By R.J. DELUKE
Two groups–a Syracuse-based development company and a Capital Region partnership– have proposed multi-million dollar plans to build mixed-use projects on the city-owned parking lots along High Rock, Maple and Lake avenues in Saratoga Springs.
Both have presented plans to the City Council. Mayor Joanne Yepsen said she will try to set up a meeting this month–date to be determined by her planning staff–where representatives from both development groups will give a public presentation. It will be open to the public.
She said she will also form an internal technical review team that will go over the proposals. “We want to move swiftly,” she said.
The mayor said the mixed-use aspect is preferable to the somewhat controversial first proposal that emerged, involving Saratoga City Center. She feels the council can make an informed choice this year and construction could start in 2016
The City Center had proposed a $10.4 million, 480-space parking structure on 1.62 acres of the site. The city center would have leased the land from the city for 20 years. But it is opposed by some in the community, including a citizens group named Citizens for High Rock. Members of the group didn’t care for the city center’s project design. It has said it prefers a dense, mixed-use development.
The two new proposals contain plans for housing, parking and retail shops and perhaps offices.
Paramount Realty Group LLC in Syracuse plans a $77 million multi-use project called Highrock Village
Richard deVito, a partner with the group, said his proposal consists of housing priced to appeal to some of the local workforce, senior housing, condos, shops and a pedestrian promenade. It will also provide parking spaces for residents and the general public.
The group has partnered with Community Builders, which has an office in Albany, on the project, located on 2.6 acres of land behind City Hall.
The other proposal is from Hyman Hemispheric LLC of Voorheesville and Sequence Development LLC of Troy. Jeff Hyman of Hyman Hemispheric LLC said his plan is in the area of $82 million.
There is flexibility in the plans and there could be many “tweaks” while the process moves along, through meetings with the city and other stakeholders, he said. But basically, there would be about 100 market-rate apartments for rent, and retail and office segments.
Hyman said about 656 parking spaces would be included that would be divided among the City Center, the city itself, residents and shoppers.
Said deVito, “We’re talking about 259 parking spaces for the City Center, more than they requested. Then 30 or so spaces to the city. About 140 for the residents and about 178 for the general public,” de Vito said. The public spaces, he said, would be free for first hour, and a small fee for extra time; yet to be determined.
The company is seeking a 49-year lease on the land and tax-exempt bonds for the parking garage. Paramount’s funding, deVito said, is already in place. He said once built, the city would get a base rent, plus a 50 percent share of revenues. He estimated that could be some $100,000 per year for the city coffers.
“The mix of shops and restaurants occupying the space will compliment the offerings in an already thriving downtown, extending the vitality of the Broadway corridor to Maple and High Rock avenues and helping to activate space, creating a vibrant, plaza-type atmosphere,” said the 98-page report submitted by Paramount to the city.
The courtyard, at grade with Maple avenue, will be open to the public and “serve as a focal point of activity for residents and community members and will be a logical connection between points of interest in the surrounding neighborhood.”
From the Mouzon House restaurant in the north end of the lot, the view would not be of a mammoth parking garage, but of the scenic promenade with shops and activity, he said.
Because of the slop of the land, the view from Maple Avenue would appear like a three-story building and from High Rock as a five stories, the developer said.
“Our project is a reflection of the needs of the community,” he said.
The project is dubbed Highrock Village.
The developer said he was staying at the Hampton Inn Suites, across the street from the project site, and became curious about the lot, when the lot caught his attention. He viewed it as a prime development spot. He spoke with Mayor Yepsen and learned about the RFP process and what the city was looking for.
“We’ve done a pretty good job of turning around the downtown in Syracuse by brining housing downtown,” he said, referring to the development which turned an old warehouse district into Armory Square, with retail, restaurants and apartments, revitalizing that section of the city.
He said he also met with Citizens for High Rock, a group that is advocating for a comprehensive multi-use design for the publicly owned land and explained what he had in mind. He called it a “win-win for everyone.”
“One of the main needs in the community, I’ve been hearing over and over, is there is no workforce housing,” he said. The project includes 64 apartment units for seniors and 42 designated as for workforce. There will also be condos and apartments available for rent or purchase at market-rate prices.
While there are pricing decisions still to be made, deVito said the condos”you can probably get for about $600,000, not $1.5 million.”
The project will be about 12,000 square feet and parts swill be six stories high. There will be below-street-level parking for some residents.
The report indicates it would also create jobs. There would be in property management and maintenance for the apartments, and also senior housing administration and maintenance.
The report estimated payment of about $1.9 million annual taxes for the city, county and local school district and could generate about $627,000 a year in sales tax revenue.
The city does not have a time schedule for approving any project. But deVito said if the city acted quickly, construction could start in the spring and phase I, the parking garage and part of the senior housing, could be done in about a year.
Hyman said if the city selected his partnership, construction would start next year. There would be an effort made to keep some of the parking available while construction goes on, so as not to make parking problems in the downtown area any worse.
“There’s a way to make it work for everybody,” said Hyman, a former investment banker who has experience in gathering funding for multi-use projects over the years. “Hopefully, all the stakeholders will come together and make it work.”
Hyman said Saratoga Springs has a very strong real estate market and he expects that 100 units would be absorbed and meet a need in the city.
“We suspect there’s going to be lot of back and forth [with city officials] on some of the details of the design, which we would welcome in order to get it right.”
“We’re tremendously excited. It’s a unique opportunity,” he said.