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Displaying items by tag: city center
City Center Named as Mass Vaccination Location; County Designates Local Online Resource Site
SARATOGA SPRINGS — A mass vaccine city site. A central online county information site. The creation of and the funding of a COVID Response support staff.
Amid the rapid flux of ever-evolving information related to COVID-19 and to vaccinations, the city and the county made strides this week to provide accessible information to the public as well as solidify plans for the dispensing of vaccines – in preparation for that time when vaccines become more readily available.
First up, the Saratoga Springs City Center was this week approved as a mass COVID-19 vaccine site. The county lease of the site will immediately kick in when “sufficient vaccine doses” are delivered to the county by the state. That sufficient quantity determination will be made by newly appointed county Health Commissioner, Dr. Daniel Kuhle.
“In general, we are notified about 24 hours before we receive vaccines about how many we can expect to get,” says Tara Gaston, Saratoga Springs city Supervisor and newly named as chair of the county’s Health and Social Services Committee. “I don’t anticipate that it’s going to be thousands within the next couple of weeks, but the goal is to be ready if that happens. Under the current state guidance, once we have the vaccines, we must use them within seven days. We have to be ready and able to move as quickly as possible.”
The Saratoga County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to the resolution regarding the City Center, which was introduced by Gaston.
“The idea is that it will be in the main hall. We have to work out the layout, but I envision temperature stations before people come in. Then you come in, check in at the table, get your shot and then you have to wait your 15 minutes or half-hour depending on whether you have allergies or not,” said Ryan McMahon, executive director and president at the City Center.
“It’s a month-to-month lease where they can turn it on for a month, turn it off for a month. I don’t think anyone thinks we’re going to (immediately) get enough vaccines next week. Part of this is the county’s ability to prepare. This way they can come in, we can set the room up, establish how they want it, get lines running for their computers and get all the infrastructure ready so that if they find out, say, on a Friday night they’re getting the vaccines, then we can be open on Saturday morning,” McMahon said. “We know how to move people through a space, particularly this space very well, so we’re going to advise and collaborate on a plan about how to physically do it, but it’s their show.”
The lease of the space at the City Center was authorized at a cost up to just over $49,000 per month. “We want to help in any way we can. In a normal year I would just eat the cost of this, but right now we can’t take on an additional expense. We have shut down operations for the most part - we don’t even have the HVAC systems on, and we’re barely surviving,” said McMahon, explaining the incremental cost to the county is to get everything back up and running, from the HVAC systems to the cleaning staff – whom were laid off.
A second resolution introduced by Gaston – also receiving unanimous support by the county Board of Supervisors will see the creation of temporary COVID Response Support Personnel, and a COVID Response Coordinator, who will assist the public health department in response to the pandemic. Those positions will earn a base salary of $22/hour and $25/hour, respectively, and will be filled “as needed.” The county set aside approximately $183,000 from its fund balance to fulfill those wage needs.
The county will also be upgrading its COVID-19 web dashboard to use state data methodology, in a mission to be less confusing and more accessible. The county recently adjusted the main page of its website to provide immediate access to COVID-related information.
“This is a change. Any information we get is going to be on the front page of our website in a red box, and it will change as we get more information,” Gaston said. The page includes official links to vaccination registrations, finding current test sites and other COVID-19 resources for individuals and families. The site may be accessed at: www.saratogacountyny.gov.
As of this week, nearly 3.5% of the county’s approximate 230,000 county residents had tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the epidemic, and about 6.5% of the population has been at least partially vaccinated.
“In the city of Saratoga Springs, we have 540 active cases,” city Public Safety Commissioner Robin Dalton told the council at its Jan. 19 meeting. “The good news is the 7-day rolling average for positivity rates has dropped (in the county) from 11.3% to 8.8% - which is terrific. However, our hospitalizations have almost doubled in the last ten days; currently we have 106 people hospitalized as opposed to 51 ten days ago. This is representative of the lagging nature of these metrics, of when people get sick and then when they need to get hospitalized.”
