting of surveys and gauging costs for such a project, according to the organization’s executive director, Ryan McMahon. The City Council may also consider a resolution declaring its support that the City Center Authority bringing forward more detailed designs.
While a time frame and no specific finances were discussed, it would appear parties engaged in the process likely hope to have a definitive plan within a year, as November 2019 marks the next city election, with all five seats of the current City Council up for vote. Members said they are also interested in potentially tapping into Gov. Cuomo’s Empire State Development program, which awards grants to assist in the funding of projects.