Thomas Dimopoulos

Thomas Dimopoulos

City Beat and Arts & Entertainment Editor
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WILTON — Four years after hosting what was widely thought to be its final screening, Wilton Mall Cinemas is slated to re-open in February. 

The theater will be operated by Scene One Entertainment, the company announced Jan. 2. 

The Wilton Mall Cinemas will feature eight screens including one large-format auditorium. The large format auditorium has a 2,000 square foot screen and enhanced Dolby Digital surround sound. All auditoriums will feature luxury leather rocking chairs, wall-to-wall screens, and Dolby Digital surround sound, according to Scene One Entertainment. 

The Wilton Mall venue will mark the second theater operating for Scene One Entertainment in upstate New York, the other being Movieland in Schenectady.

“The theater is in fantastic shape and the mall has maintained it beautifully since its pandemic closure,” Joe Masher, owner and CEO at Scene One Entertainment (formerly Bow Tie Management) said in a statement. “The developments happening around the mall are encouraging. The theater will feature fresh hot popcorn with real butter, and other treats such as chicken tenders, mozzarella sticks, hot pretzels, and more.” A private party room will also be made available for birthday parties and other events.

“Scene One Cinemas fulfills one of the most-requested uses from guests and brings the former theater space in the Food Court back to life. It’s just one more element in our ongoing, thoughtful redevelopment that makes Wilton Mall a great place for people to live, work and play,” said Wilton Mall General Manager Mike Shaffer.

The Wilton Mall has seen some large-scale changes in recent years, and more changes may soon be underway. In 2020, Saratoga Hospital set up its medical offices in a repurposed vacant space previously occupied by Sears, and a project currently under discussion seeks to develop nearly 400 apartments alongside the existing mall. 

The project, as proposed by the Macerich Corporation and Paramount Development, includes 382 new “luxury, market-rate rental residences,” including both apartments and townhomes, and will feature “premium resident amenities with a sophisticated design.” 

The plan for that potential development continues to move through the town’s approval process, and developers are hoping to next stage a public appearance before the Wilton Town Board on Feb. 1. 

The Wilton movie theater originally opened in October 2013 by Bow Tie Cinemas and closed during the early on-set of the COVID-19 pandemic. Bow Tie Cinemas also opened on Railroad Place in Saratoga Springs in 2013. In April 2022 AMC announced it had struck a deal with Bow Tie to take over operations of the Saratoga Springs theater.

Thursday, 21 December 2023 12:20

Downtown Tourism Parking Plan

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city is hoping to institute a “tourism parking program” this spring that it says will ease parking access for visitors, increase the availability of resident parking and generate about $2.5 million in gross revenue. 

The seasonal program would charge visitors $2 per hour for parking at the three city-owned parking garages and two surface lots from May 1 - to Sept. 30, DPW Business Manager Michael Veitch explained during a presentation to the City Council on Dec. 19. 

The three affected garages and lots are located on Putnam, Walton and Woodlawn – where visitors would use pay stations, or pay attendants.  Time-limited parking would be instituted on some downtown streets, although Broadway will pretty much remain as it currently is. 

On-street permits would provide free parking for residents and downtown business employees. How those permits would specifically be secured has yet to be decided. 

“What’s being proposed is paid tourist parking in the garages and surface lots and limiting the availability of free parking on city streets for visitors. This program prioritizes however, the continuance of free parking for residents and employees,” said DPW Commissioner Jason Golub.

The results of a study performed by DPW last summer estimates the tourism parking plan could generate $2.468 million via hourly sales in new revenue during the busy summer season. Costs for implementing the program and operating the plan would cost approximately $1 million, leaving an estimated net revenue of more than $1 million that could be used for other city costs or programs. 

 The departments of Public Works and Public Safety would both have responsibilities for administrating the program, and changes to the City Code to accommodate the plan, as well as initiating contracts with vendors for pay stations and permit plans would also need to be addressed before implementation. 

The city is hopeful the program can be installed by April 2024 with implementation on May 1. 

•In other city news, the Council temporarily tabled a proposed one-year contract through the 2024 calendar year with RISE Housing and Support Services that will pay up to $387,160 for the agency to provide homeless shelter services. The contract is expected to be approved during the council’s Dec. 28 meeting.