In the greater eight-county Capital Region of which Saratoga is a part, hospitalizations – with 553 COVID patients - hit an all-time high, and 91 of those patients are in the ICU. New York State is separated into 10 different regions, and the Capital Region has the fewest percentage of hospital beds (25%) and ICU beds (19%) available of all regions statewide, according to the NYS DOH.
“There are not nearly enough vaccines to get as many people vaccinated as we want to,” Dalton added. “We get a tiny amount every week and I know people are frustrated getting access to appointments and having to travel very far – to Plattsburg and Utica. We know that and we are working on it. This is an imperfect system.”
Gaston expressed similar frustration. “New York State has provided directives to anyone who has access to vaccinate individuals. That tells us who we are allowed to vaccinate; just because you have been deemed eligible by the state does not mean that you can get vaccinated at your health department, or at a pharmacy,” Gaston said.
“Medical workers are required to be vaccinated by hospitals. Seniors are required to be vaccinated by pharmacies. And our local health department – Saratoga County Public Health Services - can only vaccinate people who fall into a number of essential worker groups that includes police, fire, teachers, front-facing grocery store workers. If you are a senior and you want a vaccine from our local public health services – we cannot do this at this time.”
Deviating from the governor’s directives can result in severe fines and penalties, Gaston added. “We are working as a county and with other counties to change this – to allow us to use those plans to keep people as safe as possible as quickly as possible, and I think it’s important people know we share the frustration. We all have to be patient but unfortunately we are restricted by these mandates which are not reflective of the long-standing work the public health department has done in the area of vaccinations.”
In addition to the naming of the Saratoga Springs City Center as a mass vaccination site, more than one dozen other smaller, unnamed venues have been evaluated and approved for providing vaccinations across the county and Gaston said among the county’s other coordinated plans - “going into homes, going into shelters, delivering vaccines directly to seniors” – are pending the governor’s lifting of existing directives prohibiting those plans from being enacted.
City Center Parking Structure Eyes November Grand Opening: Parking Rates Set, Limited Number of Annual Passes for Sale
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The Saratoga Springs City Center is scheduled to host the grand opening for its new parking structure in November.
Parking rates for 2021 parking will be free for the first hour of parking, and $1 per hour after that first free hour, with a $15 cap on the 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. period.
The lowest level along High Rock Avenue will be made available for the Saratoga Farmers’ Market as well as other community events as requested by the city. The top floor of the parking structure may occasionally be used for events as well. A limited number of charging stations for electric vehicles will be available on the second floor.
A limited number of yearly parking passes are being made available for sale. The yearly passes - 100 of them are being made available, are priced at $150 per month, and paid yearly at a rate of $1,800. An inaugural bonus for those who sign up and pay now offers complimentary parking from the November grand opening to Dec. 31, at no charge.
City Center Parking Structure Still on Track for Fall 2020
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Work continues on the development of a multi-story parking garage that will connect conference attendees and others with the Saratoga Springs City Center.
Plans call for the lower level of the structure to be completed and available for use during the summer, with all levels of the structure completed by the fall.
“The goal is as soon as possible,” City Center Executive Director Ryan McMahon said this week, as a 400 ton crane tended to the business at hand atop the lot where the structure is being developed.
The COVID-19 pandemic slightly affected the progress of the development.
“We’ll probably open now in early November instead of early October,” McMahon said.
The City Center itself, like most all other venues across the country where large groups of people gather, has canceled events during the pandemic - although the good news is that most of those events have been rescheduled to take place at a later time, McMahon said. A handful of previously scheduled events slated to take place during the summer are still being held in the hopeful anticipation that they may be able to take place.
The greater Capital Region –a multi-county area that includes Saratoga – this week entered the third phase of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s four-phase reopening plan. Should infection, hospitalization and death rates due to COVID-19 remain low, the region is slated to enter Phase 4 on July 1. Phase 4 includes arts, entertainment, and recreation.
Notes from City Hall...City Center President Retires
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mark Baker was there the day they first put the shovels to the ground on Broadway.
This week, after a 33-year career, the only president the Saratoga Springs City Center has known announced his retirement, to take effect at the end of the calendar year.
