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Sunday, 29 November -0001 19:03

What a Week! Borders Building Booked, Bow-Tie Cinemas Coming Soon, Broadway Honored by APA

By | Business

SARATOGA SPRINGS – When it rains, it pours, which is exactly what happened this week as good fortune fell on the Spa City in the form of accolades and plans for new businesses.

 

First, The American Planning Association (APA) announced Wednesday that the section of Broadway that runs between Van Dam and East Congress streets had been designated as one of 10 Great Streets for 2012 under the organization’s Great Places in America program.

Stephen Iachetta, president of the local section of The Upstate Local Planning Sector said, “Only 11 Great Places designations have been made over the last three decades, and only five outside of New York City.”

Iachette, a native of the Capital District who said he had planted a few trees and bushes on Broadway back in his college days, said Broadway was singled out for numerous characteristics, including building façade improvements, compatible new construction, revitalization efforts, and diversity of uses, all of which demonstrate forward thinking and planning, and showcase distinctive styles.

Saratoga Springs Mayor Scott T. Johnson asked how we had managed to bring back a city that had hit bottom in 1968, causing architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable to criticize the city in The New York Times for its “aesthetic and environmental erosion.”

“How did we get here,” Johnson asked. “It’s a long story.”

The APA explains:

Even though Broadway had been on the decline for several decades, some things had remained sacrosanct – such as Congress Park, which had been redesigned by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1875 and home to The Spencer Trask Memorial, “Spirit of Life”, designed by Daniel Chester French and Henry Bacon, collaborators of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

A proposal to build a 150-room hotel in the scenic, 17-acre park at the foot of Broadway galvanized city residents.

With urban renewal underway and little thought having been given to alternatives, a group of civic leaders initiated the Plan of Action to explore ways to revitalize Broadway and the surrounding environment through community dialogue and planning. The Plan of Action spurred the 1977 establishment of the city-funded Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation (SSPF), which awarded some $500,000 in grants to restore building facades on Broadway. Those properties have deeded covenants which require approval from SSPF before any exterior changes can be made. A special assessment district used a combination of federal funds, sales tax receipts and landlord contributions to fund improvements on Broadway. A groundswell of public support for preservation surged through Saratoga Springs.

To capitalize on the growing phenomenon of heritage tourism, the City opened a visitors’ center on Broadway in 1978 and, eight years later, transformed it into a unit of the statewide Heritage Areas program. The Broadway Historic District was added to the National Register in 1979 and expanded in 1983 and 1984.

As nonprofit groups and private investors restored the High Victorian, Beaux-Arts and Richardson Romanesque buildings lining Broadway, several new historically compatible buildings were erected, including the Congress Park Centre, which features Victorian-inspired window and cornice treatments and a second floor piazza.

New architectural guidelines were included in the city’s successive 1999 and 2001 Comprehensive Plans. Enhancement of the pedestrian experience was the focus of a 2003 zoning ordinance and 2012 Complete Streets policy for Broadway.

Johnson gave special credit to city leaders, business owners and residents who got together and formed public/private partnerships.

“Without their selfless dedication, we would not be standing here to accept this very prestigious award,” Johnson said. “Things that led to the quality of life in our city that we value are starting to be recognized for on a national level.”

Johnson highlighted notables such as the city’s 19th century architecture along with its thriving culture and arts scene, like Arts Night and Chowder Fest, an event which brought in 15,000 people in one day.

And then there are the small things, he said, like the flowers that provide a feeling of embrace for residents and visitors alike.

“We are grateful for this prestigious award that recognizes the unparalleled success from many years of a public-private partnership and city planning, now and for the future,” Johnson said.

As if the designation of Broadway as one of 10 Great Streets for 2012 was not enough to thrill Saratoga leaders, residents and business owners, in the same week, advertising and marketing agency FingerPaint signed a 10-year lease to occupy the former Borders Building in downtown Saratoga Springs.

The move will allow the company to keep its 42 employees in the downtown area, while providing room for growth, and, based on the current growth trends, the company expects to add another 40-60 employees within the next 36 months.

“We are thrilled to be in a position to lease such a significant piece of property in downtown Saratoga Springs,” said Ed Mitzen, FingerPaint’s founder. “We’re a hometown, employee-owned company, and this move will allow our staff to work right in the heart of the city.”

As part of the lease, FingerPaint will take sole possession of the adjacent parking lot. The company plans to put a program in place to allow charity organizations to use the parking lot on select nights and weekends to raise money for their causes.

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