Friday, March 26, 2010

what's doing or maybe not doing in Saratoga.

Congress Street strip mall overhaul
Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010
Congress Plaza isn’t exactly the sexiest shopping center in town, but as a resident of the city’s west site it’s an area I’ve often visited over the years.

I’ve come to the Congress Street strip mall to get toiletries at the CVS, have done laundry at Bubbles, picked up flowers at Posie Peddler and grabbed a bottle of wine Purdy’s.

Now, the owners of the property say it’s time for something different at the site.

Donald MacElroy, the vice-president at Clifton Park-based Don Greene Enterprises, will come before the city planning board tomorrow night to present conceptual plans for a “complete redevelopment” of the area. The hope is to get some feedback and then come back later with more concrete plans for the site, which the company has owned and operated since 1983.

As outlined in an application to the city, the plan calls for a pair of parking garages and four new mixed-use buildings up to six-stories tall. The existing buildings on the property would be torn down in favor of the new construction, but the CVS would remain in tact.

MacElroy said today that the company plans to phase in the construction, putting up new buildings along Congress Street first and then offering existing tenants the new space before moving to the demolition phase. Other businesses that would be sought would cater more to the full-time resident than tourists, MacElroy said.

How quickly this will all occur, how many commercial or residential units and the ultimate price tag are still unknown, MacElroy said.

The 26-year-old shopping center was once anchored by the Grand Union grocery store. When the market closed, it was replaced with a dinner-and-movie establishment. The space has been empty as long as I’ve lived here.

MacElroy said adding apartments and commercial space to the site is in keeping with the goal of creating a walkable downtown, and that he had no concerns demand would be quick to materialize.

“Times change and uses change, but this is a key piece of property in downtown Saratoga Springs and it deserves and update,” he said.

– Drew Kerr

Posted in Saratoga Snippets | No Comments (Add a Comment

DEREK PRUITT Derek Pruitt - Bast Hatfield construction crews work in the basketball court portion of the Saratoga Recreation Center on Vanderbilt Avenue in Saratoga Springs on Tuesday, March 16, 2010. Budget shortfalls have forced delays in capital projects like the recreation facility and the waterfront property on Saratoga Lake.


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Related: Spa City project list
SARATOGA SPRINGS -- A cluster of weeds slumped across the craggy landscape that overlooks the city's waterfront property last week.

The city purchased the land on Saratoga Lake for $2 million in 2005 with the hope of developing the 4.6-acre parcel into a three-tiered park that would cradle a kayak and canoe launch and a small beach with a swimming area. Today, that project sits dormant.

Across town and on the city's south side, work continues on a $6.5 million indoor recreation facility - a project more than a decade in the planning.

Construction is expected to wrap up this summer, but funding for interior furniture and fixtures was eliminated due to budget concerns, and there has been no date set for a grand opening.

"We're broke. I can't make it any clearer than that," said city Accounts Commissioner John Franck. "I just don't think people get it."

The timetable for both projects was altered when the recession hit Saratoga Springs - a city that initially thought it might be insulated from the fiscal woes that swept the country in 2008.

Now, officials are growing more concerned about what the summer horse racing season will look like in the city that touts itself as "the summer place to be."

"Am I concerned? Absolutely," said city Finance Commissioner Ken Ivins. "The general indication is NYRA will probably get it together this year, but I'm even more concerned about what might happen next year. Who knows what's going to happen down the line."

The New York Racing Association announced it will expand the Saratoga meet by four racing days in 2010. It is a meet, however, that will see horsemen running for noticeably less money, with 14 stakes suffering purse reductions. Those decisions came even as horse racing officials in New Jersey reached an agreement on a plan to stage a million-dollar meet at Monmouth Park, resulting in the highest average daily purses in North America.

Franck said he is concerned a "watered-down" Saratoga racing season may see horsemen flock to tracks in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, possibly forever.

The Great Recession

In 2008 and 2009, the city lost nearly $4 million in revenue that had been anticipated from the state for hosting the Saratoga Gaming and Raceway facility. The payment was initially aimed at compensating the community for the presence of a gambling facility from which the state benefited. The state updated its payment formula, however, in such a way that excluded wealthier communities like Saratoga Springs from such compensation.

The city attempted to compensate for the loss this year with a paid parking plan. When that proposal failed, and slumping sales tax and mortgage tax revenue were factored in, Saratoga Springs found itself in a $2.2 million hole three months into its 2010 budget cycle.

Proposals to construct a parking garage and to develop a Broadway area Cineplex, as well as plans to build a new police station, were also tabled.

"Those (proposals) are not going anywhere at this point," Ivins said.

As a result, taxpayers will continue to pay an average of $69,000 per year until 2030 for $1 million that was bonded for the design of a new public safety facility that may never be built. They will also continue to pay about $400,000 annually through 2030 for the yet-to-be-completed indoor recreation facility and another $168,000 per year for the undeveloped waterfront property.

Franck suggested the city attempt to either lease or sell the latter parcel outright.

"It would be better putting it to some use rather than just leaving it dormant in a city that doesn't have any money," he said. Revenue from the property's sale would have to be put back into the city's open space fund, but the sale would at least help to lower the debt service on the parcel, Franck added.

The $6.5 million recreation facility, meanwhile, is expected to be completed in June or July and will carry an estimated annual operation cost of more than $200,000.

"My understanding is that the mayor wants to get it open as soon as construction is done, but I could see that being pushed back to after Jan. 1 next year," Franck said. Mayor Scott Johnson did not return phone calls seeking comment for this story.

Residents to the rescue

Before the recreation facility can open, funds must be secured for interior furnishings. About $165,000 in funding targeted for such fixtures was eliminated from the 2009 budget, however.

Instead, a local committee called the Friends of Recreation has taken up the cause to secure those funds, although it is not known how much the organization has secured.

Other city projects are following suit, seeking corporate and public sponsorship to continue.

A committee has been formed to raise the estimated $15,000 to $25,000 cost of staging a two-day All-American Celebration on July 3-4, and The Saratoga Shakespeare troupe is raising funds on its own to be able to return to Congress Park for a two-week performance run beginning on July 13.

In the Saratoga Spa State Park, the New York City Ballet will return this year for an abbreviated series of appearances at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The ballet's season was reduced from its normal three-week run to two weeks of shows in 2009.

That move proved to be successful for SPAC organizers, however, who realized an average ticket income increase of more than $10,000 per performance last year, when compared with the longer 2008 season.

The Victoria Pool and The Peerless Pool - which attract approximately 50,000 swimmers during the summer season - are both expected to open on June 26 and remain open through Labor Day weekend. And the city's two major summer street fairs - Hats Off and Final Stretch - are slated to take place in conjunction with the summer racing season, according to the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce.

Not all gloom and doom

The expansion of the Saratoga Springs City Center, which is on target for completion in late 2010, is one of two projects Franck cited as having the potential to bring some positive momentum back to the Spa City.

"The City Center is going to open ahead of schedule, and GlobalFoundries will give a boost to the city," Franck said. "For 2011, all other bets are off."

Posted in Local on Thursday, March 25, 2010 10:10 pm Updated: 6:41 am. | Tags: Saratoga Springs, Construction

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1 comment:

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