Baker came to Saratoga via Wisconsin in the summer of 1983 and remembers hearing about the grumblings of those opposed to the construction of the new building he would oversee in 1984. Decades later he would bear witness to lively debates regarding the design of the building’s multi-million dollar expansion, its booking policies absent of a gun show, and its push for the development of a parking garage. Baker has presided over the Saratoga Springs City Center from its humble beginnings - 24 events accounted for 43.5 days of use in 1984 – and helped it reach the 170-or-so event mark it is anticipated to land this year, with more than 261.25 revenue-producing days. Advance bookings into 2017 are already expected to exceed 2016 sales figures and current bookings for conferences and conventions have been scheduled into the year 2021.
“I have vested much of my professional career, and personal commitment to the success of the City Center,” Baker said in a statement. “I want to be able to pass this incredible facility on to the next leader, with care and well wishes.”
Throughout his tenure, Baker said the City Center has maintained the same mission: to be a positive economic engine for downtown Saratoga Springs. Following the loss of the 5,000-seat Convention Hall in a 1965 blaze, there was much wrangling in the city about what Saratoga should build. By the late-1970s, Glens Falls built its Civic Center, and Albany had The Egg. In Saratoga Springs, it was eventually decided to construct a facility that would bring people into town and provide the opportunity for them to stay. In retrospect, it was the right project at the right time, Baker said. City Center Authority Chair Joseph Dalton said interviews are underway for potential candidates to replace Baker.
Baker, who anticipates retiring Dec. 31, said he is willing to remain in office until the transition of leadership takes place. It is expected Baker will remain on the City Center staff in a limited role to oversee and orchestrate the construction and launching of the City Center parking structure. “It is critical to get this important asset built for the future of the City Center,” Dalton said.
Workshop on Monday for a New Neighborhood Watch Program
A workshop will be held on Monday at the Saratoga Springs Public Library to start a discussion about forming a new Neighborhood Watch program in downtown Saratoga Springs. The free workshop – which is being organized by the Saratoga Springs Downtown Business Association, the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce and the city Police Department – will take place 5 to 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 14. “We’re hosting this workshop to bring neighbors living and working downtown together so they can look out for one another,” Todd Shimkus, President of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement. “We’ve also committed to creating and distributing Neighborhood Watch signs which will be a visible reminder that the community has taken the necessary steps to deter crime and that this area is being observed.”
Upcoming: The City Council will host a pre-agenda meeting at 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 14, and its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15 at City Hall. It is anticipated the City Council will move to amending the recently approved law prohibiting sitting or lying on public sidewalks. Also expected is a vote regarding the conservation easement for the city to purchase the development rights of the Pitney Farm, and vote regarding the Saratoga Springs Complete Streets Plan.
City water and sewer utility bills are due for the fourth quarter on Tuesday, Nov. 15. City and county taxes, as well as utility bills may be paid in person at the Office of Finance in City Hall, by mail, or online at www.saratoga-springs.org. These payments can also be made at Adirondack Trust Co. and Saratoga National Bank. You must have your tax stub to make payments at these locations.
The Design Review Commission will host a meeting 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16 at City Hall.
The New York State Department of Transportation will host a public information meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 16, to discuss a project to replace the Crescent Avenue bridge over the Northway in Saratoga Springs and the East High Street bridge over the Northway in Malta, both in Saratoga County. The bridges, both built in 1962, are safe but aging to the point where this project is necessary. The project is expected to begin in late 2017 and last until the end of 2018. The meeting will take place from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Music Hall on the third floor of City Hall.
The City’s Big Economic Engine
City Center Reports Banner Year
SARATOGA SPRINGS –The Saratoga Springs City Center hosted a record 157 events, among several other highlights, in its 30th anniversary year. The City Center’s 2014 annual report, delivered to the Saratoga Springs City Council this past Tuesday, April 21 by City Center President Mark Baker, detailed several other pieces of good news, including:
- -The 157 events represented a new record in building use days; the City Center was in use for 314.5 days in the last calendar year. This translates into overall occupancy of 86 percent. They hosted 68 conventions and conferences.