Earlier this year, the city approved an agreement with RISE to operate the first year-round low barrier facility in Saratoga Springs.  Located on Adelphi Street, just west of South Broadway, the 30-bed facility began operations on June 12.  Local developer Sonny Bonacio, who secured a five-year lease on the Adelphi Street property, renovated the building and is providing it rent free to RISE until 2025.

The city has aggressively pursued a search for a permanent location to site a homeless shelter and navigation center; the ad hoc Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness offered several option locations earlier this year. With the start of 2024, a new mayor will be seated at the center of the City Council table and members of the Task Force publicly expressed their interest in meeting with mayor-elect John Safford in February. 

•The Council also adopted a resolution opposing the construction and operation of Saratoga Biochar Inc.’s sewage sludge and wood chip burning plant in the Moreau Industrial Park. According to the resolution, the plant at full capacity is expected to burn up to 720 tons of sewage sludge per day, with the sewage sludge processed at the Moreau Industrial Park and shipped by large diesel trucks with a likelihood that large trucks filled with sewage sludge will travel through Saratoga Springs.

SARATOGA COUNTY — At its final scheduled meeting of the calendar year, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors on Dec. 19 approved an agreement with LeChase Construction Services, Inc. of Rochester, for the construction of the new fixed base operator terminal building at Saratoga County Airport at a cost of up to $28.51 million. Of those costs, $24.53 million is listed as increase revenue State Aid under the 2023 Capital Plan, and $3.78 million as transfer from the capital reserve fund.   

The 2024 Organizational Meeting of The Board of Supervisors will be held at 4 p.m. Jan. 3, at 40 McMaster St. in Ballston Spa. 

Also approved on Dec. 19: 

DMV to Stay at Wilton Mall: the Board approved a three-year lease extension with Wilton Mall, LLC for space in the Wilton Mall where the County Department of Motor Vehicles will continue to site a satellite office. 

The lease runs Jan. 1, 2024 through Dec. 31, 2026 and totals $3,356.25 per month, plus an annual $900 fixed cost for electricity and an annual fixed charge for water in the amount of $35 per month. Those costs are subject to annual increases of 2% - to fixed electricity charge, and 3% - to rental rate and fixed charge for water commencing on Jan. 1, 2025. 

Better Cell: The Board approved a Resolution supporting Empire State Development’s designation of a cellular-specific point person to lead the state’s efforts on enhancing cellular coverage, and further encouraging the state to implement a unified strategy to assure every major road corridor has reliable cell coverage. 

County officials reported that approximately 70 percent of 9-1-1 calls originate from cellular phones,  adding that 99 percent of respondents in a recent survey of almost 2,000 Adirondack Park residents reported owning a cellular phone, with 67 percent reporting they rely on a cellular phone exclusively. 

Copies of the resolution will be forwarded to Gov. Kathy Hochul, Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, Sen. Mark Walczyk, Sen  James Tedisco, Assemblymember John McDonald, Assemblywoman Carrie Werner, Assembly-member Matt Simpson and Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh. 

Spa Park Pump Station Upgrade Project: The Board approved executing a contract with Environmental Design and Research, Landscape Architecture Engineering and Environmental Services D.P.C. of Saratoga Springs, to provide engineering services for the Saratoga County Sewer District No.1’s Spa Park Pump Station upgrade project, at a cost of up to $184,525. 

The Saratoga County Sewer District Commission, the Executive Director, and the City of Saratoga Springs each agreed that extending the county-owned sewer infrastructure south on Route 9 could improve existing environmental conditions. 

SARATOGA SPRNGS — Local residents may remember Michael Grant from his time in the community as co-operator of Saratoga Coffee Traders, as a photographer, as the co-curator of the Empire Film Festival, or in any of the other innumerable things the “accidental serial entrepreneur” entertained in and around Saratoga Springs. 

Now, add NOVELIST to the list.

“Eve stormed across The Deerwood parking lot to fetch her paycheck, the magenta stripe in her dark hair twisting with the pounding fury of every step...”

