GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The city’s long-in-the-works Downtown Revitalization Initiative project on South Street is reaching a new stage, the city’s economic development director said on Tuesday night. Jeff Flagg stood before the Glens Falls Planning Board’s monthly meeting this week to talk about the prospect of going out to bid for the future multiuse farmer’s market space planned for the street.

The project has been in the works since the city was awarded $10 million in DRI funding in 2017. As it’s coming into shape, residents are happy to hear the prospect of new life coming to the currently-vacant lot at 51 South St. near the corner of Elm Street. At the same time, a common question reared its head again: Will shoppers have space to park?

“The sidewalk is expanding 8 feet into South Street, eliminating the streetside spots that are already there,” said city resident and architect Gary McCoola, in a letter read by planning board Chairman Ethan Hall at Tuesday night’s meeting. “There are new handicapped parking spaces shown at the north and south ends of the sidewalk. (…) The proposed sidewalk expansion and handicapped parking spots are a detrimental effect upon the traffic of the intersection.”

Flagg was joined by architects Devon Telberg of Envision Architects and Peter Loyola of CLA SITE Landscape Architecture, Engineering and Planning. The engineers said that the only two parking spots being removed are to accommodate a driveway, to be used for deliveries and by EMS as needed during events at the facility.

In response to a point raised about snow management, the developers also pointed out that the expanded sidewalk will be mountable for plowing – and that the intended pavement for the facility would allow for enough water absorption that snow could be plowed up behind it to sit for the winter. The letter also raised concerns about the project’s impact on Broad Street, which South Street connects to on the west side – further than the project reaches, the architects said.

Currently, the Glens Falls Farmer’s Market is held at the community pavilion at 25-33 South St., which serves as a large hub for parking for visitors to businesses and residences on the street. In an update last summer, the city showed a rendering of a potential second stage to its DRI plan – which would level much of that parking space, turning the site into the home of a mixed-use apartment and business building. Concerns were immediate at that meeting as to the elimination of parking, and haven’t entirely died down.

“If that space is gone as far as parking goes, that is going to affect my tenants,” said Mike Devon, owner of 38 South St., home of the Messenger House bar and restaurant. “Their businesses, their people, won’t have space to park. I don’t know if it’s going to be a great idea to eliminate parking and put buildings there for more people, who will need more parking, and do away with parking for those who want to come and patronize the farmer’s market for a seasonal part of the year.”

Hall said that the apartment plan has not actually been approved by the city yet, and that currently, the new market space is the sole goal of the project. The city has considered planning to block off parts of South and Elm streets during events in order to better facilitate parking.

Meanwhile, Glens Falls has spent several months embarking on a parking study to answer this exact type of question. Its findings are that the city has enough parking for now, but that doesn’t mean it should rest on its laurels. It was also pointed out that a nearby parking resource – the Elm Street lot behind several Glen Street buildings – has been incapacitated for years.

“For at least the last four years, multiple infrastructure projects have consumed a third of that lot by contractors and work being done,” said Hall. “As soon as Glens Falls National Bank is done (with ongoing renovation work), that lot should be back to its full capacity. It’s been down at least 50 parking spaces in that lot for the better part of the last four years.”

At 6,000 square feet of open space and a $5 million price tag, the new market center is intended for more than just farmer’s markets, designed with adjustable overhead doors to adapt to temperatures in different seasons at a low energy cost. Some elements are still up for determination – McCoola’s letter calls for bike racks, which Loyola said his team would take into consideration. Flagg pointed out that making the new space bike-accessible would fit in nicely with the city’s recent interest in becoming a Complete Streets community.

The planning board voted on Tuesday to take the reins as the project’s lead agency. The project, which will also incorporate the other buildings at 51-63 South St., is now set to move ahead with construction bids. Flagg said he hopes to begin that process within the next month.

Meanwhile, South Street has seen new and returning faces ready for the project to yield results after six years of work. Last November, Glens Falls Bagels moved in across the street from the future home of the new market center, and New Way Lunch reopened its touched-up downtown location after a closure caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.