“This is a testament to the investment the community made in our recent expansion,” Baker noted. The facility grew by over 12,000 square feet to a total of 32,000 feet of meeting and event space. “With our new facilities we are now able to host larger events, and two or three groups at a time; sometimes each with a different caterer.” He said.
- -They welcomed 150, 931 guests to its facility in 2014. Of these, 19,947 were convention guests that would stay over one or more nights at area hotels. Each of these guests (and their associations) would spend an average of $910.16 locally during their stay, according to estimates provided by The Saratoga Convention and Tourism Bureau. This translated into a minimum of $18 million in sales.
- -Day guests, a total of 130,984, spent an average of $88.94 per person. These guests added over $11.6 million in sales. The total sales impact of $29,804,678.48 does not include sales at non-City Center hosted businesses (such as motor coach tours and sporting events).
- -The City Center generated $576,000 in rental income, as well as $447,000 in sales tax revenue to both the City of Saratoga Springs and Saratoga County.
- -In 2014, the City Center and the Saratoga Springs area demonstrated its enduring appeal, as 76 percent of the events it hosted were returning for the second time or more. The annual report listed 19 groups that had the City Center host their event for 20 or more years.
A key reason frequently cited for these groups’ ongoing loyalty has been the remarkable tenure of the City Center’s staff. Of their 13 full-time employees, eight have been with the City Center for 10 or more years, four of those for over 25! This employee consistency allows the staff to become and remain familiar with the unique nuances and needs of each event and group.
- -The City Center also hosted 37 events for the first time. Overall, 20 events were hosted as a public service to the community, including not-for-profit and civic organizations, as well as the City Center’s Family Day last September.
Perhaps the best news that Mark Baker delivered to the city council is that the 2014 numbers were by no means a high-water mark for the Saratoga Springs City Center. He noted that for the first quarter of 2015, data for both events and guests were trending ahead of 2014’s record figures.
“The days of a ‘slow’ or ‘shoulder’ season are a thing of the past in Saratoga Springs.” Baker said.
The complete 2014 annual report can be read online. Visit SaratogaCityCenter.com. Click on ‘governance’, then 2014 annual report.
On SNGC and the City Center Parking Garage
By Michele Madigan
Commissioner of Finance
City of Saratoga Springs
There has been much discussion lately about a request by Saratoga National Golf Club (SNGC) to create a Resort Overlay District within what is known as “the greenbelt”, and the proposed City Center parking garage.
SNGC’s request would allow them to pursue some interesting, exciting plans for their property. The major point of contention has nothing to do with the specific development that SNGC hopes to complete (which many enthusiastically support), but that it would require a fundamental alteration to our Comprehensive Plan - one that may not even be necessary given what may be allowable to SNGC. Such a change would render the greenbelt extremely vulnerable to development that may not be in the best interests of the City, its residents and taxpayers, and the local business community.
The argument is made that a high-end resort would be beneficial not only to SNGC, but also to our downtown businesses, the Raceway & Casino, and residents, and would simultaneously help protect the greenbelt. This misses the larger point that the requested change would leave us vulnerable to other resort developments that are not so friendly to all constituencies. For example, suppose another group would like to develop a resort hotel with an ice cream parlor and confectionary shop, high-end clothing and jewelry stores, a bowling alley, a movie theater, and/or a live performance venue? No doubt this would draw a large number of visitors who would spend little time or money at any of our other establishments (with the possible exception of the race track). Would this be in the best interests of our downtown business district or the Raceway & Casino? Similar high-end resorts are nearby in Lake Placid (Whiteface Lodge) and throughout New York/New England. Are there other commercial development models we have not contemplated that would inadvertently be allowed under the guise of a Resort Overlay District?
We must cautiously consider all reasonably foreseeable outcomes before making sweeping changes to our city’s thoughtful, rich, well-developed Comprehensive Plan and concomitant zoning. These have served us well by encouraging dense development in our walkable and vibrant urban core with a thriving economically viable commercial district, and low to modest density development in other areas of the city, fostering and protecting our greenbelt and providing us a true “city in the country” that so many find desirable.