So begins Grant’s 472-page debut novel “The Limited Edition Bicentennial Cadillac Convertible Joy Ride,” newly published by Wordbinders Publishing, an imprint of Journey Institute Press.

“It’s a strong story that’s getting high praise from early readers, and I’m hoping that Saratogians and beyond will discover it,” says Grant, who these days lives in Connecticut with his husband, artist Jon Galt.

“Our 20 years in Saratoga were indelible, of course,” says Grant, “and part of my new novel takes place there.”

The story takes place over the course of a week when a 16-year-old learns a dark family secret and then absconds with an elderly resident desperate to escape her managed care facility. The unlikely pair hit the road in search of the truth in a rare and pristine 1976 convertible Cadillac.

In a unique twist, the car itself serves as the omniscient narrator for the story. 

The car as narrator?

Early versions of the story were told in first-person using two narrators, Grant explains. “My husband asked if there was a way to simplify it with a singular narrator, and I jokingly said the only one who knows everything is the car. He said, ‘so what if it’s the car telling the story?’ 

“I immediately rejected the idea, fearing correlations to My Mother the Car and Herbie, but then I set my ego aside and considered it. It couldn’t be a talking, haunted or magical car,” Grant says.  “I’ve owned 19 cars in my short life, and every time I sold or traded one, I felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend who seemed to know me. I channeled that feeling, solidified the device, and then proceeded to completely rewrite the entire novel from this new perspective.”

The novel is available at a variety of bookstores, including via Northshire Bookstore Saratoga, and through the author’s website at: 

BALLSTON SPA — During a special board meeting held at the county complex on Dec. 13, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors adopted the 2024 county budget. 

The $410.1 million spending plan points to an increase of more than $32 million over this year’s adopted budget and marks the first county plan to top $400 million. By comparison, the annual approved plan was approximately $297 million in both, 2016 and 2017, before climbing to more than $319 million in 2018.       

During the meeting the Board also voted to approve the execution of multiple agreements with a variety of public benefit organizations in exchange for the services they provide. To that point, the 10 highest dollar amount appropriations are: 

$1.475 million - Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Saratoga County (for county Farm Guide update and Stormwater Management Services; 

$400,000 - Discover Saratoga (economic development);

$325,000 - Saratoga Economic Development Corporation (economic development); 

$300,000 - Campaign for Saratoga 250th, Inc. (economic development & heritage tourism); 

$142,000 – Saratoga County Soil & Water Conservation District (soil and water conservation);

$105,000 – Saratoga Performing Arts Center (pilot marketing campaign and economic development); 

$100,000 – Regional Food Bank of N.E. N.Y. (addressing food insecurities);

$90,000 – Saratoga Center for the Family (child abuse services);

$60,000 - Capital District Regional Planning Commission (regional studies); 

$60,000 – Capital Region Chamber of Commerce (tourism & economic development). 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Mayor’s Task Force on Homelessness, an ad hoc committee formed in February and charged with suggesting a potentially permanent site for a homeless shelter and navigation center, approved its final report to the city at its meeting Nov. 27 at City Hall. 

The 11-member Task Force was initiated In February 2023 by city Mayor Ron Kim, and saw its board appointed by most of the currently seated City Council members and Supervisors.   

The ad hoc group began by evaluating more than two dozen potential sites across the city, eventually whittling that number down to a handful of locations, with a 3.7-acre lot on Lake Avenue/ State Route 29 ultimately being selected as the primary suggested site for a permanent homeless shelter. The vacant lot is located between the Northway overpass and a Stewart’s Shop near Weibel Avenue, and had earlier this year been listed for sale at $800,000. 

Alternative sites highly ranked included a parcel at 153 South Broadway. That property stands in close proximity to two temporary shelters in the city, but the owner is reluctant to sell the property; 1.6 acres at 3290 Route 9 / Top Hill motel; a 1-acre property at North and East Ave., and 260 Maple Ave./ Gateway Motel, which extends to 1.5 acres.

Each of the potential venues suggested offer some set of challenges that includes everything from Land Use Board review to area variances required (although the latter would seem unnecessary were the city to outright purchase the property), proximity or lack thereof to venues currently providing social services, access to public transportation, and, given the track record of previous attempts made: opposition from some area residents when a site is ultimately selected.   

