GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – A vacant lot sits along South Street, the intended home for a future year-round farmers market and multipurpose building. The city of Glens Falls has been working to get it built since being proposed in 2017.
Two years after plans were revealed in 2019, though, work still hasn’t gotten started on the Market Center project. The big reason why: The project would cost the city over $2 million more than expected.
The city is re-evaluating the plan for the 10,000-foot center after working with architecture firm Envision Architects, based out of Albany, and finding that rising material costs would drive the cost of the project up to $6.6 million.
That’s more than a third more than the $4 million the city of Glens Falls budgeted for the project. Now, the city is seeing what they can trim to make up some of the difference.
“What we’re trying to do is find a building as multipurpose as possible,” said Glens Falls Economic Development Director Jeff Flagg in a phone call on Monday. “Something that can do as many things as we possibly can.”
When Flagg talks about finding a building, the physical space isn’t the issue. The former Juicin’ Jar, OTB and Daily Double buildings on South Street have been demolished, near the corner of South and Elm streets, and are the planned home of Market Center, come what may.
“We’ve got that empty lot, we’re going to put something there,” he said. “It’s about finding a building plan that’s the right scale and size.”
The center is planned as a new, year-round home for the Glens Falls Farmers Market, which currently bounces between a summer home elsewhere on South Street and winters are spent inside the Cool Insuring Arena. Being year-round is still essential, but what it needs to be year-round for is another story.
Flagg couldn’t disclose the full scope of purposes the city had envisioned for the market but said that ideas had grown since the initial sketches were released in 2019.
“Maybe you shave off the edges,” he said. “Maybe it can’t be everything for everybody, but it can be much more than just a farmers market.”
Building on buildings
In addition to the three buildings that have been demolished on South Street – 49, 51-57 and 59-63 South St. – two more are planned to be refurbished to be part of the plan.
One is 45 South St., at the corner of South and Elm. The building is the former home of the HotShots bar.
The other, next to it along Elm Street, is 36 Elm St. – the so-called incubator building.
The plan since 2019 has been to use those buildings, and a portion of Elm Street next to them, for farmer’s markets and other purposes. Now, the city is taking another look at what those purposes can include.
“Maybe there’s a way to make the existing spaces more productive.”
One part of the plan from the start has been putting a commercial kitchen inside the incubator building, which would take up as much as 700 of the 5,000 square feet of space shared between it and HotShots.
For comparison, it wouldn’t exist on the scale of the culinary school space run by SUNY Adirondack nearby, within the first floor of the 14 Hudson apartment building. The city has had some sort of commercial kitchen within their plans from the start, for use for special events; including ones that would be held at Market Center, potentially.
“Finding ways to maybe incorporate or integrate or complement whatever we end up within the empty lot, I think, is an important way of utilizing spaces to our best ability, and making good use of taxpayer dollars.”
Making the difference
At the end of the day, an extra $2.6 million in potential costs is a lot to offset.
When asked whether these changes and optimizations could make enough of a dent in that number, Flagg chuckled.
“That is a very good question.”
The city isn’t starting over by reconsidering parts of the plan, but what’s being considered is, at the end of the day, some degree of redesign.
It will take time before that redesigning process leads to any specific saving numbers to report, but Flagg said he feels good about the effect that trimming some elements will have on getting budget and reality to meet in the middle.
“We are starting from a reset to get to a plan that we can work from,” Flagg said. “I feel very confident that we can get close to the budget that we have.”
In the meantime, while rising prices aren’t a new concept, material and hardware goods have become much more expensive to get ahold of during the COVID-19 pandemic. The city is keeping that in mind when considering how quickly to act, should those prices go back down as pandemic circumstances change.
“We’re trying not to draw this project out,” Flagg said, “but at the same time, these are, if not unique circumstances, certainly unusual circumstances.”
Flagg has heard from contractors that lumber prices have actually started to dip back down again; only for steel prices to rise.
“Ironically, the first iteration of this building was a lumber and steel building; maybe you make it more lumber and less steel, I don’t know.”
The project has been funded in part by part of a $10 million revitalization grant from the state of New York. The city can try and wait out prices for a while but has to show some results within the state’s timeline.
Meanwhile, Flagg said that other parts of the city’s revitalization project are going smoothly. These include the GF DRIVE program, which provides local businesses with startup and expansion funds; as well as streetscaping and an arts trail.
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