Budget exploded, Glens Falls reorganizes the DRI concept | Local
GLENS FALLS – Time changes everything, and the City’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative was no exception.
Awarded in 2016, the $ 10 million state grant was designed to stimulate economic activity in the city center by using public funds to stimulate private investment.
After a quick start, progress appeared to slow, but work to complete the multi-phased project never stopped, according to Jeffrey Flagg, the city’s economic development director responsible for overseeing the various components of DRI.
“I think the biggest dilemma we have is jet lag,” he said. “It’s not just the time lag. Time lag creates changes… circumstances change. Well, the circumstances have changed.
The price hike has forced authorities to reconsider plans that have been inactive for more than two years as the state scrambles to complete a series of environmental reviews, delayed by the pandemic.
Although details have not yet been finalized, Flagg believes the city has developed a new concept that would meet the growing need for housing in the city and bring much-needed parking to the city center, while handing over a number of plots belonging to the city. on tax rolls.
“The point is, this is a pretty big change,” Flagg said. “And I think that solves a lot of our needs. “
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Plans for how the city would spend the funds were unveiled in 2017 and it didn’t take long for visible progress to be made.
In 2018, SUNY Adirondack officially moved its culinary program to 14 Hudson Ave., completing a major component of the multi-phased project.
Around the same time, the city began taking steps to demolish a series of buildings along South Street to make way for the Market Center building, touted by authorities as the centerpiece of economic redevelopment plans for the city.
A conceptual render of the 10,000-square-foot facility was unveiled in 2019, showing a hub of activity near 59-62 South Street, where the glass building would be erected.
City officials at the time said the structure would not only be the future year-round home of the Glens Falls Farmers’ Market, but that it would host community events and other gatherings.
Renderings also showed a pair of fully restored private buildings adjacent to the market, as well as an imposing parking structure and a brand new mixed-use building located at 25-33 South St., the current headquarters of the Farmers’ Market.
Plans also included developing a “pocket park” along South Street at the corner of School Street, next to Dizzy Chicken.
Price increases and delays
But more than two years after the plans were unveiled, officials were forced to revamp its Market Square concept due to a number of aggravating factors that resulted in a price tag of $ 6.6 million, nearly double the Allocated budget.
The price of materials has risen since the original concept was revealed, a problem that has been exacerbated over the past year and a half due to supply chain disruptions caused by the pandemic.
State lawmakers have since approved the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act in 2019. The legislation aims to achieve net carbon emissions of zero from 1990 levels by 2050 and requires public buildings to be free of carbon. emissions by 2040, forcing the city to incorporate expensive geothermal facilities. heat and other climate-friendly designs in the plans, further raising the price, Flagg said.
Amid it all, Ed Bartholomew, the city’s longtime economic development director responsible for securing DRI funds, died last year, sending city officials to scramble to pick up the pieces and move the government forward. project.
Flagg was appointed director of economic development earlier this year.
Rising prices and plans delayed by the pandemic have forced the city to start all over again, drawing criticism from some and questions about how the city is using the funds of others.
But Flagg said the process was necessary and forced the city to take a closer look at its original concepts.
“It took us a little while to figure out how much we need to change direction, and it required us to be a little more creative in what we’re looking to do with space,” he said. .
In the weeks since learning their original plans were to be scuttled, city officials have been working with architects and developers from Bonacio Construction – the company that will eventually buy and renovate the plots owned by the city surrounding the Market Center – to develop new plans for the project.
The concepts are still in their infancy, but the proposed changes are significant.
Gone are the plans for a large 10,000 square foot market center along South Street and a multi-storey parking structure at the corner of South and Elm streets.
The city is now looking to build a parking structure over the existing parking lot on Elm Street, about a block from where the Market Center will eventually stand and a short walk from the downtown core. Conversations about the size of the structure and how to cover the costs remain ongoing, Flagg said.
Instead, Bonacio proposed to build either a pair of multi-story buildings or a large mixed-use facility where the parking structure would have been built along South Street.
The property is currently owned by the city and will be put back on the city’s tax rolls once a contract between the construction company and the city is finalized, Flagg said.
He said it was still not clear what the size of the new facility (s) would be or what the final cost would be, but noted that the proposal would address the growing need for housing in the city and bring much-needed parking to the center. city.
“I am convinced that we will have a commercial building here,” he said. “Commercial meaning not a parking garage.
Regarding the much-talked-about Market Center facility, Flagg said the new plan is for a scaled-down structure of around 5,000 square feet that is sort of incorporated into the first floor of 36 Elm St., a building adjacent to be renovated as part of the DRI.
Bonacio Construction is currently negotiating with the city to purchase and refurbish the 15,000 square foot three story facility as well as the adjacent building at 45 South Street, which will be transformed into a mixed use facility.
Both properties would be listed on the city’s tax roll once purchased by the construction company.
Flagg said the city would likely have to enter into some type of rental agreement with Bonacio to use the facility, but noted that in doing so, the Market Center would still be the original 10,000 square feet as originally planned.
The new structure would likely last for three seasons and would not include the expensive acoustics and heating of the original concept all year round, but would still host the Farmers’ Market and a number of other events throughout the year, Flagg said.
The city is also trying to figure out how to incorporate “green initiatives” into the building concept, including considering whether a pocket park could be built on the property, Flagg said.
He noted that the city is waiting to see the design concepts and figure out how to overcome a number of construction logistics hurdles, but believes the new concept will likely progress in one form or another.
“There are a lot of moving parts,” he said.
Chad Arnold is a reporter for The Post-Star and covers the town of Glens Falls, the Town and Village of Lake George, and the Washington County Government. Follow him on Twitter @ChadGArnold.