SARATOGA SPRINGS – Members of the design team involved in the development of a 600-space parking garage project near High Rock Park made the rounds of the city Land Use boards and the City Council last week. The Goal: to provide project updates and secure additional feedback regarding the Phase 1 proposal of a construction project to take place adjacent to the Saratoga Springs City Center.
“Our hope is to break ground this fall and have occupancy next year,” Mike Ingersoll, of the LA Group - which is part of the team advancing the project – told the Planning Board late last week. The Design Review Commission and City Council were also each provided with an in-person update by a group that included Ingersoll, Saratoga Springs City Center Executive Director Ryan McMahon, and City Center Authority Chairman Tom Roohan.
The project proposal includes two phases of development along a city-owned 2-1/2-acre parcel that runs from High Rock Park to Lake Avenue, and Maple Avenue to High Rock Avenue, one block east of Broadway.
The city owns the land and a lease agreement between the city of Saratoga Springs and the City Center Authority regarding the parking structure is currently being negotiated. It is expected to be completed in short order. City Mayor Meg Kelly said she anticipates two public hearings will be held at upcoming City Council meetings in September – those meetings will take place Tuesday, Sept. 3 and Tuesday, Sept. 17, after which the City Council is expected to vote on the lease agreement.
The City Center Authority has applied for a building permit, and if all goes well the project may begin development this fall, and be partially completed by next summer, explained City Center Executive Director Ryan McMahon. The center will oversee management of the structure. That partial completion may allow drivers of vehicles to be capable of parking their vehicles on the new structure’s new first level, should it be completed in time, he added.
Discussions regarding a parking garage behind the City Center initially began in 2013 and has been at times contentious.
Current plans involve only Phase 1 of the project – on 1.75 acres directly east of the City Center and the Algonquin lot.
Phase 1 call for a multi-level, 600-space parking garage, a “pedestrian connector” atop Maple Avenue to run between the City Center and the parking structure, and an extension of the Green Belt Trail along High Rock Avenue, where there is 50 feet of space between the potential structure and the curb line. A small “pocket park” has also recently been added to the plans, and will sit at the southeast corner of Phase 1 plans.
The 600 spaces in the parking garage represent a net gain of about 380 spaces overall, as some currently existing spaces will require removal to make space for the structure and the trail. Vehicle access points to and from the structure will be on High Rock and Ellsworth Jones Place
The structure’s “facades respect the streetscape,” and the pedestrian connector bridge has been altered since initial plans to feature “a more transparent, open element (and) not as obtrusive and blocking as it was before,” Ingersoll said. The pedestrian bridge will be closed when the City Center is not in use, although the parking garage will remain open.
The garage will house “flat” floors rather than “ramp” incline floors, so re-utilization is possible, and the lower level specifically may be used as an extension of the Farmers’ Market, or as an exhibition space for vendors. City Council member John Franck inquired whether a traffic light would be installed in conjunction with the increased activity anticipated with a new parking garage, but was told there are no plans for a traffic light at this time.
The remaining .85 acres of the lot will be part of Phase Two of the project – plans for which have not yet been determined, but will likely be addressed “over the next year or two,” Ingersoll said.