Market plan may shrink, downtown parking could grow as Glens Falls reworks plans

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The corner of South and Elm streets in Glens Falls, N.Y. (Photo: Jay Petrequin)

GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – In 2019, the city of Glens Falls unveiled a solid – if ambitious – plan for South Street. A new market space, 10,000 square feet in size, to host the city’s bustling farmer’s markets and be a year-round, multipurpose resource; all funded thanks to $4 million allocated as part of the city’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

Two years later, the city has been priced out of that plan by rising supply costs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. That means plans are changing to fit a much bigger bill; and the city is considering new ways to use some of the empty space formerly occupied by three buildings on South Street.

“Let’s call it 5,000 square feet, but we’ll see where we have it at the time,” Glens Falls Economic Development Director Jeff Flagg said in a phone call on Monday.

As of last month, the cost of the project had ballooned from $4 million to around $6.6 million. Rising steel and lumber costs caused by shipping issues leave no end in sight for issues like that. The city is now eyeing making more use of the buildings they already have around the site where they hope to grow something new.

Shrinking the planned building isn’t the only concession on the list. Another is stripping the plan to make the market a fully-heated, year-round structure. Flagg said that would have been a six-figure endeavor in itself, with the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act requiring them to seek out emission-neutral heating options if that were to remain a priority.

Instead, the new home of city farmers’ markets would be a “three-season” structure, complemented by the Incubator building on Elm Street.

“Three weeks ago, we’re sitting there looking, and we have a 10,000 square foot building we can’t afford, and we have a 5,000 square foot space we more or less committed to leasing, that we’re not sure what to do with,” Flagg described. “So is there any way we can put those two dynamics together?”

The original plan for the building at 36 Elm St. was to turn a large portion of it into commercial kitchen space. Now the city is eyeing having the first floor of that building operate as the other half of the market itself; assuming that 5,000-square-foot reduction Flagg estimates holds true.

That would leave half of the South Street lot empty. It isn’t clear what the rest of that space would be used for, but the intention is to keep it part of the same lot; whether that means complementing the marketplace with green space, extra parking, or something else.

Building upward

The work on South Street will be done by Bonacio Construction, a local company that has been in the conversation around how to change plans for the space. The initial plan included the creation of a parking garage located further up on South Street toward its intersection with Glen Street – near the outdoor pavilion where the Glens Falls Farmers Market currently takes residence in the summer. That plan didn’t work out for a variety of reasons, and now Bonacio is working with the city on alternatives.

Instead, that project is moving to the existing parking lot on Elm Street, a consistently busy lot that services Glens Falls National Bank, Downtown City Tavern and many businesses near the Glen Street outlet it opens up to.

“I’ve got three different plans, going back years,” Flagg said. “So it’s not like this is the first time someone has proposed that.”

The nearby bank is in the midst of a large-scale renovation and uses that parking consistently. Meanwhile, Bonacio is renovating and building several apartment buildings nearby – as many as 90 units, Flagg estimates.

Between those demands and the fact that more and more residents are moving close to downtown, hundreds of parking spaces could be needed there. Stacking up the needs of all of those new developments leaves one question. How high would a parking garage there need to be?

“We need to figure out 1: Who needs how many spaces, and 2: Who pays for them,” Flagg said with a laugh. “The DRI has some funding; it’s not going to pay for the whole parking garage.”

The lot itself is in a fairly tight spot, and Flagg pointed out that a fire lane would be needed to keep it safe. That lane would have to trace the perimeter of the structure, putting another limit on what’s possible.

“I don’t know we’ll get everything we need, frankly, unless we build it 5 or 6 stories tall,” Flagg said, “and I know that’s not something we want to do.”

The line of downtown buildings on the parking lot side of Glen Street is mostly 3 or 4 stories tall.

Meanwhile, a developer would then be able to construct something else on the South Street space where that garage was originally set to go. Bonacio has already made some proposals, one for a single structure and one for two.

For now, the city has a lot of design review to do to solidify the plans for the downtown it hopes to keep revitalizing.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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