“The decision last night was an exciting move forward, not only for the City Center - but also for the business community as a whole. There was a huge response from civic leadership that proves the legitimacy of the need and quality of the project. The City Center is excited to continue to move forward with this project and bring it to reality so it can be an asset to the entire community.
“It was a long time coming but well worth the effort. It was truly the support of not just the client base, but also the incredible support of the business community that helped bring clarity to the council members of the financial viability of the project.”
- Mark Baker President, Saratoga Springs City Center
“I am pleased that the vote to lease a portion of the parcel on High Rock to the City Center for their connected parking structure was successful. Clearly the majority of the City Council supported this project, and after more than 3 years, we have finally moved toward some finality with regards to this project. It felt good to finally have some action on at least one major project before this Council. Now it is time to do a feasibility study on the remainder of the lot and determine what, if anything is next for the High Rock parcel.”
- Michele Madigan
Saratoga Springs Commissioner of Finance
SARATOGA SPRINGS – By now, if you are at all interested or affected by this issue (which is nearly everyone in our market) you know what happened. For the sake of those who returned from a vacation in Bora Bora yesterday, let us say concisely that a 3-2 majority of the Saratoga Springs City Council on Tuesday, April 5 approved a resolution – “Authorization for Mayor to Sign City Center Parking Structure Leases” - which sets in motion the eventual development of a parking structure adjacent to the Saratoga Springs City Center on a portion of the city-owned parcel known generally as “High Rock.” For the record, Commissioners Madigan, Scirocco and Mathiesen voted in favor; Mayor Yepsen and Commissioner Franck voted against.
Having said that, since a significant portion of the city is in a ‘groundbreaking’ mood, let us endeavor to break some new ground and go beyond the “he/she voted this way and why,” reporting and explore some potential implications arising out of this important vote.
- Avoiding a train wreck: By taking action, any action actually, on High Rock, the city most likely averted the potential disaster of simultaneous projects (the High Rock structure as well as the Collamer lot) being under construction at the same time – with massive parking space losses and dire consequences for both the City Center and surrounding downtown businesses. The City Center has estimated that its structure will take about eight to ten months to complete, the Collamer transfer is still under state scrutiny at this time. This potentially avoids or minimizes the possibility that a double-whammy situation will arise, and people will not need to shake their heads and say, ‘why doesn’t our government think about things like this?”
- The New Majority: Passage of the City Center parking resolution has officially codified what has been in place for some time. The City Council currently has four Democrats and one Republican, but for all intents and purposes, political parties are hereby dissolved.
On this council, the lone Republican (Scirocco) combined with two Democrats (Madigan and Mathiesen); create a working majority in many cases like this where a given item is in dispute. Contrast this against former councils that for decades had a 4-1 Republican majority, and the lone dissenting vote frequently on resolutions was Democratic Commissioner of Public Works Thomas McTygue.
As stated before, this coalition of Commissioners has been in place for some time, and even was a campaign issue in some quarters. Yet, all three were re-elected, by sizable numbers actually, and they are governing as if they were given a mandate by the electorate – which, in fact they were.
Sometimes observing and reporting is little more than taking note of the fact that the sands are shifting – and shifting they are, indeed. Stay tuned.
- What if they gave an RFP and no one came? For city council policy wonks, this is self-explanatory. While the City Center proposal proceeded through the land use boards, the city issued an RFP for mixed-use, multi-purpose developments on the same parcel. Two responses were submitted that, regardless of what you think of the merits, appeared to speak to the RFP’s stated goals, but were found to be lacking by a review committee. What the two respondents were trying to accomplish were ambitious given the parameters of the RFP. The question that arises is: Will other developers, looking at the two respondents’ experience (i.e.: a waste of time and resources) attempt to answer any future RFP for city-owned property? Time will tell - although High Rock was, by any measure the most valued and strategic undeveloped city-owned parcel remaining, it was by no means the only one.
- Perseverance awards: Finally,regardless of your position on the City Center’s parking structure’s merits, a measure of respect has to be paid to the entities that saw the process through to this point - navigating the nuances, twists, turns, competing RFP’s, revelations of potential off-the-record conversations (another story for another time), and other assorted roadblocks to get through the process to where we are today. Barring unforeseen circumstances, and potential litigation, shovels will shortly be put in the ground for the City Center’s Parking Structure. In that connection, you have to acknowledge Commission Madigan for sheparding the process through from the government side.
As far as Mark Baker, while he and other’s took great pains to state that this is “not Mark Baker’s project,” he was the visible face behind it, and therefore had much to lose. While he would be the first to say that this victory is for the City overall, it is certainly his too, and in large measure a capstone to a career as the City Center’s President. He guided the City Center through the land-use boards, made way-too-many presentations when requested, and kept a firm hand on the wheel.
I recall visiting him about another matter several months ago, when the prospects for the parking structure looked bleaker. After we were done with that, of course we had to talk about parking.
I asked him, “So is this parking structure still a live issue?”
“Why, yes!” He said.
And so, it came to pass, by a 3-2 vote. To paraphrase my hero, Paul Harvey: Now you know…