Finalizing a location and identifying funding sources - including what level of support may be provided by the county – are still matters to be discussed. Those discussions are anticipated to continue in the new year with the new city government. Two of the five members of the City Council, and one of two Supervisors representing the city at the county level, will be seated in those positions for the first time. 

“Our next step will be to reach out to the mayor-elect (John Safford) in end of January beginning of February – they meet the first and third Tuesdays, so hopefully in early February we can be in front of the new City Council,” said Committee co-chair Tom Roohan. 

SARATOGA SPRINGS —City police are asking for the public’s help regarding a suspected burglary they say occurred early Tuesday morning. 

At approximately 5 a.m. on Dec. 12, officers were dispatched to Lola Saratoga at 372 Broadway where they discovered a glass door broken and merchandise missing from the store that, according to the store’s website, is known for its luxury designer consignment handbags, accessories and shoes. 

“The Investigations Division was contacted and processed the scene and have conducted interviews of witnesses to the burglary,” police said in a statement released this afternoon. “Video of the incident show that the suspects entered and left the business in under two minutes.” 

Authorities are focusing for two male suspects who arrived and left in a dark colored sedan, leaving the scene driving north on Broadway towards the Route 50/ Route 9 arterial.

Anyone who may have information regarding the incident is asked to contact Investigator John Guzek at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Additionally, any video footage relevant to the case can be uploaded at:

SARATOGA SPRINGS —The Saratoga Springs Participatory Budgeting Committee will be holding online public voting for the second cycle of project proposals through Tuesday, Dec. 12. 

Saratoga Springs residents over the age of 18 are able to cast their ballot towards their favorite projects.

The Participatory Budgeting process encourages local community members to participate in the City’s budget process by voting on how to spend a portion of up to 0.25% of the City’s total budget - approximately $153,000, give or take. Final funding decisions will be made by the City Council in
late December.

The Committee received a total of 15 submissions for Cycle Two; with proposed projects ranging from smaller-scale recreation initiatives to larger community-wide accessible programming. 

There are 5 total projects on the ballot for potential funding: Bocce Ball Court, Saratoga Farmer’s Market, Opera Saratoga Family Programming, Solar Charging Bench for the Saratoga Springs Public Library, and Lake Avenue School Centennial Celebration. 

Bocce Ball: Construction of one (1) bocce ball court in Veteran’s Memorial Park. Project submitted by individual. Estimated Cost: $13,000. Location: Veteran’s Memorial Park, 10 Adams Road.

Opera Saratoga Family Programming: Produce five (5) outreach opera performances in Saratoga Springs and the State Park for children and family’s education and enjoyment. Project submitted by Opera Saratoga. Estimated Cost: $15,000. Location: Opera Saratoga, 19 Roosevelt Drive.

Lake Ave School Centennial Celebration: Celebrate Lake Ave Schools’ upcoming centennial by recording oral histories and memories, photograph mementos and produce an exhibition for display at the Saratoga Springs Public Library (location pending). Project submitted by Lake Avenue PTA. Estimated Cost: $10,000. Location: Lake Avenue School, 126 Lake Ave. 

Solar Charging Bench for Public Library: Provide a convenient and clean energy charging source for electronic devices to Saratoga Springs residents and visitors. Located outside of the Saratoga Springs Public Library. Project submitted by Saratoga Springs Public Library. Estimated Cost: $11,000. Location: Saratoga Springs Public Library, 49 Henry St.

Saratoga Farmers’ Market Program Support: Purchasing tents, wagons and tables for the Saratoga Springs Farmer’s Market and aiding in marketing expenses. Project submitted by Saratoga Farmers’ Market Association (organization). Estimated Cost: $12,000. Location: Saratoga Springs Farmer’s Market, 112 High Rock Ave.

“This past year we’ve seen a lot of our PB projects from Cycle One come online – they’ve had a tremendously positive impact on our community - from providing free arts programming and recreational curling to beautifying our city streets,” Commissioner of Finance Minita Sanghvi said in a statement. “We were excited to see a whole new set of project ideas for Cycle Two and are continuing to look for community input as to which projects they want to see funded.” 

