By Christine Graf
The Saratoga City Center is awaiting final approval from the city to build Flat Rock Center, a 600-space parking garage.
The move would end a long debate as to what to do with the property and how to provide more parking for the center.
City Center executive director Ryan McMahon said the approximately $15 million, project would be paid for through the center’s budget.
“Part of our funding mechanism is that we receive a percentage of the [hotel occupancy] bed tax,” he said. “We will be dedicating a percentage of that to this project.”
McMahon is hoping the project will be approved in the near future. He said construction would not take place until after the busy Saratoga summer season. He estimated it will take approximately 10 months to complete.
Once open, the garage will offer free parking for the first hour. Prices have not yet been established for additional hours, and revenue projections have not been completed.
“This is not going to be Manhattan paid parking rates,” he said. “It’s just going to be enough for us to cover expenses.”
“Back when the City Center was formed (in 1984), the original authority members knew it would eventually need more parking. Parking has been in short supply as everyone knows. When we are busy, it makes it hard for anyone to park. As our degree of activity has gone up, the need has gone up.”
According to McMahon, the lack of adequate parking has had an adverse economic impact on the both the City Center and the city itself.
“There have been events we have lost because of parking. The economic impact of those events that we did lose was multiple millions of dollars. There are also events that are very much in jeopardy. They have said that if we don’t’ address parking they are going to look elsewhere. That’s when we start to get into tens of millions of dollars in economic impact.”
Despite the parking issues, the Saratoga City Center had a record year in 2018.
“We set a record for the number of building-use days—paid event days—with over 300,” said McMahon. “We are going to break that benchmark this year. We have some very exciting things over the next few years—some very large city wide-events—that the convention bureau, along with the City Center staff, has worked very hard to bring in. We should have nothing but good news for the next years.”
The City Center submitted its first parking garage construction proposal in 2014. Although the proposal was accepted by the city, several lawsuits were filed to block its construction. The proposal was withdrawn.
As a result, Mayor Meg Kelly formed the Flat Rock Project Working Group, which brought together a variety of community stakeholders.
“They came together and produced a report that the city accepted with some alterations,” said McMahon.
The Saratoga City Center worked with Bette & Cring Construction Group of Latham to prepare preliminary design plans.
If approved, Flat Rock Center would be built on the northern portion of a parking lot located on Maple Avenue, across from the Saratoga Springs Convention Center, with High Rock Avenue as thee property’s eastern border. It will be four stories high on the High Rock Avenue side and three stories high on the Maple Avenue side, said McMahon.
The city-owned parking site was the center of some debate and discussion in 2015, when two groups—a Syracuse-based development company and a Capital Region partnership—proposed multi-million dollar plans to build mixed-use projects along High Rock, Maple and Lake avenues in Saratoga Springs.
Paramount Realty Group LLC in Syracuse proposed a $77 million multi-use project called Highrock Village. The other proposal came from Hyman Hemispheric LLC of Voorheesville and Sequence Development LLC of Troy. That plan was in the area of $82 million.
The projects drew interest from some City Council members and then-mayor Joanne Yepsen, ultimately were not approved.
By Christine Graf