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City Center board reacts positively to Saratoga parking deck proposal

Thursday, June 12, 2014
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— Plans for a five-story parking deck on High Rock Avenue would include electric-car charging stations, 20-foot arches and a ground-level “agora” that could double as the outdoor event space lost when the City Center expanded in 2011.

The preferred plan expected to be presented to the Saratoga Springs City Council next week proposes bringing the 511-space parking deck over Maple Avenue to join with the City Center structure on the west side of the street.

The pre-cast colored concrete and brick structure is designed to mimic the architectural style of the nearby high-rise buildings — a mix of condominiums and hotel rooms — recently constructed on High Rock and Lake Avenue.

City Center Authority President Mark Baker told its board of directors Wednesday the plan will create greater green space on what is now occupied by a parking lot and help link Lake Avenue to High Rock Park. He said the concept being considered was generated with public input and is aimed at enhancing downtown.

“This development is — first and foremost — a product of the community,” he said.

At a cost of about $10.6 million, the project is already well beyond the $6 million to $9 million range estimated by the authority in November. But Baker said the structure will be funded through bonds and paid for through revenue generated by charging a modest parking fee.

“At the end of the day, this will be an asset to the community and it won’t cost anything to taxpayers,” he said during the authority’s meeting Wednesday morning.

The board unanimously voted to take lead agency status during the state environmental review process. Even with this designation, however, the project will be subject to review by both the city’s Planning Board and Design Review Commission.

About two dozen people were on hand to see the first renderings of the proposed structure, and only a handful were nearby residents or business owners. No one spoke during the public comment period, which occurred prior to the roll-out of the design.

The authority received five proposals for the deck and winnowed down the choices to a pair. Bette & Cring Construction of Colonie and Envision Architects of Albany submitted the proposal that most interested the authority.

The massive parking deck designed by Envision will rise up to 65 feet in places and extend 120 feet down High Rock Avenue. The structure will be built into the natural contour of the slope leading from Maple Avenue down to High Rock, meaning the deck will vary between four and five stories high.

The new deck would have an entrance located north of the overhang on Maple Avenue and a covered area for drivers to drop off passengers at the City Center. Clearance for the deck would be more than 14 feet, which would allow large trucks and emergency vehicles to pass underneath.

An area between the new structure and the City Center could be utilized to display event banners that would be visible from Lake Avenue. Space inside the new structure would also be dedicated for local artwork and other displays.

The base of the structure would include about 6,600 square feet of open space that could be used for City Center events or other functions, such as expanding the farmers market hosted in neighboring High Rock Park. Barker said this area could serve as a replacement for the outdoor space the City Center enclosed during its expansion three years ago.

The project proposes a vegetative buffer between the structure and High Rock Avenue. The building would be located about 75 feet away from the nearby Mouzon House, a restaurant located in a historic 19th century building on what remains of York Street.

Some are concerned such a massive structure would lack street-level storefronts or other amenities that would connect the property with trails and green space elsewhere in the city. Others have voiced opposition toward developing the city-owned property almost exclusively for parking, since it’s the size of a city block and is one of the last large vacant parcels located within the heart of the downtown. Michael Ingersoll, an engineer working with the authority on the project, said planning for the project is about 80 percent complete. He said, however, some details about the design are still subject to public input.

Public Works Commissioner Anthony “Skip” Scirocco was generally supportive of the project after seeing the presentation.

He liked the concept of ground-level event space and limiting the building’s height so it remains lower than the City Center itself.

“It’s a great project and very well-thought out,” he said afterward. “Obviously, some more details need to be addressed.”

 
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