By Paul Post
Bonacio Construction Co. in Saratoga Springs helped transform the Spa City with one large, multi-million-dollar project after another since its founding in 1988.
About a decade ago, the Saratoga Springs-based firm turned its attention to Glens Falls.
Now, in one of its most ambitious ventures ever, Bonacio hopes to rejuvenate South Street with a multi-phase project involving new construction and renovating existing structures such as the once-popular Sandy’s Clam Bar, Hot Shots tavern and a business incubator building behind Hot Shots at 36 Elm Street.
Elsewhere, Bonacio is still quite busy in Saratoga Springs, currently doing foundation and structural work for a new addition behind the former Rip Van Dam Hotel, connected to the adjacent Adelphi Hotel on Broadway, which was rebuilt four years ago for $28 million. The completed project will comprise one large resort with hotel rooms, studios and apartments.
In Glens Falls, “We saw a town that was once a jewel and had won the All-American City Award, but which like a lot of upstate New York communities had struggled through some down years,” said Larry Novik, company development director. “But it was clearly making a strong comeback. We saw a beautiful downtown with a really nice layout and a lot of quality, attractive buildings. We were just excited by what we were seeing.”
The company’s first project in Glens Falls was a new six-story retail, commercial and residential building at the intersection of Hudson Avenue and School Street, near the city’s new parking garage by Glens Falls Hospital.
Plans also call for a huge new mixed-use building, slated for the current Farmer’s Market lot, with commercial space fronting South Street. The structure would wrap around Sandy’s with more than 65 upscale apartments facing Elm Street
Phase I, remodeling existing buildings, is expected to begin this fall with Phase II, the new building, scheduled to get under way next year.
Bonacio is seeking $200,000 in sales and mortgage tax exemptions for the project from Glens Falls Industrial Development Agency, along with a 15-year reduction in property taxes.
In a related effort, the city has plans for a year-round Market Center and event space on South Street, at a vacant lot that previously housed an Off Track Betting outlet. The structure—open-air in summer, enclosed in winter—could give the Farmer’s Market a year-round home. The city plans to put this project out to bid in hopes of finding a suitable builder.
Glens Falls Economic Development Director Jeff Flagg said Bonacio alone might invest up to $26 million in South Street by the time it’s work is done. Some of this, such as historic restoration of the Sandy’s and Hot Shots buildings, would be paid for by a portion of $10 million in state Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding the city received several years ago.
“The idea behind this award is that it’s a catalyst for larger investment, encouraging other developers to say, ‘Now we’ve got enough critical mass. There’s enough momentum that we can look at the other side of the street, too’,” Flagg said.
Once known as “The Street of Dreams,” a hub for aspiring entrepreneurs to launch small business, much of South Street has become somewhat of an economic nightmare in recent years. Sandy’s and Hot Shots are both closed and a large vacant building, with broken and open windows, occupies most of the block from Elm Street heading south toward School Street.
But the north end of the street, near Glen Street, is a different story. That section has come to life with new restaurants such as Craft on 9 and Flight, located in the Empire Theater Building that’s home to nearly a dozen businesses. And across the street, Glens Falls National Bank recently completed a large new addition.
Novik said Bonacio’s South Street proposal has more than enough parking for its project’s needs. “The issue of downtown parking is clearly a larger issue,” he said. “We look forward to watching the community and administration work through those questions together and figure out a solution.”
Bonacio’s reach now expands from Central New York to the Adirondacks. Last month, Rome Area Chamber of Commerce gave its Business of the Year Award to the company for its construction of Air City Lofts, which provides housing to numerous employees at Griffiss Business and Technology Park, located on the former Griffiss Air Base.
Also last month, Bonacio unveiled plans for a $21 million project converting the former Word of Life Lodge in Schroon Lake to Brown Swan Resort highlighted by more than 100 guest rooms, cabins, chalets, an upscale restaurant, miniature golf, multipurpose sports facilities and swimming areas.
The state is supporting the project with a $4.1 million grant through the Upstate Revitalization Initiative, and Essex County’s industrial development agency has authorized $409,000 in sales tax and $178,748 in mortgage tax breaks.
Last year, Bonacio built the new two-story, 12,720-square-foot Adirondack-style Ticonderoga Golf Course Clubhouse made of cedar soffits, pine framing and granite.