As for the City Center parking garage, I am disappointed that the Zoning Board of Appeals denied its request due to nearby solar panels installed long after parking garage plans were announced. This decision renders the City property practically worthless, as any development that casts the proscribed shadow will be blocked, and puts many properties at risk of the possibly capricious placement of solar panels. Furthermore, the City Center has a real, pressing, immediate need they are trying to meet with a plan that would benefit the broader downtown business community. I plan to continue working with my fellow council members and the City Center Authority to reach an agreement that the majority can embrace.
Proposed Paid Parking Plan Pitched
SARATOGA SPRINGS – “It’s not a garage, it’s a parking structure.”
So said Mark Baker, president of the Saratoga Springs City Center on Wednesday, June 11, as he and other members of the City Center Authority, along with design and architectural experts, gave authority members and the public a first look at the actual proposed paid parking facility, adjacent to the City Center between Maple and High Rock Avenues.
This is a major step, yet only one in a process that will have several opportunities for public comment by both the public and members of the Saratoga Springs City Council (several of whom were in attendance Wednesday). The structure is on city-owned land and a lease arrangement would have to be executed for any facility to go forward.
The next phase in the process will be a presentation to the city council next Tuesday, June 17. The City Center Authority did unanimously pass a resolution to seek lead agency status on this project.
Cost and Design Details
- Mr. Baker estimated that this project would cost between $10.2 - $10.6 million. He noted that the City Center Authority would bond the money, which means the city would not incur any additional debt, or any additional tax burden for residents.
- Revenue would come from paid parking, which would be open to everyone. Mr. Baker noted that the exact cost schedule to park is still being worked on, but that it was likely that the first hour would be free—enabling residents to visit the neighboring farmers’ market, for instance.
- The plan as detailed calls for a five-level facility, with access from both High Rock and Maple Avenues. A total of 511 spaces could be accommodated under this plan. Bike racks and charging stations are built into the plan.
- A major design element has a covered portion over Maple Avenue, with direct access to the City Center at its southeast entrance. There will also be a drop-off area here.
- Another design element at the High Rock Avenue side is an open public area that was called “agora” (see illustration) – porticos that are 20 by 45 feet and could be used for events. Mr. Baker noted it might replace the former City Center loggia area (which was removed in the 2011 expansion) for events such as Hats Off. The top deck of the garage could also be adapted for similar public performances, he said.
The City Center’s ideal timetable is to break ground this fall, with completion in the summer of 2015. During the public approval process, including Design Review Commission and Planning Board hearings, changes to design and other elements could affect that schedule.
Supervisor Veitch To Review City’s Convention History
SARATOGA SPRINGS – With every milestone reached comes the opportunity to not only plan for the future, but also reflect on the past. That is exactly what the Saratoga Springs City Center is doing in honor of its 30th anniversary.
Over the years the City Center has experienced continued growth and success in the convention industry, establishing itself as a highly desirable meeting and event venue in the Northeast. This celebration of achievement calls for a look back at the rich history of conventions in Saratoga Springs as well as the road to the City Center’s establishment.
City Center President Mark E. Baker has invited Supervisor Matthew Veitch to give an extensive on-site historical presentation on this topic.
The presentation, which will be at the City Center on Wednesday, April 30 from 7 to 8:30 p.m., will showcase numerous visuals and begins with the development and construction of Convention Hall in 1893, as well as the fire that destroyed it. The public’s reaction to the loss of this community treasure and the rallying to build a new Convention Hall during the 1960s and 1970s will also be included.
Following will be the age of Urban Renewal, the process of founding the City Center and its recent expansion.
The Veitch family has a long-standing history in Saratoga with multiple generations working in public service. Supervisor Veitch’s grandfather, Donald Veitch, was the Executive Director of the Urban Renewal Agency from 1964-1986. He played a large role in the Spring Valley Project which allowed the land the City Center was built on to be for public and hotel use. Supervisor Veitch is passionate about this subject and has conducted extensive research, which he called ‘enlightening.’
Local Gun Show To Go On Despite Protest
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The NEACA Arms Fair, a gun show scheduled for January 12-13 at the Saratoga City Center, will go on as planned despite over a dozen people calling for its cancellation during the public comment period of the City Center Authority’s January 9 meeting.