SARATOGA SPRINGS — The city’s Department of Public Works alongside the local LA Group design firm have collaborated on a plan that would turn an existing paved lot immediately adjacent to the City Center parking garage into a community park featuring stone-dust walking paths, newly planted trees, and an amphitheater “where artists and musicians could gather,” city DPW Commissioner Jason Golub said this week.
“For a number of years there has been a community discussion about the development of Flat Rock Park… but since that time it has remained a land-locked parking lot and an unusable piece of city-owned property offering no benefit to the community,” Golub said, explaining the workings of a plan that would, in a reversal of the popular Joni Mitchell tune: un-pave a parking lot and put up a piece of paradise in its place.
“Much of the (previous) discussion centered on the City Center parking garage. The two remaining city-owned parcels were left for later phases of the project,” Golub said. “Part of the City Center agreement included that the center lot would remain a green space when construction was completed.”
The two parcels sit between the newly developed parking garage and the Lake Avenue corner. The newly released DPW design features the re-development of one of those lots into a park.
In May 2018, then-city Mayor Meg Kelly created the Flat Rock Working Group. Comprised of area residents, City Center Authority representatives, county leaders, city officials and other community members, the group was tasked with developing a Concept Plan for the 2.6-acre city-owned parcel. A subsequent July 2018 La Group presentation conceptualized the land bordering Lake Avenue as the site to be developed as “Flat Rock Park.”
By August 2019 the project plan was broken into multiple phases, with the development of a multi-level parking garage, a “pedestrian connector” between the City Center and the parking structure, and an extension of the Green Belt Trail along High Rock Avenue targeted as priority one. Specific park design plans for the remaining two lots subsequently varied, and it is unclear whether the previous administration had identified either of the lots for inclusion in projected future phases.
“The park will allow folks to come from the Farmers’ Market and have a picnic at Flat Rock, or let their kids run around on the big open lawn. Musicians can play and people working downtown can eat their lunch at the tables,” Golub says. “Our downtown needs more green space for families and Flat Rock Park will be a great addition.”
The Department of Public Works will pay for the project, and all material costs are covered in the 2022 operating budget, says Golub, adding that all construction work will be performed in-house. So far, the only fixed cost is $12,000 to CT Male for conducting soil tests to ensure there are no contaminates. Those findings will determine the overall project cost. A high-end project estimate points to a cost range between $30,000 and $40,000, but some of that may potentially be offset by grant opportunities.
“We, along with the community, will evaluate future potential uses for this area,” Golub says. “The great thing is that we will take a space that has been an unused eyesore in our downtown for years, and make it into a beautiful park that will serve our community.”