BY R.J. DELUKE
Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen said a
technical review team is going over the two proposals
for a multi-use project on the city-owned land
along High Rock, Maple and Lake avenues–currently
a parking lot–and she hopes to hear from
that group by the end of the year.
They are both expansive, multimillion dollar
projects that would–if eventually approved by
the city–result in a combination of shops, apartments
and parking spaces. Representatives of two
development groups gave presentations on Nov.
10 at a special City Council meeting. The projects
differ, but both specify parking spaces for Saratoga
City Center, the general public and residents who
would occupy the proposed housing.
Yepsen said Dec. 1 that the technical review
team was appointed by the council.
At the end of the November meeting, the city
council compiled a list of questions they want answered
by both development groups. The technical review
team did the same, and all have been sent
off and are awaiting comment. The mayor said the
same questions went to both groups.
Parking is deemed by the city as the key segment
of any project that comes to fruition on the
property, especially a large potion for City Center.
Paramount Realty Group LLC in Syracuse
presented its $77 million proposal. Hyman Hemispheric
LLC of Voorheesville also outlined its ideas,
without giving a cost estimate. Though Jeff Hyman
of Hyman Hemispheric previously stated his plan
is in the area of $82 million.
Yepsen said a parking task force will look at
overall needs of the downtown area. The flow of
traffic and how it would be affected by a major
downtown residential-business complex will also
At the Nov. 10 session, Yepsen said she likes the
idea of a mixed-use project, but wants to ensure
it allows a flow of activity between High Rock
businesses, the Farmer’s Market and the rest of
downtown, “so it feels like one city and one town;
not cutting off life, but including it.”
Representatives of both projects said that connectivity
with Broadway and downtown is one of
the prominent goals.
One commissioner, Chris Mathiesen, cautioned
the city may want to proceed with building just
a parking garage on the lot–a project whose
controversy resulted in the city seeking different
proposals–and possibly saving space for expansion
of City Hall.
But Commissioner John P. Franck said using the
most valuable building lot in the city for a municipal
building “would be just horrible.”
“This is about stewardship of assets,” he said.
“I could not think of a worse investment that to
build a municipal building on the most expensive
lot in the city. We have other properties we could
potentially purchase” for future expansion.
Commissioner Michele Madigan was concerned
the proposals may be too big for that section of the
city. Commissioner Skip Scirocco said both were
good proposals and he favors a mixed-use project
of some kind.
All the commissioners said there was a lot of information
to digest before anything moves forward.
One point of concern for all was the proximity
of City Center parking spaces to the actual center
and how access to and from those spaces could
be improved beyond what developers proposed.
Both development teams had stated future dialog
with the city could result in beneficial changes.
Richard deVito, a partner with Paramount
Realty Group LLC in Syracuse, and Susan McCann
of Community Builders presented the $77 million
proposal that calls for 259 spaces for the center, 30
for city use, 140 for residents and 178 for the public.
The housing would be a combination of senior
housing (64 units), workforce housing for young
professionals (42), condos (36) and market-rate
apartments (24), retails would be a mix of shops
and restaurants. There would be access to Maple
Ave. and an attractive walkway down the center
from High Rock to Lake Avenue.
From parking revenue and the land agreement,
deVito said over 30 years, revenue to the city would
be about $3 million.
It would be built in phases, deVito said, but if
the city selects his company in the coming weeks,
“We’re financially ready to go with this development
… It’s our expectation that if the city were
to award this development to us, we expect we
would be able to begin the construction of the
garage as soon as spring of 2016. That’s critically
important for not only the city,but city center and
the community as a whole … We have done all of
our homework and we are ready to go, financially,
architecturally, engineering-wise. We are ready
Mann said, “We truly believe this is the highest
and best use for this site. This is such a dynamic
city. It’s a city that people value and want to come
to because of the retail, because of the housing,
because of the mix of things that are here … Parking
is absolutely needed, this is a destination city.
People come and they drive … It would be a mistake
to put a parking garage where the rest of it around
it is so dynamic.”
Jeff Hyman of Hyman Hemispheric, Peter
Stevens of JCJ Architecture and Michael Phinney
of the local Phinney Design Group did most of the
talking for their project.
Some 600 spaces are included in that proposal,
along with about 100 apartments, both market
rate and workforce. The entire complex would be
ringed by retail and there would be “pocket parks”
and other green space within the property.
“This is the last great lot in Saratoga Springs,”
said Phinney. He said its his team’s intent to hold
workshops with all the stakeholders to determine
what is acceptable and desired in the design.
“We are very much committed to a public process
where we will take our design as it exists now
and further develop that in greater detail through
a series of public workshops … We’re committed to
that process” and concerned with creating public
space and green space that would enhance and
beautify the city.
Stevens said the preliminary plans envision a
commercial component along Lake Avenue. The
center portion of the lot could be the parking garage
and the north end of the site would be mostly
housing, with retail ringing the entire site. Most
of the connections to downtown and High Rock
would be east-west in nature.