GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – On Monday, members of the city community came to the basement meeting room at Crandall Public Library to hear about the latest version of a long-running plan to breathe new life into long-defunct space along South Street. And they came with plenty of questions.
A presentation was led by city Mayor Bill Collins on the current state of Glens Falls’ Downtown Revitalization Initiative plan, largely revolving around the South Street farmers market space – and the changes it has gone through since it was first unveiled in 2019. The plan, which would use a now-vacant set of lots by the corner of South and Elm streets, would create a new, larger farmers market and event space, replacing the current pavilion that hosts markets a block away.
The plan has been changed, in large part by supply chain necessity, but the scope will still impact the footprint across two blocks of South Street. Initially planned to span 10,000 square feet, the images presented on Monday told an updated version of the story – a 5,000-square-foot event space, with renovations made to two adjacent buildings. 45 South St. – which has a history as the onetime home of Glens Falls’ first hospital – is intended to host a restaurant on the first floor, with apartments above. 36 Elm St. would host an indoor extension to the farmers market on its first floor, as well as eight more apartments upstairs.
The work on the South/Elm Street corner is just phase 1 of the plan. Phase 2 sets its site on the current home of the Glens Falls Farmers Market, on the other side of Elm Street, hosted weekly under a wooden pavilion during the warmer months. Where that pavilion and a large parking lot now sit, more DRI funds would be used to construct an ambitious, pair of mixed-use buildings, one on Elm Street and the other on South Street. The two will collectively offer 75 new housing units, a community arts hub, and commercial space intended to attract more new business to South Street.
So what doesn’t the plan have? Parking.
As pointed out by some of the roughly 40 people present, construction at the farmers market’s current home would replace not just the pavilion, but also the parking lot that market shoppers use every week when they visit and shop.
“Can we leave that space a parking lot?” The first question came from Herb Levin, a city resident and former business owner. “I only saw 30 spaces, give or take, behind the Phase 2 plan. I don’t even see a bicycle rack.”
Thus began a series of questions that followed the half-hour presentation in a way that the mayor and other officials presenting did not expect. After the presentation ended, Collins said that, instead of a formal Q&A session, residents could come up and ask individual questions to the officials who had spoken – such as himself, Economic Development Director Jeff Flagg, and engineers from SpringCity Development.
That announcement was met with murmurs of disappointment from the crowd – until one resident raised her hand and said that she thought her fellow city residents would like the chance to hear some of each others’ concerns and questions brought to light. Glens Falls resident Jane LaBombard had recently attended a similar event on a development project at West Mountain and recalled how shared public comments had given everyone in attendance a lot more understanding to walk away with.
“You don’t necessarily think of all of the potential issues or ideas,” LaBombard said. “But, if you hear from someone else, there might be something you agree with, so that’s why I really wanted to hear what other people had to say.”
Parking was a question echoed by several residents. Some voiced their excitement for an expanded farmers market area that could also host festivals and live music, especially within walking distance. For those who don’t have that option, due to distance, disability or the amount of food they typically buy at a Saturday market, the disappearance of a swath of downtown parking with no immediately clear alternative raised some alarm bells.
The city is seeking a solution to that problem. Along with information about the DRI project itself, Collins also announced an upcoming parking study, set for this fall. The study will look at how changes in parking availability can attract and discourage certain types of businesses and events, as well as visitors to them.
Parking wasn’t the only thing residents wanted to know more about. One resident asked why the DRI funds were entirely being used along South Street when other parts of Glens Falls could also use revitalization. Flagg and others explained that DRI funds are often received for use in a specific part of the city – and the $10 million Glens Falls received was given out with the understanding that its downtown would reap the rewards.
City resident Diane Collins brought up concerns tied to climate change, pointing out that scientific projections into the future show changes in weather conditions and energy availability as among a list of things that need to be taken into consideration when addressing new residential and business construction. She also pointed out that limited fossil fuel availability will lead to fewer people driving, which could alleviate parking concerns. Officials answered that construction is being handled with energy efficiency and flood mitigation in mind.
The noon meeting was one of two presentations the city planned to host on the state of the project. A second session is set for Monday, June 13, from 6-8 p.m. at the Park Theater. Mayor Collins said that the Q&A session at the first meeting may not have been what he anticipated, but that he thought any kind of dialogue was positive. Ultimately, he stood by his initial pitch to answer questions through one-on-one conversations.
“I think the best way to do it is through one-on-one conversations, as opposed to me standing behind a podium,” Collins said. “But: I will listen to them. The request was ‘Will you talk to us,’ and we did.”
The farmers market plan is one part of the $10 million DRI plan for Glens Falls. Other monies have gone toward construction and renovation for new businesses; paving projects to improve road infrastructure; the new Arts District of Glens Falls project; and funding for businesses looking to upgrade equipment or expand to new spaces.