City Center expansion unveiled
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 5:15 AM EDT
By MAREESA NICOSIA, The Saratogian
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Officials are hailing it as a “new vision” and the “economic engine” of downtown.
The City Center expansion project that has been in the planning stage for a decade and marks the center’s 25th year of operation was unveiled Monday evening at a presentation by Authority Chairman Michael J. Toohey and City Center President Mark E. Baker, along with Mayor Scott Johnson.
From the glass-paneled front to the “grand” staircase down to the color of the new carpeting, Baker and Toohey said the 22,000-square-foot expansion project will heighten the city’s ability to compete in the tourism industry and boost business by 40 percent over the next three years — all at no cost to taxpayers, since the $16 million project is primarily funded by New York state.
According to Johnson, $12 million from a state appropriation was secured in the last two years, and the remaining $4 million was provided by the hotel tax charged to overnight visitors to the city.
Toohey said the project was important because more conventions equal more visitors to the city, which means increased revenue and a stronger economy.
“The community must recognize that we are at the start of a new century,” Toohey said, adding that the City Center’s new design will reflect the times with a modern, iconic look while “melding with the current and future masonry construction” of the building, which is located at 522 Broadway, and borders Ellsworth Jones Place to the south and Maple Avenue to the east.
The major change to the structure will be the enclosure of the current atrium that faces Broadway, which will add 22,000 square feet to the already existing 52,000-square-foot space. The expansion will allow for a first floor with a 5,000-square-foot meeting room, an expanded lobby, a large, side-by-side staircase and escalator, handicap-accessible restrooms and entrances and new carpeting. The second floor will house about 6,200 square feet of meeting space in two “breakout” activity rooms and back entries for catering services, among other amenities. The entire facility will comply with standards set by the Americans With Disabilities Act, otherwise known as ADA mandate compliance.
Toohey and Baker said the project would help the City Center expand its reach into the community and beyond by allowing multiple events to go on simultaneously because of the increased meeting room space. The new center could handle 172 events a year and welcome more than 25,000 visitors. Since each overnight guest spends an average of $885 during a two- to three-day stay, the city could see a substantial increase in revenue.
Retailers, restaurateurs and hotel owners expect to benefit from the increased flow of customers as a result of the center’s expansion. Marianne Barker of Impressions of Saratoga said the project would affect her business tremendously.
“We see the impact on a daily basis,” Barker said, referring to her customers’ response to plans for expansion.
Groundbreaking is expected in late spring and construction will last 14 months, officials said, stressing the City Center will remain open and continue to host conventions and conferences.
Baker said every effort will be made to lessen the impact of construction noise and disruption on neighboring businesses and residents, with extra sensitivity taken during racing season.
He added that parking was not part of the $16 million budgeted for the expansion, but said the City Center Authority was in discussions with the City Council to find a solution to the need for parking when some spaces are eliminated by the building’s expansion.
Baker said contractor bids for the project would most likely be made next month.