To vote, visit go to: 

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city long-called The August Place To Be was granted a late springtime addition to that moniker with this week’s official announcement naming Saratoga Race Course as the staging ground for June’s four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival. 

“Saratoga now adds to its storied history by hosting the third leg of the Triple Crown,” Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Dec. 6, inspiring thoughts of warmer climes on a day when the local community saw the gentle tumble of errant flurries.  “It’s a win for horseracing and for the Capital Region to have the excitement and the ability to host the four-day Festival in June at America’s most historic track.” 

The four-day Belmont Stakes Racing Festival will be staged Thursday, June 6 through Sunday, June 9. The Belmont Stakes race will run Saturday, June 8. No changes are anticipated regarding Saratoga’s 40-day summer meet. 

The relocation of the stakes race and its associated four-day festival will allow for the uninterrupted construction of a new Belmont Park on Long Island. And while construction is anticipated to go on at least through the 2025 Belmont Stakes season, only the 2024 festival at Saratoga was announced this week. 

“It is a temporary situation, and we hope to be even further ahead of schedule so we can end sooner, but it’s good to at least have an alternative to shutting down Belmont completely, and can take the races elsewhere in the state,” Gov. Hochul said at a presser shortly after the Belmont announcement.   

The four-day festival at Saratoga Race Course will include 23 stakes races in total with purses totaling $9.7 million.

The New York Racing Association began signaling earlier this year that some Belmont races would be shifted to Saratoga. Statements punctuated with optimism from the political and tourism worlds alike were issued with a ferocity shortly after Wednesday morning’s announcement, showcasing the affair as a driver of tourism, a major boon for the economy, an inspiration to partner with new stakeholders and something to further showcase the region’s world-class attractions. 

A different track brings with it additional changes:  due to the configuration of Saratoga’s main track, the Belmont Stakes will be contested at 1 1/4 miles in 2024 rather than the traditional 1 1/2 miles, pending the approval of the North American Graded Stakes Committee.

Inaugurated in 1867 at Jerome Park Racetrack and moved in 1905 to Belmont Park, the Belmont Stakes has notably provided Secretariat’s 31-length victory in 1973 and American Pharoah successfully ending a 37-year Triple Crown drought in 2015. The race was staged at Aqueduct Racetrack from 1963-1967 when Belmont Park last underwent significant renovations. 

Following the conclusion of the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga, the NYRA circuit will return to Aqueduct Racetrack for the remainder of the spring meet before racing shifts to Saratoga for the annual 40-day summer meet beginning Thursday, July 11. The fall meet customarily held at Belmont Park will again be shifted to Aqueduct Racetrack in 2024 while construction of a new Belmont Park continues.

Ticket packages and pricing for the Belmont Stakes Racing Festival at Saratoga Race Course will be available in early 2024.

Thursday, 07 December 2023 13:47

New Developments Under Consideration

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Applications under consideration this week by the Saratoga Springs Design Review Board include: 

•Historic Review of a two-story addition at 395 Broadway. Prime Group Holdings founder Robert Moser has been seeking city Land Use Board approval to add two stories to the company’s existing two-story brick masonry office building at 395 Broadway. The combined four-story building would serve as office space for Prime Group Holdings, with a retail store component on the first floor. 

The red-brick building located on the southwest corner of Broadway and Division Street was originally developed in 2000 to house Borders Books & Music, and in in 2018 was purchased by Ed Mitzen and the Fingerpaint Marketing firm. It was sold to Prime Group Holdings for $11 million in July. 

•Architectural Review of exterior modifications including roof replacement, porch reconstruction, and select window infill and replacement at 118 Woodlawn Ave., regarding the Woodlawn Club exterior modification project. 

•177 South Broadway Stewarts Demolition and Redevelopment: Determination of Historic/Architectural significance for an existing single-family residence. Consideration of SEQRA lead agency, and Advisory Opinion to the Zoning Board of Appeals regarding the demolition of the existing single-family residence and redevelopment of a convenience store and fueling station. 

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